Movie Review: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1955 dramatic movie starring James Dean and Natalie Wood.

Synopsis: A rebellious teenager with a troubled past gets a chance at a fresh start when he moves to a brand new town with his parents. However, on his very first day of school, he is quickly tormented by a gang of juvenile delinquents. His honor is at stake and the only way he feels he can defend it is by participating in a deadly "chickie run."

Who's In It?


James Dean (photo courtesy of Pixabay)I ended up picking this film for our family movie night because it was something a little different from what we normally watch and I figured my oldest daughter would enjoy it. This was the first time I've seen this movie in a while and, after watching it again, I found it was as enjoyable as I remember it.

I think the thing I liked about this movie is the way it was so easy to share in Jim's (Dean) frustration. His mom was always forcing them to move, making him the chronic new kid at school. His dad wouldn't stand up to his mom despite the fact she needed someone to do that and, when he wanted to do the right thing, such as telling the cops what caused the fatal accident, everyone from his classmates to his parents are against it. 

The most intriguing character in this, however, had to be Plato (Mineo). When he was first introduced, it was obvious he was a troubled kid and potentially a future serial killer. And, while I wasn't sure what to think of him at first, as we learned more about him and how his parents pretty much abandoned him, he became a much more sympathetic character than I thought he would.

The movie also had quite a bit more suspense in it than I thought it would, especially when Plato started using his gun and then sought refuge in the planetarium. I wasn't sure how that situation was going to end. But, I figure it wasn't going to be a happy ending.

Overall, I thought Natalie Wood did a great job as Dean's love interest Judy. It was a complex role because she had to be sexy while, at the same time, be as troubled as the other kids in the movie, especially when it came to her own daddy issues (what kind of father doesn't want his daughter to tell him she loves him?).

My biggest complaint about this film, however, is how quickly she moves on from her now-deceased boyfriend (Corey Allen) to become romantically involved with Dean. From what I can tell, she loved her boyfriend. And, while I could probably see her moving on relatively quickly after a few days of grief, having her practically forget him just hours after he died did seem to be a bit on the cold side, even in a drama like this one.

Rebel Without a Cause (Two-Disc Special Edition)

In one of the most influential performances in movie history, James Dean plays the new kid in town whose loneliness, frustration and anger mirrored those of postwar teens - and ...

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Final Opinion

There does seem to be a lack of emotion toward the boy that gets killed early on in the film. However, despite that, I do think this is a great movie and, after watching it, it's easy to understand why it is considered a classic. If you haven't seen this movie, I would recommend taking the time to watch it.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 04/27/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/01/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does have Rebel Without a Cause amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I expect to re-see this film classic within the very near future, shortly after Lent ends.

It's sad to think of the tragic turns that the lives of the three leading actors took.

Who would you select for their successors if you all would be interested in being among the audiences of a colorized prequel, reboot, remake or sequel?

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