The Outsiders movie review (director’s cut)

S.E. Hinton’s classic The Outsiders comes to life as both an excellent example of Francis Ford Coppola’s directing talent and a showcase for famous actors when they were young, but it has some problems, too.  

I should start by saying I’m a big S.E. Hinton fan; I grew up reading (and rereading) her books, so I’m protective of them… but at the same time, I love Francis Ford Coppola’s movies, so this should be like peanut butter and jelly… but it’s more like a beautiful car and a delicious cake.  (Two things that are both great but don’t go together.)

Coppola really nailed the tone of The Outsiders; the realism that is conveyed through most of the scenes works really well.  The movie is also beautifully photographed – the images are stunning; that magic hour shot at the park is reason enough to see the movie, but there are so many others, like Bob’s dead body in the background and Johnny’s closeup in the foreground.  The performances… I think they’re OK.  I don’t think C. Thomas Howell quite delivers what is necessary to convey the heart of the book, but then, Ponyboy is an extremely complex character… he’s not bad, but I wouldn’t say he nailed it.  On the other hand, everybody else pretty much nailed it.  Matt Dillon (accent aside – the movie takes place in Oklahoma, after all) is truly frighenting as Dallas, Patrick Swayze nails the overbearing older brother thing as Darryl, Rob Lowe does a great job with his middle child syndrome  and overall Sodapop-ness, Ralph Macchio nearly steals the movie as Johnny, Emilio Estevez is so f@cking awesome as comic relief Two-Bit, Diane Lane makes “You dig okay,” sound plausible and even though Tom Cruise has basically nothing to do as Steve, he makes it work whenever he’s on-screen.

What’s missing in this film adaptation is the intimacy and the impact; I feel like I’m at arm’s length for the entire film, watching it through a kaleidoscope positioned two miles away from the screen.  Reading the book is such a personal experience; its first person, so your relationship with Ponyboy is what makes everything that’s happening matter and seem believable, but that’s lost here.

Hey kids!  Reading this review so you don’t have to read the book for school?  First off, BIG MISTAKE!  It’s a really good book.  Secondly, you’re better off reading the Wikipedia summary of the novel.  (Wikipedia summaries are a lifesaver in college, by the way.)  Third point:  you can watch the movie instead of reading the book (again, you’re depriving yourself of an amazing experience, but if you must…) but make sure you get the director’s cut!  If you watch the original version, you’re missing a lot of stuff.

I don’t have a lot of insight to provide here in terms of specifics… what I can tell you is the original version is frustrating – especially the score.  It’s sooooooo terrible.  If I ever hear that “Stay Gold” song again, I  am quite certain I will take a six-inch switch blade to eardrums.  On the other hand, the new version has too much music, even if it’s period correct music… but it never stops.  Also, I don’t think any of the court stuff is in the original version… anyway, I’d say you’re better off with the director’s cut.

If you love the novel, I’d say you may as well check out The Outsiders Director’s Cut and if you’re into YA, then maybe you might be curious to see what the genre was like pre “every protagonist is a special little snowflake who will save the world!”  Otherwise, Coppola completest aside, this is probably a pass for general audiences at a 7 out of 10.


About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on April 9, 2015, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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