Film and TV

Finally, a Definitive Ranking of All 23 Gangs in The Warriors

Our TV receiver shuffled off its wireless coil last Friday, "forcing" me to rewatch an old favorite: the 1979 gang classic, The Warriors. I own the Blu-ray, incidentally, but the player is also on its last legs so I had to rip a copy to my hard drive and Chromecast it from my computer like a goddamn animal.

If you've never seen The Warriors, well, your life is hollow and meaningless and you have my pity. Beyond that, it's an adaptation of the 1965 Sol Yurick novel, itself a loose retelling of Xenophon's Anabasis, in which a Greek army fights its way through a thousand miles of enemy (Persian) territory.

In the movie, the Warriors are one of 100 gangs that send representatives to the Bronx for a summit led by Cyrus, who runs the Gramercy Riffs. The Riffs are the biggest gang in New York City, and Cyrus wants to unite the other gangs and take over the city. Before he can lay out the details of his diabolical scheme, he's shot by Luther, leader the Rogues. Luther pins the shooting on the Warriors, who now have to make their way back to Coney Island, their every step dogged by enemy gangs and the police.

Moderately successful on its release, The Warriors is a cult favorite thanks to things like David Patrick Kelly's unhinged Luther ("Warriors...come out to play-ee-yay..."), director Walter Hill's action sequences, Andrew Laszlo's cinematography — capturing 1970s NYC in all its vile glory — and the gangs. Oh, the gangs.

Some 23 (give or take) gangs are depicted in the film, with more than 60 others mentioned in the script (maybe a future special edition release will feature "The Zodiacs" as a bunch of guys in Ted Cruz masks), and to my knowledge no one has ever offered a definitive ranking until now. You're welcome.

22. The Orphans
This one's a no-brainer. The Orphans have a couple dozen members, all of whom are spooked by one Molotov cocktail and can't even be bothered to give chase when the Warriors leg it. "So far down they ain't even on the list" pretty much sums it up.

21. The Baseball Furies
You heard me. Granted, they have the best costumes, hands down, but even armed with baseball bats, they only manage to take out one of the Warriors (Cowboy: the only guy in the gang who didn't qualify for the New York Marathon, evidently). Outnumbering Swan and company seven to four, they nonetheless get their asses handed to them. Maybe less time on the make-up and more on melee fundamentals next time.

20. The Rogues
Luther did shoot Cyrus (I had a drunken conspiracy theory in which Cyrus had lured the other gang members to the park so they could be arrested, making Luther the actual hero of the movie), but aside from tooling around in a hearse and menacing a female newsstand worker (why is a newsstand open at one in the morning?), they're useless.

Now, since the majority of the gangs in the movie aren't actually shown doing any fighting, I'm ranking the next bunch by wardrobe and — in one case — by action.

19. The Alley Cats
Two of these are spotted flanking Fox right as the lights come up; they were likely also in a position to ID Luther as the shooter, yet embraced the gospel of Sir Robin and bravely turned their tails and fled.

18. The Gladiators
All you need to know about the Gladiators is they're the only gang shown paying for the subway. A member actually drops a token in for each dude going through the turnstile. That's more civic responsibility than one would expect from one of the "armies of the night."

17. The Hi-Hats
Based on their costume (red and black shirt, suspenders, top hat, mime make-up), you might think the Hi-Hats would have to be just about the baddest gang in the city. There they are, standing like a bunch of pasty goofs in the midst of 900 of the scariest gang bangers in NYC, and they aren't being brutally beaten. Then you remember the truce, and how none of the Hi-Hats are seen after the meeting.

16. The Jones Street Boys
Another "summit only" sighting, though with those highly visible striped yellow shirts, they're lucky they weren't the ones being hunted by the Riffs.

15. The Gerrards
Token Irish gang, or so I surmise. I love how he's just nakedly giving the stink-eye to Key Mime Pie up there.

14. The Van Cortlandt Rangers
Finally, some fedoras.

13. (tie) The Saracens/The Boyle Avenue Runners
I'm lumping these together for their mutual love of tank tops. Must have been a hot summer in 1979.

12. The Moon Runners
Briefly glimpsed in the post-shooting chaos running away in a silver jacket. Nice jacket, I guess. 

11. The Satan's Mothers
This is like when Brendan Fraser called his band "The Lone Rangers" in Airheads. How many mothers can Satan have? They do get props for being the only overt motorcycle gang in the film, however.

10. The Hurricanes
It is a brave man who attends a midnight gang summit in a straw Trilby sans shirt. I salute you, beefy Myrmidon.

9. The Panzers
The 2005 Warriors video game identifies these guys as the gang wearing blue jeans and Army surplus jackets. Which would mean half the dudes I went to high school with must have been in it, and apparently so was I.

However, further research indicates the Panzers are actually the white gang briefly glimpsed at the big meeting wearing German uniforms (the dudes on the left side of the above photo in the Afrika Korps field caps). This, uh, kind of makes more sense.

8. The Electric Eliminators
These guys, on the other hand, are easily identified and are apparently based in Queens. Ranked highly because I coveteth one of those satin yellow bombers.

7. The Savage Huns
As opposed to your normally mild-mannered Huns. Props to this Chinatown-based outfit for going with the sartorially daring pedal pusher/earflap hat combo.

6. The Boppers
While one can't help but admire the snazzitude, these don't seem very practical when it comes to "rumbling." Maybe they wore their dress unis to the meeting.

5. The Lizzies
I appreciate their skill in tempting two of the dumber members of the Warriors (Cochise and Vermin) into their murder den (Rembrandt is wise beyond his years, or perhaps a virgin). If they'd been better shots, they'd have ranked higher.

4. The Punks
"Wait, those guys in the overalls?" Yes, those guys. The leader even wears roller skates (this was not uncommon in the late 1970s, Millennials. See also Roller Boogie and Skatetown U.S.A.), yet he and his comrades give the Warriors their only real fight of the movie.

3. The Turnbull ACs
A.k.a. "those skinheaded fucks" (Ajax has such a way with words). Honestly, I don't know how formidable the ACs really are, but a score of bald, leather jacket-wearing nutjobs riding down the Warriors in their bus is one of the movie's more unsettling images.

2. The Warriors
Each gang in the city is supposed to send nine reps, which for the Warriors meant everybody. Most impressive, six of those guys — Cleon, Swan, Ajax, Snow, Cochise and Vermin — can fight. When two-thirds of your number are legitimate ass kickers, you're going to do well. The Riffs even acknowledge their bad-assedness at film's end. Cue Joe Walsh.

1. The Gramercy Riffs
Well, this was easy. They're the biggest gang in NYC, they all know kung fu and they're prone to wearing sunglasses at night. At the end, when they finally come face to face with the Warriors and Swan tells Masai (Cyrus's successor) his gang is "the best," the look in his eyes is more like, "You're not going to kill us just for keeping you up all night, are you?" The Riffs are the baddest gang in The Warriors. Yeah. Right. 

Rankings for the "Magnum PIs" and the "North Faces" were not available at press time.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar