He works for his money, and he takes a wife
But a poor man's son can be a hero in the night
With a fist full of anger, and the will to fight."
The Warriors is a 1979 crime/action movie, directed by Walter Hill and based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Sol Yurick, that tells the story of nine members of a New York City street gang called "The Warriors" as they fight to survive one very bad night.
The movie starts with the Warriors arriving in a huge Bronx park to attend a summit called by Cyrus, the intelligent and charismatic leader of the Riffs, New York's most powerful street gang. Cyrus makes an ambitious proposal to the assembled delegates of the city's various gangs: if all of them unite under his leadership into an army, they can rule the city and take out the cops, the mob, and anyone else who gets in their way.
Swayed by his articulateness, almost all the gangs are completely fired up to unite and make Cyrus's fantasy a reality. They don't realize two things; the police are secretly surrounding the park while Cyrus is speaking, and Luther, leader of the Rogues, is planning to cause disorder. Amid his speech, as hundreds of gang members are distracted by their madness, Luther shoots and kills Cyrus. Luther then frames Cleon, the leader of the Warriors, for Cyrus's murder. Right after that, the police come in and the Riffs kill Cleon. None of the other Warriors know either that their leader is dead or that they are accused of Cyrus' murder, but they do manage to escape the frenzy.
The remaining Warriors are now faced with a nearly impossible task: make their way from the Bronx to their home turf of Coney Island at the opposite end of the city, with the cops, all the other gangs, and Cyrus' actual killers all hunting for them.
Because the film was about street gangs, when it was shown in theatres, it often attracted actual gang members. A number of theatres had extra security on hand after several riots broke out with rival gangs in some cities (most notably, Los Angeles) where it was shown. Ironically enough, there were no reported riots involving the film in New York City.
A comic miniseries, The Warriors: Jailbreak, was published in 2009. Taking place after the events of the film, it deals with the gang breaking Ajax out of jail.
Tr-o-ooperrrs! Come out to plaa-ee-aaay!
- 20 Minutes in the Future: There is an ambiguity to the time period, as the unusual costumes, night setting and generally apocalyptic vibe can evoke a dystopia similar to Escape from New York or Blade Runner. Some descriptions for the film even say it is set in the future, but by all accounts it is supposed to just be a stylized version of the modern day.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Mercy spills an account of her woeful life to Swan while the two are wandering through an empty subway tunnel.
- Adaptational Heroism: The titular Warriors are much less violent than their despicable Dominator counterparts (from the novel), who kill a random civilian for looking at them funny before gang-raping Mercy on his freshly dead body.
- Adaptational Name Change: The Warriors were called the Dominators in the original book, but the name change avoids a potential Cowboy BeBop at His Computer issue.
- Adaptation Title Change: The film, and the novel it's adapted from with the same name, is a modernized retelling of the ancient Greek text the Anabasis.
- All There in the Script: The second-in-command of the Riffs who takes over when Cyrus is killed is named Masai. This name is not used in the film, however it does appear in the credits.
- Ambiguously Gay:
- The Lizzies are hinted at being a lesbian gang, with two members dancing with each other during the party scene. Their name might be a play on "lezzies", a reference to Lizzie Borden, or maybe even both.
- Rembrandt, a young and fairly meek twink who was recruited to be the gang's "artist", is completely immune to the Lizzie's seductions and even seems annoyed by his friends' attraction to them, though it could just be his cautious nature. In a 2017 interview with Vulture.com, Walter Hill explicitly listed Rembrandt as one of his gay characters.
- Announcer Chatter: The DJ provides running commentary throughout the film.
- Anti-Hero: The heroes of the film are an unapologetic street gang. We sympathize with them because they're unjustly accused, but they still occasionally remind us that they're no saints. Our hero Swan casually wonders whether he should let the whole gang "run a train" on Mercy. Even if it were an empty threat, it's still a pretty horrible thing to say to someone. Ajax tries to force himself on a lone woman in a park, and the rest of the gang seem opposed to it purely for practical reasons. Ajax is also fond of insulting his comrades, using slurs, and generally being an asshole.
- Anyone Can Die: Out of the nine Warriors at the start of the film, only six of them make it to the end. Cleon is beaten to death by the Riffs, Fox is run over by a train, and Ajax gets arrested.
- Ass Shove: Ajax's threat to one of the Baseball Furies:Ajax: I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle!
- Author Appeal: The Baseball Furies were created due to Walter Hill's love of baseball and Kiss.
- Ax-Crazy: Luther, and, to a lesser extent, Ajax.
- Badass Crew: The Warriors. Pound-for-pound, they prove to be one of the toughest gangs in NYC. Nine guys, outnumbered a thousand to one, fight their way from Van Cortland to Coney Island. And they do it Crazy Awesome style.Masai: You Warriors are good. Real good.
Swan: The best.
- Bathroom Brawl: The Warriors face off against The Punks in the bathroom of a metro station, which ends in The Warriors' favor.
- Batter Up!: The Baseball Furies use bats as their signature weapon. The Warriors pick up a few of their bats during their rumble.
- Big Applesauce: New York City's teen gang underworld is the setting and subject, though treated in a rather fantastical fashion.
- Big Bad: Luther, Cyrus's true killer.
- The Big Rotten Apple: New York at night is dominated by violent warring gangs and the police, just short of Urban Hellscape or even Urban Warfare territory; ordinary citizens are explicitly referred to by the gangs as "civilians".
- Bittersweet Ending: Most of the Warriors make it back to Coney Island, they're cleared of killing Cyrus, Swan and Mercy get together and Luther gets what's coming to him, but Cleon and Fox are dead, Ajax has been arrested (though one could argue this is a good thing), Swan is clearly disillusioned and the alliance between the gangs has fallen apart, leaving them all back where they started and having lost more than they gained. It's possible they might find something better, with Mercy even suggesting she and Swan travel elsewhere, but for now they're stuck.
- Black Dude Dies First: The first two casualties on screen are both African-American; Cyrus, whose death is the Inciting Incident, and Cleon, the Decoy Protagonist, whose death makes room for the real hero of the film, Swan (whose name even reflects his whiteness).
- Blood Knight: Ajax, verging on The Brute status.
- The movie begins and ends at Coney Island.
- The first and last fight scenes in the movie have the Warriors fighting the Rogues and prevailing despite the Rogues' unfair advantages. The Riffs also interfere in both fights to avenge Cyrus's death.
- Bring the Anchor Along: When Ajax gets handcuffed to a park bench by a decoy cop, he manages to drag the park bench several feet while attempting to reach her and get the handcuff key. He is prevented from going any further by the arrival of squad car full of cops. James Remar secured the role of Ajax by being so involved in the audition scene (which was the park bench sequence) that he did the same thing with the heavy table in the audition room.
- Brooklyn Rage: New York City is apparently a warzone of brightly-clad boppers out for blood.
- Butt-Monkey: The Orphans. A minor street gang so low on the pecking order they didn't even know about Cyrus's event. The entire gang can't even handle eight Warriors walking through their turf.
- Chain Pain: One the Punks who attacks the Warriors in the men's room is wielding a length of chain as a weapon. Cochise manages to wrap it around the Punk's own neck. Later, one of the Riffs who surrounds Luther on the beach is carrying a heavy chain.
- Chairman of the Brawl: Used in the skirmish with the Lizzies.
- Challenging the Chief: When War Lord Cleon (from the rest of the Warriors' POV) disappears, Swan takes over as Cleon's designated War Chief. Ajax (of course) isn't happy, and issues the challenge. The actual fight is averted by the timely arrival of the elevated train they need to catch.
- Chekhov's Gun: Luther's gun is a literal example. He uses it to kill Cyrus and draws it in his duel versus Swan.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The Turnbull ACs, the Furies, and the Punks make their first appearances listening to the radio channel, on which the DJ is relaying the Riffs' kill order on the Warriors.
- Combat Pragmatist: The Warriors in general qualify, particularly Rembrandt, who uses his spraypaint as mace in the bathroom fight.
- Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: One of the most-quoted scenes of the film is Luther calling out the Warriors to "come out to play" while clinking beer bottles together. This was mostly improvised by the actor. He originally wanted two dead pigeons, but beer bottles are easier to get.
- Comically Missing the Point: Mercy, (apparently) leaving her self-described colorful past behind to ally with the Warriors, balks at entering the site of their last subway battle. "I can't go in there, that's the men's room!" Vermin leans out of the door with a perfectly timed and inflected "Are you kidding?!?" and yanks her offscreen like a Vaudeville Hook.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: An adaptation by David Atchison.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Subverted in the opening scene. The Rogues attempt to take Cleon down by attacking him one at a time, which Cleon manages to fend off. The Riffs, however, pile on him all at once, overwhelming him quickly.
- Counter-Attack: This seems to be Swan's preferred style of combat. Nearly every single attack he does in the movie is either a counter to someone else attacking him, or disarming a foe.
- Cue the Sun: The Warriors, having reached home and had their name cleared, play on the beach while the sun rises during the credits.
- Deadpan Snarker: The DJ qualifies throughout, but especially at the end: "Now for that group out there that had such a hard time getting home last night... sorry about that. I guess the only thing we can do is play you a song." The written line can't do justice to the tone.
- Death by Adaptation: Cleon's equivalent in the novel, Papa Arnold, gets separated from the others in the gang meeting and is not heard from again. At the end, it turns out he survived and made it back to Coney Island on his own.
- Decapitated Army: Cyrus' grand alliance of gangs falls apart the second he gets shot, as the cops close in and the gang members scatter to save themselves.
- Decoy Protagonist: Cleon, the gang's leader, is the first to go. The focus then shifts on Swan, the former second-in-command.
- Demoted to Extra:
- In the book, the main protagonist is Hinton, the gang's graffiti artist. His equivalent in the movie, Rembrandt, is a secondary character.
- Snow, Cowboy, and Vermin are this in the Jailbreak comic.
- Dirty Coward:
- Luther, the leader of the Rogues, in spades. He violates the truce and shoots Cyrus, then frames the Warriors. He is the only (male) gang member to use a gun in a fight. And his meltdown when the Riffs show up and reveal they know what he did is classic (see below).
- The Orphans are an entire gang of them who immediately scatter and flee as soon as something looks too hard.
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- This also seems to be the Lizzies' tactic of choice.
- Proves to be the undoing of Ajax in the third act when he stops to flirt with a woman on the park bench and gets aggressive. She reveals he's an undercover cop and cuffs him to the bench. He's unable to get the key from her before he's swarmed by police and arrested.]]
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Fox. The character was originally written as the love interest for Mercy, but the actors did not get along. Swan was rewritten as the Love Interest and Fox gets hit by a subway train halfway through the film. The actor had already quit by the time his death scene was filmed, hence the Fake Shemp.
- Played with with Ajax. For most people, James Remar is one of the most recognizable names in the cast, so his sudden decision to put the make on an undercover cop and get himself arrested in the beginning of the third act is a bit surprising to first-time viewers, especially because he disappears for the rest of the film.
- Dumb Muscle: Ajax is only interested in the two Fs.
- Dwindling Party: The Warriors start off with nine members, but between battles with cops and other gangs, they start getting picked off. They also get split up a few times. Only six make it back home by the end.
- Enemy Mime: The Baseball Furies paint their faces similar to mimes and never speak. There's also the Hi-Hats, who wear more traditional mime attire and are seen in the background of the gang conference.
- Everyone Has Standards: Mercy helps the Warriors blow up a car, evade cops, and make their way through subway tunnels on foot. Then she balks at seeking shelter in a men's restroom.Vermin: Are you kiddin'?
- Extremely Short Timespan: All the action takes place over the course of about 12 hours.
- The Faceless: All we see of the DJ is her mouth next to the microphone.
- Fake Shemp: Thomas G. Waites had already walked off of the production by the time his character Fox is thrown in front of a subway train.
- Fight Magnet: The Warriors fight every gang they come across because they've been framed for murder and refuse to take off their colors when entering rival gangs' territory.
- For the Evulz: Luther kills Cyrus and blames it on the Warriors. When asked why, he responds, "No reason. I just like doing things like that."
- Gang of Hats: New York's streets are apparently ruled by these. Each gang has a theme, which carries into their dress and behavior. The Orphans dress shabbily and are total wimps. The Turnbull ACs are a large gang of skinheads, and non-racist ones at that given the presence of black members in their ranks. The Baseball Furies never speak, wear facepaint and baseball uniforms, and wield baseball bats. The Lizzies are all female. The Riffs (NYC's most powerful gang) have an Asian martial arts theme. The Hi-Hats (seen briefly in the opening and given a bigger part in the game) dress like street mimes. The Warriors themselves wear red leather vests and Native American accessories. Needless to say, the New York underworld comes across as very surreal. In any case, this movie is definitely one of the Trope Codifiers.
- Gangster Land: Nearly every character who isn't a cop is a gangbanger. There are virtually no civilians on the streets out at night, which is why it's so jarring when a few high school kids out on prom show up in Swan and Mercy's subway car.
- Greek Chorus: The DJ, in Deadpan Snarker mode.
- A Handful for an Eye: During the fight with the Punks, Rembrandt sprays paint into the eyes of one his attackers.
- Harmless Villain: The Orphans weren't even invited to the meeting in the park and lamely try to intimidate the Warriors with newspaper clippings detailing their misdeeds, all while holding weapons like belts and straight razors.
- Hero Antagonist: The NYPD. Of the three casualties the Warriors suffer, New York's finest inflict two of them.
- Homage: Of course, being based on Greek mythology, the Baseball Furies are The Furies, the Lizzies are the Sirens, and so on.
- Homage Shot: Swan's showdown with Luther is a shot-for-shot reference to a scene from Yojimbo.
- Honor Before Reason: The Warriors refuse to remove their gang colors when passing through Orphans turf, even knowing this will be seen as an act of war. Of course, a fight with the Orphans isn't exactly a scary prospect.
- "I Am" Song: "Last of An Ancient Breed" sums up the Warriors' life.
- Improbably Cool Car: In all fairness, the 1950's-vintage Cadillac hearse driven by the Rogues is pretty cool, but how they obtained it — never mind how they learned to drive it — is a mystery.
- Improvised Weapon: Characters are occasionally seen whacking each other with objects they grab in the middle of a fight. Just before the final showdown, several Warriors rip off a piece of metal or wood from the dilapidated amusement pier they're standing under. Few guns and blades are actually seen in the movie. In the video game, random items such as beer bottles and bricks come in handy during street fights.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Lizzies, who only manage to graze a single Warrior after ambushing them at close range...maybe; given their poor aim, it's just as likely he cut himself smashing through the door on his way out. In the original script, Vermin was supposed to die.
- Informed Attribute: Rembrandt is the gang's artist, but the only thing we see him paint is a W consisting solely of four shaky lines.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ajax is a real Jerkass who doesn't seem to get along with anyone. Still, Cowboy has to admit, "He saved my ass back there." After failing to seize power from Swan, he doesn't hold a grudge and brushes it off with a simple, "Aww, fuck!"
- Jive Turkey: The film features a small lexicon of slang terms with somewhat dubious authenticity. To "bop" is to fight, and gang-bangers are called "boppers." To "soldier" means to openly act as a member of a gang, including wearing their gang colors. The words "waste" and "wasted" are almost always used instead of "kill" or "dead." Cyrus's triumphant rallying cry to the assembled gangs is, "Can you dig it? Can you dig it?"
- Large Ham:
- Cyrus. CAN YOU DIG IT??
- Masai demanding to know about the Warriors (see the closing page quote at the bottom)
- Luther's sneering, unhinged delivery in almost every line.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- Luther gets ratted out by his own man, and his murder of Cyrus gets avenged by Cyrus's own gang.
- Also, Ajax stops in the park in order to sexually harass a woman and is promptly arrested by her.
- Leave the Camera Running: The end credits. The actors got a quarter-mile from the camera down the beach and, if you look closely, can be seen turning around on several occasions wondering if they've gone far enough.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Ajax is the most hotheaded member of the gang and his strategy is always to go on the attack, regardless of the odds. Sometimes it works out for him, sometimes it really doesn't.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: At least two examples. Cowboy, who comes off as whiny and a little cowardly in earlier scenes, kicks major ass in the subway men's room brawl. And Rembrandt, the smallest and weakest of the crew, punches a guy out in that very same scene.
- Lighter and Softer: The original book is far bleaker. The Coney Island gang is composed of Villain Protagonists who murder an innocent man and commit multiple rapes and various acts of vandalism on the way back to their territory. The other gangs are never particularly gunning for them; the fights they get into are primarily instigated by themselves. The book also shows the wider social context of how gang members come from poverty, sometimes abusive households and the future seems to hold nothing for them.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Every gang in New York is gunning for the Warriors for Cyrus' murder — a fact the titular gang is completely unaware of for most of the movie. Sure, every gang they meet attacks them on sight, but sadly that's business as usual for them.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Arnold McCuller's rather upbeat rendition of "Nowhere To Run" is a naked threat to the Warriors' lives.
- Meaningful Appearance: Ajax sports a pair of fingerless gloves, almost certainly to cushion his knuckles.
- Meaningful Name: Ajax is the Dumb Muscle, as was his mythical namesake. Rembrandt is in charge of tagging, making him the gang's "artist." Fox is the gang's scout and quickest member. Snow always stays cool. Swan is calm, dignified, and handsome. Cleon is named after a famous Greek general. Cowboy is never seen without his Stetson hat. Cochise is dressed in Native American apparel. Vermin, in the original script, was to be "exterminated" by the Lizzies. Cyrus's namesake was a powerful prince in Anabasis who was killed trying to claim the throne of the Persian empire. Masai is named for the African warrior culture.
- Mocking Sing-Song: "Warriors, come out to play."
- Molotov Cocktail: Vermin is correct that "Thirty's a lot more than eight," but a well-thrown flaming wine bottle evens the odds quite nicely against the Orphans — especially since Swan targets the combustible car the Orphans have gathered around.
- Mook Chivalry: Despite outnumbering the Warriors, and being armed while the Warriors are not, the Baseball Furies stand back and attack the Warriors one on one rather rushing them.
- More Criminals Than Targets: The few ordinary people who appear are mostly extras; only the "Candy Store Girl" (actual credit, played by Ginny Ortiz) has even one speaking line.
- Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: Swan proves quicker on the draw with a knife than Luther is with a gun.
- New Old West: There are a lot of Western plot elements, with the Warriors essentially running through a lawless Injun Country of hostiles while themselves sporting a Native American theme. Further, the Warriors are "outlaws" being pursued by the "Posse" of the NYPD. Two of the Warriors even have Western motifs; Cowboy, who wears a stetson, and Cochise, who wears Native American style clothing with his vest. Luther wears a sheriff's badge pinned to his vest, giving him elements of the Lawman Gone Bad.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Luther, most notably in the final showdown when Swan challenges him one-on-one, and Luther threatens to shoot Swan instead.
- Oh, Crap!: ALL the Rogues when the Riffs show up on that Coney Island beach, but especially Luther, who first descends into Wangst with "Nooo... It wasn't us... It was them... The Warriors..." and, finally, "NOOOOOOOOOO!".
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When the the Warriors come face to face with the quiet and intimidating Baseball Furies, it is the usually hotheaded Ajax that's first to agree with Swan to just run away from them.
- Opening Monologue: Present in the special edition.
- Overcrank: Cyrus's death, and The Lizzies and Subway bathroom fight scenes combine Slow-Motion Fall with Dramatic Shattering (of a platform, a chair, and a stall door, respectively) to incredible effect.
- Pet the Dog: Swan is mostly a jerk to Mercy. But in a later scene, they wind up sharing a train with some yuppies who make disapproving glances at Mercy's general state of disarray. When she self-consciously starts to adjust herself, Swan stops her and gives them a Death Glare that scares them off the train. As the pair leave the train themselves, Swan gives her the corsage the yuppies dropped.
- Pimp Duds: Worn by The Boppers, briefly visible during the gang summit.
- Police Are Useless: Averted. The police keep an eye on Cyrus's meeting with the other gangs and immediately swarm the park after Cyrus gets shot. In addition, they are responsible for most of the Warriors' losses as one of them kills Fox and another arrests Ajax.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Ajax accuses his fellow Warriors of "turning faggot" when they want to avoid a fight or not go out and get laid. It's also his favorite insult toward people he doesn't like. While this was far less controversial in The Seventies, it's still used to make him seem abrasive.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: To say the film adaptation is loosely based on the Sol Yurick novel is putting it lightly. However, as the author noted in a subsequent reprint of the book, it was highly unlikely that Hollywood would've been able to make a profitable/successful movie based on the original plot and structure of the book.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
Orphan Leader: You see what you get Warriors, you see what you get when you mess with The Orphans!Orphan Lieutenant We’re gonna rain on you Warriors! The Orphans then get their own asses kicked.
- Ajax: "I'm gonna shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle!"
- Inverted with the Orphans:
- Precision F-Strike: In this movie about teen gangbangers, while not quite a Cluster F-Bomb picture, the language is one of the more realistic things;. Still, Swan manages to pull one of these off with context and timing. He and Fox have been trying to talk, rather than fight, their way past one of the gangs, and all is going well until Mercy shows up and starts signifying. That prompts the following exchange:Orphan Leader: Take your colors off, you can walk through.
Swan: We don’t do that.
The Fox: It’s just our mark, it don’t mean we’re at war.
Orphan Leader: Go as civilians, okay? You go as soldiers I got to come down on you. Now take off your colors.\\Orphan Leader: You hear me?Second Dramatic PauseSwan: Fuck you.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The boppers are portrayed as a barbarian subculture of warring tribes that come out after nightfall and take over the city, with their own lingo, culture, and rules.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Cyrus's rallying cry of "Can you dig it?" gets repeated and emphasized until it fits this trope.
- Masai spits out a breathy, "I! Want! Them! Found!" when speaking of the Warriors.
- Race Lift: While there were white characters in the book, none of the central characters or protagonists were white: according to Hill, Paramount did not want an all-black cast for "commercial reasons".
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Downplayed. On several occasions, the characters casually mention forcing themselves on a lone woman as if it were a casual hookup.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Thomas G. Waites being fired not only caused his character's death, it unintentionally had further consequences that could've been a disaster. According to Sean Eagan's 2021 book about the film, Deborah Van Valkenburgh fractured her wrist filming Fox's death scene with Waite's double. She was in a cast for almost a month while the crew shot around her. When Hill finally had to have her start shooting again, he pulled a denim jacket from costume, threw it over Mercy — and the still-obvious cast — and hung the following lampshade pretty much on the spot:Mercy: Hey, wait! There's still cops all over the place.
Swan: Where's the Fox?
Mercy: A cop grabbed him.
Swan: So how come you hung around?
Mercy: I don't know.
Swan: Where'd you get the coat?
Mercy: You ask a lot of questions.
Swan: Don't give me that!
Mercy: I stole it. Cops are looking for somebody in a pink top.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Swan must be a pretty tough guy to get nicknamed "Swan" and still command respect.
- Rollerblade Good: The leader of The Punks wears roller skates.
- Rule of Cool:
- Most gangs' outfits aren't realistic or practical, but it all fits in with the film's style.
- The leader of the Punks wears roller skates, which looks cool but doesn't seem practical for someone who expects to get into fights.
- Run the Gauntlet: After the Rogues frame the Warriors for the murder of Cyrus, the Riffs put out a kill order on the Warriors. Every time the Warriors enter a new gang's turf on their way home, that gang comes right after them.
- Searching the Stalls: The Punks line up in a bathroom to kick all the stalls open at the same time. The Warriors open the doors first and a brawl ensues.
- Setting Update: The story is basically Xenophon's March to the Sea in modern New York.
- Sex Signals Death:
- While not killed, Ajax is arrested when he gets rough with a woman he's trying to pick up.
- Three of the Warriors are seduced and then ambushed by the Lizzies, but they all manage to escape. Originally Vermin was supposed to get killed by the Lizzies, but this was changed when the filmmakers were forced to kill Fox instead due to his actor's departure.
- Sinister Shades: Masai wears aviators at all times.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: On this particular axis, the film's ideology shifts all over the place. In one sense, The Warriors is about as anti-progressive and nihilistic as a movie can get: The leaders of modern society are full of it, but the unwashed masses have been so barbarized by their mistreatment that if they ever did take over, they'd just become the same sort of hypocritical oppressors that have always been. ("We could tax the crime syndicates and the police! Nothing would move without us allowing it to happen!") On the other hand, the film demonstrates that even cheap thugs can have a sense of honor, and if they're for real, they will certainly not tolerate anyone violating their particular moral code.
- Slut-Shaming: Mercy likes to sleep around, and Swan makes his disdain clear. Although it seems pretty clear Swan is attracted to her underneath that disdain.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Despite the premise that the Warriors have to Run the Gauntlet of rival gangs to return to Coney Island, it is averted for the most part. Near the beginning, the Warriors barely escape the Riffs, the most powerful gang, and lose Cleon as a result; furthermore, the third gang they fight are the Orphans, who are the weakest gang encountered. The Punks, the penultimate gang fought by the Warriors, are the Climax Bosses, who while inferior to the Riffs give the Warriors one of their toughest fights. Finally, the Rogues, the true villains of the film and the final opponents for the Warriors, fare less well against the Warriors than most of the previous gangs did.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Joe Walsh's "In The City" over the closing credits. That said, it seems to fit in with Swan's line "This is what we fought all night to get back to? Maybe I'll just take off."
- Stalker Shot: While Swan is navigating his way to Union Square through the subway station, as Swan walks offscreen, the leader of the Punks appears around the corner wearing roller skates and stalks Swan from a distance.
- Stern Chase: For most of the film, the gang doesn't know specifically that all the gangs are hunting them because the Riffs have a bounty on them. However, from the immediate aftermath of the big conclave, they do know that, as Cochise puts it, "Every cop in this city’s lookin’ to bust our heads." They also realize that the truce may not still be on. Their encounter with the Turnbull A.C.s confirms it isn't.
- Subverted Innocence: A fairly common motif here. The Warriors' hideout is an old, abandoned section of a Coney Island Amusement Park. Cyrus addresses his congregation from atop what appears to be a crude jungle gym. The Turnbull A.C.'s run down their prey in a graffiti-strewn school bus. The Furies have a baseball theme. The Punks wear overalls and their leader wears roller skates. And then, there's a gang known as "The Orphans." It's suggested a few times that the Warriors are supposed to be teenagers.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- The movie begins with members from almost every gang gathering in Van Cortland Park, where a charismatic leader is planning to forge them into an army... and what looks like the entire NYPD following them. With the sheer amount of people involved and invited who are monitored by the police, of course it couldn't be kept secret and the police heard about it. And obviously if all these criminals and delinquents who normally fight each other at the drop of a hat on a daily basis are gathering in one location, the NYPD is going to devote significant manpower/resources to deal with it.
- The comic sequel presents a logical consequence of the above: With the sudden influx of arrests, the criminal justice system is temporarily overwhelmed with processing all of them. Many of the gang members are kept in relatively low-security police holding cells for an extended period of time, which is the only reason the Warriors have any hope of breaking Ajax out.
- For that matter, Cyrus' big plan is ultimately a victim of this. While his plan to unite all the gangs together in theory is a clever plan, his immediate death also underlines the issues that was bound to occur; Not everyone would be willing to work as a unit and there would always be people (like Luther) that would cause issues and make the whole plan collapse. Even later on in the film when the Warriors are together and reflect on Cyrus's plan, they scoff at it and Masai (Cyrus's top lieutenant) himself writes this off as a case of "the dream died with him" when Swan brings it up in the comic.
- The Theme Park Version: Lampshaded in that the picture begins and ends in the Warriors home turf, the amusement park section of Coney Island. Beyond that, played with extensively. Especially by today's standards, the film offers a somewhat cartoonish vision of gang life in New York, with gangs wearing elaborate costumes and getting up-to-the-minute coverage on rumbles from a local "underground" radio station. However, the film is also rather brutal, with a number of characters getting killed. One particular scene, in which the surviving members of the gang are contrasted to some suburbanites coming from prom, emphasizes the relative grittiness of the setting. The film became infamous when real gang members attended showings and got into fatal fights.
- Tired of Running: The hot-blooded bruiser Ajax is glad when Cowboy says that he can't run from the Baseball Furies anymore, since he wanted to fight them anyway.
- Token Evil Teammate: Ajax is hardcore even by the gang's standards. He's pugnacious with the other Warriors and he dooms himself by trying to force himself on a random woman.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Ajax, He decides to break away from the group to score with a lone woman in the park, despite the others' warnings over how stupid the idea is. He gets arrested when she turns out to be an undercover cop.
- Could also be applied to Vermin and Cochise when they meet the Lizzies. Granted, they don't know everyone is gunning for them yet, but they don't seem the least bit suspicious when this female gang they meet on the street is really really friendly. Vermin initially questions how they even know about the Warriors, but then immediately chalks it up to their hardcore reputation. True to the trope, the original version of the scene had Vermin getting killed.
- Thrill Seeker: Another explanation of Mercy's behavior when the Warriors show up; it's not that she's dumb, she's desperate — willing to roll the dice to get out of her dead-end neighborhood and its even more dead-end gang.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: The Warriors are far from their turf and must get through miles (28.3 miles, according to Google Maps) of enemy turf to get home.
- Travel Montage: The movie opens with The Warriors going to the big meeting in one of these.
- Uncertain Doom: Luther is last seen screaming as the Riffs descend on him after finding that he killed Cyrus.
- Vague Age: The Warriors are played by men in their 20s, but there's also mention of one having an assigned youth social worker. Swan and Mercy are also contrasted with a group of teens going to prom. It's ultimately unclear whether they're supposed to be teens or adults.
- Vapor Wear: Mercy doesn't wear a bra.
- Villainous Breakdown: Luther's begins when Swan demonstrates his Improbable Aiming Skills and gets worse when the Riffs show up now knowing that it was he who murdered Cyrus.
- Walking Shirtless Scene:
- The Warriors' outfit includes a vest worn open, exposing their manly chests in the New York heat. Strangely, Ajax wears a black tank-top beneath his vest in spite of having the best physique. Cowboy wears a plain t-shirt and his vest over it, and Fox is the only one to wear his vest buttoned up.
- Masai wears his sequined black gi open to expose his muscular chest.
- We ARE Struggling Together: This is basically Cyrus' message at the Bronx summit. Luther proves him right, killing Cyrus not out of opposition to his vision of a single gang controlled by Cyrus ruling New York, but just for the thrill of doing so.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out to whom Luther was speaking during those phone conversations. It was someone he was familiar with and wanted to give constant updates on what was happening; most viewers assume it was the DJ in her role as "play by play announcer."
- White Gangbangers: The New York of this film plays host to the most ethnically diverse gangs yet seen; while everyone is extremely misogynistic and violent, nobody is racist and race is never once mentioned. The Warriors gang is roughly half-black half-white with one Hispanic character. On the DVD commentary, Walter Hill admits that he bowed to executive pressure to cast some white actors. The other gangs are generally homogeneous, although often they have one white/black/Asian gang member present. Even the apparently all-black Riffs can be seen to include a white member or two in the background of some scenes, possibly due to a limited supply of black extras.
- Would Hit a Girl:
- Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt beat the crap out of the all-female Lizzies. To be fair, the Lizzies have gone from seducing to shooting at them.
- Sully, the Orphans' leader, threatens to smack Mercy in the mouth when she starts mocking them. Not long after that, Swan suggests that the Warriors should gang rape, or "run a train" on, her when she foolishly or at least recklessly continues to follow and heckle them.
- Ajax attempts to rape a female undercover cop at one point, despite her pretending to be entirely willing at first.
- "YEAH!" Shot: A relatively restrained example, with Swan, Mercy, Vermin, Cowboy, Snow, Cochise, and Rembrandt walking off into the sunrise just after the end credits. If you look closely, you can see (far off in the distance) Swan and Mercy raise their hands in a "Yeah!" gesture just before the fade to black.
"WHO are The Warriors?!? I want ALL the Warriors! Send the word!...."