More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look41.86%
Average: 9.3%
Pretty Bad: 2.33%
Total Crap: 4.65%

1 review, 37 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

Rebel Without a Cause
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Elaine Perrone

"Teach your parents well. Their children's hell will slowly go by."
4 stars

SCREENED AT SEATTLE LESBIAN & GAY FILM FESTIVAL 2004: In 1955, the year Nicholas Ray's "Rebel Without A Cause" was released, James Dean's future as a major star working with the cream-of-the-crop of Hollywood directors seemed assured. Earlier that year, he had created a sensation in his first major role as Cal Trask in "East of Eden" under the direction of Elia Kazan. Still later that year, he turned in a powerhouse performance as Jett Rink in "Giant," helmed by George Stevens. Sadly, he was killed when his Porsche Spyder collided with another vehicle in September 1955, before either "Rebel" or "Giant" even appeared in theatres.

By the time "Rebel" hit the big screen, Natalie Wood was a seasoned veteran who had started her career as a toddler in 1943 and moved on to substantial supporting roles by 1947, appearing in both "Miracle on 34th Street" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" that year at the age of nine. Besides "Rebel," Wood's most notable performance was as Maria in "West Side Story," and her star continued to rise throughout the '60s. In the ensuing years she enjoyed a respectable reputation and found gainful employment up to the time she drowned in 1981 at the young age of 43.

The third in the film's trio of leads, Sal Mineo, was a star of notable stature in the '50s and '60s, receiving "Best Supporting Actor" nominations for his turns in "Rebel" in 1955 and "Exodus" in 1960. He was murdered, at the age of 37, in 1976.

If they were alive today, all three would be in their sixties, very likely still enjoying careers as well-regarded character actors. Ironically, the only member of the cast of "Rebel" to be in that position now was at the time a bit player, and something of a hell-raiser in his own right: Dennis Hopper.

The storyline, which takes place over a period of about 24 hours, opens in the wee hours after an Easter Sunday in a police station, where the three principals first cross paths. Jim Stark (Dean) has been hauled in for "plain drunkenness" after being found lying on a sidewalk in a stupor, cradling a wind-up toy monkey. Judy (Wood), picked up while wandering the streets at 1:00 a.m., is circumspectly asked by Ray Fremick, a sympathetic policeman (Edward C. Platt), if she had been "looking for company." The 16-year old tearfully tells him that she has run away from home after her father called her a "dirty tramp." The third teen, John "Plato" Crawford (Mineo), is being detained for questioning, and counseling, after shooting to death a litter of puppies. Left in the custody of a housekeeper (Marietta Canty) by the parents who have essentially abandoned him, Plato cries out in response to Ray's strong suggestion that he seek psychiatric help, "No one can help me!"

When Jim's parents (Jim Backus, Ann Doran) arrive to collect him, they quickly begin bickering loudly -- their usual method of communicating with each other. When his father playfully defends "Jimbo" for taking what he terms "a little drink," and his mother lashes back, we learn the crux of Jim's turmoil: He wants, just once, for his weak father to stand up to his overbearing mother, and he is deathly afraid of becoming a "chicken" like his old man. The term "chicken" so badly sets him off, in fact, that it has caused him to mess guys up in the many cities in which his family has lived. His mother's response, each time he gets into a fight, is to move house, which means he has never been able to make long-term friends.

On his first day at his new school, Jim is taunted by the senior class "wheels," of which Judy is a member. When her boyfriend Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen) provokes him with the "chicken" epithet, Jim quickly moves to defend his honor, first in a knife fight and then in a "chickie-run" in stolen cars across a treacherous bluff. When Buzz becomes trapped in his car, which goes sailing over the cliff, Jim is consumed by guilt and Buzz's friends by their desire for revenge. The three new friends, Jim, Judy, and Plato, are at once set on a course that leads to even further tragedy.

Like many of the dramas of the period, the acting in "Rebel" is highly stylized, with the exception of Jim Backus' brilliantly subdued portrayal of Frank Stark, browbeaten husband and concerned but ineffectual parent. The sexual attraction of Plato to Jim, which seems obvious today, is glossed over, as is any suggestion that the behavior of Judy's father, played by William Hopper, might be motivated by his own confliction over his daughter's burgeoning sexuality. Still, the film remains a beautifully rendered, powerful, and highly relevant study of disenfranchised teenagers and their dysfunctional families. Deeply controversial in its time, "Rebel" was a groundbreaker that paved the way for the likes of "American Graffiti," "Stand by Me," "River's Edge," and "Donnie Darko," among many other films of the genre.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/19/04 13:16:55
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

6/18/10 mr.mike Before seeing it I figured Dean was overhyped. I was wrong. 4 stars
6/01/10 User Name A reminder of the great talent that was lost when James Dean died. 4 stars
7/02/07 jim rubbish worst film ive ever seen 1 stars
2/21/07 action movie fan the only decent film with james dean-good story 4 stars
8/24/06 AnnieG Parents suck. Highschoolers are all 25+. Bad kids have good hearts. What a classic! 3 stars
8/23/06 David Cohen I don't care how old it is, this is a great movie! 5 stars
7/12/05 Jake A little dated but still excellent. 5 stars
10/23/04 Denise good 4 stars
5/20/04 rori flynn Althogh the movie is obviously outdated the theme still live on in our 21st century lives 3 stars
2/11/04 king of cool james dean's only good movie--good not great 4 stars
8/17/03 Jon Lyrik A classic. What happened to Dean was a complete tragedy. 5 stars
7/30/03 luke lemaster Without James Dean in the role of Jim Stark this movie would have been forgotten 5 stars
6/21/03 John Aster Habig The timeless teenage angst anthem of FREAKIN ALL TIME 5 stars
5/23/03 Mathew I liked this one, it had some historical relevance, showed how people felt in the 1960's 5 stars
6/02/02 Brooke This movie was great-- James Dean was amazing!! 5 stars
3/30/02 Allie Classic Teen Angst!! Timeless! 5 stars
2/01/02 Andrew Carden Not As Good As Some May Say, but Still A Very Solid Movie Ahead Of It's Time. 4 stars
1/30/02 Phil M. Afficianado A classic period piece, with a gifted lead actor. Over the top but good viewing anyway 4 stars
12/22/01 Roxy A cult film that is defintily worth watching. Dean is magnatic and shines throughout. 4 stars
11/02/01 James W. Thompson This movie is a classic because it transitions time. 5 stars
10/05/01 Joe Marrier A movie with such obvious flaws. the story was unrealistic in terms of relationships 1 stars
9/29/01 Lauren Edwards Considering the time frame, I thought it was an enjoyable movie 5 stars
8/29/01 Monster W. Kung James Dean shines, the script does not. 3 stars
8/08/01 Merle I love this movie and I love James Dean. I must have seen it 100 or more times. 5 stars
5/12/01 it wasn't to bad 2 stars
4/26/01 R.W. Welch This cast really jells, making the pic more than the sum of its parts. 5 stars
3/29/01 Mike A good look at life throught teens that have problems that still exist today 4 stars
12/10/00 Panny James Dean is a handsome guy and an excellent actor 4 stars
10/28/00 tainturier marie-laure Excellent 5 stars
9/18/00 Tom McCullough They don't make 'em like this anymore! 5 stars
8/23/00 MJ Sebastian Kudos to JD for making brooding a sexy art form 4 stars
1/24/00 JoeS Saw it in the movies when it first came out, still plays well. 5 stars
1/02/00 Holly Favourite Movie Of All Time 5 stars
2/18/99 Daria It's pity James Dean died young. Otherwise he probably would be fat and acting on 90210! 3 stars
11/28/98 Mr.Pink Brilliant! Best coming-of-age flick of all time!!! 5 stars
11/16/98 Lord Of The Dunce Jimmy Dean at his greatest. Kid was a damn fine actor. 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  27-Oct-1955 (NR)
  DVD: 31-May-2005

  N/A (PG)

  02-Feb-1956 (M)

Directed by
  Nicholas Ray

Written by
  Nicholas Ray
  Irving Shulman
  Stewart Stern

  James Dean
  Natalie Wood
  Sal Mineo
  Jim Backus
  Ann Doran
  Dennis Hopper

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast