Wild Style

Wild Style is an American 1983 hip hop film directed and produced by Charlie Ahearn. Released theatrically in September 1982 by First Run Features and later re-released for home video by Rhino Home Video, it is regarded as the first hip hop motion picture. The film included seminal figures such as Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quiñones, Lady Pink, The Rock Steady Crew, The Cold Crush Brothers, Queen Lisa Lee of Zulu Nation, Grandmaster Flash and Zephyr.[1][2] The protagonist "Zoro" is played by New York graffiti artist "Lee" George Quiñones.

Wild Style
Directed byCharlie Ahearn
Produced byCharlie Ahearn
Written byCharlie Ahearn
StarringLee Quiñones
Sandra Fabara
Patti Astor
Fab 5 Freddy
Cold Crush Brothers
Rock Steady Crew
Grandmaster Flash
Busy Bee
Grandmixer DST
Debbie Harry
Distributed bySubmarine Entertainment
Release date
March 18, 1983
Running time
82 min.
CountryUnited States

2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the film. Producers proposed a 2013 Blu-ray edition that would include additional interviews and features.


An early version of the Wild Style logo appeared in 1981 when Charlie Ahearn hired graffiti writer Dondi to paint the 'window down' subway car piece that appears in the film.[3] The Dondi piece was the inspiration for the animated title sequence designed by the artist, Zephyr and animated by Joey Ahlbum in 1982. [4] The Wild Style mural was painted by Zephyr, Revolt and Sharp in 1983. Charlie Ahearn and Fab 5 Freddy began working on the film on late 1981. The approach was a hybrid of a narrative musical and documentary, having the real hip hop pioneers play themselves in a loosely scripted story shot entirely in the South Bronx, the Lower East Side and MTA subway yards.


Wild Style takes place in 1981 in New York and centers around graffiti artists, Zoro (played by Lee Quiñones) and his encounters with an uptown journalist named, Virginia (played by Patti Astor).[5] More so than its story, however, the film is notable for featuring several prominent figures from early hip hop culture such as Busy Bee Starski, Fab Five Freddy, The Cold Crush Brothers and Grandmaster Flash.[6] Throughout the movie there are scenes depicting activities common in the early days of hip hop. These include MCing, turntablism, graffiti and b-boying. The film demonstrates the interconnections between music, dance and art in the development of hip hop culture.


Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 17 reviews.[7] A review from The Guardian noted that despite the low production values, 'nothing else comes close to capturing the atmosphere of the early days of hip-hop and spraycan art...'[8]


The film has received a large cult following over the years after its initial release. Highly regarded hip hop albums such as Illmatic by Nas, Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sunday by Cypress Hill, Resurrection by Common, Big Shots by Charizma, Operation: Doomsday by MF Doom, Check Your Head by Beastie Boys, Beat Konducta by Madlib, Jay Stay Paid by J Dilla and Quality Control by Jurassic 5 have used samples from the film. In 2007, the VH1 Hip Hop Honors paid tribute to Wild Style in recognition of its influence upon the culture. The film was also voted as one of the top ten rock and roll films of all time by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[1] The film has been exhibited as part of a 1980s art retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.[9][10]


The original soundtrack consists of 17 tracks recorded by various artists included in the film. The album has been described by Allmusic as "one of the key records of early 1980s hip-hop".[11]

See also


  1. Krotov, Mark. "Wild Style celebrates anniversary". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  2. Mc Call, Tris. "Rock Steady Crew to throw 34th Anniversary party in Newark's Lincoln Park". NJ.com. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  3. Witten, Andrew (2001). Dondi White, Style Master General. Regan Books. pp. 94–95.
  4. Cooper, Martha (2004). Hip Hop Files Photographs 1979-1984. Here To Fame. p. 188.
  5. "BBC - Movies - review - Wild Style". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  6. "Wild Style (1983)". Retrieved 22 November 2017 via www.imdb.com.
  7. "Wild Style (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  8. O'Neill, Phelim (10 August 2007). "Wild Style". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  9. Waxman, Lori (25 April 2012). "Museum of Contemporary Art looks back at the '80s". Chicago Tribune.
  10. http://dailyfreepress.com/2012/11/15/art-love-and-politics-in-the-80s-an-exhibition-at-the-ica/
  11. Stanley, Leo. "Wild Style Original Soundtrack". Allmusic. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
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