The Warriors (film)

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The Warriors
TheWarriors 1979 Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Walter Hill
Produced by Lawrence Gordon
Screenplay by
Based on The Warriors 
by Sol Yurick
Music by Barry De Vorzon
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • February 9, 1979 (1979-02-09)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million[1]
Box office $22.5 million[2]

The Warriors is a 1979 American cult thriller film directed by Walter Hill and based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name. Like the novel, the film borrows elements from the Anabasis by Xenophon.


Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, calls a midnight summit of all New York area gangs, requesting them to send nine unarmed delegates to Pelham Bay Park. The Warriors, from Coney Island, attend the summit and become the focus of the drama that unfolds. Cyrus proposes to the assembled crowd a permanent citywide truce that would allow the gangs to control the city. Most of the gangs laud his idea, but Luther, leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus dead. In the resulting chaos, Luther frames the Warriors leader Cleon for the murder, and he is beaten down by the Riffs. The other Warriors escape, unaware that they've been implicated in Cyrus' murder. The Riffs put out a hit on the Warriors through a radio DJ. Swan, the Warriors' "war chief", takes charge of the group as they try to make it back home.

Almost immediately the Warriors are spotted by the Turnbull ACs who attempt to run them down with their bus, but the Warriors manage to escape and board the subway. On the ride to Coney Island, the train is stopped by a fire on the tracks, stranding the Warriors in Tremont, in the Bronx. Setting out on foot, they come across a group called the Orphans who were not invited to Cyrus' meeting and who are upset about their low status in the city gang hierarchy. Swan makes peace with the Orphans leader, Sully, who agrees to let the Warriors through their territory. However, a young woman named Mercy mocks Sully as a "chicken" and instigates a confrontation, which the Warriors avoid by destroying a car using a Molotov cocktail. Impressed, and desperate to escape her depressed neighborhood, Mercy decides to follow and hopefully join the Warriors.

When they arrive at the 96th Street and Broadway station in Manhattan, they are chased by police and separated. Three of them, Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt, make the train to Union Square, while Fox, struggling with a police officer, falls onto the tracks and is run over by a train as Mercy escapes. Swan and the remaining three Warriors, Ajax, Snow, and Cowboy, are chased into Riverside Park by the Baseball Furies where a fight ensues and the Warriors are victorious. After the fight, Ajax notices a lone woman in the park, becomes sexually aggressive and is arrested when the woman turns out to be an undercover police officer. Arriving at Union Square, Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt are seduced by an all-female gang called the Lizzies. The trio escapes the Lizzies' attack, learning in the process that everyone believes they killed Cyrus.

Having scouted ahead on his own, Swan returns to the 96th Street station and finds Mercy there. More police show up and Swan and Mercy flee into the tunnel. They have an argument and Swan continues to Union Square where he reunites with the other Warriors. A fistfight ensues with the Punks in a public restroom but the Warriors defeat them. Meanwhile, the Riffs are visited by a gang member who attended the earlier gathering and saw Luther shoot Cyrus.

The Warriors finally arrive at Coney Island, but find the Rogues waiting for them. When Swan asks why Luther shot Cyrus, Luther says it was for "no reason" and that he "like[s] doing things like that". Swan then challenges Luther to a one-on-one fight, but the Rogue leader pulls his gun instead. Swan throws a knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him. The Riffs then arrive and apprehend the Rogues, but not before acknowledging the Warriors' courage and skill. As the Warriors leave, Luther screams an anguished, "Noooo!" as the Riffs descend upon the Rogues.

The DJ announces that the big alert has been called off and salutes the Warriors with a song, "In the City". Swan, Mercy, and the rest of the gang walk down the beach, illuminated by the sunrise.


Character 1979 movie 2005 video game
Michael Beck
James Remar
Dorsey Wright
Snow Brian Tyler Sekou Campbell
David Harris
Cowboy Tom McKitterick Kurt Bauccio
Thomas G. Waites
Vermin Terry Michos Joe Lo Truglio
Rembrandt Marcelino Sánchez Andy Senor
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
Cyrus Roger Hill Michael Potts
Luther David Patrick Kelly Oliver Wyman
DJ Lynne Thigpen Pat Floyd
Masai Edward Sewer Charles Parnell
Joel Weiss
Sully Paul Greco Rob Chira



Film rights to Sol Yurick's novel were bought in 1969 by American International Pictures but no film resulted.[3]

Rights were then obtained by producer Lawrence Gordon who commissioned David Shaber to write a script. Gordon sent the script to director Walter Hill with a copy of Sol Yurick's novel. Hill recalls, "I said 'Larry, I would love to do this, but nobody will let us do it.' It was going to be too extreme and too weird."[4] [5]

Gordon and Hill were originally going to make a western but when the financing on the project failed to materialize, they took The Warriors to Paramount Pictures because they were interested in youth films at the time and succeeded in getting the project financed.

Hill was drawn to the "extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script".[5] The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but the director was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter "come to life starting with a splash panel".[5] However, Hill was working on a low budget and a tight post-production schedule because of a fixed release date as the studio wanted to release The Warriors before a rival gang picture called The Wanderers. As a result, Hill was unable to realize this comic book look[5] until the making of the Ultimate Director's Cut.


The filmmakers did extensive casting in New York City.[5] Hill had screened an independent film called Madman for Sigourney Weaver to cast her in Alien and it also featured Michael Beck as the male lead. The director was impressed with Beck's performance and cast him in The Warriors. Hill initially wanted a Puerto Rican actress for the role of Mercy, but Deborah Van Valkenburgh's agent convinced the film's casting directors to see her and she was eventually cast. The filmmakers wanted to cast Tony Danza in the role of Vermin but he was cast in the sitcom Taxi and Terry Michos was cast instead. While there were white characters in Yurick's book, none of the central characters or protagonists were white: according to Hill, Paramount did not want an all-black cast for "commercial reasons".[5]


Stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley put the cast through stunt school because Hill wanted realistic fights depicted in the film.[5] In preparation for his role, James Remar hung out at Coney Island to find a model for his character. The entire film was shot on the streets in New York City with some interior scenes done at Astoria Studios. They would shoot from sundown to sunrise. The film quickly fell behind schedule and went over budget. While they shot in the Bronx, bricks were tossed at the crew. Actor Joel Weiss remembers that filming of his scene at Avenue A being canceled because there was a double homicide nearby. For the big meeting at the beginning of the film, Hill wanted real gang members in the scene with off duty police officers also in the crowd so that there would be no trouble.[5]

The studio would not allow Baxley to bring any stunt men from Hollywood and he needed someone to double for the character of Cyrus so he did the stunt himself dressed as the character.[5] Actual gang members wanted to challenge some of the cast members but were dealt with by production security. The actors playing The Warriors bonded early in the shoot, on and off the set. Originally, the character of Fox was supposed to end up with Mercy, while Swan was captured by a rival, homosexual gang known as the Dingos, only to escape later: however, Hill watched the dailies and realized that Beck and Van Valkenburgh had great chemistry; the script was rewritten so that their characters ended up together.[5] This resulted in actor Thomas G. Waites arguing with Hill and being difficult on the set, and so Waites was fired eight weeks into principal photography.

The Rogues' car in the Coney Island confrontation was a 1955 Cadillac hearse.[6] Originally, at the Coney Island confrontation at the end of the film, actor David Patrick Kelly wanted to use two dead pigeons but Hill did not think that would work.[5] Instead, Kelly improvised by clinking three bottles in his right hand and ad-libbing his famous line, "Waaaaariors, come out to plaaaay". Kelly was influenced by a man he knew in downtown New York who would make fun of him. Hill wanted Orson Welles to do a narrated introduction about Greek themes but the studio did not like this idea and refused to pay for it.[5]


Theatrical run[edit]

The Warriors opened on February 9, 1979, in 670 theaters without advance screenings or a decent promotional campaign and grossed USD $3.5 million on its opening weekend.[7]

The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings — two in Southern California and one in Boston — involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings.[8]

This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film's title, rating and participating theaters.[7] In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism.[9] After two weeks free of incidents, the studio expanded the display ads to take advantage of reviews from reputable critics including Pauline Kael of The New Yorker. She wrote, "The Warriors is a real moviemaker's movie: it has in visual terms the kind of impact that 'Rock Around the Clock' did behind the titles of Blackboard Jungle. The Warriors is like visual rock".[10] In its sixth week, The Warriors had grossed $16.4 million, well above its estimated $4 million[1] to $7 million budget.[7][11]

Hill later reflected:

What made it a success with young people... is that for the first time somebody made a film within Hollywood, big distribution, that took the gang situation and did not present it as a social problem. Presented them as a neutral or positive aspect of their lives. As soon as you said in the old days gang movies it was how do we cure the pestilence and how do we fix the social waste. We want to take these kids, make sure they go to college... This was just a movie that conceptually was different. Accepted the idea of the gang, didn't question it, that was their lives, they functioned within that context. And the social problem wasn't were they going to college, but were they going to survive. It's the great Hawksian dictum, where is the drama? Will he live or die? That's the drama.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The Warriors received negative reviews from contemporary critics, who derided its lack of realism and found its dialogue stilted.[12] In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave it two out of fours stars and said that, despite Hill's cinematic skill, the film is implausible in a mannerist style that deprives the characters of depth and spontaneity: "No matter what impression the ads give, this isn't even remotely intended as an action film. It's a set piece. It's a ballet of stylized male violence."[13] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "None of Hill's dynamism will save The Warriors from impressing most neutral observers as a ghastly folly".[14] In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "Another problem arises when the gang members open their mouths: their banal dialogue is jarringly at odds with Hill's hyperbolic visual scheme".[15] Time magazine's Frank Rich said that, "unfortunately, sheer visual zip is not enough to carry the film; it drags from one scuffle to the next ... The Warriors is not lively enough to be cheap fun or thoughtful enough to be serious".[16] Yurick expressed his disappointment and speculated that it scared some people because "it appeals to the fear of a demonic uprising by lumpen youth", appealing to many teenagers because it "hits a series of collective fantasies".[7] President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the film, even calling the film's lead actor, Michael Beck, to tell him he had screened it at Camp David and enjoyed it.[10]

The Warriors has become a cult film, along with a re-examination of its standing with some film critics. As of February 19, 2015, the film has garnered a 94% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews.[17] At Seattle's Grand Illusion Cinema, programmer Zack Carlson remembers, "people were squeezed in, lying on the floor, cheering".[18] Entertainment Weekly named The Warriors the 16th-greatest cult film on their "Top 50 Greatest Cult Films" list.[19] The magazine also ranked it 14th in the list of the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever".[20]

Home video[edit]

In 2005, Paramount Home Video released the "Ultimate Director's Cut" DVD of The Warriors. Aside from a remastered picture quality and a new 5.1 surround remixed soundtrack, the film has been re-edited with a new introduction and comic book-style sequences between scenes.[21] In July 2007 the "Ultimate Director's Cut" was released onto Blu-ray.[22]

Video game and merchandise[edit]

While The Warriors was adapted from a novel (itself adapted from the Ancient Greek text Anabasis by Xenophon), the film has been adapted as well. The film's soundtrack was released in the same year as the film. In 2005, Mezco Toyz released Warriors action figures, including Swan, Cleon, Cochise, Ajax, Luther, and a Baseball Fury.[23]

The Warriors video game, based on the movie, was released by Rockstar Games on October 17, 2005. Levels 1 through 13 act as a prequel to the film, creating backstory and elaborating on the characters from the film. Levels 14 through 18 recreate much of the film's events. In addition, there are extra levels explaining how each main character joined the gang. Several of the actors from the movie returned to perform the voices for their original characters.

Warner Bros. Entertainment released a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 titled The Warriors: Street Brawl. The game plays differently from the Rockstar Games version, being a side-scrolling brawler. In 2009, Dabel Brothers Productions began a five issue comic book adaption of the film. Following that was a four issue mini series entitled The Warriors: Jailbreak which takes place several months after the film's events.


  1. ^ a b EXTRA SECURITY: Keeping an Eye on 'Warriors' SCHREGER, CHARLES. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Feb 1979: e1.
  2. ^ "The Warriors, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  3. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'New Leaf' Next for Weston Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Apr 1969: i12.
  4. ^ a b "Interview with Walter Hill - Chapter 5" Directors Guild of America accessed 12 June 2014
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ducker, Eric (October 3, 2005). "New York Mythology". Fader. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  6. ^ Time to create page: 0.196 seconds. "". Retrieved 2015-01-26. 
  7. ^ a b c d Arnold, Gary (March 18, 1979). "The Warriors - Surly Kids Pack a Box-Office Wallop". Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Ads Resumed for a Gang Movie After Sporadic Violence at Theaters: Protest at Loew's State By ROBIN HERMAN. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 Feb 1979: A18.
  9. ^ "The Flick of Violence". Time. March 19, 1979. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  10. ^ a b Barra, Allen (November 28, 2005). "The Warriors Fights On". 
  11. ^ The Making of The Warriors. The Warriors Movie Site. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  12. ^ Mulholland, Garry (2011). Stranded at the Drive-In: The 100 Best Teen Movies. Hachette UK. p. 80. ISBN 1409122514. Retrieved August 21, 2013. Presumably, Hill was stung by some of the bad reviews at the time, which sneered at the film's lack of realism and stilted dialogue... 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 13, 1979). "The Warriors Movie Review & Film Summary (1979)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ Arnold, Gary (February 10, 1979). "Abstracted Epic of Gang Warfare". Washington Post. 
  15. ^ Ansen, David (February 26, 1979). "Gang War". Newsweek. 
  16. ^ Rich, Frank (February 26, 1979). "Dead End". Time. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  17. ^ "The Warriors (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  18. ^ Wood, Jennifer M (June 20, 2004). "Midnight Movie Madness". Moviemaker. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  19. ^ Dirks, Tim. "The Top 50 Cult Movies". 
  20. ^ "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever". Entertainment Weekly. August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  21. ^ Henderson, Eric (2005-10-18). "The Warriors - DVD Review". Slant magazine. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  22. ^ "The Warriors Blu-ray United States Ultimate Director's Cut". Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Mezco Toyz | Movie, Television and Proprietary Action Figures & Collectibles[dead link]

External links[edit]