The Outsiders (film)

The Outsiders (film) Study Guide

The Outsiders was filmed in 1983 and was helmed by the acclaimed film director Francis Ford Coppola. Despite a cast made up of up-and-coming young screen stars such as Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, and others, and the direction of the man behind the iconic Godfather trilogy, the movie was only a moderate success, garnering mixed reviews, and being deemed one of Coppola's lesser accomplishments in the grand scheme of his career. Still, it remains a classic adaptation, a stirring tale of youth and survival.

Adapted from the classic young-adult novel of the same name by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders tells the gritty story of a greaser gang at odds with the more affluent preppy crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The tension between the Greasers and the Socs constitutes the main plot of the movie, and the audience watches the conflict unfold through the eyes of sensitive and observant Ponyboy Curtis, the youngest of a trio of recently-orphaned brothers. Coppola was inspired to make the film after being sent a copy of the book by a school librarian in California, who wrote to him about her desire to see an adaptation of the beloved book. Not only did Coppola adapt The Outsiders, but he went on to adapt its sequel, Rumble Fish. They shot the film on location in Tulsa, OK, with a screenplay adapted by Katherine Rowell. Coppola was known for his investment in realism and his artfully arranged shots, and these techniques had a strong influence on the gritty, powerful look and feel of The Outsiders.

The result was a vivid and naturalistic representation of lower-class American adolescence. The reviews, however, were mixed. Looking back on the reception of the film, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote in 2005, "Released in 1983, the film did well enough at the box office, but critics were largely unimpressed, even contemptuous." Dargis goes on to diagnose the film's mixed reception as an oversight of its many strengths, writing of a particular scene, "the intimacy of this moment carries an undeniable frisson, largely because such physical closeness between straight male characters is nearly absent from our screens." Indeed, the film is a compelling and artful portrait of the youthful intimacy between friends, and showcased the talents of many young newcomers who would go on to be stars.