‘Rebel without a Cause’

Good but not Great


Niko Pavletic, Movie Critic

Hi!  I’m Niko Pavletic, and I have been a fan of films for as long as I can remember, but it was only as of this year that I have really been watching films from a critical point of view.  I naturally adapted my love of cinema, especially pre 1980’s cinema from my dad who might be even more of a cinephile than me.  I have made it my goal to be able to fairly critique movies without spoiling, or going too in detail about anything. 

I rate movies on a scale of one to ten, with seven to ten being a film I would recommend.  Six and five are average movies that I don’t recommend, but also don’t recommend not watching them.  And four and below are bad, and a waste of time.  And remember my final rating of the movie is entirely my opinion.  I go over things like characters, plot, cinematography, and acting, without spoiling any major plot elements.  Enjoy my review!


Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama/Romance

Main Actors:  

James Dean – Jim Stark 

Natalie Wood – Judy

Sal Mineo – John ‘Plato’ Crawford

Corey Allen – Buzz Gunderson

Director: Nicholas Ray


Rebel Without a Cause follows Jim Stark (played by James Dean) as he moves to a new town, and tries to fit in with his new school environment, and unable to do so causes a chain of events with a vast majority of them going against the protagonist.  Right from the first scene with Jim and his parents, it is made very obvious Jim hates how overprotective his parents are, and this is quite a major element to his Jim, and his character development.  And this is my first real problem with the movie.  The fact that Jim’s parents are nothing more than plot devices, only there to develop his character.  I cannot make it clear enough that I hate characters like this, and while I can sometimes excuse it I cannot in this case.  The parents have too big of a role in the story to be nothing more than bland plot devices.  

“I’ve been a fan of films for as long as I can remember.””

— Niko Pavletic

One thing I do think the film does well is when Jim Stark first arrives at the school, we (the audience) are just as clueless as him making it very easy to immerse yourself into the character.  There is a good two-minute scene of him just navigating the school and is a good vessel for the viewer in this situation.  The cinematography in the film, in general, is fairly well done, there are really clever shots that imply a certain feeling in the viewer, especially feelings like anxiety, and stress.  I don’t think the cinematography is any Kubrick film but is definitely above average.

The character of Judy (who is the secondary protagonist) is introduced to the audience at the same time Jim Stark is.  However, she is not introduced as the protagonist.  In fact, she is introduced as a secondary antagonist second to Buzz Gunderson.  As the story progresses it is made clear she and Jim are actually really similar, but one thing about her character I don’t like is that she changes her personality so absurdly fast, and when I mean fast I mean fast.  The entire movie takes place in one day, which I think is ridiculous that all the events of the film happen in the span of twenty-four hours.  But besides that her character is fine.  She is acted well by Natalie Wood and is a reasonable character besides her quick drastic change of personality.

“It becomes rather cartoony.””

— Niko Pavletic

Jim’s friend John ‘Plato’ Crawford is a likable, but rather a shallow character.  Unlike Judy, he doesn’t go through any drastic changes in the movie and instead remains the same throughout the almost two hours runtime.  As I said he is likable but shallow, and boring.  He does get some character development during the movie, but not enough to make him an interesting character.  Same as Judy he is acted well by Sal Mineo, but still, there isn’t really much to say about this character.

“It’s no Kubrick film.””

— Niko Pavletic

The final main character in this movie is Buzz Gunderson who is the lead bully in a group of bullies.  And I must say these bullies are some of the corniest, shallow bullies I’ve ever seen in a film.  They seriously ruin the tone of the movie.  Every time they appear in a scene, the scene becomes rather cartoony, even if the scene is supposed to be serious.  

The score in the movie is alright.  It’s nothing special but serves its purpose as background music.  There are a few scenes in the film where the music doesn’t fit the scene, but it doesn’t ruin it.  The acting is phenomenal in the film, especially from James Dean in the lead role.  He really does capture the character he is trying to portray, and has some very immersive acting, not to mention he acts with his face rather well.  Everyone else does a fine job in their roles, but James Dean definitely is the best throughout the whole film.

“Not enough to make him an interesting character.””

— Niko Pavletic

Overall Rebel Without a Cause is a good, but severely flawed film.  The good definitely outways the bad, but some of the flaws act almost like a massive weight on the film holding it back from being better.  So I would say the move is a