Warriors, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jan 17, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Warriors, The (4K UHD Review)


Walter Hill

Release Date(s)

1979 (December 19, 2023)


Lawrence Gordon Productions/Paramount Pictures (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: A-
  • Overall Grade: A

The Warriors (4K UHD)

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Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic The Warriors tells the tale of a small gang from Coney Island that travels deep into enemy territory to attend a gathering of factions from all across New York City, only to be betrayed once they get there and blamed for the death of the leader who organized the conclave. Alone, miles from home, and pursued by the other gangs, they’re forced to run for their lives. They end up having to face off against a variety of other gangs along the way, but as brave as they may be, they’re wildly outnumbered, so the journey becomes a long and arduous one. Yet they do finally make it home to Coney Island, only to face a final challenge once they get there.

It only took 2,380 years and thousands of miles for them to reach that point.

The Warriors is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Sol Yurick, who borrowed heavily from Xenophon’s 4th century B.C. epic Anabasis. Anabasis is the chronicle of the Ten Thousand, a group of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Elder who ended up stranded deep in Persian territory after Cyrus was killed. They were forced to make a long march through enemy territory in order to get back to Greece. Yurick transposed the basic idea of this odyssey into modern-day New York City to provide structure for his examination of the harsh life faced by kids on the street. Cyrus became Ismael Rivera, leader of the Delancy Thrones, and the Ten Thousand were transformed into a small gang named the Coney Island Dominators. Ismael calls a truce to organize all of the rival gangs in New York into a single fighting force, but when everything inevitably falls apart, some of the gangs turn on him and he’s killed during the chaos. The Dominators have to fight through enemy territory in order to get back home. Yurick wasn’t shy about his inspirations, and he even had one character read from a comic book version of Anabasis just to make sure that no one missed the parallels.

Walter Hill and screenwriter David Shaber’s adaptation of The Warriors follows the basic template of Yurick’s novel, but it makes some further changes that took things back to Xenophon in some respects but farther away in others. Ismael is openly named Cyrus in this version, played by Roger Hill in an unforgettably mesmerizing performance. His gang is now called the Gramercy Riffs, and the Coney Island Dominators have been renamed after the book itself as The Warriors (Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, and Terry Michos). Hill and Shaber also added a D.J. (Lynne Thigpen) to serve as a sort of a Greek chorus, but their most significant addition was the character of Luther (David Patrick Kelly), the leader of The Rogues. In this version, Luther is the one who shoots Cyrus, and he also frames The Warriors for the murder, which adds an extra layer of pressure on them. The Warriors aren’t just having to pass through enemy territory in order to get home; they’re being actively hunted by all of the other gangs while they do so.

Still, the biggest differences between Sol Yurick’s version of The Warriors and the film are stylistic and tonal ones. Yurick may have drawn from ancient history and mythology to craft his narrative, but the gang world that he created was harsh and unsparing. There’s nothing even remotely romanticized about Yurick’s presentation of life on the streets. Plus, the Coney Island Dominators are hardly victims of circumstances beyond their control; they’re just as violent and murderous as all the other gangs. Had Hill taken that same approach, The Warriors wouldn’t be as well-remembered as it is today. Instead, he embraced the world of myth and kept reality at arm’s length. His rendition of the New York streets is a romanticized one that could have been envisioned by the gang members themselves. Aside from rare moments like the killing of Cyrus and another accidental death, most of the abundant fighting in The Warriors is of the non-lethal variety. Hill was careful to retain audience sympathy for the Warriors by keeping them on defense throughout the entire film, so however brutally that they may put down other gang members, it usually feels justified by the circumstances. Unlike the Dominators in the book, they’re not responsible for killing anyone else, and the only real crimes that they’re shown committing are minor ones like tagging and fare-jumping. This version of the Ten Thousand may want to leave their mark on the world, but they’re really just trying to get home.

Most importantly for posterity, Hill and Shaber re-envisioned all of the gangs in The Warriors in highly stylized fashion. It’s not just the names that have been changed. With the help of costume designer Bobby Mannix, every one of these gangs have been given a distinctive visual hook, and simple gang colors have been transformed into head-to-toe uniforms. Not surprisingly, Luther’s Rogues are all dressed in classic The Wild One gang attire, with leather jackets, hats, and blue jeans. The Boppers are smooth operators with their fedoras and iridescent purple vests. The Punks all wear bib overalls, and they’re not afraid of roaming the streets on roller skates. The Hi-Hats dress like mimes, with top hats, red shirts, suspenders, and white-painted faces. Most memorable of all, of course, are the Baseball Furies. They’re attired in full baseball regalia, with leather baseball caps and colorful face paint, and they make formidable foes for the Warriors. Hill may not have had any of his characters reading from a comic book version of Anabasis, but he did end up embracing the world of comics to create his stylized vision of New York City.

Unfortunately, that thought did eventually occur to Hill, and he decided to act on it. In 2005, Paramount released an Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD of The Warriors. This version added comic book panels to serve as transitions between the major scenes, and it also added a new opening with Hill himself narrating the story of the Ten Thousand. At the time, he said that it was closer to his original intentions for the film. Since our present reality always colors our memories of the past, that may or may not have been completely true. Either way, adding literal comic book panels to The Warriors ended up taking away from the effectiveness of the film as a whole, especially since one of them spoils a reveal of the Baseball Furies. It can be argued that Yurick was too on-the-nose by having a character read from an Anabasis comic, but Hill was definitely gilding the lily by literalizing the comic book elements. The Warriors works best by keeping its references to Xenophon and comic books as unspoken allusions. Fortunately, the original theatrical cut of The Warriors hasn’t been erased from existence, and it’s now available on home video in full 4K glory.

Cinematographer Andrew Laszlo shot The Warriors on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras with Panavision Ultra Speed MKII Lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. This version is based off a 16-bit 4K scan of the original camera negative that was done at Fotokem in Burbank, with digital cleanup work and grading being performed by Silver Salt Restoration in London (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on the disc). The only prior HD version of the theatrical cut of The Warriors was on the 2022 Blu-ray from Via Vision in Australia, which used an older master provided by Paramount. That one was reframed at 1.78:1, so it may have been a master that was prepared back in 2005 as the basis for the revised Ultimate Director’s Cut version. It was treated with a heavy hand at the digital tools, with some soft, smeary textures and a harshly digital appearance overall. Arrow’s new 4K master is properly framed at 1.85:1, and unsurprisingly, it wipes the floor with the old one.

There’s a fair amount of optical work in The Warriors such as wipes and dissolves, and the opening credit sequence is an extended optical. All of that dupe footage understandably looks a bit softer than the surrounding material, with coarser grain. Aside from that, however, everything else as sharp and detailed as the original film stocks and lenses will allow. Every hair on every head is now precisely delineated—and as anyone who has seen The Warriors can attest, that’s a lot of hair. Outside of the opticals, the grain is moderate throughout, with a solid encode that doesn’t allow any noise to intrude. The Warriors has always looked gritty, and that grit is replicated perfectly here. The black levels are deep and pure, and while there’s a few shots where the hair or the clothing can melt into the backgrounds, that doesn’t appear to be black crush as much as it’s just how dimly the shots were originally lit. The brightest highlights like the bare bulbs in the subway or the spotlights have just a bit of extra pop in HDR, but nothing that strays too far from the intended look.

The alternate cut is framed at the same 1.78:1 as the original Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD and Blu-ray. The new transitions and artwork for that version were originally generated in standard HD back in 2005. They’ve been upscaled to 4K here and cut into their proper places in the new 4K master to create this hybrid version. Aside from the upscaled material and the altered framing, the overall picture quality is identical. So, Hill’s Folly looks as good here as it possibly can, but it’s still a swing and a miss. Don’t watch it.

Audio for the theatrical cut is offered in English 2.0 mono LPCM, 2.0 stereo DTS-HD Master Audio, and a new Dolby Atmos mix, with optional English SDH subtitles. The Warriors was originally released in mono, and until the 5.1 remix that was included with the 2005 Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD, every previous home video version has been mono as well. Arrow refers to both of the 2.0 versions as “the original mono and stereo tracks,” and the latter definitely isn’t a fold-down of either the older 5.1 mix for the alternate cut or this new Atmos mix. It’s a full four-channel surround mix matrix encoded into two, so it sounds like a vintage Dolby Stereo track that wasn’t used in 1979 for whatever reason. In any event, the Atmos mix follows the original design closely while adding some additional directionality—for example, when a police helicopter passes over the Warriors while they’re hiding in the graveyard, it moves into mono surrounds in 2.0, but it steers toward the left rear channel in Atmos. There’s perhaps a bit of bass sweetening in the Atmos version as well, especially in the rumble from the subway trains. Otherwise, the two mixes are quite similar overall. Either way, the biggest benefit to both is Barry De Vorzon’s propulsive score being given much more room to breathe. The original mono track is still here if you want to recreate the theatrical experience, but it would be a shame to hamstring the music like that, and even the Atmos doesn’t stray too far from the original sound design.

Audio on the alternate cut is offered in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. It’s the same 5.1 track from Paramount’s 2005 DVD and 2007 Blu-ray, encoded in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio instead of the lossy Dolby Digital that was on both of those discs.


Arrow’s 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition release of The Warriors is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray featuring the 2005 “Alternate Cut”—it’s no longer referred to as the Ultimate Director’s Cut here, so take that as you will. It also includes a 100-page book with new essays and archival material, a reversible insert, a double-sided foldout poster, 6 art cards, and 4 sheets of stickers with logos for the gangs seen in the film. Everything is housed inside a rigid keepcase. Arrow is actually offering two separate Limited Edition sets with different artwork on each. The wide-release version features new artwork by Laurie Greasley on the keepcase, while the insert and the poster offer the new art on one side and theatrical poster art on the other. The Arrow Store Exclusive version has the original theatrical art on the keepcase, while both the insert and the poster offer two different variations of the theatrical art. The content is otherwise identical across both Limited Editions. The following new and archival extras are included:


  • Audio Commentary by Walter Chaw
  • Isolated Score (2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio)
  • War Stories (HD – 15:47)
  • Whole Lotta Magic (HD – 84:12)
  • Batting Boundaries (HD – 8:13)
  • Gang Style (HD – 9:08)
  • The Armies of the Night (HD – 5:48)
  • Come Out to Play (HD – 10:08)
  • Sound of the Streets (HD – 24:33)
  • Archival Special Features:
    • The Beginning (Upscaled SD – 14:06)
    • Battleground (Upscaled SD – 15:23)
    • The Way Home (Upscaled SD – 18:06)
    • The Phenomenon (Upscaled SD – 15:22)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:43)
  • Image Gallery (HD – 8:20)

The new commentary is with Walter Chaw, senior film critic at Film Freak Central and author of A Walter Hill Film: Tragedy and Masculinity in the films of Walter Hill. Chaw explores the themes of The Warriors and how they relate the consistent themes throughout Hill’s filmography (trains, trains, and more trains!) He breaks down the unique world-building in The Warriors and the differences between the book and the film (as well as the differences between the theatrical cut and the 2005 version). He also makes the argument that Hill is actually a fairly progressive filmmaker, in his own curmudgeonly fashion. Along the way, Chaw talks about the cast and crew, including cinematographer Andrew Laszlo and composer Barry De Vorzon. Speaking of De Vorzon, the disc also includes an isolated music track in full stereo.

The new extras include War Stories, which is an interview with Walter Hill where he looks back at his challenges in making the film. He never thought that anyone would let him make it in the first place, but he ended up being surprised that even Mayor Ed Koch defended the results during its controversial release. Whole Lotta Magic is a Zoom discussion between screenwriter Josh Olson, director Lexi Alexander (Punisher: War Zone), and director Robert D. Kryzkowski (The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot), originally recorded for The Movies That Made Me. It’s basically a feature-length love letter to Walter Hill and The Warriors. They all talk about their experiences with the film—Olson is the only one who’s old enough to have seen it in the theatre during its original release, which he says was a terrifying experience. They also analyze it from every possible angle. Battling Boundaries is an interview with editor Billy Weber, who talks about moving from having worked with Terrance Malick on Badlands and Days of Heaven to working with Hill on The Warriors and other films.

Gang Style is an interview with Bobby Mannix, who was costume designer on both The Warriors and Xanadu. She explains her process in creating the unique look for each gang. The Armies of the Night is an image gallery showing her designs, production Polaroids, and the finished costumes. Come Out to Play is a guided tour of the original Coney Island locations, hosted by Adam Rinn of Coney Island USA. Needless to say, things have changed quite a bit, but Rinn helps to bring the past to life. Finally, the last of the new extras is Sound of the Streets, an appreciation of Barry De Vorzon’s score by composer Neil Brand. Brand feels that De Vorzon’s score was an impressive technical achievement for the era, especially in terms of how it blended synthesizers with rock music. (He does acknowledge that it owes much to the synthesizer scores that John Carpenter was doing at the time.)

The archival extras were all originally created by Laurent Bouzereau for Paramount’s 2005 DVD. They feature interviews with various cast and crew members, including Walter Hill, Andrew Laszlo, Barry De Vorzon, Billy Weber, Bobby Mannix, producer Lawrence Gordon, stunt coordinator Craig Baxley, James Remar, Michael Beck, David Patrick Kelly, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, David Harris, and many more. The Beginning explains how the whole project came together; Battleground covers the challenging location shoot; The Way Home explores the overall look of the film, including its design and cinematography; and The Phenomenon looks at the notorious original release of The Warriors and its legacy. Collectively, they do form a decent overall look at the making of The Warriors. It’s probably the best starting point for anyone who may be less familiar with the film, before moving on to the newer commentary and interviews.


  • Introduction by Walter Hill (Upscaled SD – 1:17)

This brief introduction from Walter Hill where he gives his justifications for the alternate cut was also created for the 2005 Paramount DVD. That means that pretty much everything from that disc has been included here. On the other hand, none of the extras from the 2022 Blu-ray from ViaVision in Australia have been carried forward. That set offers two different commentary tracks, one on the alternate version with Chris Poggiali and Michael Gingold, and a different commentary with Walter Chaw for the theatrical cut than this new Arrow track. (Busy man!) Via Vision also offered completely different slate of extras, some of which were created by Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures: The Warriors from the Cutting Room Floor, which offered alternate footage from the network television version; Sound and Fury – Scoring The Warriors with Barry De Vorzon; Last Train to Coney Island with Daniel Patrick Kelly; We Got the Streets with James Remar; Nowhere to Run with Dorsey Wright; Literally Classic: The Ancient Greek Roots of The Warriors; Magic… Whole Lot of Magic, a video essay by Chris O’Neill; a longer Image Gallery; and a TV Spot.

Needless to say, if you have the Via Vision disc, you’ll definitely want to hang onto it for all those extras. The Paramount discs, on the other hand, can be safely flushed where they belong. It’s great that the alternate version has been included here for archival purposes, but the theatrical cut is what really matters. The only other thing that’s missing here that would have made a nice addition is the 2015 Rolling Stone magazine video The Warriors: Last Subway Ride Home. Michael Beck, Dorsey Wright, Terry Michos, Thomas G. Waites, and David Harris all reunited to take one last train to Coney Island while wearing their old colors. It’s brief, but the whole thing is worthwhile just to see the reaction of one of the other passengers. (Seriously, can you imagine looking over and realizing who was standing next to you?) The video is available on YouTube, but it would have made a nice way to round out the extras here. Otherwise, it’s a fine slate of extras, and Arrow’s 4K presentation of The Warriors is superb. Highly recommended.

- Stephen Bjork

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