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Style Wars

Style Wars
Directed by Tony Silver
Produced by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant
Starring Various
Music by Various
Distributed by Public Art Films, Plexifilm
Release dates
1983 (on television), 1984 (in theatres)
Running time
70 minutes
Director's Cut: 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Style Wars is a 1983 documentary on hip hop culture, directed by Tony Silver and produced in collaboration with Henry Chalfant. The film has an emphasis on graffiti, although bboying and rapping are covered to a lesser extent. The film was originally aired on PBS television in 1983, and was subsequently shown in several film festivals to much acclaim, including the Vancouver Film Festival. It also won the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.[1]


  • Background 1
  • Reception 2
  • Featured graffiti artists 3
  • Featured break dancers 4
  • Featured music 5
  • DVD release 6
  • 2011 restoration auction 7
  • References in other media 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The documentary shows both the young artists struggling to express themselves through their art, and their points of view on the subject of graffiti, as well as the views of then New York City Mayor Ed Koch, one-armed, now deceased graffiti writer Case/Kase 2, graffiti writer Skeme and his mother, graffiti "villain" Cap, now deceased graffiti writer Dondi, Seen and Shy 147, graffiti documentarian (and co-producer of the film) Henry Chalfant, breakdancer Crazy Legs of Rock Steady Crew, police officers, art critics, subway maintenance workers, as well as several "people on the street".


In 2009, A. O. Scott of the New York Times examined the film;

'Style Wars is a work of art in its own right too, because it doesn't just record what these artists are doing, it somehow absorbs their spirit and manages to communicate it across the decades so that we can find ourselves, so many years later; in the city; understanding what made it beautiful'[2]

Featured graffiti artists

Featured break dancers

Featured music

DVD release

The digitally remastered DVD edition also contains:

2011 restoration auction

On June 9, 2011 it was announced that Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea along with actors Brad Pitt and James Franco and director Spike Jonze were donating items to an eBay auction that would raise money for restoring the film negatives for Style Wars. The Auction ended on June 11, 2011.[3]

References in other media

DJ Mutt used quotes from the movie in his song titled "Big Lights, Big City" taken from his album "Treading Water". Black Star used a clip from the movie in the intro to the song 'Respiration' on the Black Star album. The Drum and Bass group Ganja Kru, composed of DJ Hype, DJ Zinc, and Pascal, used quotes from the movie in their song titled "Plague That Never Ends". Swedish band The Radio Dept. used audio samples from the film in their single "Never Follow Suit" from the album "Clinging to a Scheme".[4]


  1. ^ Fox, Margalit (5 March 2008). "Tony Silver, 72, Documentary Director, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Scott, A.O. "Critics' Picks: Style Wars". Critics' Picks: Style Wars (New York Times). Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  3. ^ "Flea donates bass guitar to charity auction". 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  4. ^ "The Radio Dept. - Never Follow Suit (Song Lyrics)". The Radio Dept. Official Site. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 

External links

  • Official site
  • Style Wars at the Internet Movie Database
  • Style Wars on YouTube
  • Style Wars Director Dies
  • Critics' Picks: 'Style Wars'
Preceded by
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Succeeded by
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