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The Warriors is a 1979 cult action/thriller film directed by Walter Hill and based on the 1965 novel by Sol Yurick. Much like the novel, the film borrows certain elements from the Anabasis by Xenophon.


Cyrus, the leader of the most powerful gang in New York Citymarker, the Gramercy Riffs, calls a midnight summit for all the area gangs, with all asked to send nine unarmed representatives for the conclave in Van Cortlandt Parkmarker. The Warriors, from Coney Islandmarker, Brooklynmarker, are one such gang.

The eloquent and intelligent Cyrus (Roger Hill) tells the assembled crowd that a permanent citywide truce would allow the gangs to control the city, pointing out there are 60,000 of them and only 20,000 officers in the NYPD. Most of the gangs laud his idea, but members of The Rogues gang, who have smuggled a gun in, pass it to their leader, Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who then kills Cyrus. Panic ensues. Luther is seen in the act by one of the Warriors, Fox (Thomas G. Waites). Immediately after, the NYPD rushes in from all sides. During the chaos, Luther screams that the Warriors are responsible for killing Cyrus. While the Riffs beat the Warriors' leader Cleon (Dorsey Wright), the other eight Warriors escape the melee and debate their next move, knowing they are deep in enemy territory.

Meanwhile, the other locally-based gangs regroup at their respective headquarters. Masai, second-in-command of the Riffs, takes charge as their new leader, and declares a bounty on the Warriors. This sets the entire city's gang population out hunting for them, with a seemingly omniscient radio DJ (Lynne Thigpen) reporting on the events.

Regrouping in Woodlawn Cemeterymarker, The Warriors begin their long journey from the Bronxmarker back to Coney Island. The second-in-command, Swan (Michael Beck), takes charge, though the hot-headed Ajax (James Remar) openly voices his desire to be acting gang warlord. The Warriors slowly cross the dangerous Bronxmarker and Manhattanmarker territories, narrowly escaping police and other gangs every step of the way.

On their way to the subway, the Warriors find another gang, the Turnbull AC's, looking for them. They have no choice but to make a run to the train. The Turnbull AC's almost reach them but the Warriors make it to the train, just in time for the doors to close. However, on the ride back to Coney Island, the train is stopped by a fire on the tracks, dumping the Warriors in Tremontmarker, in the Bronx. In the Bronx, they come across a gang called the Orphans. Parleying for safe passage, the Warriors convince the Orphans to let them through peacefully until they come across Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), a feisty girl who convinces the Orphans to try and put up a fight with the Warriors when they refuse to give her one of their gang-vests. When she challenges the manhood of the Orphans' leader (Paul Greco), he, to save face, tells the Warriors to remove their gang colors for safe passage. The Warriors refuse, resulting in a near fight quelled only by the Warriors' use of a Molotov cocktail. Mercy, impressed, follows the Warriors on impulse.

When the Warriors arrive at the 96th Street and Broadwaymarker station in Manhattan, they are separated when they are chased by the numerous patrolling cops who are trying to round up all the gangs after the "rumble" in the Bronx. Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt make the train to Union Square. Fox is seen with Mercy running to catch up with the others. He is then tackled by a police officer and is struggling to escape but can't. Instead, he tells Mercy to go on without him. Mercy runs to catch up but then goes to Union Square with the police claiming they are looking for a, female with a pink top. Fox is seen again struggling with the cop but the cop notices a train is coming so he then throws Fox in the tracks. The train then runs him over. Swan, Ajax, Snow and Cowboy run outside, where a rival gang, the Baseball Furies, lay in wait for them. The gang chases the four into Riverside Parkmarker, where a fight ensues with the Warriors victorious.

Arriving at the Union Square station, Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt are seduced by members of an all-female gang called the Lizzies. Back at the Lizzies' hangout, the women draw weapons to kill them, but the trio narrowly manages to escape again (with only Rembrandt's arm badly cut by a Lizzie gang member), learning in the process that everyone believes they killed Cyrus.

Leaving the park, Ajax breaks from the group in order to 'make it' with a woman on a park bench, in spite of the others' warnings. The woman (Mercedes Ruehl) is really an undercover police officer who handcuffs Ajax to the bench, and Ajax is arrested and taken to jail.

Swan arrives back at the 96th Street station and meets up with Mercy, who tells him of Fox's fate. On the platform, more police show up and Swan and Mercy flee into the subway tunnel. While there, Mercy expresses her interest in Swan, who doesn't like her because she doesn't respect herself. The pair end up kissing, but Swan pushes her away and leaves without her.

Swan makes it to the Union Square station, but is promptly tailed by members of the Punks. Mercy also arrives, followed by the remaining members of the Warriors who re-group. They lead the Punks into a nearby male public restroom, where another fight ensues. The Warriors, hurt but victorious once more, then catch the last train on their journey back to Coney Island.

The Riffs are visited by a gang member who attended the earlier gathering, a witness to Luther firing the gun. Meanwhile, on the train, the Warriors gripe that Cyrus' plan was all "a load of crap". When four clean-cut types, couples who are returning home from their senior prom, board the train, one of the prom dates drops her corsage upon leaving the train, and Swan gives it to Mercy.

When day breaks, the Warriors finally arrive home, but find Luther and the Rogues waiting for them (with Luther clinking empty bottles on his fingers and intentionally drawing the words, "Warriors, come out to play-yay!!!"). The two gangs meet on the beach, where Luther reveals he had no reason for killing Cyrus, other than his own gratification. Swan suggests he and Luther fight a one-on-one duel. Luther, rejecting this, pulls his gun, but Swan quickly throws a knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him the second he fires. Before more violence ensues, the Riffs arrive on the beach and acknowledge that they have learned the truth of Cyrus's murder. Masai compliments the remaining Warriors on their skills and lets them go. The Riffs then swarm onto the doomed Rogues.

The DJ makes her final appearance and informs everyone that the early reports were wrong. She announces that she is sorry for the Warriors and that "The only thing we can do is play you a song." She plays them Joe Walsh's "In The City" as the Warriors walk down their hometown beach with Mercy.

Cast and characters

The Warriors

The Warriors is a street gang of many races and ethnicities based in the western neighborhoods of Coney Islandmarker, on the edge of Brooklyn. Their gang uniform consists of a red-orange pleather vest embroidered with the Warriors' logo on the back. The gang has an overall Native American theme, and their logo consists of a death's head with an Indian war bonnet shaped like eagle wings. This theme is accented by the Indian-style bead necklaces and armbands worn by some members. Their main stomping ground and base turf is among the many amusement park areas of Coney Island, particularly the landmark that is Deno's Wonder Wheelmarker, a now-iconic symbol synonymous with Coney Island and The Warriors.

In a deleted scene, available on the special edition DVD and also included in some televised versions of the film, Cleon mentions that the Warriors is a street family of 120 members (plus affiliates), but only the nine chosen to go to Cyrus' meeting are shown in the film. The nine principal members in the film are:

  • Cleon (Dorsey Wright): A character based on the original novel's character, Papa Arnold. The Warlord, leader and founder of the gang. Named after the Ancient Greek politician. He wears a leopard-patterned cloth around his head as well as an Indian-style necklace. Immediately after Cyrus' assassination, he is attacked and overwhelmed by the Gramercy Riffs and presumed dead.

  • Swan (Michael Beck): A character based on the original novel's character, Hector. The Warchief, second-in-command of the gang, and the central focus of the film. Assuming control after the loss of Cleon, the level-headed Swan makes the decision for the gang to continue wearing their colors and fight their way back home. After successfully leading the group back to Coney, he wins a gunfight against Luther using only a knife. During filming, he was originally going to be captured by a homosexual gang, the Dingos, in Union Station and later revealed to have escaped, meeting up with the other Warriors when they reach Coney Island for the final showdown with the Rogues but in the finished script this does not happen.

  • Ajax (James Remar): A character based on the original novel's character, Lunkface. A fearless aggressive brawler always up for a fight. Possibly the toughest and strongest of the gang. After the loss of Cleon at the conclave, he engages in a short confrontation with Swan over who should assume command. He wears fingerless leather gloves and a black tank-top under his Warriors vest. Ajax is arrested by an undercover female police officer. He is named after the legendary Greek hero.

  • Vermin (Terry Michos): Quick with a smile and a joke, Vermin is the most cynical member of the gang, but a solid soldier and extremely loyal. He is tasked with carrying the tokens and money to the meeting. In an early script, he is shot and killed by the Lizzies, but in the finished script he survives the attack.

  • Cochise (David Harris): A born fighter who wears Native American-style jewelry, leather pants and boots. He sports an afro with a red bandanna tied around it. He is named after the Apache Chief. He was originally scripted to be beaten to death by the Baseball Furies and then to be thrown into the Hudson River, but in the finished film he survives.

  • Fox (Thomas G. Waites): The gang's scout, Fox is very familiar with other gangs' tactics, territory, and numbers. He dies when thrown in front of a speeding train during a fight with police. 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.

  • Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez): A character based on the original novel's main character, Hinton. The gang's graffiti artist wears the standard Warrior's vest along with a messenger bag and an afro. The youngest member, Rembrandt is far less battle-hardened and is frequently looked after by the other members of the gang. He is named after the famous painter.

  • Snow (Brian Tyler): A stoic, African American Warrior with an afro. He proves to be a talented fighter during the gang's brawls with the Baseball Furies and the Punks. In the script and deleted intro scene, Snow is referred to as "Snowball."

  • Cowboy (Tom McKitterick): A young, optimistic and happy-go-lucky Warrior who wears a Stetson cowboy hat and a shirt underneath his vest. Like Rembrandt, Cowboy is far less battle-hardened and is frequently looked after by the other members of the gang.

  • Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh): A prostitute from Tremont who originally has ties to the Orphans. She joins the Warriors after their confrontation with the Orphans and shows romantic interest in Swan. She occasionally denies being a prostitute and shows embarrassment over her condition around normal people.

Other notable gangs

"Warriors... come out to pla-aay!"
Along the way, the Warriors encounter the following fanciful gangs, from north to south:

  • The Turnbull AC's - A gang with shaved heads, they travel in large numbers in a spray-painted bus and wear denim jackets with matching jeans and patches. Their turf is around Gun Hill Road in The Bronxmarker. According to Rembrandt, even the Gramercy Riffs are afraid to go toe-to-toe with the Bulls.
  • The Orphans - A poor, cowardly, and little-known gang from the Bronx. They are not part of the "network" of the Gramercy Riffs so therefore they are not invited to the meeting with Cyrus.
  • The Baseball Furies - A gang who always wears baseball uniforms with uniquely painted faces and carries baseball bats. Their main building resembles a dugout with bats lining the exit of the building. Though a very respected and formidable gang, they are shown to be very poor fighters as they lose a fight against the Warriors despite having them outnumbered 8 to 4.
  • The Lizzies - An all-female gang who seduce the Warriors and successfully lure some members into their Bowerymarker apartment to kill them. Their name may double as a reference to Lizzie Borden. It may also suggest lesbian tendencies ("lezzies" being a derogatory slang word for lesbians), which are implied by a suggestive dance scene between two of the gang members. They also represent the mythical Sirens. The apartment they take the Warriors to is directly across the street from CBGBmarker.
  • The Punks - A gang with a leader who strolls around on rollerskates. The Warriors fight them in a mens' room in 14th Street–Union Squaremarker subway station. The members are all tall, broad, and white (though there is at least one African-American in the gang), resembling hockey players. They wear denim overalls over striped shirts. The Punks are only referred to by that name in the credits. They share the Bowerymarker neighborhood with the Lizzies.
  • The Rogues - A gang led by Luther who were responsible for Cyrus' assassination. The Rogues are the Warriors' primary enemies as they framed the Warriors for Cyrus' murder, starting the events of the film.
  • The Gramercy Riffs - The largest and most respected gang in New York, led by Cyrus before his assassination at the hands of the Rogues. Each member wears orange karate Gi with the exception of their leader who wears black. It is assumed that they are skilled in martial arts due to their attire and the martial arts style kicks they employ in a fight with Warriors leader Cleon.


Producer Lawrence Gordon sent director Walter Hill the screenplay for The Warriors with a copy of Sol Yurick's novel. Gordon and Hill were originally going to make a western but when the financing on the project failed to materialize, they took The Warriors to Paramount Pictures because they were interested in youth films at the time. Hill was drawn to the "extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script". The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but the director was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter "come to life starting with a splash panel". However, Hill was working on a low budget and a tight post-production schedule because of a fixed release date as the studio wanted to release The Warriors before a rival gang picture called The Wanderers. As a result, Hill was unable to realize this comic book look.

The filmmakers did extensive casting in New York City. Hill had screened an independent film called Madman for Sigourney Weaver to cast her in Alien and it also featured Michael Beck as the male lead. The director was impressed with Beck's performance and cast him in The Warriors. Deborah Van Valkenburgh's agent convinced the film's casting directors to see her. The filmmakers wanted to cast Tony Danza in the role of Vermin but he was cast in the sitcom Taxi and Terrence Michos was cast instead. In Yurick's book there were no white characters but, according to Hill, Paramount did not want an all black cast for "commercial reasons".

Stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley put the cast through stunt school because Hill wanted realistic fights depicted in the film. In preparation for his role, James Remar hung out at Coney Island to find a model for his character. The entire film was shot on the streets in New York City with some interior scenes done at Astoria Studios. They would shoot from sundown to sunrise. The film quickly fell behind schedule and went over budget. While they shot in the Bronx, bricks were tossed at the crew. Actor Joel Weiss remembers that filming of his scene at Avenue A being canceled because there was a double homicide nearby. For the big meeting at the beginning of the film, Hill wanted real gang members in the scene with off duty police officers also in the crowd so that there would be no trouble.

The studio would not allow Baxley to bring any stunt men from Hollywood and he needed someone to double for the character of Cyrus so he did the stunt himself dressed as the character. Actual gang members wanted to challenge some of the cast members but were dealt with by production security. The actors playing The Warriors bonded early in the shoot, on and off the set. Originally, the character of Fox was supposed to end up with Mercy and Swan was captured by a rival gang known as the Dingos only to escape later. Actor Thomas G. Waites was fired eight weeks into principal photography for being difficult on the set and arguing with Hill. The director watched the dailies and realized that Beck and Van Valkenburgh had great chemistry. Their characters ended up together.

Originally, at the Coney Island confrontation at the end of the film, actor David Patrick Kelly wanted to use two dead pigeons but Hill did not think that would work. Kelly used three bottles instead and improvised his famous line, "Waaaaariors, come out to plaaaay". Kelly was influenced by a man he knew in downtown New York who would make fun of him. Hill wanted Orson Welles to do a narrated introduction about Greek themes but the studio did not like this idea and refused to pay for it.


The Warriors opened on February 9, 1979 in 670 theaters without advance screenings or a decent promotional campaign and grossed USD $3.5 million on its opening weekend. The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings - two in Southern California and one in Bostonmarker - involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings. This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film's title, rating and participating theaters. In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism. After two weeks free of incidents, the studio expanded the display ads to take advantage of reviews from reputable critics including Pauline Kael of The New Yorker. She wrote, "The Warriors is a real moviemaker's movie: it has in visual terms the kind of impact that 'Rock Around the Clock' did behind the titles of Blackboard Jungle. The Warriors is like visual rock". In its sixth week, The Warriors had grossed $16.4 million, well above its estimated $6–7 million budget.


A mild commercial success on its initial release, the film was panned by many critics as exploitative and superficial. Gary Arnold, in his review for the Washington Post, wrote, "None of Hill's dynamism will save The Warriors from impressing most neutral observers as a ghastly folly". In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "Another problem arises when the gang members open their mouths: their banal dialogue is jarringly at odds with Hill's hyperbolic visual scheme". Frank Rich, in his review for Time, wrote, "Unfortunately, sheer visual zip is not enough to carry the film; it drags from one scuffle to the next . . . But The Warriors is not lively enough to be cheap fun or thoughtful enough to be serious". Yurick expressed his disappointment in the film version and speculated that it scared some people because "it appeals to the fear of a demonic uprising by lumpen youth", and appealed to many teenagers because it "hits a series of collective fantasies". President Ronald Reagan was also a fan of the film, even calling the film's lead actor, Michael Beck, to tell him he had screened it at Camp Davidmarker and enjoyed it. In recent years, The Warriors has acquired the status of a cult film, along with a re-examination of its standing with some film critics. As of January 2008, the film has garnered a 93 percent "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.


Over the years, The Warriors has developed a significant cult following. At Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema, programmer Zack Carlson remembers, “people were squeezed in, lying on the floor, cheering". Entertainment Weekly named The Warriors the 16th greatest cult film on their "Top 50 Greatest Cult Films" list. The magazine also ranked it the 14th Most Controversial Movie Ever.

A following of cosplayers has also formed at sci-fi and fantasy conventions like Dragon Con. People costume as the Warriors as well as other gangs from the movie like the Baseball Furies. One group of fans has also started a fan community called the D*Con Warriors specifically for Dragon Con attendees.


While itself adapted from a novel, the film has been adapted into a number of other products as well. The film's soundtrack was released in the same year as the film. In 2005, Mezco Toyz released Warriors action figures, including Swan, Cleon, Cochise, Ajax, Luther, and a Baseball Fury.

The Warriors video game, based on the movie, was released by Rockstar Games on October 17, 2005. Levels 1 through 13 acts as a prequel to the film, creating backstory and elaborating on the characters from the film. Levels 14 through 18 recreates much of the film's events. Several of the actors from the movie returned to perform the voices for their original characters.

Warner Bros. Entertainment announced a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 titled The Warriors: Street Brawl. However, it will play differently from the Rockstar Games version, this time in a simple, side-scrolling brawler.

In 2009, Dabel Brothers Productions began a five issue comic book adaption of the film. Following that is a four issue mini series entitled The Warriors: Jail Break which takes place several months after the film.


A modern-day remake of the film is set to be directed by Tony Scott, with a tentative release date of 2010.

See also


  1. The Top 50 Cult Movies
  2. D*Con Warriors
  3. Mezco Toyz | Movie, Television and Proprietary Action Figures & Collectibles

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