As night falls over Coney Island, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), leader of the Warriors, meets up with eight of his most trusted lieutenants to travel by subway to the faraway Bronx. They will be attending an event called by a man named Cyrus, described as "the one and only." Throughout the city, other gang delegations are seen entering the subway in their full colors. As the Warriors speculate about the event during their subway ride, we learn that Cyrus, leader of the largest gang in the city, the Gramercy Riffs, has called a truce of all the gangs in New York. He wants an unarmed delegation of nine from each gang to come to a mass meeting to hear what he has to say. Some of the Warriors are excited at the prospect, while others are skeptical.
At Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the meeting is well-attended with over 100 gangs represented. The charismatic Cyrus (Roger Hill) takes the stage and delivers a spellbinding speech. He says that, instead of fighting each other over turf, they could unite to form an army of 60,000 soldiers, compared to only 20,000 police in the whole city. He punctuates his points with "Can you dig it?" to the crowd's wild response. Outside the meeting area, the police are seen silently moving in.
Most of the crowd is enthralled with Cyrus' vision, but one member has his own agenda. Luther (David Patrick Kelley), the leader of a gang called the Rogues, has snuck a gun into the gathering. At a high point in the speech, Luther fires at Cyrus, killing him instantly. When Cyrus falls back, there is a brief stunned silence, followed by pandemonium. The crowd was so fixated on Cyrus that hardly anyone saw who fired the shot, but Luther turns to see that Fox (Thomas G. Waites) of the Warriors witnessed the assassination, so he points the gun to kill Fox. Just at that moment the police spotlights come on, blinding Luther.
Cleon walks towards the middle of the chaos, to see whether Cyrus survived. Luther begins screaming to the crowd, "That's him! The guy who shot Cyrus!" Another member of the Rogues also claims to have seen Cleon shoot Cyrus. Cleon denies it, but Luther continues to scream "The Warriors did it! The Warriors did it!" and charges at Cleon. Cleon holds his own in a fight against the Rogues, but then the Gramercy Riffs, martial arts experts, step in and bring Cleon down with kicks and elbow hits. Cleon presumably has been killed.
The other Warriors break through a wooden fence to make their escape, winding up in a cemetery as the rest of the police rush into the park and the various gangs flee. They take a head count and determine that everyone is there except for Cleon. Swan (Michael Beck), who as war chief is the second-ranked member after Cleon, states they are going to the subway, to catch a train back to Coney Island. A member named Ajax (James Remar) gives Swan some trouble when he asks: "Who made you leader?" Swan advises him to make his move, but the remaining members intervene, telling Ajax to calm down and urging everyone to stick together. Ajax backs down for now, and they make their way toward the subway, worrying whether the truce is still on. If it isn't, they will have to "bop" (fight their way) across other gangs' territories, vulnerable because they are wearing their colors and are not "packed" (armed).
Meanwhile, the Gramercy Riffs' new leader, Masai (Edward Sewer), addresses the Riffs at their underground hideout. He wants the Warriors, alive if possible. The Riffs inform a local DJ (Lynne Thigpen), and she puts the word out on the radio, urging all local gangs to be on the lookout and capture or kill the Warriors, "the gang that broke the truce", for the Riffs. She dedicates the song "Nowhere to Run" to the Warriors. As the song plays, gangs throughout the city are getting ready to hunt down Cyrus' assassins.
The Warriors wait for a train outside an elevated train station, so that they will not be ambushed on a open platform. Ajax complains that they are acting like "wimps," but the others' caution is justified, since a school bus filled with a tough-looking skinhead gang known as the Turnbull ACs begins patrolling the area. When the train arrives, the Warriors make a break for it and barely make the train ahead of the gang. Masai is informed of the Turnbulls' failure. Meanwhile, Luther gets a telephone update from an informant and learns that the Riffs have put the word out on the street that they want the Warriors alive. The Rogues don't want the Warriors taken alive, for fear of the stories they might tell. Luther tells his crew that they can do some looking too.
The celebrating Warriors' journey home is cut short when a fire on the tracks delays the train. They have no choice but to make their way to the next station on foot. That route takes them directly through the Bronx territory of a small gang known as the Orphans, who did not attend the gathering at Van Cortlandt Park and apparently don't know of the contract out on the Warriors. After determining the Orphans' numbers to be at least 30 versus their eight, Swan decides a diplomatic solution would be best. He brings Fox with him to meet with the Orphans' leader (Paul Greco). After a bit of tough posturing, the leader accepts the explanation of the subway fire, buttered up a bit by Fox's respectful comments, and tells them they can move through the territory if they come in peace. However, his girlfriend Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) begins taunting him with chicken noises and cutting comments. The leader's manhood is now insulted, so he orders the Warriors to remove their gang colors if they want to proceed through their territory. Swan refuses in no uncertain terms, and the Orphans leave while the Warriors march on. The curious Mercy tails the Warriors, and gets caught by Ajax. She claims to want some real action. Just then, the Orphans show up again, packed and ready to rumble. They throw some tough words around, but Snow (Brian Tyler) produces a Molotov cocktail, which Swan throws at a car near the Orphans. The Warriors take off past the flaming vehicle. The car explodes, the Orphans fail to pursue, and the Warriors hightail it to the next station with Mercy. She seems determined to stick around for the ride.
The DJ passes on the news of the Orphans' defeat. Luther gets another update that the Warriors are making their way through and that the cops are out to get every gang in the city. When asked why he seems so happy about this situation, Luther responds "I'm having a good time!" The train at the 96th street station is not moving and the frustration of the Warriors, especially Vermin (Terry Michos), is obvious. A police officer walks by the car, and they take off running. During this escape they split into three separate groups. Fox and Mercy run down the platform. A cop comes from behind one of the pillars, and tackles Fox. Fox yells at Mercy to run away, and in the struggle the cop tosses Fox onto the tracks, where he is killed by an oncoming train. Mercy is running in the other direction and doesn't see Fox's death.
Vermin, Cochise (David Harris), and Rembrandt (Marcelino Sanchez) manage to evade the police and board a subway train to Union Square, the agreed upon meeting place if they are split up. Ajax, Swan, Snow, and Cowboy (Tom Mckitterick) also outrun the police and exit the station at the front door, only to find a bigger potential threat - a group of men in baseball uniforms, their faces painted, leisurely swinging baseball bats. The Baseball Furies have been waiting for them. The four Warriors take off running down the street. The chase continues into Riverside Park. Swan and Snow split to the side, leaving Ajax and Cowboy running forward. The Furies fail to see the split, and follow Ajax and Cowboy. Swan and Snow circle to the Furies' backs. Cowboy can no longer run, so Ajax turns to face his foes, with Swan coming up from the rear. In the ensuing melee, Ajax's and Swan's fighting skills shine. They succeed in wresting control of bats and eventually in laying out all of the Furies. The DJ announces the Baseball Furies' defeat and disparages all the gangs for their poor performance.
Meanwhile, Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt have arrived at Union Square to wait for the others. They see a group of six young women giving them "come hither" looks. Cochise and Vermin can't believe their luck in finding attractive chicks who seem to want to party with them, naively failing to realize that the women are lesbians. Only Rembrandt, the youngest Warrior, senses the danger. They go to the group's clubhouse and the leader (Lisa Mauer) identifies them as the Lizzies, and says that they want to get down with the Warriors because they have heard of their reputation. Cochise and Vermin waste no time heading off to couches with their choice of girl. Rembrandt stays aloof and says that they need to get back. He notices the women exchanging glances, but before he can react, the door is locked and the leader pulls a gun and says "So you guys are the famous Warriors? The guys who shot Cyrus." Rembrandt shouts a warning and the three crash through a door, dodging bullets to escape. Rembrandt informs the others of what he has learned- that the women thought the Warriors shot Cyrus. They realize that every gang in the city must be looking for them.
Swan and his crew continue walking through the park. They pass a lady on a bench (Mercedes Ruehl), who gives her best smile. Ajax decides to play games with the woman, and won't be dissuaded even after the others press on him the need to get home. Ajax disparages the others' manhood and turns back toward the woman. A few minutes later, Cowboy and Snow decide to go back to look after Ajax, and Swan continues to the station alone. The woman turns out to be an undercover cop, and Ajax is arrested when he tries to assault her. There's nothing Cowboy and Snow can do, so they make their way to Union Square.
When Swan gets back to the 96th street station, he finds Mercy still hanging around. A cop spots them, and the two wind up running into a tunnel. Holed up in an underpass off the tracks, Mercy comes on to Swan. He insults her and says he wants to find something better. Mercy declares that Swan isn't any better than her. Swan continues on to Union Square and Mercy follows him. The Punks, who's leader wears roller skates, spot Swan on the subway platform and hang around waiting for their chance.
Meanwhile, Snow and Cowboy have made it to Union Square and met up with Cochise, Rembrandt and Vermin. Swan sees his fellow Warriors and signals them to lead the Punks into the men's room. They hide in the stalls, and ambush the Punks with Rembrandt's spray paint. The ensuing battle, which Mercy joins on the Warriors' side, is another victory for the Warriors.
Back at the Riff's headquarters, Masai is told that there is a new witness who saw who really shot Cyrus. The six remaining Warriors board the final train home, with Mercy still in tow. Two young couples in evening dress coming from a prom present such a contrast to Swan and Mercy that Swan takes pity on Mercy and clumsily signals that he accepts her. The sun has risen, and the journey is seemingly over. The Warriors and Mercy walk through the deserted Coney Island streets, only to realize that Luther and the Rogues are following them in a car. With no time to contact other members to come to their defense, the Warriors take shelter under a dock. Swan now has a switchblade he took from the Punk leader; the others arm themselves with what's around: Furies baseball bats, crowbars, hockey sticks, two-by-four pieces of wood, etc. Luther makes an ominous rattling sound with beer bottles and chants "Warriors, come out to play-ay!"
Swan leads his crew and Mercy out to the beach, and the Rogues follow. Finally face to face, Swan asks Luther why he killed Cyrus, to which the psychotic Luther replies: "No reason. I just... like doing things like that." When Luther pulls a gun on Swan, Swan manages to flick his knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him. At that moment, the Gramercy Riffs appear in force on the beach. Swan asks whether the Riffs are still looking for the Warriors, to which Masai replies, looking at Luther, that they have found what they're looking for. Masai praises the Warriors as "good, real good," and makes an exit path for them. They file out to the screams of Luther's death agonies. As the DJ announces that the alert is cancelled, the six surviving Warriors walk down their hometown beach, Swan hand-in-hand with Mercy. They are glad to have made it home, but are also emotionally defeated because they know that they and all the New York City gangs are back where they started from: nowhere.