First there’s the power of a simple story. The Warriors has a very simple and effective premise: Our heroes want to get home. So simple, I’m surprised there aren’t more movies about this. I can think of a couple: The Wizard of Oz, Cold Mountain, Castaway, um, um…
Second, it’s got that awesome 80s aesthetic to it. It would be perfectly paired with Escape from New York for a fun double feature. Both are gritty, urban, take place at night, and have that pastel-colored sheen. The look and feel of Miami Vice can be traced directly back to these two movies.
Third, there are countless quotable lines, these three being the most popular:
“Warriors, come out to play.”
“Can you dig it?”
“We’re gonna have to bop our way back [to Coney].”
Fourth, the filmmakers have some serious chops. For a no-name cast, the performances are larger than life, yes, but still pretty solid. The directing and editing are exciting and well-paced, even by today’s standards. And there’s even a character arc for Swan, arguably the film’s protagonist.
Speaking of the director, the story goes that when the studio wouldn’t let Walter Hill make a realistic gang movie (he wanted to use all black actors, for example), he decided to make a comic book-style movie that has its own universe with its own rules (like multi-racial gangs with more flamboyant and distinctive gang “colors”). This is a great example of a filmmaker making the most of a creative limitation. Imagine how lame this movie would have been if he’d stuck to his idea of making a realistic gang film even with the silly demands of the studio. But he found a way to make it all work.
And my final piece of evidence: I took a friend to see The Warriors recently at a late night art house screening. He’d never seen it before, and he really enjoyed it. He said it was fun and exciting, and he had none of the nostalgic attachments to the movie that I have.
So, case closed. If you haven’t seen The Warriors and I’ve enticed you to check it out, make sure you let me know if I’m right or wrong.