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February 17, 1979
On February 17, 1979, the New York Amsterdam News ran an advertisement for a new movie called The Warriors about a city-wide turf battle among New York City street gangs (click to view PDF). Critics panned the movie when it came out, and while the Amsterdam News praised the film’s “exceptional cinematography,” it called The Warriors a an “unfortunate gang movie” and a “dud.”66
Nelson George, who went on to become an important an influential music critic and filmmaker, wrote about the controversy over The Warriors as a twenty-one-year-old intern at the Amsterdam News. “Three deaths have been attributed to those who have seen the film,” George wrote. “One occurred in a subway station in Boston.The other two were in California and happened in the theater. All have sparked negative feelings toward ‘The Warriors’ and concern in the Black community that the film will increase gang activity in New York. During the early 1970’s Black gangs like the Tomahawks and the Jolly Stompers were popular among school students.” Later in the article, George described interviewing young filmgoers: “Young Blacks interviewed outside a Times Square theater where the film is playing were either unaware of the violent incidents linked to ‘The Warriors’ or didn't care about it. The original ad campaign was cited by most as getting them interested in viewing it. ‘It looked like there was some action to it,’ said one young man. ‘I like movies where something is happening, you know. I tell you, I liked it better than ‘Roots’” (click to view PDF).
The Warriors became a popular cult film, is referenced regularly in hip-hop, and was adapted for a video game.