Numerous fifties films tackled the then-new subject of teenage ‘delinquents’, but none did it better than this classic, tragic movie that has become part of Hollywood myth, partly due to the untimely deaths of its three lead actors (Dean, of course, died in a car crash in September 1955, Wood drowned aged forty-three in 1981, and Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976).
Often copied (the ‘chicken race’ has appeared in everything from Footloose to Paula Abdul’s ‘Rush, Rush’ video, with Keanu Reeves taking on the Dean role) but never bettered, it’s the story of young Jim (Dean), a confused, alienated and misunderstood teen who feels let down by every adult in his life. Befriending Judy (Wood) and outsider Plato (Mineo), and creating something of a makeshift family with them, seems to be a solution, but they are all destined for inevitable tragedy.
Superbly performed, this was a ground-breaking movie, from Plato and Jim’s unspoken, homoerotic love (a kiss between the pair was apparently filmed but later dropped) to the depiction of gangs and teen frustration that hadn’t truly been explored on film before. Despite being over half a century old, it hasn’t dated and remains as powerful now as it has always been.
Is Rebel Without A Cause suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There are some fight scenes that may be upsetting.