NYC Subway Inconsistencies in The Warriors

The Warriors is a movie that very prominently features the New York City Subway, so much so that it earned an honorary poster in the NYC Transit museum. I can’t think of another movie where so much of the action takes place in the subway and the subway is so integral to the plot. Unfortunately, the makers of The Warriors got their subway geography so woefully and sloppily wrong. It is indicative of the lack of effort that went into all aspects of the movie, from character development to the soundtrack, that they couldn’t sit down with a map for five minutes and decide on plausible places to film - although, in a way it adds additional enjoyment to the movie for the subway buff to try and spot all the inconsistencies. I will try to summarize those that I remember here.

First, let me say that even without the subway inconsistencies The Warriors is the funniest intentionally serious movie I’ve ever seen. It always brings a smile to my face whenever I think about the ridiculous plot, the complete absence of any character development, the 70s cliches, the Joe Walsh soundtrack, and the gangs – ah yes the gangs – from the ‘Interracial Skin Head School bus’ gang to the ‘Kiss-Baseball army’ to the ‘lumberjacks on roller skates’ to the green tucked in shirt wearing ‘Orphans’ led by what looks to be a cerebral palsey afflicted David Schwimmer, this movie is hilarious.

That having been said, one can find in the movie some additional enjoyment if one has some knowledge of the New York City Subway system.

1) When the movie opens, we learn that the different gangs of the city, including the Warriors of Coney Island, Brooklyn, are assembling in the Bronx for a convention of sorts, to be presided over by Cyrus, the bath-robe wearing blatantly homosexual leader of the most powerful gang. From where the Warriors are gesturing on the 70s era transit map (hilarious in itself) the convention appears to be at the Bronx end of the #5 Train. However, in the opening montage, shot out of the front ‘railfan’ window of a subway car, we see the stations of the IND* Fulton Avenue Line (the A Train in Brooklyn) whizzing by. This is nowhere near any conceivable path one would use to get from Coney Island to anywhere. Not only that, but as the stations pass by, Nostrand Ave, Kinston-Throop, etc… we see that the train is headed outbound, away from anywhere. Its not a way anyone would get to the Bronx.

2) After the gang convention, and after encounters with the Orphans and the Interracial Skinhead Schoolbus, the Warriors board and elevated train. We clearly see that it is an M Train. However, the M goes nowhere near the Bronx. A train capable of displaying the letter M wouldn’t even be able to get where it supposedly was because there is no elevated BMT/IND grade trackage anywhere in the Bronx. The only BMT/IND grade trackage in the Bronx is the Concourse line, which is entirely underground.

3) The Warriors encounter a fire and are forced off of the (still elevated) subway. The next time they encounter a subway, it is the IRT 96th street station on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, as clearly shown by the sign. This is quite a feat (no pun intended), walking from some mythical Bronx location to the Upper West Side. It should be daylight by now. Anyway, the Station correctly displays the logos for the 1, 2, and 3 trains. However, once inside the station, it is not the 96th street IRT platform at all, but clearly an IND express station. Oops. Then, at this point, one Warrior is hit by an A Train while wrestling with a cop, thus confirming the station as an IND station. If they didn’t want to find an IRT station to shoot in, they could have at least slapped an A Train logo on the exterior sign of the station that they so obviously included.

4) Later, some other Warriors re-enter the same 96th street IRT station, and its still and IND express platform inside. This time an L Train rolls in. There are many things wrong here.
- The L Train goes nowhere near 96th street, or even to Upper Manhattan anywhere.
- The L Train logo was (correctly) not on the exterior station sign in the scene before
- A train capable of displaying the letter L could never be at an IRT station due to the tunnel gauge issue
- An in service L train would not even be at an IND style station anywhere **
- There are no express platforms anywhere along the L route

5) The warriors split at this point (as some board the impossible L Train) and agree to meet and regroup later at “Union Station” on their journey back to Coney Island. Unfortunately, there is no “Union Station” in New York. Washington, DC, LA, Toronto, yes, New York, No.

6) By Union Station, they mean 14th street-Union Square, a major subway transfer point. However, there is absolutely no reason anyone going from the Upper West Side (or from anywhere) to Coney Island in the 70s would go through Union Square. In fact this was not an option until the summer of 2001, when construction on the Manhattan Bridge closed the Chrystie Street Connection and reopened the Canal Street Subway, which did link Coney Island bound service with the Union Square station. Even so, an even remotely efficient way from the Upper West Side (whether from the 96th street IRT station or some mythical IND express station) would not pass through Union Square, in the 70s or today.

7) One Warrior, and the tight shirted whore who has for some reason joined them, then proceed to walk through the subway tunnels from this mythical Upper West Side station to Union Square, pausing to have filthy subway tunnel sex, or so we are to believe. Even though it is late at night, we have steadily heard and seen trains on the tracks, and yet none seem to pass on the track bed they are in. They eventually emerge at the IRT platform at Union Square, and, surprisingly, it is actually recognizable as such (for now). Unfortunately, it is impossible to walk from the Upper West Side (any line) to Union Square in the tunnels without surfacing at least once. And, if they did walk it, above or below ground, it would be well into the next day by now.

8) The next platform scene at Union Square, even though we are supposed to be on the same (correctly filmed) platform as before, has us on what is very obviously an IND express platform. There are no IND platforms at Union Square. Even without an appreciation for what the different platforms look like, this is clearly not the same station as the scene before. They took care to put “14th street” plaques on the pillars of the station, but in a shot of the wall we can clearly see the word “Hoyt.” This would be the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in downtown Brooklyn, whose abandoned platform is often used for filming subway scenes.

The Warriors finally pull into the (correct) Stillwell Avenue – Coney Island station as the sun is coming up. And so, the ludecrous result is that attending a convention that gets broken up by the police, walking and fighting through the Bronx to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, splitting up on the Upper West Side for some partying with lesbians and fighting, walking from the Upper West Side to Union Square with a pause for sex, fighting in the Union Square station bathroom, and riding from Union Square to Coney Island has all been accomplished by daybreak. Amazing.


* Much of the appreciation of the subway inconsistencies discribed here requires an understanding of the three system history of the New York City Subway. That is, that the subway as we know it today is the result of the consolisation of three formerly seperate units, the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit or "BMT", the Interboro Rapid Transit or "IRT", and the Independent Subway System or "IND". See these individual nodes for more information.

** Possible exceptions being the 6th and 8th avenue stops, which were built by the Independent in a somewhat hybrid BMT/IND style. In any case, they are not express stations.

While the myriad subway inconsistencies, cartoonish gang-life portraits, and rampant late-1970s schlock running through the film give it an element of camp, it should be remembered that the film is based on a true story.

What??

Yes, it's true. It's just that the story from which The Warriors was ripped off took place in 401-399 BC. And it's a blatant rip-off; though, in the film's defense, it's a story that's proved so popular through the ages that it's been ripped off countless times already.

The story, as committed to paper in about 370 BC by the former Athenian commander Xenophon, is entitled the Anabasis, literally meaning "the journey up." It is alternatively known as The Persian Expedition or simply "The March of the Ten Thousand." The story, in extreme brief, goes like this:

After the end of the Peloponnesian War, Cyrus (brother of the recently installed king of the Persians Artaxerxes II) decides to make his own claim to the throne. He takes a look over at Greece and notices that, in the wake of the war, there are literally thousands of armed men sitting around with nothing to do. He hires ten thousand heavily armed Greeks, raises some local troops of his own, and marches off to Babylon. They meet up with the armies of Artaxerxes at Cunaxa. Cyrus's army wins the day, but in the fray Cyrus himself is killed. The Greeks therefore find themselves very, very deep inside hostile territory and without a claimant to the throne. They are left with the sole option of retreat, and they negotiate with the Persians for a way out. They decide to take the shortest way back to Greek-controlled lands, which entails a march north ("the journey up") through the mountains of Kurdestan toward the Black Sea. On their way, they are assaulted by any number of enemies, including the treacherous Persians and the suspicious Kurds. When they reach the shores of the Black Sea, the soldiers famously begin to shout, "The sea! The sea!" And while in reality it took them some more time to get back to Greece, this is the point when their real troubles end.

Anyone familiar with The Warriors will immediately see parallels. Coney Island and The Bronx are about as far apart as you can get in NYC (as I recall, there is a sequence dramatizing the length of the trip early in the movie). The Warriors make the entire trip, only to find their potential leader assassinated and themselves surrounded by hostile gangs. On their long trip back home, they are attacked not only by their pursuers, but by the gangs through whose turf they must travel. And, of course, the movie draws to a close with The Warriors returning to Coney Island (aka "the sea") at sunrise.

In the end, it's a kind of silly film, though I personally find it entertaining and watch it whenever it happens to come on TV (which is usually at about 2 AM on the equivalent of the "Thousand Dollar Movie" show). Your lives will probably be richer if you read the Anabasis than if you see The Warriors; but the dialog in the movie is much more engrossing. Consider my favorite line: "I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle!" Chirisophus, Xenophon's superior commander, may have had such words in mind when rebuking his subordinate, but the historical record is lacking in this regard.

The Known Space short story by Larry Niven which introduced the Kzin, a cat-like race of aliens to his readers. The Kzin were the first extraterrestrial race encountered by humans, and unexpectedly, from the now peace loving humans standpoint, were extraordinarily warlike. This story spawned all the Man-Kzin war series, as well as the classic Ringworld. It can be found in a number of books, including the first Man-Kzin Wars collection. Truly a fine piece of sci-fi.

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