'Warriors, Come Out To Play:' Story Of The Line From A Cult Classic

Entertainment | April 12, 2019

Source: (imdb.com)

"Warriors, come out to play."

The line from The Warriors is like a secret code for lovers of the cult classic film -- while a lot of people haven't even seen the low-budget gang saga, those who have tend to be lifelong fans. The Warriors, directed by Walter Hill, tells the story of a Coney Island gang who is framed for a murder and must spend an eventful night getting from The Bronx to their southern Brooklyn home turf. The other street gangs, whose colorful gimmicks make them all the more menacing, are hunting the Warriors on the streets and in the subways of New York. The city is depicted as a lawless urban wasteland (which didn't take a lot of effort in the late '70s), and the violence is life-or-death stuff. As The Warriors hide from their rivals in the final scenes, The Rogues, the leader of their adversaries, Luther, clinks three bottles together and says, in a creepy, sing-songy voice, “Warriors, come out to play-ee-ay.”

The scene is one of the most memorable moments in film history, and there’s debate over whether or not David Patrick Kelly, the actor who played Luther, improvised the line. We’ll take a look at the claim, see what Kelly has to say, and delve into the films and music that this scene has inspired. 

The Famous Line Isn’t The Script, But It Wasn’t Exactly Improvised

Source: (imdb.com)

Hollywood lore states that Kelly tossed out the very creepy line in a fit of pique while filming at Coney Island. And while that’s certainly a cool story, it’s not actually what happened. Actor David Patrick Kelly says that the director Walter Hill worked together in order to bring some tension into the scene. While Kelly came up with clinking the bottles together, he’s strident about the fact that Hill fed him the line.

Kelly told Entertainment Weekly:

Walter gives me credit for that. I found the bottles, but he says I did it all. It wasn’t in the script. I’ll take credit for the bottles and how I said it. But I remember him kicking in the lines.

Kelly Got The Melody From A Neighbor

Source: (imdb.com)

Even if Kelly didn’t come up with the line, the way he sings it is absolutely chilling. He says that he got the idea for the sing-song melody from one his former neighbor in Manhattan who was fond of singing, “Daaaavid… Daaaavid…” That’s what Kelly was channeling while shooting the scene. The singing is creepy enough, but the miniature bottles on his fingers are a stroke of genius.

Kelly says that while the crew was busy he ran down to the pier and found the bottles. Supposedly no one knew he was going to clink the bottles together, which helped to ratchet up the tension when everyone got back to filming. 

The Scripted Scene Is Totally Different

Source: (paramount.com)

If the scene was re-written on the day, how were things actually supposed to play out? According to page 112 on a script revision from 1978 - when The Warriors was filmed - the scene was similar - the Rogues were still riding through the war-torn streets in a hearse and The Warriors were still hiding in an alley - but Luther and his gang just drove up on the Warriors and kept pace with them.

Rather than calling out to the gang, Luther and his crew just sort of hang out in their hearse while the heroes have a moment of self-reflection before their final bop. The version that made it to screen builds tension rather than throwing its cards on the table. 

David Patrick Kelly Has Made A Career Of Playing Creeps

David Patrick Kelly as Jerry Horne on Twin Peaks in 1990-91 and in 2017. Sources: (twinpeaks.fandom.com; Showtime)

If you’re trying to place where you’ve seen David Patrick Kelly, the actor behind the menacing presence that is Luther, all you need to do is turn on your TV, go to a movie, or take a trip to the theater. He’s been in pretty much every police procedural since the 1980s, but his most prominent role is that of Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks and its 2017 revival.

Most recently he appeared in Once on Broadway, and he appeared as Charlie in John Wick and John Wick Chapter: 2. Kelly is one of those actors who always pops up in something, but every time he’s onscreen the sound of three clinking bottles can’t be far behind. 

This Scene Has A Lot Pop Culture Cred

Source: (paramount.com)

There’s something about this scene from the cult classic movie that just makes people want to imitate it. You can admit it, the first time you saw Kelly clink those bottles together you wanted to do it too. Twisted Sister named their 1985 album, Come Out and Play after the scene, and The Offspring titled their hit track “Come Out and Play” in reference to the Twisted Sister song, which is some kind of reference inception.

The scene was also referenced in the hit series Archer, and in the music video for Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear,” where Sean Combs clinks a set of bottles together while saying, “Bad Boy, come out and play.” You really don’t have to look hard for some kind of reference to The Warriors in pop culture of any era. 

Tags: Famous Movie Scenes | Movies In The 1970s | The Warriors | Cult Films

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.