The Outsiders Marks 40th Anniversary

L-R: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise in The Outsiders. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

While an extended version came out in 2005, The Outsiders marks the 40th anniversary of its original theatrical release in 1983.

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home.” – Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell)

I’ve had the 4K UHD edition of both The Outsiders and The Outsiders – The Complete Novel on hand since its 2021 home entertainment release. But for some reason or another, I never got around to watching it. In any event, I made note of the anniversary earlier this year and decided to time my viewing and review to the occasion. It’s one of those viewings that come better late than never. In any event, I opted to watch the latter version as this is the most definitive version of the film. People tend to give George Lucas a lot of crap for putting out new versions but you never seem to hear this about Coppola and his films. I mean, here’s a filmmaker with newer versions of several films throughout his filmography. Coppola owns his own films so he can do this for any film.

This film pits the lower status Greasers against the well-off Socs. Darrel “Darry” Curtis (Patrick Swayze) is the eldest of the Curtis brothers–Sodapop (Rob Lowe) and Ponyboy–and has the responsibility of raising them in light of their parents’ deaths. Some of the Socs harass and assault Ponyboy early in the film until the Greasers chase them off. Anyway, Ponyboy, Johnny (Ralph Macchio), and Dallas (Matt Dillon) go to the nearby drive-in, where Dallas basically humiliates himself while hitting on Cherry Valance (Diane Lane). Ponyboy and Johnny hit it off afterwards with Cherry and Marcia (Michelle Meyrink). They end up at the park because of what it would means for Socs to hang out with Greasers. Ultimately, their decisions that night end up backfiring and backfiring because it results in Johnny stabbing Bob (Leif Garrett).

Once Dallas tells Ponyboy and Johnny to head out to an abandoned church in Windrixville. Dallas makes his way to town a few days later, which transforms everyone into heroes when they save children trapped in a fire. But anyway, this segment of the film shows why it’s a coming-of-age movie. Coppola and cinematographer Stephen H. Burum film some of these sequences with two cameras and then make some stylistic choices that make it appear out of the 1950s. They made the film with Panavision so that they can take advantage of the wider screen and include more of the cast. But back to the film at hand, Johnny ultimately dies but his death sparks Ponyboy to write an essay.

The Outsiders – The Complete Novel restores some 22 minutes of scenes back into the film while deleting a few other scenes. Overall, bringing the scenes back into the film make it a more faithful adaptation because 91 minutes is quite short. Two, the death of his father, Carmine Coppola, meant being able to rework the film’s soundtrack. Coppola adds Elvis Presley and other 60s songs, plus a period rock and roll score to the soundtrack. It’s way better than a Gone with the Wind-esque score. I get wanting to pay homage to the 1939 film because of what the book means in the film but the earlier score would have been inappropriate. The new version of the film, born out of Coppola showing the film to Gia Coppola’s 7th grade class, works way better.

I imagine not many school librarian aides can take the credit for a filmmaker choosing the next project. And yet, this is exactly what happened when then-Fresno, Calif. librarian Jo Ellen Misakian sent a letter to Coppola on behalf of Lone Star School’s seventh and eighth grade classes. Coppola received a petition asking him if he could adapt The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Lo and behold, the rest is history, including the birth of the Young Adult genre. Interestingly, Coppola would adapt another Hinton novel, Rumble Fish.

As far as the film’s casting, it would become one of the earliest Brat Pack movies to hit the big screen. While Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe are the most notable members in the film, The Outsiders paved the way. The film predates both The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire but outside of Patrick Swayze, none of the cast went on to star alongside Estevez and Lowe during the 1980s. But even beyond the Brat Pack, there are many careers that simply would not happen without this film.

The Outsiders – The Complete Novel becomes a stronger film because of Coppola’s decision to restore deleted scenes and give the film a new score and soundtrack.

Bonus Features

  • Restoration Interview with Cinematographer Stephen Burum, Zoetrope Head of Archives and Restorations James Mockoski and Colourist Gregg Garvin (NEW)
  • Deleted Scenes (NEW)
  • Francis Ford Coppola Introduction (NEW)
  • Francis Ford Coppola Anatomy of a Scene (NEW)
  • Old House New Home featurette (NEW)
  • Audio Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola
  • Audio Commentary with Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and Patrick Swayze.
  • Staying Gold: A look Back at The Outsiders
  • S.E. Hinton on Location in Tulsa
  • The Casting of The Outsiders
  • NBC’s News Today from 1983 “The Outsiders Started by School Petition”
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
SCREENWRITERS: Kathleen Knutsen Rowell
CAST: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Leif Garrett

Warner Bros. released The Outsiders in theaters on March 25, 1983. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.