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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Warriors 4K UHD Review

Arrow Video

4K UHD Release: December 12, 2023

Video: 1.85:1 (theatrical cut), 1.78:1 (director’s cut)/2160p (HDR10/Dolby Vision)/Color

Audio: English Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and 1.0 mono (theatrical cut); English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo (director’s cut)

Subtitles: English SDH

Run Time: 93:09 (theatrical cut), 94:00 (director’s cut)

Director: Walter Hill

In New York the gangs outnumber the cops by 5-1. Together, they could rule the city. Gang-leader Cyrus has a dream to do just that and calls a summit. The gangs of New York gather in their thousands, Cyrus takes the stage. From somewhere in the crowd, a shot rings out and Cyrus falls down dead. In the chaos that follows, a small gang from Coney Island - the Warriors - are blamed. Now, everyone is out to get them. On foot, in enemy territory, can they make it through the night to get back across the city to the safety of home turf? (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Following a handful of mostly well-received screenplays, a financially successful directorial debut, Hard Times (1975), and an influential sophomore film, The Driver (1978), Walter Hill embarked upon what might be his signature creation in The Warriors (1979). While not necessarily everyone’s favorite and not his biggest box office hit (I believe that would be 48 Hours [1982]), it has had the largest and most enduring pop culture footprint, inspiring countless homages, parodies, cartoons, comics, films (most recently, Chad Stahelski’s John Wick 4 [2023] devoted an entire sequence to it), video games (including an official adaptation), board games, toys, music videos, fan gatherings, and even a 28-mile fun run across New York City. A television remake and Lin-Manuel Miranda stage musical are currently in pre-production as of this writing.

Given its stature and following, there isn’t a lot left for me to say about The Warriors, but I have always found its success interesting, because, separated from its reputation, it’s a deceptively strange film and a truly singular approach to simple, well-trodden genre concepts (though based on a novel by 1965 novel by Sol Yurick, the broader text relates to ancient Greek literature). Yet, the film’s world and characters rarely seem unnatural, because Hill does such a good job blending the gritty reality of its locations and violence with its cartoonish costumes and the rules of its fantasy setting (to be clear, NYC gangs were sometimes quite flamboyant at the time and some of the groups depicted in the film were based on actual gangs). I find it amusing, for example, that The Warriors, like most hit films, inspired Italian rip-offs, but that a lot of those rip-offs were combined with rip-offs of George Miller’s Mad Max 2 (aka: The Road Warrior, 1981) and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (also 1981). To Italian audiences in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the aesthetic decay of dystopian, post-apocalyptic New York City was indistinguishable from the actual New York City.


As a popular cult film, The Warriors has been available on almost every home video format, including VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc,  Capacitance Electronic Disc (CDC), VHD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray. The important caveat here is that, in 2005, Hill put together an Ultimate Director’s Cut of the film that added a voiceover introduction and comic book style illustrations as transitions. This cut was not well-received, but still ended up essentially replacing the original cut on DVD and Blu-ray. Arrow’s 4K UHD debut and the same day Blu-ray marks the first time stateside fans can watch the theatrical version in HD and 4K. The director’s cut is also included and both cuts have been sourced from exclusive 4K remaster of the original camera negative, supervised by Arrow Films and approved by Hill.

I’ve included screencaps from the 1080p Arrow Blu-ray for illustrative purposes. I don’t have the original Paramount director’s cut Blu-ray on hand for a direct comparison, but you can still get an idea as to what this new restoration looks like. For the record, to get an idea as to the differences in hue temperature, detail, et cetera, I compared my caps to the US director’s cut and German collector’s edition Blu-rays via this caps-a-holic comparison page. Besides the uptick in detail from 1080p to 2160p, the new transfer is slightly brighter and more vibrant, both aspects that are amplified by the UHD’s HDR enhancement. The overall palette is still on the cool side, but warm bits stick out a tad more (especially the vivid reds, yellow, and purples of the various gang members’ costumes) and neutral hues, mainly skin tones, take on a somewhat rosier look. This makes for a livelier and ultimately more naturalistic image, but not at the risk of cinematographer Andrew Laszlo’s generally dark photography, especially during outdoor sequences. Grain levels appear natural and patterns/textures are complex without major oversharpening artifacts.

There are a few shots where moving objects create a weird shimmer/ghost effect. I only noticed because I rewatched sections for the sake of reviewing the commentary and the director’s cut. I’m not sure if this is a mastering issue or something in the original footage. Either way, most viewers probably won’t notice.


If you opt to watch the theatrical cut you’ll have the option of a new Dolby Atmos remix (likely derived from Paramounts 5.1 remix), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo, or DTS-HD Master Audio original mono. I sampled all three, but preferred the mono track for authenticity’s sake. The Atmos remix is respectful of the original material, but doesn’t really add much, aside from arguably cleaner (though not clearer) dialogue tracks. Ambient and incidental effects aren’t particularly cramped on the mono track and I didn’t catch any notable high volume distortion. Barry De Vorzon’s indelible, driving electro-rock score gets a small boost from the stereo remix, but is surprisingly kind of weak in Dolby Atmos, aside from the extra LFE punch. The same goes for the pop songs played by the unnamed DJ throughout.

If you watch the director’s cut, you have DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options. There is also an uncompressed, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 isolated score track option on disc one.


Disc 1 (theatrical cut)

  • Commentary with Walter Chaw – In this new track, the critic and author of A Walter Hill Film: Tragedy and Masculinity in the Films of Walter Hill (MZS Press, 2022) explores the social and visual themes of The Warriors, repeating themes throughout Hill’s filmography, references to other films and literature (comics and Xenophon's Anabasis, for example), differences between the original script and final film, the wider careers of the cast & crew, the use of a multiracial cast, and the controversy surround its release. He is also rightfully critical of the director’s cut and makes nice comparisons between Barry De Vorzon’s score and the aggressive progrock scores being produced by Goblin around the same time.

  • War Stories (15:47, HD) – Walter Hill himself praises his cast & crew, and discusses throwing the film together in a short time on a modest budget, The Warriors getting financing due to producers convincing Paramount that it would be similar to Saturday Night Fever (1977), designing the different gangs, negotiations with real NYC gangs during filming, and social meaning and class consciousness (Hill is open to multiple audience interpretations).

  • Whole Lotta Magic (84:12, HD) – A Warriors-themed, The Movies That Made Me-branded roundtable Zoom meeting discussion with filmmakers Josh Olson (screenwriter of A History of Violence [2005]), Lexi Alexander (director of Punisher: War Zone [2008]), and Robert D. Kryzkowski (writer/director of The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot [2018]). 

  • Battling Boundaries (8:13, HD) – Editor Billy Weber looks back on his career at the time, an early connection to Walter Hill via his brief appearance in Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz’ Messiah of Evil (1973), various editing challenges, the release controversy, and other gang-related movies made after The Warriors.

  • Gang Style (9:08, HD) – Costume designer Bobbie Mannix looks back on creating the costumes based on character/gang names and cowboys & Indians themes, differentiating gangs via color, fabricating costumes, and Hill’s collaborative direction.

  • Armies of the Night (5:48, HD) – A slideshow look at Mannix’s design and photography archive. 

  • Come Out to Play (10:08, HD) – A 2023 location visit/comparison hosted by Adam Rinn, the artistic director of the nonprofit Coney Island USA.

  • Sound of the Streets (24:33, HD) – Film historian Neil Brand takes a look at the composer Barry De Vorzon’s score, his use of professional musicians for the rock sections, the ways he worked around limitations of ‘70s synthesizers, the likely influence of John Carpenter’s early synth scores (specifically Assault on Precinct 13 [1976]), other influences, the invaluable combination of visual and audio textures throughout the film, the narrative use of the DJ and songs she plays, and Joe Walsh’s closing track, “In the City,” which was co-written by De Vorzon and became a hit in its own right.

  • Archival 2005 Paramount DVD extras:

    • The Beginning (14:08, SD) – Interviews with Hill, producer Lawrence Gordon, actor James Remar, and editor David Holden.

    • Battleground (15:23, SD) – Interviews with Hill and assistant director David O. Sosna.

    • The Way Home (18:06, SD) – Interview with cinematographer Andrew Laszlo. 

    • The Phenomenon (15:20, HD) – A featurette with Hill, Webber, Laszlo, De Vorzon, producers Frank Marshall and Lawrence Gordon, and cast members David Patrick Kelly, Michael Beck, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. It includes a brief look at a deleted opening sequence.

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Image gallery

Disc 2 (director's cut)

  • 2005 introduction by Walter Hill (1:17, SD)

The images on this page are taken from Arrow’s same-day Blu-ray release – NOT the 4K UHD – and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.



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