Does Johnny Die in ‘The Outsiders?’

He’s one of the best friends of Ponyboy Curtis, but his fate is somewhat regrettable. They’re doing it for Johnny, but what exactly happens to Johnny Cade in the novel and the movie adaptation of The Outsiders? Here’s what we know about the story of the Greasers and the Socs, as told by the author of this adventure book, S.E. Hinton.

Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, and Matt Dillon of 'The Outsiders'
Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, and Matt Dillon of ‘The Outsiders’ | Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images

‘The Outsiders’ first appeared as a book by S.E. Hinton

This novel told the story of two rival gangs in Oklahoma, the Greasers and the Socs. The narrator of the story is one Greaser, Ponyboy, who is known for his complicated relationship with his oldest brother, who acts as his Guardian. 

Thanks to The Outsiders, fans were introduced to the loveable Johnny Cade, a close friend of Ponyboy Curtis and another member of the Greaser gang. It’s Johnny who saves Ponyboy from a drunk group of Socs, accidentally killing one in the process. 

Together with Ponyboy, this character runs away from home, discovering his love for Gone with the Wind and sunsets. While he’s away from the town, however, he gets into some life-threatening hero work with Ponyboy.

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Ralph Macchio portrays Johnny in ‘The Outsiders’ movie

When it comes to the 1983 film adaptation of The Outsiders, this young Greaser, Johnny Cade, was portrayed by Ralph Macchio, who also appeared in The Karate Kid and its Netflix spinoff, titled Cobra Kai

“I read the book when I was 12 years old in seventh-grade English class. It was the first book that I ever finished cover to cover,” the actor said during an interview with Parade. “S.E. Hinton—like J.K. Rowling of today—started a lot of young kids reading in school. I was immediately connected to it.”

Macchio starred alongside other A-List actors of their time, including Rob Lowe (as Sodapop “Soda” Curtis,) Patrick Swayze (as Darrel “Darry” Curtis,) and Tom Cruise (as Steve Randle.) Dallas Winston, one of Johnny’s closest friends, was portrayed by Matt Dillon.

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‘Do it for Johnny, man’

After saving some children from a burning building, Dallas and Ponyboy sustained some injuries. Both in the novel and in the movie, however, the character Johnny endured the worst burns. He fought for his life but eventually died in the hospital. The other Greasers didn’t take the news well. 

“Let’s do it for Johnny, man,” Dallas decided, grabbing at his knife. “We’ll do it for Johnny.”

The rumble went on with or without Johnny. Although the Greasers emerged victorious, it wasn’t enough for Dallas. The character snapped at the thought of a life without Johnny and pulled some stunts at a convenience store. 

As a result, he got himself shot by the police. Life went on for these teenagers, though, and it’s Ponyboy who writes about his experience for school, eventually forming a good relationship with his eldest brother.