What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this landmark depiction of teen alienation and delinquency has plenty of don't-try-this-at-home moments, including knife fighting, gunplay, breaking-and-entering a disused house, a fatal game of "chicken" in stolen cars, and animal cruelty. Young people drink to inebriation and smoke. There is a link made between a single-parent household (actually less than that; never-seen mom lets the maid oversee things) and a loner mentally ill son.
  • Families can talk about tormented teens in this movie. Can 21st-century young viewers still relate to Jim's anger, aggression, dysfunctional parents, and negative peer pressures?
  • Parents seem to be blamed for root troubles in this movie. What do kids today think causes juvenile delinquency?
  • Talk about the meteoric career of James Dean, his early car-crash death, and the mystique surrounding the few films he completed (a monument to Dean stands at the L.A. observatory where Rebel Without a Cause was filmed). Who are the James Dean-like idols today?
  • Rebel Without a Cause, in keeping with 1950s studio censorship, handles its potentially R-rated bombshell topics without the now-expected ingredients of profanity and explicit sex/nudity. Does that approach make it less powerful, or did the filmmakers and cast still pull it off? Should more movies be made this restrained?
  • Tell movie-minded kids to watch for a young Dennis Hopper among the high-school gang member here -- and mention the irony that a generation later Hopper played the helpless-dad role in another delinquent drama, Rumble Fish.
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