Francis Ford Coppola's earnest, highly stylised portrait of 1950s Oklahoma greasers, which is based on S E Hinton's much-loved novel, is blessed with an astonishing "boyband" cast: Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe all play greasers.
But the main roles are played by C Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio as Ponyboy and Johnny, two petrified teen greasers forced to go on the run after a fatal scuffle with some drunken, moronic rich kids (the "socs"). Earlier in the night the naïve pair had foolishly dallianced with "soc" girls Cherry (Diane Lane) and Marcia at the drive-in. An error.
This over-egged, beautifully lit melodrama is better than I remember. On first viewing, it felt clichéd and sentimental. It still is, but it's also fascinating to see these young actors overact (Matt Dillon yelling "Let's do it for Johnny, man. We'll do it for Johnny!") but not in a terrible way. In fact, Howell and Macchio are actually quite sweet together and relatively restrained. And Lowe and Swayze are equally charming as Ponyboy's concerned older brothers. The rumble fight between the greasers and the socs towards the finale looks almost quaint – film brutality has moved on considerably since 1983. Some of the dialogue is wince-worthy and the plotting flimsy, but you can't fault the commitment of its young, keen cast. They mean it, man.