Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

In director Nicholas Ray's seminal film about confused 50s youth:

  • the opening scene in a Los Angeles police station when the three main teenaged characters were introduced:
    - drunken troublemaker Jim Stark (James Dean) found lying on a sidewalk curb with a wind-up toy monkey next to him
    - pretty, unloved Judy (Natalie Wood) in a bright-red outfit with matching red lipstick, cited for curfew violation
    - emotionally-disturbed, anguished 'orphan' John "Plato" Crawford (Sal Mineo) who had killed a litter of puppies
Introduction of Main Characters in Police Station
Jim Lying Drunk on Sidewalk Before Arrest
Judy's 'Dirty Tramp' Speech
Orphaned 'Plato'
  • Judy delivered a "dirty tramp" speech to patient, sympathetic juvenile-offenders officer Ray (Edward C. Platt) about her father's cruelty when she dressed up, but he resisted and reproached her grown-up maturity: "He must hate me. He hates me....I don't think, I know. He looks at me like I was the ugliest thing in the world. He doesn't like my friends. He doesn't like one thing about me. He called me - he called me a dirty tramp, my own father... I don't know, I mean, maybe he doesn't mean it, but he acts like he does. We were all together. We were gonna celebrate Easter and we were gonna catch a double bill. Big deal! So I put on my new dress and I came out, and he grabbed my face and he started rubbing off all the lipstick. I thought he'd rub off my lips. And I ran out of that house"
  • the alienated Jim Stark (James Dean) expressed his frustrated rage and agony when he screamed at his often-bickering and love-smothering parents, Mr. Frank Stark (James Backus, the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo) and his mother Carol Stark (Ann Doran) who came to pick him up: "You're tearing me apart!...You say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again"
  • in Ray's office, Jim's bottled up energy caused him to box bare-knuckled with Ray's large wooden desk, venting his pent-up crazed energy; he then continued his description of his dysfunctional family that kept moving from town to town to protect him, especially his passive, weak, henpecked and 'chicken' father: "It's a zoo. He always wants to be my pal, you know? But how can I give him anything? If he's, well, I mean I love him and all that type of stuff, and I-I mean, I don't want to hurt him. But then, I don't, I don't, well I don't know what to do anymore, except maybe die...."
Jim Pummeling Officer Ray's Desk with Fists - in Frustration
Jim Counseled by Officer Ray About His Dysfunctional Family
Jim About His 'Chicken' Father: "I don't ever want to be like him"
  • Jim also expressed a wish that his henpecked, ineffectual "chicken" father (a weak and timid role model) would one day stand up to his domineering mother who was only concerned about keeping up an image of respectability: "If he had guts to knock Mom cold once, then maybe she'd be happy and then she'd stop pickin' on him, because they make mush outta him... I'll tell you one thing, I don't ever want to be like him...How can a guy grow up in a circus like that?...Boy, if, if I had one day when, when I didn't have to be all confused, and didn't have to feel that I was ashamed of everything...If I felt that I belonged someplace, you know, then..."
  • just before Jim's first day of school at Dawson High, he questioned Judy in his neighborhood: ("You live here, don't you?") - followed by her response: "Who lives?"; she asked: "You wanna carry my books," then refused his offer of a ride and went off with a carload of other teens: ("I go with the kids"); the delinquent gang was led by her leather-jacketed boyfriend Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen); her last words to Jim were an insult: "I bet you're a real yo-yo"
  • the choreographed, tense switchblade knife fight scene (after a school field trip) outside the Griffith Observatory's planetarium between HS newcomer Jim and challenger Buzz
  • when Jim returned home, he found his frilly, apron-clad father ludicrously positioned on his knees on the upstairs landing cleaning up a spilled tray of food - his cowardly, emasculated father was not willing to admit the accident to his mother: "Shhh. Listen, I'd better, better clean it up before she sees it" - Jim pleaded with his weak and foolish dad to stand and be a man, and was unable to receive advice about how to stand up and defend one's honor when challenged
  • feeling unloved in her home, Judy forced her father (William Hopper) for a kiss at the family's meal table after he had returned from work: ("Daddy?...Haven't you forgotten something?"), but he pushed her away: "What's the matter with you? You're getting too old for that kind of stuff, kiddo. I thought you stopped doing that long ago..."; Judy begged to be loved and appreciated: "Girls don't love their father? Since when? Since I got to be 16?" - then, when she tried to steal another kiss, her father slapped and chastised her with a reprimanding tone ("Stop that! Sit down!"); Judy fled from her unwelcoming father; after he called her a "glamour puss," she left the house and slammed the door: "This isn't my home"; her father admitted: "I don't know what to do. All of a sudden, she's, she's a problem; her mother (Rochelle Hudson) attempted to be reassuring, but admitted that she too didn't know how to help their problematic adolescent daughter: "She'll outgrow it dear, it's just the age...It's just the age when nothing fits."
16 Year-Old Judy Lacking Affection From Her Father
  • the scene of a challenge known as a "chickie run" next to sea-side cliff edge; just before the race, Jim offered his outstretched hand to pink-sweatered Judy; tragically, when trapped inside his hot-rod car by his jacket sleeve, Buzz's vehicle plunged over the edge and he was killed
The Deadly "Chickie Run"
Buzz Just Before Hot-Rod Car Accident
Jim and Judy Touching Hands After Buzz's Death
  • the powerful sequence of Jim's return to his home after the lethal chickie run - Jim drank milk directly from the bottle, and then put the cold glass on his forehead and cheek to cool himself; he wished to appeal to his parents following the tragedy of Buzz's death; as his mother approached from upstairs, the camera revolved an entire 180 degrees counter-clockwise to reflect his point of view - he told his parents that he needed a "direct answer" this time, because he was "in trouble": ("They called me chicken. You know, chicken? I had to go because if I didn't I'd never be able to face those kids again. I got in one of those cars, and Buzz, that - Buzz, one of those kids - he got in the other car, and we had to drive fast and then jump, see, before the car came to the end of the bluff, and I got out OK, and Buzz didn't and, uh, killed him...I can't - I can't keep it to myself anymore")
Father: "Did anyone see you there?"
Mother: "No I don't want you to go to the police"
Jim to His Mother: "You're not tearing me loose again"
Jim Choking His Father
  • his weak-willed, indecisive father first wanted Jim to not get involved ("Did anyone see you there? Did anyone see your license plate?"), and then his mother refused to have him go to the police; his father could not offer support: "But you know that you did the wrong thing. That's the main thing, isn't it?"; Jim wanted to tell the truth to the authorities as his father had instructed him, but his mother suggested that he just not "volunteer" the information, or that they move away again to get away from the problem; Jim objected ("You're not tearing me loose again") and became enraged at both his cowardly father and mother for not standing up for him: ("You better give me something. You better give me something fast...Dad, let me hear you answer her. Dad, Dad, stand up for me"); his father was powerless and impotent, and buried his head in his hands; Jim physically attacked his father and choked him before contemptuously leaving
  • under a moonlit sky, Jim found Judy sitting next to his driveway when he drove up; she was wrapped tightly in a pink coat to keep warm. She greeted him with an affectionate name: "Hello, Jamie," and he was surprised. She warned: "They'll be looking for you...It doesn't matter to them," referring to the earlier, deadly chicken-run car race. She admitted: "I'm just numb." He leaned forward and confided in her: "You know something? I woke up this morning, you know. And the sun was shining and it was nice and all that type of stuff. And the first thing - I saw you. And, uh, I said, 'Boy, this is gonna be one terrific day, so you better live it up, 'cause tomorrow you'll be nothin'.' See? And I almost was"; she apologized for treating him poorly on the first day of school: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I treated you mean today. You shouldn't believe what I say when I'm with the rest of the kids. Nobody, nobody acts sincere"; under a moonlit sky, he kissed her for the first time - sweetly on the side of her forehead - she told him: "Your lips are soft"
  • Jim, Judy, and misfit Plato - all three acting as a "family" - explored and toured a deserted mansion and an empty swimming pool; Plato assumed the part of a real estate agent leading the pretend 'newlyweds' through the run-down Gothic property with a lighted candelabra: ("Well, what do you think of my castle?"); like a surrogate family, Jim had his head in Judy's lap, with Plato the 'child' at their feet; before leaving to explore further, Judy and Jim noticed the sleeping Plato's red and blue mismatched socks and laughed - Jim commented: "Must have been a nervous day..."
  • settling down, Judy opened her heart to Jim in a very intimate sequence, as she laid next to him and confessed why she was falling in love with him. She asked: "Is this what it's like to love somebody?...What kind of a person do you think a girl wants?" She agreed that she wanted "a man" - "but a man who can be gentle and sweet - like you are." To her, Jim was a man who was very different from her irresponsible and unloving father. She added: "Someone who doesn't run away when you want them. Like being Plato's friend when nobody else liked him. That's being strong." She transferred her love for her father to a new heroic man and ideal partner - Jim. He had the traits of a man who was brave and strong (and wouldn't run away or abandon her), caring, responsible, gentle and sweet with peaceful instincts.

    Jim: (responding favorably): "Oh, wow...We're not gonna be lonely anymore. Ever, ever. Not you or me."
    Judy: (confiding, as she nuzzled closer) "I love somebody. All the time I've been, I've been looking for someone to love me. And now I love somebody. And it's so easy. Why is it easy now?"
    Jim: "I don't know. It is for me, too."
    Judy: (confessing her love) "I love you, Jim. I really mean it."
    Jim: "Well, I'm glad." (He turned toward her and their lips found each other.)

  • in the final tragic, senseless and violent scene at the planetarium - after being pursued by Buzz's gang, Plato barricaded himself in the observatory; to calm him, Jim traded his red jacket for Plato's gun (and secretly removed the bullets before returning the gun); outside, Plato appeared armed when he rushed at the police with an unloaded gun, and was shot down; Jim tried to protect his friend, but failed; he called out with his arm outstretched: "I got the bullets, look!"; feeling powerless after Plato was killed, Jim knelt down and crawled next to his friend's body, mourning over the death of his surrogate 'son' who was unable to reach the adult world - he asked Plato: "Hey jerk-pot. What did ya do that for?"
  • the disconsolate words of Plato's family's distraught black housekeeper (Marietta Canty) delivered his epitaph: "This poor baby got nobody. Just nobody."

Jim to His Father in Police Station: "You're tearing me apart!"

Judy: "You wanna carry my books?"

Judy's Statements to Jim: "Who lives?", "I go with the kids", and "You're a real yo-yo"

Jim Called a "Chicken" by Buzz: "You shouldn't have called me that"

Jim's Switchblade Knife Fight at Planetarium Against Buzz

Jim's Emasculated Father

Jim With Cold Bottle of Milk after the 'Chickie' Run

Jim: "This is gonna be one terrific day"

Jim and Judy's First 'Kiss' After Her Apology: "Your lips are soft"

The Trio of Characters in a Deserted Mansion

Laughing at Plato's Mis-Matched Socks

Judy's Profession of Love for Jim

Jim Removing Bullets from Plato's Gun

Plato Shot Dead

Jim's Failed Effort to Protect Plato: ("I got the bullets, look!")

"Hey, jerk-pot. What did ya do that for?"

Jim's Anguish

The Words of Plato's Housekeeper


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