Classic of the Week: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about tempestuous and confused middle-class teenagers. The film stars James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood and was directed by Nicholas Ray.

The film was revolutionary in the attempt to show the dying morality of American teens and parenting style. This film has also gone on to become a landmark status and making James Dean a cultural icon.

The story of the film: Teenaged Jim Stark (Dean) gets arrested and sent to the juvenile division of the police department for his drunkenness. At the station his meets John “Plato” Crawford who was brought in for shooting a litter of puppies and Judy who was brought in for her curfew violation. The three of them confess their frustrations to the police; all three of them suffer from problems at home:

Jim feels betrayed and distressed by his parents that constantly fight.

Judy believes that her father is ignoring her because she is no longer a little girl, so she dresses in racy clothes to get his attention, which only causes him to call her a “dirty tramp.”

Plato was abandoned by his father as a toddler and his mother is often away, leaving him with his housekeeper.

Jim’s first day at Dawson High, he meets Judy again and asks her for ride. Unimpressed she leaves with a group of delinquents lead by Buzz Gunderson.

After a field trip to Griffith Observatory, Buzz challenges Jim to a knife fight. Buzz then suggests stealing cars to have a “chickie Run” at a seaside cliff.

This film is definitely one of the best teen films I’ve ever seen and it totally shows the realistic conflicts between teens and other teens and their parents in the suburban 1950’s. It also shows the rebellious things they do that often get them in trouble with both parents and police. All of this is portrayed so well and realistically, from the intense to the sad parts. Not much goes right in this film, but that makes it even better.

This is probably James Dean’s most well known film and it is the last of his quite short career, but it is an iconic film, that will not ever be forgotten. Not only is it a teen classic, but it is an American classic. Everything in this film is outstanding from the acting to scenery. The intensity has you on the edge of your seat. The rebellious teenagers are portrayed oustsandingly, the parents did a fine job as well.

Many teenagers, even today, are defiant to parents, teachers, police and other authorities and this film depicts  it terrifically. Dean, Wood and Mineo are all equally superb and Corey Allen, who played Buzz did very good. If you want a good teen film and all you think is John Hughes, then change and watch this one, you won’t regret it.

Most of the time, when people think of teen films, they instantly think The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles and rarely does this film come to anyone’s mind. I think it’s time to step away from Hughes and go back to youth classics like this one, because it is more than just a film, it’s a work of art, that deserves to be rewatched for years to come. This is a culturally phenomenal pic. 13+ 5/5


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