The Outsiders (1983) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

Given the nature of social hierarchies, it can be difficult if people belong to the bottom of the social pyramid. Even with the differences that attempt to separate people, though, all people are fundamentally the same (for the most part). S.E. Hinton wrote her first novel at the age of sixteen, and managed to publish it using her first and middle initials since women had to oftentimes use pseudonyms due to the prejudice that sometimes hinder women writers. Nevertheless, her novel entitled The Outsiders is now considered a classic in young adult (YA) fiction, and inspired a popular film adaptation in 1983. The film might not be the best adaptation ever, but it still reveals fundamental truths about one’s place in society.

A Toast

Screenwriter Kathleen Rowell masterfully adapts Hinton’s novel into a cult classic that is only ninety-one minutes long. Francis Ford Coppola is the legendary director who brought Hinton’s coming-of-age story to the silver screen. This film also helped the careers of many famous actors working today, including Tom Cruise and Matt Dillon. The performances from the entire cast all culminate into a truly ensemble presentation. S.E. Hinton also worked closely with the production team, and several of the teenage actors affectionately called her “mom.” This film adaptation truly is an example of a motion picture created through tender love and care.

Beer Two

Even with this flowing tribute to S.E. Hinton’s story, the screenplay was somewhat problematic even though it covers the major plot points (for the most part). Fans of the original novel actually sent complaints to Coppola, which prompted him to release a director’s cut many years later. Besides the omissions, the plot itself is a hard pill to swallow since there are very violent moments that highlight the dark truths of adolescence, especially the transitions to adulthood. Nevertheless, such content is actually necessary in order to convey the themes of the loss of innocence as well as the nature of manhood. The novel and the screenplay were both written by women, and this film is a great example for those still existing naysayers who doubt that women are capable of tackling such controversial subject matter.


The Outsiders might not be the greatest film adaptation based on a novel, but it still has a definite fan base. Many middle school students and high school students read this novel as part of their academic studies, and the film can teach young people eternal truths about reality as they themselves shift from being kids to being adults. The plot itself has also been compared to the Best Picture winner West Side Story (1961) since they both involve rival gangs and finding oneself amidst the chaos and confusion of coming-of-age. The Outsiders will always remain a cult classic since it reveals the fundamental fact that Cherry shares with Ponyboy… “things are rough all over.” That famous phrase tells us that all people are fundamentally the same regardless if they are outsiders or not (pun intended).

The Outsiders (1983) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every literary reference (like the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and Gone with the Wind)

Take a Drink: during every violent moment

Drink a Shot: every time the phrase “long greasy hair” is used to describe the outsiders of this classic film adaptation of a YA novel

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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