Why A Classic Scene From The Outsiders Was Originally Cut From The Movie

If you haven't seen "The Outsiders" in the past 20 years, you may want to revisit the coming-of-age classic: in 2005, it was rereleased with 22 minutes of additional footage, reportedly at director Francis Ford Coppola's request. The new version of the movie, titled "The Outsiders: The Complete Novel," hewed more closely to the beloved S.E. Hinton book of the same name, and it also reinstated a scene that Coppola regretted cutting after the film's 1983 release.

The sequence in question features young greaser Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) sharing a bed with his popular older brother Sodapop (Rob Lowe). In it, the pair hug, toss and turn, and talk about life and love. Ponyboy asks Soda why he dropped out of school, Soda shares his intent to marry his girlfriend Sandy, and the older brother encourages the younger to shake it off when his friends are mean to him. It's a shared moment of emotional and physical vulnerability from the boys whose lives would ultimately be torn apart by gang violence, and according to Entertainment Weekly's 2021 retrospective on the film, readers loved the scene on which it was based. Yet it was conspicuously absent from the film's theatrical release. "I was horrified," Hinton told the outlet. "Francis got so many letters from kids saying, 'Why did you leave out this part?'"

The movie was trimmed to fit theatrical expectations

The author apparently wasn't the only one who didn't love the theatrical cut of "The Outsiders." Co-star Ralph Macchio noted that "a big part" of Lowe's third-act monologue was cut out, and Hinton told EW, "Poor Rob Lowe must have thought [his performance] was horrible. It depressed him for a long time." Coppola said that the movie was cut down due to "time constraints" imposed by the studio, and admitted that "at the time it was not a friendly relationship with the then-regime that ran Warner Bros." But he also cited more nebulous concerns over the scene. "In those days, I was a little bit leery myself of such a beautiful boy like Sodapop in bed, hugging his brother," Coppola told the outlet. "It was only later when I took the film to be shown to my granddaughter's class that I realized the kids knew the book better than the film expressed."

For fans of Hinton's book, the assumed implication here that viewers would mistake this moment of familial intimacy for incest or generally predatory behavior is baffling. For one thing, most kids who grew up working-class during this era slept in the same bed as a sibling at one point or another, and this comes across as a routine night — aside from the deep conversation. For another, as multiple generations of former teen girls and gays would tell you, "The Outsiders" already had plenty of shippable, cute dudes who were not related. It's a story about tenderness, toughness, and fragility, and it's a shame that one of the scenes that best reflected that complex dichotomy was taken out of the original film.

Coppola was 'leery' of a shared bed scene

"Where is the scene with Sodapop in bed with Ponyboy where they talk about what it's like to be in love?" Coppola asked in the EW oral history, paraphrasing the kids in his granddaughter's class. "All those scenes that I was a little frightened of? I understood that I was naive in my views. The subject that we're speaking of is more complicated but beautiful, more human." For the restored version of the film released decades later, Coppola says he "happily put back some of the scenes."

Other scenes that were restored for "The Complete Novel" include the introductory attack on Ponyboy by rival Socs, and a scene set in court in the aftermath of Johnny's (Ralph Maccio) death, among others. The newer cut also features a different score, with Coppola replacing some of his father Carmine Coppola's score with more modern music. "By the time I recut the movie in 2005 he had passed away, and I balanced the schmaltzy music with more of what the Greasers would have listened to: early Elvis Presley and stuff like that," director Coppola told The Guardian in 2021.

The Outsiders: The Complete Novel restores the missing scene and more

Weirdly, angst over the platonic bed scene featuring Ponyboy and Sodapop still persists. "What would 2021 social media make of two brothers snuggling in bed together? I'm thinking nothing good," Amy Amatangelo wrote in Paste's review of the restored "Complete Novel." Still, the writer reasonably concludes that "there's such a pure innocence to that scene." Macchio seemingly agreed, telling EW, "My brother and I are a couple of years apart. There was some form of affectionate comfort." 

As Macchio put it, "I did not find that scene out of the realm of reality." Frankly, the idea that anyone would be perturbed by the scene, in the '80s or today, seems to say more about the people watching it and the cultural fears of the era than it does about the story itself. It's a sweet, brief scene shot in near-darkness that can't be mistaken for anything but a moment of brotherly mentorship and closeness. Though actress Diane Lane says she thinks Warner Bros. trimmed the movie to 90 minutes to allow for more theatrical showings, Coppola ultimately concedes that the exclusion of the late night chat scene, in particular, is his bad. "I, as well as everybody else in the world, had a lot to learn about the beauty and complexity of the human heart," he concluded in 2021.