Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Rebel Without a Cause Videos

Rebel Without a Cause Photos

Movie Info

This landmark juvenile-delinquent drama scrupulously follows the classic theatrical disciplines, telling all within a 24-hour period. Teenager Jimmy Stark (James Dean) can't help but get into trouble, a problem that has forced his appearance-conscious parents (Jim Backus and Ann Doran) to move from one town to another. The film's tormented central characters are all introduced during a single night-court session, presided over by well-meaning social worker Ray (Edward Platt). Jimmy, arrested on a drunk-and-disorderly charge, screams "You're tearing me apart!" as his blind-sided parents bicker with one another over how best to handle the situation. Judy (Natalie Wood) is basically a good kid but behaves wildly out of frustration over her inability to communicate with her deliberately distant father (William Hopper). (The incestuous subtext of this relationship is discreetly handled, but the audience knows what's going on in the minds of Judy and her dad at all times.) And Plato (Sal Mineo), who is so sensitive that he threatens to break apart like porcelain, has taken to killing puppies as a desperate bid for attention from his wealthy, always absent parents. The next morning, Jimmy tries to start clean at a new high school, only to run afoul of local gang leader Buzz (Corey Allen), who happens to be Judy's boyfriend. Anxious to fit in, Jimmy agrees to settle his differences with a nocturnal "Chickie Run": he and Buzz are to hop into separate stolen cars, then race toward the edge of a cliff; whoever jumps out of the car first is the "chickie." When asked if he's done this sort of thing before, Jimmy lies, "That's all I ever do." This wins him the undying devotion of fellow misfit Plato. At the appointed hour, the Chickie Run takes place, inaugurated by a wave of the arms from Judy. The cars roar toward the cliff; Jimmy is able to jump clear, but Buzz, trapped in the driver's set when his coat gets caught on the door handle, plummets to his death. In the convoluted logic of Buzz' gang, Jimmy is held responsible for the boy's death. For the rest of the evening, he is mercilessly tormented by Buzz' pals, even at his own doorstep. After unsuccessfully trying to sort things out with his weak-willed father, Jimmy runs off into the night. He links up with fellow "lost souls" Judy and Plato, hiding out in an abandoned palatial home and enacting the roles of father, mother, and son. For the first time, these three have found kindred spirits -- but the adults and kids who have made their lives miserable haven't given up yet, leading to tragedy. Out of the bleakness of the finale comes a ray of hope that, at last, Jimmy will be truly understood. Rebel Without a Cause began as a case history, written in 1944 by Dr. Robert Lindner. Originally intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, the property was shelved until Brando's The Wild One (1953) opened floodgates for films about crazy mixed-up teens. Director Nicholas Ray, then working on a similar project, was brought in to helm the film version. His star was James Dean, fresh from Warners' East of Eden. Ray's low budget dictated that the new film be lensed in black-and-white, but when East of Eden really took off at the box office, the existing footage was scrapped and reshot in color. This was great, so far as Ray was concerned, inasmuch as he had a predilection for symbolic color schemes. James Dean's hot red jacket, for example, indicated rebellion, while his very blue blue jeans created a near luminescent effect (Ray had previously used the same vivid color combination on Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar). As part of an overall bid for authenticity, real-life gang member Frank Mazzola was hired as technical advisor for the fight scenes. To extract as natural a performance as possible from Dean, Ray redesigned the Stark family's living room set to resemble Ray's own home, where Dean did most of his rehearsing. Speaking of interior sets, the mansion where the three troubled teens hide out had previously been seen as the home of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Of the reams of on-set trivia concerning Rebel, one of the more amusing tidbits involves Dean's quickie in-joke impression of cartoon character Mr. Magoo -- whose voice was, of course, supplied by Jim Backus, who played Jimmy's father. Viewing the rushes of this improvisation, a clueless Warner Bros. executive took Dean to task, saying in effect that if he must imitate an animated character, why not Warners' own Bugs Bunny? Released right after James Dean's untimely death, Rebel Without a Cause netted an enormous profit. The film almost seems like a eulogy when seen today, since so many of its cast members -- James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Nick Adams -- died young. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Rating:
PG-13 (for some violence and sexual content.)
Genre:
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Bros. Pictures

Watch it now

Cast

James Dean
as Jim Stark
Nick Adams
as Moose
Jim Backus
as Jim's father
Nicholas Ray
as Man in last shot
Sal Mineo
as Plato
Ann Doran
as Jim's Mother
Peter Miller
as Hoodlum
Ian Wolfe
as Lecturer
Rochelle Hudson
as Judy's Mother
William Hopper
as Judy's Father
Frank Mazzola
as Crunch
Paul Birch
as Police Chief
Gus Schilling
as Attendant
Nelson Leigh
as Sergeant
Dick Wessel
as Guide
Paul Bryar
as Desk Sergeant
Virginia Brissac
as Jim's Grandma
David McMahon
as Crunch's Father
Almira Sessions
as Old Lady Teacher
Tom Bernard
as Harry
House Peters
as Officer
Robert B. Williams
as Moose's Father Ed
Jack Simmons
as Cookie
Louise Lane
as Woman Officer
Bruce Noonan
as Monitor
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Rebel Without a Cause

Critic Reviews for Rebel Without a Cause

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (6)

An unmissable film, made with a delirious compassion.

Full Review… | October 23, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Here is a fairly exciting, suspenseful and provocative, if also occasionally far-fetched, melodrama of unhappy youth on another delinquency kick.

Full Review… | October 23, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

Dean's finest film, hardly surprisingly in that Ray was one of the great '50s directors.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Like its hero, Rebel Without a Cause desperately wants to say something and doesn't know what it is. If it did know, it would lose its fascination.

Full Review… | January 19, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

There are some excruciating flashes of accuracy and truth in this film.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

An indelible vision of a pretty 1950s America with a searing crack in it.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Rebel Without a Cause

While "Rebel Without a Cause" has a very familiar story, with predictable climax's and obvious character arcs, this James Dean film is not one to miss. Embracing all of these well-known story elements and creating a fresh take on this genre is really what this film does best. I will say that the film begins to drag slightly about halfway through, but aside from that, this is a very well-crafted drama that any film fan should love. Moving to a new town with his family, Jim Stark must choose which clique to fit in with, and whom be believes to be the cool crowd, turns out to have much more to hide. Falling in love with a girl from that same group, this film shows how bad can come from good and vice versa. I had a great time watching "Rebel Without a Cause." it is extremely well-written, well-acted, well-directed, and very well-shot. Great film all around.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

A fantastic film dealing with teenage angst, 'Rebel Without a Cause' is a classic film that finds James Dean in a superbly classic role.

Kase Vollebregt
Kase Vollebregt

Super Reviewer

A film that, in my opinion, has its reputation for a single scene, the one in which Jim Stark (James Dean) pleads with his hen-pecked father, "Stand up for me, Dad." Beautiful colour for its day, and well acted, for the most part, it's undeniably a classic, if unfortunately dated. To Truffaut, American cinema began and ended with Nicholas Ray, but for my money, Truffaut did it better. Kind of like On the Waterfront: subversive and aggressive in its day and a testament to a lot of great talents, but tame by the modern standard. Still, valuable for the way it cracked the veneer on the nuclear family, which was heavily idealized at the time. Watch it as a film history lesson.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Rebel Without a Cause Quotes

Discussion Forum

Discuss Rebel Without a Cause on our Movie forum!

News & Features