15 Big Differences Between The Movie & The Book

The differences between The Outsiders book vs movie are crucial to how the Brat Pack coming-of-age film subgenre developed in the ’80s. After establishing himself as an icon in the New Hollywood era, director Francis Ford Coppola worked with author S. E. Hinton to adapt Hinton’s 1967 novel of the same name into the screenplay for The Outsiders. Coppola’s epic cinematography and visual storytelling proved to be the perfect match for Hinton’s harsh but gripping deep dive into teenage gang culture in the ’60s. Thanks to the performances of The Outsiders cast members like Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, and Rob Lowe, Hinton’s characters have become cult cinema icons.



To celebrate not just the first of the Brat Pack movies from the ’80s, but also the book that inspired it, Coppola released a 4K remaster of the movie in 2017 in time for the 50th anniversary of S. E. Hinton’s novel. Apart from its improved resolution, The Outsiders: The Complete Novel features scenes that Coppola had to cut for time, with the DVD format allowing for a much more faithful adaptation of the novel – in stunning 4K. There are som notable differences between The Outsiders book and movie’s original cut, along with whether they’ve been included in the 4K remaster or not.

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Related: 21 Wild Details Behind The Making Of The Outsiders

15 Ponyboy’s Introduction Scene

The Outsiders Ponyboy closeup

When it comes to The Outsiders book vs movie, the screen version’s most glaring omission from the novel is Ponyboy’s book introduction. The novel begins with Ponyboy getting jumped by the Socs alone, until the Greasers show up to save him. However, in the movie, Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) is with Dally (Matt Dillon) and Johnny (Ralph Macchio), and doesn’t really interact with the Socs at all. The introduction of Ponyboy in the book and in the movie are completely different, which seemed like a strange decision. However, with The Outsiders: The Complete Novel now including this introductory scene from the book, it seems that it was shot but then cut for running time.

14 The Curtis Boys’ Parents

c thomas howell rob lowe patrick swayze in the outsiders

Throughout S. E. Hinton’s book, Ponyboy heavily discusses his parents, who died in a car crash and left the three siblings to fend for themselves. Ponyboy constantly thinks and talks about them and tends to compare himself and his two brothers to their mother and father. The film doesn’t really mention their parents, and instead focuses on where the boys are now, without much mention of their past when their parents were alive. Considering some of the bigger differences between The Outsiders book vs movie, this may seem like a small detail. However, it would’ve given much more context to the circumstances and decisions of The Outsiders cast.

13 Darry’s Role Is Smaller

Patrick Swayze in The Outsiders

Darry (Patrick Swayze) is Ponyboy’s eldest brother, who has acted as a surrogate father to him and Sodapop (Rob Lowe) after their parents died. Darry is a stern but constant presence in Ponyboy’s life, and he talks about him and their rocky relationship frequently throughout the book. Unlike in the movie, the book lays out their difficult relationship and how Ponyboy truly thinks that Darry hates him. What truly makes this a notable The Outsiders book and vs movie difference is that it makes the reunion between Darry and his brother at the hospital a much more emotional affair in the book than in the film.

12 Greaser Side Vs Soc Side

randy ponyboy in The Outsiders

The main fighting and hatred between the Greasers and the Socs is just as strong in the movie as it is in the book, but the details about the locations of the groups are changed for the movie. The book describes the Greasers as controlling the poorer East side of town while the Socs control the wealthier West side. Meanwhile, the movie says the Greasers are on the North side of town and the Socs are on the South side of town. This is one of the smaller but still notable differences between The Outsiders book and movie.

Related: Which The Outsiders Character Are You, According To Your Zodiac Sign?

11 Sandy And Soda’s Relationship

Sodapop looks concerned in The Outsiders

One of the main recurring side plots in the novel is Sodapop’s relationship with Sandy, who doesn’t even appear in the movie. Sodapop was sure he and Sandy would get married, but when Sandy becomes pregnant, she’s sent to live with her grandmother, and they never reunite. It’s a catalyst for a lot of Sodapop’s issues, including his frustration about being stuck between Darry and Ponyboy’s constant fighting, as he no longer has a person outside the family to turn to when he needed to vent. It’s one of the more unfortunate differences between The Outsiders book and movie, as it would’ve led to a more explosive start for Rob Lowe’s movie career.

10 Darry Fighting For Custody

Curtis brothers sitting outside together in The Outsiders

Despite their differences, The Outsiders book and movie are, at their core, about brotherly love. However, in the novel, a main worry of the eldest Curtis brother is being able to keep custody of his two younger brothers, and this plot line is hardly mentioned in the movie. There are a few scenes here and there where Darry voices his concerns about being unable to provide for Soda and Pony, along with worries about Child Protective Services taking them away. However, the movie never fully shows this struggle, though it was crucial to Darry’s arc in the book. It’s a pity, as it would’ve only made Patrick Swayze’s performance better.

Related: Patrick Swayze’s 10 Best Movies According to IMDb

9 Ponyboy’s School Project

Ponyboy and Two-Bit in The Outsiders

The book makes it clear that Ponyboy is writing his story for a school project, but the movie never specifies why Ponyboy is telling the audience his story. The book even emphasizes the fact that Ponyboy’s a great writer and student, which includes a storyline dedicated to a teacher reaching out to Ponyboy to support him and make sure he’s able to finish his assignment after the fire. The movie ignores all this, and it’s one of the more contested The Outsiders book vs movie differences. On one hand, the film format somewhat negates the need for the assignment premise. On the other hand, it would’ve given C. Thomas Howell’s Ponyboy some more character development.

8 The Courtroom Scene Finale

Patrick Swayze Rob Lowe hugging in The Outsiders

The book ends in the courtroom, where Ponyboy takes the stand regarding Johnny killing Bob the Soc, and about his home life with Darry and Sodapop. The film mentions that, after the killing in self-defense and the fire, the only thing that the authorities really cared about was making sure that Ponyboy had a stable home life living with his brothers. However, it doesn’t show any of the ending courtroom scenes where Ponyboy explains he’s happiest with his brothers. This is decidedly one of the biggest differences between The Outsiders book and movie. Losing such powerful scenes might have been what stopped The Outsiders from being one of the best movies based on books.

7 Blonde Hair Vs Black Hair

Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, and C Thomas Howell in The Outsiders

The book describes the Greasers as having all types of hair colors. Some even have blonde hair, including Dally whose hair is described as almost white. However, the movie chooses to give more distinction between the Greasers and the Socs by giving the Greasers dark black hair and the Socs lighter hair colors. It’s not a significant difference to the plot and visually on the screen, and it makes sense as a further representation of the rivalry between the two groups, but it’s still odd reading Dally’s description and comparing Matt Dillon’s movie look to Dally in the book. Nonetheless, it’s one difference between The Outsiders book vs. movie that’s easily forgiven.

6 Sodapop’s Significance To Ponyboy

Soda Pop and Pony Boy in The Outsiders

The film focuses more on Ponyboy and Johnny’s relationship than focusing on Ponyboy’s relationship with his older brothers. Notably, Ponyboy has a strained relationship with Darry, but is incredibly close to Sodapop. This is clear in the movie, but not like in the book, much of which is dedicated to Ponyboy writing about his love and admiration for his brother. The Outsiders: The Complete Novel actually remedied this by including the full scene of Sodapop cuddling his baby brother in bed and Ponyboy asking him big life questions. It’s just one of the deleted Sodapop scenes returned in the 4K remaster, which somewhat makes up for this huge difference between The Outsiders book and movie.

5 Clearly Explaining Johnny’s Past

Ralph Maccio as Johnny in The Outsiders

The book spends a long time discussing Johnny Cade’s (Ralph Macchio) life and past events, particularly being jumped by a group of Socs in a blue Mustang, one of them being the same Soc he stabs to protect Ponyboy. Understandably, this has turned Johnny into a nervous wreck. The film alludes to this event, and to his abusive home life that leads to his nervous demeanor, but it’s not as clear as it is in the book. In fact, the little clues in the film might be missed if the viewer isn’t familiar with his backstory. That said, this is also one of the more minor differences between The Outsiders book and movie.

4 Dally’s Role Is Bigger

Matt Dillon as Dally in The Outsiders

The Outsiders movie version focuses more on Dally (Matt Dillon) and his relation to Johnny and Ponyboy as he helps them go on the run after Johnny kills Bob the Soc. All the events that happen when the two go to Dally for help happen in the book as well, but since the film doesn’t focus on Ponyboy’s brothers Darry and Sodapop as much, Dally gets a much brighter spotlight than in the novel. This is actually one The Outsiders book vs movie difference that most audiences don’t mind, as it only gave Matt Dillon more opportunities to flesh out one of the coolest characters from the ’80s.

3 No Rodeos

C Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, and Rob Lowe in The Outsiders

The book mentions local rodeos multiple times and talks about how Sodapop wanted to own a horse called Mickey Mouse, and how he was crushed when the horse was sold to another farm. The stories work to contextualize the Oklahoma setting of the story, but the rodeos are never mentioned in the film. Although it’s a small detail, it did provide characterization for Sodapop and provided a strong sense of location. On the other hand, out of the many differences between The Outsiders book and movie, this one is part of what makes the movie more universally relatable than the book.

2 Ponyboy Shutting Down After The Fire

Johnny Cade and Ponyboy in The Outsiders

In the book, after learning that not only did Johnny die from his injuries during the fire, but also that Dally was killed by the police, Ponyboy shuts down and becomes sick both physically and mentally. Ponyboy becomes distraught, sleeps for days, and continually claims that he was the one who killed Bob, not Johnny. However, the film hurries things along by showing Ponyboy physically hurting from his injuries, but then quickly fighting through it, so he can go to the rumble with the Socs. This is a big difference between The Outsiders book and movie, and it arguably hurt Ponyboy’s complexity as a character.

1 Ponyboy’s Narration And Missing Moments

Ponyboy in THe Outsiders
The Outsiders POnyboy

The Outsiders movie does provide a lot of narration from Ponyboy, but it misses some insightful moments that the book covers through Ponyboy’s inner thoughts. It’s part of why the film struggles to use Ponyboy as the narrator at times, a recurring point in many The Outsiders book vs movie comparisons. Moreover, small but compelling moments from the novel are left out of the film, like Ponyboy breaking a glass bottle to threaten a Soc, but then picking up the glass after so no one gets a flat tire. Whether they were cut for time, budget concerns, or Coppola’s creative preferences, these omissions from the book kept the adaptation from achieving so much more.

To be fair, The Outsiders remains iconic and faithful to the core themes of S. E. Hinton’s story even without these book scenes. However, considering the novel’s depth, it’s clear that The Outsidersshould’ve stayed closer to Hinton’s words. For those who’ve read the book and may want a deeper, more faithful adaptation of the novel, Francis Ford Coppola did a good job of filling in many of the missing book elements in The Outsiders: The Complete Novel.

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