drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous films depicting delinquents in urban slum environments. Over the years, the film has achieved landmark status for the acting of cultural icon James Dean, fresh from his Academy Award nominated role in East of Eden and who died before the film's release, in his most celebrated role. This was the only film during Dean's lifetime in which he received top billing. In 1990, Rebel Without a Cause was added to the preserved films of the United States Library of Congress's National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant".
The story of a rebellious teenager who arrives at a new high school, meets a girl, disobeys his parents, and defies the local school bullies was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and explore the differences and conflicts between generations. The title was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner's 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath. The film itself, however, does not reference Lindner's book in any way.
Warner Bros. released the film on October 27, 1955, less than one month after Dean's fatal car crash.