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.



On Disc

at Amazon

1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Wild Style (1983)
Documentary | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Legendary New York graffiti artist Lee Quinones plays the part of Zoro, the city's hottest and most elusive graffiti writer. The actual story of the movie concerns the tension between ... See full summary »

Director: Charlie Ahearn
Stars: 'Lee' George Quinones, Lady Pink, Fab 5 Freddy
Scratch (2001)
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A feature-length documentary film about hip-hop DJing, otherwise known as turntablism. From the South Bronx in the 1970s to San Francisco now, the world's best scratchers, beat-diggers, ... See full summary »

Director: Doug Pray
Stars: Marc 7, Afra, Carlos Aguilar
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A documentary about freestyling--the improvised, on-the-spot rhymes that demonstrate the skills of hip-hop MCs.

Director: Kevin Fitzgerald
Stars: Muhammad Ali, Planet Asia, Bahamadia
Bomb It (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Tells the story of contemporary graffiti, tracing its roots in ancient rock paintings through Picasso to its place in hip-hop culture in 1970's New York City.

Director: Jon Reiss
Stars: Cope 2, Kid Acne, Antonio
Beat Street (1984)
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

An aspiring DJ, from the South Bronx, and his best friend, a promoter, try to get into show business by exposing people to hip-hop music and culture.

Director: Stan Lathan
Stars: Rae Dawn Chong, Guy Davis, Jon Chardiet
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A documentary on rap music and its rise to global prominence.

Directors: Ice-T, Andy Baybutt
Stars: Ice-T, Dr. Dre, Chuck D.
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A study in the world of hip-hop, done mostly with interviews, in order to see why it is as popular as it is today and what the future holds.

Director: Peter Spirer
Stars: B-Real, Kurtis Blow, Da Brat
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Depicts the daily life of gangs within the context of the South Bronx. Deals primarily with two African American and Puerto Rican gangs known as the "Savage Skulls" and the "Savage Nomads".

Director: Gary Weis
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

In the summer of 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan emerged from the slums of Staten Island and took the hip-hop world by storm. Their legacy spanned over a decade, garnering fans worldwide and ... See full summary »

Director: Gerald Barclay
Stars: Ralph McDaniels, Remedy Roll, Gano Grills
The Freshest Kids (Video 2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

From the Boogie Down Bronx and beyond, the history of the B-Boy.

Director: Israel
Stars: Afrika Bambaataa, Yasiin Bey, Crazy Legs
Krush Groove (1985)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

In this movie based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings, up-and-coming manager Russell Walker manages all the hottest acts on the record label Krush Groove Records, which include ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Schultz
Stars: Sheila E., Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Piece by Piece is a groundbreaking film that documents San Francisco's highly controversial graffiti art movement. A story told by those who live the experience, Piece by Piece offers an ... See full summary »

Director: Nic Hill
Stars: Senor One


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



Official Sites:



Release Date:

1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Graffiti-háború  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Seen, Henry Chalfant originally intended to make a documentary about breakdancing but felt that he did not have enough interesting footage. So he instead focused on graffiti art and combined the footage which led to graffiti art becoming associated with hip-hop culture. See more »


Cap: I am not a graffiti artist. I am a graffiti bomber.
See more »


Referenced in Just to Get a Rep (2004) See more »


Beat Bop
Written by Rammellzee and K-Rob
Performed by Rammellzee featuring K-Rob
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

The best film about graffiti ever
5 February 2005 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

It is a shame so few people have seen the 1982 PBS documentary "Style Wars". It is not listed in either Lenny Maltin's or Videohound's giant books. This story of NYC graffiti writers fighting transit cops, their parents, and each other is still the definitive word on graffiti and early hip hop culture in the days before it became commercialized. This was probably the 1st film anywhere to examine break dancing and hip hop in any depth well before either became mainstream. For that reason alone it is an important part of hip hop history, to see what it was all about before corruption by cash and fame.

Some standout personalities in this film include one armed Case, former NYC mayor Ed Koch, graffiti "villan" Cap, and Skeme and his mom. On the 2nd DVD many of the still living graffiti writers are interviewed in 2001, and although Skeme is now a major in the US army, his (now) little old lady mom is still afraid someone's kid is going to get hurt in the subway tunnel. Some of the kids from Style Wars are dead like Shy and Dondi (both have tributes),and some went to prison like Min. Some are successful 40 and even 50 somethings today. One or two even go paint the occasional subway car still.

The 1st DVD contains outtakes from Style Wars, some of which could have been removed originally to make the filmmakers look better. The transit authority cop says he thinks the film will encourage others to commit vandalism. It is also apparent when watching this DVD that Cap was made out to seem worse than he was thru creative editing. The 2nd DVD contains a great short film from 1976 (I think) called Classic hits by Tracy 168 (from Wild Style).

Overall this film tries to look at graffiti from the perspectives of the writers themselves, citizens of New York, and the establishment. Even the artists saw the end of the golden age coming with barbed wire fences and eventually even dogs being employed to keep them out of the train yards. It's just unfortunate that such an original art form was so unrecognized by mainstream society. Maybe it had to be that way anyway, when the art community did notice and galleries did start showing the art on canvas, it tended to become fossilized. The scene in the gallery is funny because the artists who are planning to cash in on graffiti try to convince themselves that "getting up" can be be done on canvas as well as trains. A young Swedish woman at the art gallery correctly observes its not the same on canvas, that is an art form that belonged on the trains, not on a gallery wall.

The definitive book to go along with Style wars is "Subway Art" by Henry Chalfant who also produced style Wars. He and Martha Cooper spent a huge amount of time photographing NYC subways, and their hard work is well documented on the 2nd DVD which contains 32 artist galleries and a 30 minute loop of train photos.

If all you have ever seen about graffiti is "Wild Style" or "Beat Street", pick up Style Wars. If you can find it. Stylewars.com

18 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Favorite writer? greaser_gal
Style Wars Soundtrack veggiefood
king 65 thomasallen_2
If You Liked Style Wars I recommend rockero2
yo! yo! yo! I need the name of this song!! cobracommander1984
the first song juan37380
Discuss Style Wars (1983) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page