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Style Wars (1983)

A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Demon ...
Kase 2 ...
Himself (as Kase)
Eric Haze ...
Himself (as SE 3)
Spank ...
Trap ...
Kay Slay ...
Himself (as Dez)
Skeme ...
Zone ...
Min One ...
Himself (as Min)
Cap ...
Michael Martin ...
Himself (as Iz the Wiz)
Quik ...
Mare ...
Li'l Seen ...


A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Music



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Release Date:

1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Graffiti-háború  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Cap originally wanted to hide his face by wearing a ski mask. The producers reluctantly agreed. But Cap showed up to filming without the mask and decided to let his face be seen. See more »


Skeme's Mother: What you got is a whole miserable subculture.
See more »


References The Beastmaster (1982) See more »


8th Wonder
Performed by Sugarhill Gang
See more »

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User Reviews

Back in the days when graffiti was king
28 September 2006 | by (The Dutch Mountains) – See all my reviews

'They call themselves writers because that's what they do. They write their names among other things everywhere. Names they've been given or have chosen for themselves. Most of all they write in and on subway trains, which carry their names from one end of the city to the other. It's called bombing. And it has equally assertive counterparts in rap music and break dancing'. According to Tony Silver, the maker of this documentary film on graffiti and hip hop culture.

Back in the days when many neighborhoods in New York were still a crumbling wasteland, Major Koch (of course!) and the city workers responsible for the city's clean-up provide most of the laughs. One tormented Transport Authority official keeps complaining that the substance used to remove the paint also fogs the windows. A difficult choice. Either not getting a view from the windows because of the graffiti or because of the cleaning substance that fogs the windows.

And what about that cheesy ad campaign with Hector Camacho and Alex Ramos? 'Take it from the champs, graffiti is for chumps. Make your mark in society, not on society'.

And then in the press conference preceding the campaign.

'Mr mayor, are those posters graffiti proof?'

'Time will tell!'

Camacho and Ramos must be scratching the back of their heads by now. Many of the writers they agitated against have become legends by now but who remembers these two chumps?

It's hard to imagine the airwaves this caused when it first reached Europe. I think it was in 1985 when it first aired in the Netherlands and France and many other countries as well. Literally within months after this documentary was shown, cities like Amsterdam and Paris where bombed in a way they've never experienced before. Graffiti had made its mark, mostly by early pioneers that had their roots in the punk-scene, but after STYLE WARS the scene literally exploded and saw the beginning of hip hop culture in Europe as well. I think it's important to realize this film was much more influential in Europe. In the States it was the first major documentary on graffiti, but of a phenomenon that had existed for quite some time there, but in Europe - besides the early punk scene - it was unknown in 1983 and caused a huge stir. I've seen it many times now, but it never bores me. It remains just as vivid today as the first I saw it and it's subsequent historical significance just adds to the flavour when watching it again.

The film is packed with so many memorable moments, it's hard to pick one out. One of the most mesmerizing scenes is when three writers hang around at a subway station on the platform and start rapping on the rhymes from "The Message", by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. After 30 seconds the actual song starts on the background just as the train rolls in. An amazing shot and a fantastic piece of editing, a wonderful scene! If there's anything like THE quintessential shot of New York City subcultures in 1982, this is it.

Now the much needed DVD-release is there, given the deluxe treatment by Public Art Films with two discs and lots of extras. I could have done without the interview with Tony Silver, not the most charismatic person around but most of the other stuff is OK with lost of artist galleries, tributes to DONDI and SHY 147 and lots of guest interviews with Fab 5 Freddy, Goldie, Guru, DJ Red Alert and photographer Martha Cooper.

Camera Obscura --- 9/10

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