Saturday Matinee: The Warriors

By Dante James

Source: Film Threat

Warriors… come out to play! Warriors… come out to play!

One of the most well-known movie chants in cinematic history has passed the 30-year mark.

When The Warriors, starring a bunch unknown actors at the time, made its debut in ‘79, No one could have predicted it would be considered one of the greatest “cult classics” in film history… but here we are.

And if you were to ask any fan of The Warriors why this film has stood the test of time in cult fandom, most will never be able to give you a solid reason other than: “It’s just f*****g cool, man!” But that’s the magic of this movie!

The concept was simple enough. Street gangs from all over New York would come to a truce and unite under the highly respected urban messiah, Cyrus (Roger Hill), Leader of the Grammercy Riffs. A meeting was called in Central Park where they would all hear his message of strength in numbers against the cops. Except, everything goes wrong when Luthor (David Patrick Kelly), leader of Rogues, for no apparent reason other than he was bored, pulls his gun and kills Cyrus from the crowd.

But instead of getting caught, he immediately blamed one of The Warriors, the gang from Coney Island, for the assassination. After violently beating their leader, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), the gangs turned their attention to rest of The Warriors: Swan (Michael Beck), Ajax (James Remar), Rembrandt (Marcelino Sanchez), Vermin (Terry Michos), Cochise (David Harris), Snow (Bryan Tyler), and Cowboy (Tom McKitterick). And from here on out, they have every gang in New York after their a*s as they try to make it back home to Coney.

During this time in cinema (the mid to late 70s), there was an influx of genre movies that were becoming more and more popular. Blaxploitation, gritty cop dramas, and of course, kung fu.

What set The Warriors apart from most films (at the time) was how stylized it was. Starting with how very eccentric and themed all the different gangs were:

The Grammercy Riffs: The biggest and most feared gang made up of Black Kung Fu artist.

The Lizzies: The punk, all-girl gang.

The Boppers: The Harlem crew who looked like 1920s gangsters.

The Turnball AC’s: The skinhead, rabid, “Mad-Max” psychopaths.

The Baseball Furies: The gang dressed like the New York Yankees with facepaint and big bats!

This is just a few of the 20 or more gangs featured in this film. But it was enough to have every 10-year-old boy’s imagination working overtime!

Though there wasn’t a ton of dialogue in the film, the performances were strong all the way through. Especially that of Lynne Thigpen, who plays “The Voice,” a radio DJ who gave the other gangs sightings of The Warriors so they could continue their hunt. And though you never see her entire face in the whole film except for her lips, she brings the much-needed weight that makes the film feel legit.

Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who played the mouthy, tough-girl Mercy who helps The Warriors navigate through the dangerous city, was a stand-out! You go from wanting her to get pushed into ongoing traffic, to loving her by the end. Valkenburgh, though not a household name, has been consistently working in Hollywood even to this day. But her role as Mercy is still the one she gets the most recognition for!

James Remar, who is noted bad-a*s in every movie he’s in, makes Ajax the one Warrior that we all gravitate towards. Even to the point of stealing scenes away from Michael Beck who at this point in the movie, is the actual lead. Ajax’s rumble with The Baseball Furies is still the most memorable fight in the movie!

Another performance that should not go unnoticed is that of Hollywood’s favorite bad guy, David Patrick Kelly who plays Luthor, Leader of The Rogues. From the moment he kills Cyrus, until the end of the film, he delivers on being the scumbag we love to hate. And of course, he’ll always be remembered for his legendary scene in the car as The Rogues have The Warriors cornered at the beach and taunts them by clinking three bottles together on his fingers over and over chanting: “Warriors… Come out to play!” And rumor has it, this scene was completely improvised by Kelly, which makes it even more classic.

The Warriors saw a resurgence in the early 2000s. With not only a video game from developer Rockstar Studios but also with an updated re-release of the film with added footage. People at comic conventions were now cosplaying as The Warriors and all of the different gangs from the film. There have been several reunions with the cast (that are still living), and talks of a reboot.

For many guys in my generation (Gen X), The Warriors has been a constant on most “Best of” list. And for me personally, It’s one film that can’t be redone for the simple fact, there isn’t a living director that can capture what made this movie work!

If you’ve never seen this film, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s definitely in my TOP 5 of “All time greatest movies.”  

*Pro-Tip: It’s best watched late at night, completely in the dark, with some beer and popcorn*


Watch The Warriors on Hoopla here:

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