Rebel Without a Cause tells the tale of a troubled teenager in search of parental love and recognition, friendship, and peer approval and acceptance. Just newly relocated to a Los Angeles suburb, Jim Stark (James Dean) finds himself in trouble with the law and lands in the juvenile section of the local police station for his state of drunkenness. It is at the police station where he meets two other troubled teens: Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo). Interviews conducted by the juvenile section’s counsellor, Ray Framek (Edward Platt) reveal all three teenagers lack parental love.
Jim runs again into trouble at school when he inadvertently steps on the school’s insignia set in on the front steps. He establishes a friendship with Plato who idolises him. Jim’s attempts at befriending Judy is rejected and further earns him the unwanted attention of her boyfriend, Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen) and his group of troublemakers who harass him. Before he can escape to an abandoned mansion suggested by Plato, Jim is goaded into competing in what will turn out to be a fatal ‘chickie’ run.
Surviving the race, and fearing the arrival of the police, Jim leaves with Judy and Plato. He informs his parents of the potential trouble with the police but receives no support from his father. Buzz’s friends seek revenge for his death, and after being warned by Plato, Jim escapes to the abandoned mansion with Judy and Plato. They are soon followed by the gang and the police.
“A violent, brutal and disturbing picture of modern teen-agers.”
— Bosley Crowther, The New York Times
“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. More perhaps than it realized, it is a subversive document of its time.”
— Roger Ebert
“An imperfect film, but James Dean still has an extraordinary, feline potency.”
— Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Did You Know?
In the making of Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray had to ride around with L.A. gangs for a few nights to research gang culture. Debbie Reynolds was said to have been considered to play Judy’s character and Paul Newman for the character Jim Stark. Review our Gay Themed Films Here