There are few things better than a good teen gangbanger flick: cheesy, melodramatic dialogue, gaudy clothing trends, and fight scenes so overly choreographed they rival Broadway musicals. But with the onslaught of flawed knockoffs (especially during the late-'80's Colors backlash), you're bound to be spending a lot of time wandering in the "Teens Gone Apeshit" section. Don't worry: With the help of a little science, I extracted the ten best.
1. The Warriors (1979)
Plot: Retro story about the Warriors, who must find their way back to their home turf after they're wrongly accused of killing New York City's beloved gangland kingpin.
Cool gang names: Swan, Ajax, Cowboy, Rembrandt, Vermin, Snow, Cochise, Foxy
Cool factor: Each gang has its own cool gang theme, with outfits to match: The Baseball Furys (professional baseball uniforms); The Orphans (thrift store clothes); The Lizzies (Rosie O'Donnel pantsuits); etc.
Street cred: Afros everywhere - even on the white guys!
Weapons of choice: Old school: Baseball bats, knives, and bike chains.
Memorable moment: When that one guy in the Gramercy Riff gang clinks those beer bottles stuck on his fingers and repeats the line, "Warriors, come out and play," over and over again in that queer voice.
2. Bad Boys (1983)
Plot: A gangbanger's little brother is killed in a rumble. When the teen responsible goes to juvie and quickly takes charge, he doesn't realize that the big brother of the dead kid is raping his girlfriend so he can get thrown in the same prison and avenge his little brother's death.
Cool gang names: Paco, Tweety, Viking, Pacito
Cool factor: Stars Sean Penn and Esai Morales refused stunt doubles, no kidding.
Street cred: The cool Pepsi-in-the-pillowcase trick - very prison savvy.
Weapons of choice: Sharpened screwdrivers, knives, and old-fashioned fisticuffs.
Memorable moment: When that geeky kid rigs his fellow cellmate's radio to explode in his face. Let's hear it for crafty nerds!
3. Boyz N the Hood (1991)
Plot: Several inner-city youths with different backgrounds, goals, and abilities try to survive the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles; rival gangbangers; and the white man. Each boy has a different escape route from their 'hood, but they soon realize that all roads leading out of the ghetto usually end at the morgue.
Cool gang names: Doughboy, Mad Dog, Dooky, Yo-Yo, Monster, Ric Rock, Furious
Cool factor: The soundtrack still kicks ass.
Street cred: Niggaz With Attitude's own Ice Cube stars in this movie.
Weapons of choice: Glocks ahoy!
Memorable moment: Easily, it's the climactic, drawn-out parking lot scene when Doughboy shoots the knees of the rival 'banger that capped his half-brother. This final scene has to be one of the greatest gangbanger revenge moments ever filmed.
4. West Side Story (1961)
Plot: The gang tension on New York's West Side erupts when the Jets and the Sharks fight for turf and respect. Unfortunately the head Jet falls in love with the sister of the leader of the Sharks.
Cool gang names: Riff, Joyboy, Ice, Action, a-Rab, Snow Boy, Gee-Tar, Chino, Pepe, Mouthpiece, Tiger
Cool factor: We can only wish we dressed as sharp as the Jets and the Sharks.
Street cred: When Bernardo and Tony get in that knife fight and they tie each other's wrists together to ensure at least one bloody death. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson aped the scene with his "Beat It" music video and ruined the scene's legacy.
Weapons of choice: Dancing their enemies into submission and one knife.
Memorable moment: The now-famous cool opening scene when they sing to "Jet Song." "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way, from your first puff of smoke till your last dying day." Sheer brilliance, even if you hate musicals.
5. Colors (1988)
Plot: Sympathetic vet cop gets paired with a hot-headed rookie in the gang-infested barrios of East Los Angeles. Join them as they tour the wild, wacky world of the Hispanic chapter's Bloods and the Crips.
Cool gang names: Grand Bush, Rocket, Bird, High-Top, Frog, t-Bone, Spanky, Spooky, Dog Man, Snakedance, Whitey
Cool factor: Sean Penn has admitted many times in interviews that he never held back and really beat the crap out of Colors' actors‚Äîand he "enjoyed every minute of it."
Street cred: About 80 percent of the cast was real East Los Angeles gangbangers.
Weapons of choice: Saturday Night Specials and knives.
Memorable moment: When Penn's character grabs the spray can from a graffiti tagger (a young Gerardo "Rico Suave" Mejia) and sprays the startled gangbanger's face.
6. The Outsiders (1983)
Plot: A heart-warming tale of teen-gang strife between The Greasers (naturally from the wrong side of the tracks) and local pretty boys, The Socs (short for Socials). In the Greasers' struggle for respect and turf with the Socs, the two gangs bond and realize that maybe they aren't all that different from each other.
Cool gang names: Ponyboy, Sodapop, Dallas, Two-Bit, Johnnycake
Cool factor: Kids love the movie because it saves them from reading the original S.E. Hinton book for English class.
Street cred: Tom Waits as Buck - 'nuff said.
Weapons of choice: Knives, shotguns, and pool cues.
Memorable moment: The big rumble at the end of the movie‚Äîeasily one of the most violent rumbles filmed without actually going overboard on the blood.
7. Rumble Fish (1983)
Plot: An up-an-coming leader of a small, dying gang in the industrial part of town must live up to the reputation of his hard-ass older brother's reputation. Of course, his brother has gone straight and looks down on gang life. Will the example of his reformed brother rub off on him and break him free from the shackles of the mean streets?
Cool gang names: Motorcycle Boy, Midget, Smokey, Biff, Rusty
Cool factor: Features Dennis Hopper and Mickey Rourke when they were still thin and credible.
Street cred: The entire movie is shot is dreamy black and white‚Äîvery art house.
Weapons of choice: Switchblades (the Bowie knife's forgotten cousin).
Memorable moment: The scenes with the Siamese fighting fish, of course. They're supposed to symbolize inner city youth who fight for no other reason other than the fact that they're held captive in close quarters. We just liked 'em because they're colorized.
8. Menace II Society (1993)
Plot: A young dope dealer attempts to escape the temptations of being the ghetto superstar in hopes of the good or at least better life.
Cool gang names: o-Dog, Tat, Basehead, a-Wax, Yo-Yo, Chauncy
Cool factor: At the time, this movie was considered so violent and realistic, the MPAA threatened the directors, the Hughes brothers, with an X rating.
Street cred: During Menace's premiere weekend, numerous gang fights broke out across America's incensed gangbanging theater contingent‚Äîwhile the movie was playing!
Weapons of choice: Heavy semi-automatic artillery all around.
Memorable moment: The unforgettable o-Dog line: "Y'all want some of these cheeseburgers?"
9. Mi Vida Loca (1994)
Plot: Two longtime gangbanger girlfriends have a falling out after one of the girls gets knocked up by the other's "old man." As their spat escalates towards violence (i.e., a catfight), the gang world around them intensifies. Can the two old friends resolve their differences before the mayhem of Echo Park kills them both?
Cool gang names: Sad Girl, Mousie, Chuco, La Blue Eyes, Joker Bird, Baby Girl, Spooky, Creeper, Sir Speedy, Dimples, Zombie, Snoopy, Lil' Sleepy
Cool factor: Sexy Latin chicks + Gangbangers = Catfights
Street cred: Practically actor-free!
Weapons of choice: Your standard small-caliber handguns and knives.
Memorable moment: The entire final backyard party scene (featuring Los Lobos playing themselves) and the inevitable gunplay that occurs during these types of affairs.
10. Class of 1984 (1984)
Plot: New teacher faces a motley crew of ne'er-do-well students in and out of the classroom. Can the rookie teacher bring order to the hallowed halls of George Washington High?
Cool gang names: Drugstore, Barnyard, Fallon, Rejack
Cool factor: The brilliant use of Alice Cooper's "I Am the Future" during key points of the movie.
Street cred: One of the first movies to ever incorporate metal detectors at the entrance of the high school.
Weapons of choice: Barnyard liked his pistols.
Memorable moment: When Michael J. Fox's character gets slipped uppers, goes apeshit, strips down to his white cotton briefs, and climbs the schools flagpole only to plummet to his untimely and rather humorous death.