Loosely based on Xenophon's "Anabasis", the account of an army of Greek mercenaries who, after aligning themselves with Cyrus the Younger in the battle of Cunaxa (401 BC) in his attempt to seize the Persian throne, found themselves isolated behind Persian enemy lines.
In the original script for the movie, Cleon is killed by the Grammercy Riffs, Cochise is killed by the Baseball Furies, Ajax is caught by the police, Vermin is killed by the Lizzies, and Swan gets kidnapped by the Dingos. This leaves only four Warriors in the battle with the Punks. Swan does, however, reappear at Coney Island to fight the final battle after the Riffs learn the truth about who shot Cyrus.
Vermin was scripted to be killed by the Lizzies but Terry Michos who played Vermin made his character more comical to make it more memorable and get more on-screen appearances in the movie, which worked and the death scene was taken out.
Newcomers were cast to create the feel of "real people caught in dangerous situations". The cast felt like they were a gang before filming started. James Remar even spent time in Coney Island so he could observe real individuals to base his portrayal of Ajax on.
The Warriors aimed to create "tribal feeling of going into battle together, of loyalty, of support and shared goals" and to have "the audiences' sympathy as they fight off all the other gangs in the city".
The Homicides were a real Coney Island gang, and they didn't approve of fictional gangs wearing colors on their turf. The wardrobe department made sure nobody walked off location wearing The Warriors colors. The actors were safe during the cemetery scene in Brooklyn because of a fence surrounding it.
Michael Beck was discovered by Walter Hill when Hill was watching the movie Madman, which Beck co-starred in with a then less-famous Sigourney Weaver. Hill saw that film because he wanted to see Weaver's performance, as she was being considered for the upcoming film Alien, but was so impressed by Beck's work that he had him come in for an audition which led to his being cast in THE WARRIORS.
Walter Hill originally wanted the Warriors to be an all-black gang. Producers disagreed. He also wanted an initial subtitle which read "Sometime in the future" but Paramount thought it sounded too much like Star Wars.
In the subway where Mercy is running with Fox's double, she fell and broke her wrist because the actor didn't let go of her hand. This is why she later appears in a jacket as it is covering up the cast. The filmmakers had Mercy disappear from the film for a while, meeting up with the Warriors at the subway platform and saying that she stole the jacket she was wearing before arriving there.
The original poster featured the words "These are the armies of the night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." This upset and outraged many people; some tried to have the film banned.
The television version started with a day shoot at Coney Island with Cleon and his girlfriend (played by Pamela Poitier). The producers cut this scene stating that the only day scene should be at the end of the film after a night of horror.
Here are the gangs that were listed in the script (some made it into the movie; others didn't): - The Alleycats, - The Amsterdam All-Stars, - The Baseball Furies, - The Black Hands, - The Blackjacks, - The Big Trains, - The Boppers, - The Boyle Avenue Runners, - The Charlemagnes, - The Colt 45's, - The Dealers, - The Delaney Rovers, - The Dingos, - The E Street Shufflers, - The Easy Aces, - The Electric Eliminators, - The Eighth Avenue Apaches, - The Fastballs, - The Fifth Street Bombers, - The Filmores, - The Firetasters, - The Five Points, - The Gerrards, - The Gladiators, - The Go Hards, - The Gun Hill Dancers, - The Gramercy Riffs, - The High Hats, - The High Rollers, - The Homeboys, - The Hoplites, - The Howitzers, - The Huks, - The Hurricanes, - The Imps, - The Jesters, - The Jones Street Boys, - The Judas Bunch, - The Jupiters, - The Knockdowns, - The Knuckles, - The Lizzies, - The Locos, - The Magicians, - The Meatpackers, - The Mongols, - The Moonrunners, - The Napoleons, - The Nickel Steaks, - The Nightriders, - The Ninth Avenue Razors, - The Orphans, - The Panzers, - The Phillies, - The Plainsmen, - The Punks, - The Queen's Bridge Mutilators, - The Real Boys, - The Red Hook Shooters, - The Roadmasters, - The Rogues, - The Romans, - The Runaways, - The Saracens, - The Saratogas, - The Savage Huns, - The Shanghai Sultans, - The Southern Cross, - The Speedwagons, - The Sports, - The Stevedores, - The Stilletos, - The Stonebreakers, - The Terriers, - The Turks, - The Turnbull AC's, - The Van Cortlandt Rangers, - The Warriors, - The Whispers, - The Xenophones, - The Xylophones, - The Yo-Yo's, - The Youngbloods, - The Zodiacs, - The Zulus.
Subway equipment throughout the entire movie consisted of IND/BMT R-27 and R-30 units, even though the IRT is implied in many instances. Apparently, no attention was paid to train markings, which varied considerably and were often unrelated to the actual routes traveled on. Other subway cars seen briefly are R-12, R-42 and R-46 units.
After several violent incidents that occurred at various showings of the film, the producers decided to change the poster as a way of cutting down on the violence. The original poster featured the logo as well as a picture of several tough looking gang members. The second poster just featured the logo against a white background.
This is a "collective hero" movie, in which the protagonist actually consists of nine people acting (more or less) as one. Walter Hill uses this gimmick frequently; other movies he has made that work this way are Southern Comfort and The Long Riders.
According to an interview with a Hell's Angel Member on the Howard Stern Show, the Warrior's vest logo was taken from a picture of a bike built in a California prison by an incarcerated Hell's Angel, which appeared in a motorcycle magazine. It has apparently caused several fights; Hell's Angels will violently defend ownership of any of their logos.
Director of Photography Andrew Laszlo campaigned successfully to have a scene early in the film where there is a sudden rainstorm, because this allowed him to "wet down" the streets for the rest of the movie and produce lighting effects that wouldn't have been possible on dry surfaces (it also worked well with the film's limited budget).
The Baseball Furies are a reference to Second Base, an uptown gang from the 1970. Second Base wore Lettermen jackets with "Second Base" across the backs, not the baseball uniforms and painted faces of the Baseball Furies. The connection is quite obvious when New York Boppers are informed that The Warriors have "... made it past Second Base".
In the script, Fox was originally the love interest of Mercy, but the two actors had no chemistry and the Mercy romance was transferred to Swan. Waites was fired eight weeks into principal photography, for being difficult and arguing with Walter Hill (director); his character was removed from the movie when a cop threw him into the path of a train during a fight. To this day, Hill felt bad about the rough times he has with Waites. Waites is not in the final credits because he didn't finish the movie.
The night scenes of The Warriors talking about Cyrus and the big meeting at The Bronx were part of re-shoots after the original opening of the film was cut out. The original opening of the film (which can be viewed on the Ulimate Edition DVD) was set in Coney Island during the daytime which Cleon's girlfriend says goodbye to Cleon and also features the rest of the gang being told by Cleon why they were chosen to go to the big meeting. The main reason why this opening was cut was because the editors told Walter Hill that the scene completely fell through because it set in the daytime (95% of the film is set in nighttime) and they felt it wouldn't work since it would cut to nighttime and it was a distraction. Walter agreed and decided to go back and re-shot the conversations that The Warriors have before their train arrives.
According to executive producer Frank Marshall they originally hired a real gang member for the role as Cyrus, but could not find him on the day and never heard from him again. According to Michael Beck, however, Roger Hill was always supposed to play Cyrus, so the real story remains a mystery.
According to the filmmakers on the Ultimate Edition DVD, the film was going to be a big hit after the movie was #1 at the box office charts despite negative reviews from critics (it earned $3.5 million in its opening weekend). However, word of mouth and a couple of incidents killed the film's momentum. According to Walter Hill, what had happened was gangs were attracted to the film and they had saw their rival gangs and caused violent incidents. Paramount Pictures panicked and decided to pull the movie out of theaters. Lawrence Gordon said the movie still kept going while the studio pulled the movie out of marketing. Despite this, the movie went on to be not only a cult hit but also a timeless classic; it even made a profit since it earned $22.4 million in initial box office receipts against a budget of only $6-7 million.
Paul Greco's character, the Orphan leader, isn't given a name in the film, and other media frequently refer to the character simply as "Orphan" or "Orphan Leader." However, his character's actual name, Sully, was revealed in the Warriors video game.
At some point during the film's promotion or after the initial ruckus when released, it was ordered that several bits of voice over in the trailer be censored. This is done by placing a piece of tape over the optical soundtrack. In the trailer, the narrator states "...between them and safety stand 20,000 cops and 100,000 sworn enemies." The fact that gangs out numbered the police by five times apparently was considered a security issue and the words "ten thousand" and "twenty thousand" were bleeped out with tape. (This probably coincides with Paramount promoting the film after violence at screenings, such as the new poster campaign).
Irwin Keyes was also considered for the role of Ajax, but wasn't cast because Walter Hill thought he was too old for the part. However, Keyes still appears in the movie as the cop who arrests Ajax in the park.
Lawrence Gordon had discovered the book which this film is based on, without a cover, at a book store. After reading the description of the plot, he became very interested and bought the rights out of his own pocket. Gordon hired David Shaber to write it and approach Walter Hill to direct it after working with him on Hard Times and The Driver. Hill was very interested in the project but he felt that no studio would let them make the movie so the pair decided to make a western called Last Gun instead. However, financing fell though and Gordon was able to get The Warriors funded by Paramount Pictures. To this day, Last Gun has not been made.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
For the last shot in the film, where the vindicated Warriors and Mercy walk away along the Coney Island shoreline as the sun rises, Michael Beck and Deborah Van Valkenburgh were not told when to stop walking. Van Valkenburgh became irritated because they noticed they had reached a point where they were out of the cameras' ranges. But when they went back, they found out that the cast and crew had done this so they could bring out a huge bouquet of roses which they then presented to a surprised Van Valkenburgh.