The Outsiders (1983) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • The rivalry between two gangs, the poor Greasers and the rich Socs, only heats up when one gang member kills a member of the other.

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1965. Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis is the youngest of three orphaned brothers who live on the north side of town, the "wrong side" of the tracks. Sensitive Ponyboy used to have a good relationship with his oldest brother Darrel, but since Darrel became the household caregiver, he is always on Ponyboy's case. Caught in the middle is third brother Sodapop, who dropped out of school to work full time. They all belong to The Greasers, a gang of boys from the north side also from working class families, often broken. Ponyboy's main concern is that any problem they may encounter, especially in their Greaser activities, will lead to the authorities splitting up their family. He also believes Darrel would have outgrown them and become something in his life if it wasn't for his loyalty to the gang, and the need to take care of the family. The rest of the world sees the Greasers as all the same, the face being Dallas Winston, the most volatile one who has just been released from prison, despite each boy having his own specific view of life. Similarly, the world sees the Socs, the Greasers' primary rivals, as all the same, rich spoiled entitled boys with a sense of superiority from the south side of town, despite again each boy being his own person. A connection between the two gangs happens in the form of Ponyboy and Cherry Valance, which doesn't sit well with Cherry's Soc boyfriend, Bob Sheldon. As a result, an incident occurs involving the Socs, Ponyboy and fellow Greaser, sixteen-year-old Johnny Cade, an equally sensitive boy who wants a better life for himself, but seems stuck in a downward spiral with parents who don't give him the time of day. Beyond Ponyboy and Johnny's lives being threatened by that incident, the Greasers and the Socs agree to a rumble to settle things once and for all. Some of the boys realize the rumble will accomplish nothing, with the questions being if they can convince their colleagues of the same, and if not what the consequences will be.

  • Based on the book by S.E. Hinton, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ponyboy Curtis, the youngest of a clan that was poor in the east side of town known as "Greasers", is a guy with good grades and is very sensitive. He lives with his two older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, jokester Two-Bit, Soda's friend, Steve, the toughest, Dally, and weakling, Johnny. The seven have had a longtime rivalry with another clan in the west known as the "Socs", that consist of Randy, Bob, Cherry, and Marcia. One night, after Pony and Johnny are ambushed, they decide to hide out of town when Bob gets killed. Then they realize they must hide from everybody else before things get arwy almost immediately.

  • It is 1965, and Tulsa, Oklahoma is divided in two along social lines. The youths of each side form gangs in line with these two camps: the working class Greasers and the wealthier South Side gang, the Socs. The two sides use any opportunity to niggle each other and whenever they meet, there is friction. Then one night, a gang of Socs attack two Greasers, Johnny (Ralph Macchio) and Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell), and Johnny kills one of the Socs with a knife. This sets off a chain of events.

  • Under everyone's noses, war is brewing in 1960s Tulsa, Oklahoma. On the one hand, the tough, working-class Greasers from the other side of the tracks are looking for a better world, while on the other hand, the Socials, or Socs, privileged, bored-to-death college boys, have got it all figured out. Then, against the backdrop of a sinister undercurrent of simmering violence, someone knifes to death a cocky Soc, and two Greasers go on the lam. Now, the already tenuous truce is at stake, and only an angry rumble between the two teen gangs will sort out the men from the boys. But, when you're sixteen, there are so many things you haven't seen or done yet. What difference will it make if either one of them wins that fight tonight?

  • The tension between two groups: The Greasers and The Socs puts Ponyboy Curtis and his best friend Johnny Cade in a bad spot. One night at the movies, Ponyboy and Johnny fall in love with Sherri "Cherry" Valance and Marcia, once they get Dally Winston, the toughest and meanest of the Greasers to stop attempting to "score" with the girls. Cherry and Marcia are from the snobbish, popular, and rich group, the Socs.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens with Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) sitting at his desk in his room, writing. He talks about walking home from the movies one night. As he is bouncing and messing with a ball, he recites parts of the movie that he's just seen when a group of guys pull up in a red Corvair. They start to call him a greaser because he has greasy hair, and he tries to evade them. They're the Socials, clean-cut teens dressed in Varsity letter jackets and chinos, also known as the rich kids or the South Side Socs. The Socs stop, get out, and attack Pony, knocking him to the ground as he struggles. The soc on top of Pony puts his knees on Pony's elbows, asking, "How would you like that haircut to begin just below the neck?" Ponyboy struggles but is unable to unpin himself. As the socs try and shut him up, the knife accidentally slips and cuts his head slightly. Hearing his screams, Pony's older brothers, Darrel (Patrick Swayze) and Sodapop (Rob Lowe) and the rest of their gang, Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio), Dallas Winston (Matt Dillion), Steve Randall (Tom Cruise), and Two-Bit Matthews (Emilio Estevez) come to his rescue, chasing off the Socs. Darrel, Sodapop, and Ponyboy lost their parents in a car crash. Darrel, a high school grad with a job, acts as the father figure. Soda is a dropout who works at a gas station. The three are allowed to live together without parental supervision as long as they stay out of trouble. Pony is still in high school at Darry's insistence and is actually a good student, earning good grades. However, Pony is often absent-minded, getting into trouble when he doesn't let his older brothers know where he is after dark and other small slips. Darry is very protective of his two younger brothers, more so with Pony, since they are all still reeling from the trauma of losing their parents.

    Dallas, Johnny, and Ponyboy go to a drive-in movie and sit in the bleachers. Cherry (Diane Lane) quarrels with her Soc date and leaves his car, going to sit in front of the greasers with her friend . Dallas tries to chat her up but Cherry seems to connect more with Ponyboy and Johnny. Dallas finally says something offensive and Cherry, unafraid of his tough-guy attitude, tells him to shut his mouth. When Dallas reaches for her, Johnny stops him, being the only member of the group able to do so. Spurned, Dallas stalks off. Pony goes with Cherry to the concession stand. While waiting in line, they talk about their respective friends. Pony's view is that he and his friends are persecuted by the Socs because they're poor, dress differently and are often considered delinquents. Cherry counters, saying that her group has their own problems, ones that the greasers couldn't even imagine. Back at their seats, Two-Bit joins the group and after the movie ends, the three boys and two girls walk together chatting. Cherry's boyfriend, Bob, stops in his car nearby. He's drunk and harshly admonishes her for hanging out with the greasers. Two-Bit immediately pulls out the butterfly knife he carries and smashes the end off a bottle to use as a weapon. To avoid a violent fight, Cherry reluctantly goes with Bob.

    While they walk past Johnny's house, they hear Johnny's parents having a violent fight. Johnny decides he's going to sleep out in the vacant lot near his house until his parents stop fighting. When he arrives home, Ponyboy is harshly reprimanded by Darry for staying out so late. When his brother tries to stop the argument, Darry pushes Pony a bit too hard, spilling him to the floor. Pony runs out of the house despite Darry's attempts to apologize and he finds Johnny in the vacant lot. Still very much upset, Pony gets Johnny to walk to the local park with him.

    Not long after, the Socs find Ponyboy and Johnny in the park, still angry about the greasers trying to pick up Cherry and her friend. They mock both Pony and Johnny for having long, greasy hair and Pony throws an insult back. The Socs are further provoked when Pony spits at them and tries to run, making it as far as the park's fountain. The Socs knock Johnny to the ground and dunk Ponyboy's head in the water, nearly drowning him. Johnny pulls out a switchblade to stop them. Bob is left dead and everyone flees. Johnny, unusually calm only a few minutes after he kills Bob, decides that he and Pony should find Dallas, who will be able to help them in their predicament. They go to a house where Dallas had been partying with an old friend (a cameo by singer Tom Waits) and talk to him about hiding out. Dallas gives them instructions to board a train to a small village called Windrixville where they can hide out in an abandoned church. Johnny and Ponyboy hop a freight train and make their way, break into the church, and fall asleep. The next morning Johnny comes back with bologna and bread, cigarettes, a paperback copy of "Gone With the Wind" and, oddly, a bottle of peroxide. Pony is puzzled by the last item until Johnny tells him that they should cut their hair and dye Pony's blonde so they can't fit the descriptions the police will have for them. Johnny also mentions that if they have to appear before a judge, that the judge will order them to get their hair cut anyway. They cut their hair with Johnny's switchblade and Ponyboy dyes his blond. The two hide out in the church for several days, waiting for word from Dallas. The two spend several days playing cards, betting with cigarettes, Pony reads "Gone With the Wind" to Johnny, and they try to trap a rabbit. One morning, Pony wakes up early and sees the valley below the church in the sunrise, admiring its beauty. He recites a Robert Frost poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" that Johnny takes to heart.

    A few days later Dallas arrives and takes them out to eat. He tells Ponyboy about how the police are looking for Bob's killer, even hauling Dallas himself in for questioning. Soda and Darry are both worried about Pony's disappearance but Dallas has assured them that the two are safe.

    Johnny wants to turn himself in as it sounds like they can claim self-defense, but Dallas tries to discourage him, warning him of what can happen if Johnny gets jail time. On returning to the church, they find it burning and a group of young kids milling about with two adults and a school bus. The woman exclaims some kids are trapped inside. Johnny and Ponyboy feel responsible, thinking that one of them must've dropped a lit cigarette that sparked the fire. Over Dallas' harsh objection, they enter to rescue the kids, Dallas reluctantly following. They find the kids in a back room and carry them to safety, Dallas helping out. Suddenly the roof collapses and Johnny is badly burnt and his back is broken. Dallas pulls both of them to safety. EMS finally arrives and takes them back to their hometown and the hospital. The boys are all hailed as heroes, and Ponyboy is tearfully reunited with Darrel and Sodapop.

    The Socs and Greasers plan a big rumble to settle things after the death of Bob, and Cherry acts as the go-between: No knives or other weapons; fighting will only be hand-to-hand. Two-Bit and Pony go to the hospital to visit Dallas and Johnny. Johnny is suffering from horrible burns and is in traction, laying on his chest, seemingly paralyzed. The visit is very emotional and Johnny becomes very upset when a nurse tells him that his mother has come to visit. He doesn't want to see her, as he feels she doesn't care about him. He orders the nurse (a cameo by the novel's author, SE Hinton) to send her away, and faints. Pony and Two-Bit leave, shaken by the encounter. When they visit Dallas, he is arguing with a nurse. Dallas asks about Johnny and they tell him the outcome doesn't look promising. Dallas is desperate to join the big rumble and asks Two-Bit for his knife, talking about revenge for Johnny's sake.

    On the night of the rumble, despite signs of exhaustion, Ponyboy wants to go. Darrell reluctantly lets him participate, telling him and Soda to run if cops arrive. The Socs arrive and the big rumble gets underway in a heavy rainstorm as the groups pair off and start slugging. Both sides get their licks in but after a while the Socs retreat, the Greasers whooping with delight at their victory. Just before the first punch is thrown, Dallas arrives, having left the hospital. When the fight ends, Dallas grabs Pony and they drive to the hospital to see Johnny, who is weaker than ever. On the way, Dallas tells Pony to stay tough and nothing will ever faze him. When they arrive, Dallas tells Johnny that the Socs have been driven out of their territory for good. Johnny seems not to care and tells Pony to "stay gold". Johnny dies and Dallas becomes incredibly upset, dry-firing a pistol at a doctor and babbling madly before he runs off. Pony heads home to find Darrell and the rest of the gang nursing their wounds. He tells them that Johnny died and Dallas tore off in a fury. While Pony worries that Dallas will do something crazy, Dallas holds up a convenience store and is shot and wounded. He calls Pony's house, asking for a place to hide from the police. The cops chase him and shoot him when he waves the unloaded gun at them. The police open fire and his friends arrive just as he dies; his last word is "Pony". Pony faints from exhaustion.

    At the trial Cherry gives her testimony and Ponyboy is declared not guilty. Back at school Ponyboy is now neatly dressed and coiffed; Cherry ignores him and a teacher gives him an extension to finish his writing assignment.

    At home Darrel rides Ponyboy as Sodapop runs off into the night. The three brothers reunite and Sodapop tells Darrel to stop being so hard on Ponyboy, the three only have each other and they all need to get along. They have a group hug and return home.

    At home at his desk, Ponyboy sits down and begins to write his story, starting with the moment he left the movie theater: "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I only had two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home", the first line from Hinton's novel.

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