In the pantheon of great Francis Ford Coppola films, The Outsiders stands firmly above the rest. The heart-wrenching drama of the Northside Greasers daily oppression by the Soches, Soaces, Socs…?, the rich boys from the Southside of a small Oklahoma town launched the careers of several sassy young hotshots and provoked a national dialogue, in 1983, on the critical state of affairs our young teens face in small towns in the 1960’s.
The story follows the Curtis brothers: Darry, Sodapop, and Ponyboy, characters clearly cast from the same discerning mold that sprung to life Sonny, Michael, and Fredo. Darry is the older brother, played with the chiseled authority of chemo-hunk Patrick Swayze. Bold Rob Lowe is Sodapop Curtis and C Thomas Howell plays Ponyboy, the heart of our story. Thepain of life on the wrong side of the tracks is etched on Ponyboy’s face, and his unfortunate neck mole helps illustrate that these Greasers have it tuff.
Ponyboy’s best friend is Johnny, played by Ralph Macchio. Johnny’s face is a little damaged cause his dad beats him or something, but it’s the profound bond between Ponyboy and Johnny that gives the viewer a lump in his… throat. What happens is that after a drive-in movie the two BFF’s are walking these fucking bitches home and they are attacked by a group of Mustang riding Socs led by Bob, played by the heir to the throne of James Dean, Leif Garrett. Bob and his gang try to drown Ponyboy in a fountain and Johnny stabs Bob hard and kills him. This sends the two young teens on a journey, helped by an older boy names Dallas Winston, played by the dark, mysterious Matt Dillon. Dallas, or Dally, is like wildfire, a dangerous and breathtaking young rider. See, he masks his pain with machismo. Dallas helps the two fugitives secure a hideout where they cut each other’s hair and read Gone With The Wind. Oh God!
Along the way, we meet other Greasers, randomly played by Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, and did I mention Rob Lowe? Along with other young heartbreakers, they all have this rumble where it rains and shirts come flying off and–oh Jesus–there’s an elegiac beauty to it all, and the viewer feels he’s in the middle of that greasy battle.
After the fight, Dally scoops up the injured Ponyboy, like a hurt bunny, and they go to the hospital and watch as their young friend Johnny dies in their arms. Well, actually he doesn’t die in their arms because he has burns covering 70% of his body but it was sad because it’s obvious that some fat nurse didn’t do her fucking job right and that’s probably what made him die and how come Dallas got so mad.
Which leads to the unforgettable climax of the film. Dally is so shaken by his friend’s death that he robs a liquor store and goes down in a hail of police bullets to cross that rainbow bridge on high. The curtain falls on this beautiful masterpiece and one can only whisper that dictum of youth to the surviving studs, “stay gold.”