In 1983, a group of unknown actors starred in the Francis Ford Coppola film, The Outsiders, a movie based on the 1967 book by author S.E. Hinton. The cast of The Outsiders quickly became teenage heartthrobs. Set in a small town in Oklahoma in 1964, the film centers on a bitter rivalry between two different groups of friends, the Greasers, who come from broken homes on the poor side of the tracks, and the Socs, who are born into wealth and privilege. Shot in Tulsa, The Outsiders was a low-budget film that became a box office success, thanks in large part to a cast of charismatic actors who soon became household names.
The Outsiders continues to be a timeless classic as schools across the country have put the book on its required reading list. The book and movie’s lessons about acceptance, the impact of hatred and anger, and the significance of staying true to yourself remain just as relevant today as they were when the film was released 40 years ago. Here’s a look back at the unforgettable cast of The Outsiders, a powerful coming-of-age story.
Tom Cruise as Steve Randle
Although Tom Cruise got bit by the acting bug in high school, he briefly diverted onto a different path when he enrolled in seminary school to become a Catholic priest. After reportedly getting kicked out, Cruise jetted off to New York and then Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business where he landed small roles in the movies Taps and Endless Love before getting his big break as Steve Randle in The Outsiders.
That performance (and his good looks) lead to bigger roles in Risky Business and All the Right Moves. In 1986, Cruise starred in the blockbuster Top Gun as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and then went on to headline the Mission Impossible movie series in the ’90s. He was also in The Color of Money with Paul Newman, A Few Good Men with Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson, and Jerry Maguire with Cuba Gooding Jr. In 2022 Cruise produced and starred in the Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick, which made over $1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of his long career.
Like his Top Gun persona, Cruise is also a real-life pilot and got his license to fly in 1994. Now 61, he’s long been one of the world’s highest-paid actors, and he’s kept a devoted fanbase despite his often-tumultuous personal life.
Matt Dillon as Dallas “Dally” Winston
Who knew cutting class in school could be the lucky ticket to stardom? That just so happens to be how Matt Dillon was discovered. After making his big-screen debut at 14, in the 1979 film Over the Edge, Dillon was cast in back-to-back roles, first as Kristy McNichols on-screen love interest in the film Little Darlings and then as a bully in My Bodyguard.
In 1982, Dillon went on to star in the first of three movies based on books by S.E. Hilton, Tex, Rumble Fish and then The Outsiders. Other Hollywood films quickly followed including The Flamingo Kid, Drugstore Cowboy, Singles, There’s Something About Mary, and You, Me and Dupree. In 2006, he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as an LA police officer in the powerful drama Crash.
Now 59, Dillon has branched into directing. In 2002, he directed and starred in The City of Ghosts and in 2020 he directed a documentary about musician Francisco Fellove. Most recently, in 2023, Dillon had a recurring role in the Apple+ series, High Desert with Patricia Arquette, and appeared in the movie Asteroid City, from acclaimed director Wes Anderson.
Emilio Estevez as Keith “Two-Bit” Matthews
Emilio Estevez might have struck the Hollywood lottery by being the son of actor Martin Sheen and the brother of Charlie Sheen, but he was determined to make it on his own, and used the last name Estevez (his famous father’s legal last name) to establish his own identity in the industry.
Estevez appeared with Dillon in the 1982 film Tex, and then reunited with him as Two-Bit Matthews in The Outsiders. The actor’s winning streak continued with era-defining ’80s classics like The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire and quirkier fare from the decade like Repo Man, Stakeout, and Young Guns.
In the ’90s, Estevez found success starring in sequels for Young Guns and Stakeout. He also was in Men at Work and The Mighty Ducks. Despite his many on-camera achievements, Estevez always hoped to be a director. He directed his first film, Wisdom, in which he starred with his then-girlfriend Demi Moore.
Estevez continued to direct movies and TV shows into the ’90s and ’00s. Now 61, he directed The Public, starring Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater, in 2018, and he reportedly has a new movie in pre-production.
Leif Garrett as Bob Sheldon
Best-known as a ’70s teen musical idol, Leif Garrett also has a number of acting credits under his belt. As a child actor Garrett appeared on popular TV shows The Odd Couple and Gunsmoke and movies like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Walking Tall.
In 1977, Garrett dropped his first single off his self-titled album and one year later released a second album, with a track called, “I Was Made for Dancin’,” that reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. After starring in a TV special called Leif with Marie Osmond, Brooke Shields and Bob Hope, Garrett was tapped to play a bad-boy Soc named Bob in The Outsiders.
By the ’90s, Garrett began to shy away from acting and focus more on his music. He hosted the VH1 series 8-Track Flashback from 1995 to 1996. In 2005, he competed on the reality series Celebrity Fear Factor, where he won $50,000. In 2010 he appeared on the fourth season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where he spoke openly about his past drug use and several brushes with the law for DWI and drug possession. Now 61, Garrett is still kicking, and in 2020, he told Closer Weekly that he was sober and working on a screenplay and book, as well as trying to get more film and TV work.
C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy Curtis
C. Thomas Howell’s original plan was to become a Hollywood stuntman like his father but after getting a few small acting jobs, including a part in TV commercial, Howell was picked to play actor Robert McNaughton’s buddy Tyler in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster hit, E.T. (Click through to read about the E.T cast reunion in 2022).
The following year, Tinseltown came calling again and Howell landed the central role of Ponyboy Curtis in The Outsiders. Since then, the now 56-year-old actor has been in films like Red Dawn, Gettysburg, The Hitcher, Soul Man, The Hitchhiker, Dangerous Indiscretion and Because We’re Family. On the small screen, Howell has been a recurring guest character on the shows Stitchers, The Terror, Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead. Howell has also directed the low-budget films The Day the Earth Stopped, The Land That Time Forgot and War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave.
Diane Lane as Sherrie “Cherry” Valance
Diane Lane‘s career began at just 14 years old, when she was cast alongside Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance. Other roles quickly followed, but The Outsiders provided her breakout. As Cherry Valance, Garrett’s on-screen girlfriend who befriends Ponyboy against her beau’s wishes, she was one of only women in the film. That same year, Lane reunited with Coppola, Hinton, and Dillon to star in the adaptation of Rumble Fish. Lane’s talents also earned her roles in Streets of Fire, The Cotton Club, The Big Town, The Setting Sun, Chaplin, Judge Dredd, A Walk on the Moon, My Dog Skip, The Perfect Storm, and Hardball.
In 2002 she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Unfaithful. In this steamy thriller, she played a woman who becomes enthralled in a hot love affair with a New York City book dealer. Lane’s other buzzworthy credits include Under the Tuscan Sun, Must Love Dogs, Hollywoodland, Man of Steele, and Let Him Go. Now 58, Lane will soon be starring as midcentury socialite Slim Keith in anthology series Feud.
Rob Lowe as Sodapop Curtis
Rob Lowe got his first taste of Hollywood when he was cast on the ABC series A New Kind of Family at 15. Although the show was short-lived, he was soon on a roll, and became one of the biggest heartthrobs of the ’80s. After being cast as the middle Curtis brother, Sodapop, in The Outsiders, Lowe went on to star in Class with Andrew McCarthy, The Hotel New Hampshire with Jodie Foster, Oxford Blues with Ally Sheedy and St. Elmo’s Fire with former co-stars and ’80s icons, Sheedy, Estevez, McCarthy, and future co-star Demi Moore, whom Lowe acted alongside in one year later in About Last Night.
Lowe rode the wave of success as a member of the so-called “Brat Pack” of the era, alongside Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Robert Downey Jr. By the ’90s, Lowe decided to switch things up and head back to his TV roots where he starred on the NBC series, The West Wing alongside Martin Sheen (Estevez’s real-life father). Lowe then starred in the drama Brothers and Sisters and the sitcom Parks and Recreation. Now 59, Lowe currently stars in the procedural series, 9-1-1: Lone Star and stays busy as a brand spokesman and podcaster.
Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade
Before he became The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio, was a tap dance kid! Macchio spent much of his childhood as a talented dancer, and was discovered by a talent agent while performing in a recital. After appearing in a few commercials, Macchio landed a recurring role on ABC’s hit series, Eight Is Enough. Smaller roles followed until casting for The Outsiders began and Macchio scored the role of Johnny Cade.
In 1984, Macchio starred as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, and he reprised the role in the film’s two sequels, in 1986 and 1989. He also had a notable role in My Cousin Vinny, alongside Joe Pesci and Marissa Tomei. Now 61, Macchio continued to appear in film and TV in the ’90s and ’00s, and starting in 2018, he once again played Daniel LaRusso in the Netflix series, Cobra Kai, a continuation of The Karate Kid that’s brought him a new generation of fans. The show was recently renewed for its sixth and final season.
Patrick Swayze as Darrel “Darry” Curtis
Nobody puts Swayze in the corner. Before landing on the big screen in the 1979 film Skatetown U.S.A., Patrick Swayze was studying ballet before being picked as Danny Zuko in the replacement cast of Grease on Broadway. In 1983, Swayze played Darrel, the eldest of the three Curtis brothers in The Outsiders. He was also tapped for six episodes on the TV series, The Renegades. In 1984, Swayze went on to star in the movie Red Dawn opposite his future Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey.
In 1987, Swayze and Grey found themselves together again in the romantic drama, Dirty Dancing, where Swayze not only showed off his killer moves but also sang the film’s hit single, “She’s Like the Wind,” which climbed to number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Following the success of Dirty Dancing, Swayze went on to star in the romantic drama Ghost, alongside Demi Moore. He also acted in cult movies like Road House, Point Break and Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. In 1991, People named Swayze “The Sexiest Man Alive.” Sadly, in 2009 Swayze died of cancer at just 57 years old, and his charming screen presence is missed by many.
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