With the recently aired Roast of Rob Lowe on Comedy Central, people were once again reminded of the classic movie The Outsiders, which featured breakout performances from a huge cast of young actors. Most of these boys grew up to have long and lucrative careers after the iconic film, which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola proved to be remarkably prescient in his casting, as the film starred the young, pink-cheeked, and green talents of Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Leif Garrett, Matt Dillon, and Emilio Estevez for starters.
The 1983 film was based on the book, published in 1967 and written by Susan Eloise (S.E.) Hinton when she was still in high school. It is set in Oklahoma, and centers on the drama between two rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs. The book has become required reading in many high schools across the country, while others have banned it (an accolade in its own right). Coppola went on to adapt another of Hinton’s books, Rumble Fish, into another movie soon after The Outsiders. So what ever happened to the young men who played the Greasers and the Socs in The Outsiders? They’ve gone on to become legends in their own right, for the most part.
15. C. Thomas Howell – Ponyboy
Well, did Ponyboy “ ”? It appears that C. Thomas Howell, the actor who played the starring role of Ponyboy Curtis in the movie grew up to have quite the lucrative acting career as an adult. He got his first big acting role in Steven Spielberg’s E.T., playing the role of cigarette-smoking Tyler when he was just 12 years old. The Outsiders was only his second film ever. Strangely, it always seems to be more difficult for a child actor to overcome an iconic role rather than benefit from it. Howell, after a few years of uncertainty, eventually grew up to be an extremely successful actor, who has had recurring spots on basically every major drama on network television. He’s been in Criminal Minds, Southland, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, and Animal Kingdom, to name a few. Known on his website and Facebook fan page as “Tommy,” the former child-stuntman and child actor has also found success as a producer and director in addition to acting.
14. Matt Dillon – Dallas
At the time of casting, Matt Dillon was the biggest star in the cast of The Outsiders, receiving top billing and earning about twice as much as the likes of his co-stars Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise, who would launch unbelievably profitable careers in the future. The Outsiders was the second of three films Dillon was to act in directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the others being Tex and Rumble Fish. In all three films, Dillon embodied so perfectly the dreamboat bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, a designation he would strive to escape in his later career.
Dillon suffered a series of flops following his promising start in the early to late ’80s, but re-emerged in the extremely popular film There’s Something About Mary alongside Cameron Diaz. He was then nominated for an Oscar as well as a Golden Globe for the skin-crawlingly awful racist LA cop in the 2004 film Crash. More recently, he’s played the detective Ethan Burke in the horror-fantasy series Wayward Pines.
13. Ralph Macchio – Johnny
Unlike many of his Outsiders co-stars, Ralph Macchio did not go on to take Hollywood by storm, become a middle-aged heartthrob, or loudly advocate the benefits of a shady, cult-like religion. Instead, after starring in a few great films, he faded into something like obscurity. It was a common theme of the Comedy Central roast, of which he was a part, that Macchio doesn’t work anymore. He is probably best known for playing Daniel in The Karate Kid which came out the year following The Outsiders. He also starred in My Cousin Vinny in 1992, but this was his last high profile role for a very, very long time. Though he looked like he was about 12 in The Outsiders, he was actually 22 years old, older than many of his co-stars who looked very much like they could beat him up. Today, his baby-face hasn’t aged much, as could be seen at the Comedy Central roast and even earlier on his short-lived stint on the series Ugly Betty.
12. Patrick Swayze – Darry
Playing Darry in The Outsiders was only Patrick Swayze’s second major film role, after his debut in The Renegades in 1982, and it paved the way for a long, profitable career in Hollywood. Swayze achieved icon status before his tragic death of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at the painfully early age of 57. Who could forget him as Johnny in Dirty Dancing (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!“) or as the ghost of Sam Wheat in Ghost, who could never tell Demi Moore “I love you” back, only “ditto“?
Swayze starred in other classic films such as Point Break and Donnie Darko, and even made a cameo in the guilty pleasure Dirty Dancing remake, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Unlike many a Hollywood marriage, Swayze enjoyed a 34-year-long marriage to wife Lisa Niemi. In his career, Swayze was nominated for three Golden Globe awards, and died something of a Hollywood legend.
11. Rob Lowe – Sodapop
The breathtakingly beautiful Rob Lowe, who played Sodapop in The Outsiders, went on to star in numerous television roles (and one extremely scandalous sex tape) in the following thirty-odd years. After the success of The Outsiders, Lowe became a bona fide member of the “Brat Pack” with other young actors of the 80’s, including Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy and co-star Emilio Estevez, among others, after acting in the smash hit film St. Elmo’s Fire.
Following the sex-tape scandal, Lowe’s career took a bit of a nosedive, before regaining momentum with sobriety and a string of successful (and not so successful) television roles starting in the 00’s. His best-known efforts are for his role of Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, then in Brothers and Sisters, Californication, Parks and Recreation, and the art-imitates-life sitcom The Grinder, about an actor who plays a lawyer on TV and his real-life lawyer brother, played by Ben Savage.
10. Emilio Estevez – Two-Bit
Emilio Estevez was another member of the infamous “Brat Pack,” and his life of celebrity and teen-movie roles was also kickstarted with his role in The Outsiders, playing the character of Two-Bit. Following The Outsiders, the tamer of Martin Sheen’s two actor sons (the other, of course, being Charlie Sheen) shot to superstardom with the films St. Elmo’s Fire, and of course The Breakfast Club. He played the gruff and lovable coach in The Mighty Ducks films, and starred in a few family friendly sports films such as Angels in the Outfield and Air Bud.
After that, however, Estevez all but disappeared from the screen. He did make one cameo on his brother’s popular show Two and a Half Men, but that was basically it. He doesn’t make many public appearances either. He’s still working in the industry however, but now he’s behind the camera instead of in front of it. Estevez has found some success in more recent years as a director, and directed the well-received 2006 film Bobby, which was nominated for 2 Golden Globes.
9. Tom Cruise – Steve
Where to begin with Tom Cruise? When he filmed The Outsiders, Cruise was just another relatively unknown pretty face. But The Outsiders led to Risky Business, which led to Top Gun, which led to Mission: Impossible, and so on. Basically, we could go on to list every year following this, and with it the blockbuster film headed by Tom Cruise. From basically nobody, Cruise shot to the top of the A-list, eventually becoming one of the most highly-sought, bankable actors working in Hollywood today.
This incredible fame, of course, has come with its own weird problems. Cruise is almost as famous now for his strict adherence to Scientology, a religion of questionable legitimacy and even more questionable recruitment and privacy practices. He’s famous, as well, for his failed marriage to Katie Holmes. It’s hard to say exactly which film role is Cruise’s most iconic, but The Outsiders in 1983, when he was just 21, is what started it all.
8. Glenn Withrow – Tim Shepard
Glenn Withrow is one of the most unknown and therefore mysterious actors who acted in The Outsiders in 1983. Whatever happened to Withrow? It’s honestly pretty hard to tell. After the year 1990, Withrow’s IMDB page is essentially a blank. Following The Outsiders, Withrow acted in other Francis Ford Coppola films, including Rumble Fish alongside Matt Dillon, as well as Peggy Sue Got Married in 1986, with Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage. Withrow’s last major role was in Beverly Hills Cop: II in the year 1987.
Since the ’90s, Withrow had all but disappeared. Now, he is the CEO of In House Media, which produced the film The Mooring, released by Lionsgate in 2013. He also directed and co-wrote the movie with his wife and daughter. Withrow has a second directorial effort due to be released in 2017, a sports film called The Last Champion. He has said that “Unquestionably, working with Francis Ford Coppola on five of his films, was the ultimate master class in both acting and directing.”
7. Diane Lane – Cherry Valance
Back in 1983, Diane Lane who played Soc girlfriend Cherry Valance in The Outsiders was just an 18-year-old ingenue. No one knew that she would become the Oscar-nominated powerhouse and international sex symbol in later years. Lane was to act alongside Matt Dillon again in Rumble Fish and The Big Town in following years. And then her career took off like a shooting star. Some of her most famous roles have been in the films Unfaithful, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Perfect Storm and The Cotton Club. She also voiced the role of the mom in the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out.
Now 51 years old, Lane pretty much looks just as good as she did when she was 18 in The Outsiders. Whatever Ralph Macchio has been taking, Lane is his supplier. Lane was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Unfaithful, and has been nominated numerous times for other Golden Globe and Emmy awards.
6. Leif Garrett – Bob Sheldon
It’s still unclear whether erstwhile teen heartthrob Leif Garrett should be considered more of a musician or an actor. When cast as Bob Sheldon, a Soc in The Outsiders, Garrett had already gained some success as an actor, playing parts in several television shows in the ’70s, such as The Waltons and Family. Then Garrett embarked on a career as a teen idol recording artist, and then switched gears again to play Bob in The Outsiders.
Since then, Garrett has continued both acting and recording, and even played himself in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Some of Garrett’s other, more bizarre credits include winning the grand prize of $50,000 on the Celebrity Edition of Fear Factor. He has also been featured as a commentator on the show The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest… as well as on Celebrity Rehab. Throughout it all, some may be surprised to learn that Garrett is still making music. His latest full album is called Three Sides Of… and was released in 2007.
5. Darren Dalton – Randy
Whatever happened to Randy? The Socs as a group were far less fleshed out in the film than the Greasers, of course, and Randy was relatively minor even among them. He started out as more of a Soc-Psychopath sidekick, but had something of a change of heart before the big rumble at the end of the film. The actor who played Randy in The Outsiders, Darren Dalton, has not stopped acting since the movie, though his career never took off into the stratosphere the way some of his costars’ did. The Outsiders was only Dalton’s first film. His second was Red Dawn, in which he rejoined his costars Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell.
Since the early ’80s, Dalton has worked continuously, lending his talents to dozens of films and television roles, though nothing quite as high-profile. In the past 30 or so years he has also become a writer and producer, a career path that has seemingly become a passion of his.
4. Michelle Meyrink – Marcia
Unlike many of her co-stars from The Outsiders, Michelle Meyrink did not choose to pursue a career in Hollywood for long. If she had, it’s possible she would eventually have become as big a star as any of them. After The Outsiders, which was Meyrink’s first film, she achieved some not inconsiderable success, finding something of a niche playing off-beat, best friend-type nerdy characters, notably in the films Revenge of the Nerds as Judy and in Real Genius as Jordan.
Her last film was Permanent Record in 1988, after which Meyrink decided to quit acting and focus on her practice of Zen Buddhism at home in Vancouver, Canada. She and her family were even featured on an episode of the Canadian series Quiet Minds. She hasn’t given up the art of acting altogether, however. Today, she is also the owner of an acting school called Actorium in Vancouver, which focuses its teachings on the Meisner technique.
3. Tom Waits – Buck Merrill
One never can quite tell when Tom Waits is going to show up. Though primarily a musician, Waits has lent his grizzled, drunken, benevolent presence to several films throughout the years since his tiny part in The Outsiders, both in cameos and larger roles. The Outsiders was released just before Waits released the album Swordfishtrombones, an album more forward-looking and experimental– and quite simply better– than anything he’d created before. A good friend of Francis Ford Coppola, Waits has worked with him on several films, including an appearance in Rumble Fish, and writing the score for One From the Heart. Waits tends to gravitate toward off-beat, indie flicks, often with just enough horror to keep from being saccharine, like Wristcutters: A Love Story.
Throughout the years, Waits has defied genre and any sense of belonging to a certain era. He was as relevant when he released Mule Variations in 1999 as when he released his first album Closing Time in 1973.
2. Sofia Coppola – Little Girl
There is no question that The Outsiders director Francis Ford Coppola got his daughter Sofia Coppola her start in show business. One such example is in The Outsiders movie, in which a young Sofia appears in a scene at the Dairy Queen. It’s a small cameo, but it’s one of many like it in Sofia’s acting career, including in The Godfather movies. As anyone who has paid any attention to the movies lately will be aware, Sofia Coppola has come a long way from bit parts in her dad’s films.
She won an Oscar for her screenplay for her most awarded film, Lost in Translation in 2003. Some of her other well-known works include The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring, and Somewhere. Coppola was the first and youngest woman to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director (for Lost in Translation), though Kathryn Bigelow was the first to actually win in 2010.
1. S.E. Hinton – Nurse
S.E. Hinton is not actually an actor. And she is certainly not one of the “stars” of The Outsiders, playing the nurse who appears in just one scene. She is actually the author of the novel on which The Outsiders movie was based, and is considered one of the foremost authors of Young Adult fiction in history. She was just 17 years old when she began writing The Outsiders and its success led to several more teen novels, all set in her home state of Oklahoma, including Rumble Fish, Tex, and That Was Then, This Is Now, all of which have been adapted for the screen.
After the birth of her children, Hinton stopped writing for teens and tried her hand at children’s books. Her first was the book Big David, Little David which was written for kindergarten-age children, and was then followed by Puppy Sister, a fantasy series for elementary-aged children. Her most recent screen appearance was in a cameo appearance in Supernatural, one of her favorite TV shows.