A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Outsiders is the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation of a novel detailing the coming-of-age of "greaser" teens in 1950s Tulsa as they contend with not just bullying and physical attacks from the rich kids on the other side of the tracks but also abuse and neglect from their parents at home, poverty, and bleak future prospects. Characters drink, smoke, get in fights, harass schoolchildren, use knives and guns, and commit murder. One character is severely burned and dies. Additionally, the film deals frankly with class stratification. A teen girl rejects the drunken sexual advances of her boyfriend while they're at a drive-in movie theater. At this same drive-in, a clearly drunk teen raises the skirt of a teen girl, exposing her panties. A "greaser" teen asks a teen girl with red hair, in so many words, if her pubic hair is the same color. Occasional profanity includes "damn," "son of a bitch," "bastards," and "wiseass," and expect to see the middle-finger gesture. Note: The original cut of the movie was rated PG in 1983, before the PG-13 rating existed. The edited/extended cut released in 2003 carries the PG-13 rating.
What's the story?
The Curtis brothers and their friends run with a pack of wrong-side-of-the tracks greasers who smoke endless packs of cigarettes and spend most of their time looking for trouble. When Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio) have a run-in with a pack of Socs after a drive-in movie, Johnny stabs one of the Socs. At the advice of their friend Dallas (Matt Dillon), they hide out in an abandoned church, but a tragic chain of events has already begun to unfold.
Is it any good?
THE OUTSIDERS, Francis Ford Coppola's inspired adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel, combines a talented ensemble cast with an engaging story. It's in some ways a scare film. Characters suffer for their bad behavior, and occasionally the treatment seems a bit heavy-handed. Coppola's direction is brilliant, as evidenced by his attention to detail. In particular, the soundtrack manages to contribute to the drama without feeling manipulative.
The collaborative work of the young cast also serves as a testament to the director's skill. Coppola even wrenches a convincing performance out of Patrick Swayze as the oldest Curtis brother. As the pretty, popular cheerleader Cherry, Diane Lane manages to avoid coming across as condescending. The real stars of the show, however, are Howell as the sensitive Ponyboy and Dillon as the time bomb Dallas. The special-edition DVD entitled The Outsiders - The Complete Novel features several extras, including over 22 minutes of original, cut footage, a new soundtrack featuring songs by Elvis Presley, and a news segment on the student petition that started it all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about class divisions. Why does Cherry tell Ponyboy that she can't talk to him at school? What makes the division between the Socs and the greasers readily apparent? What can explain the origin of the rivalry between the two groups?
Why do you think people -- and teens in particular -- feel a need to form cliques, gangs, and social groups that stand apart from others? How does this movie attempt to show the camaraderie but also the big-picture absurdity in being involved too closely with cliques, gangs, and social groups?
In what ways is this movie a powerful example of a coming-of-age movie? What do you think is the timeless appeal of "coming-of-age" movies? What are some other examples of this genre?
- In theaters: January 1, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: November 20, 1998
- Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio
- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence
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