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Directed by Nicholas Ray

United States 1955 111 mins.

Ray reinvigorated and expanded upon the generational-crisis motif of his earlier works in this Warner Brothers-made, mythical tale of a trio of troubled teens. Jim (James Dean), Plato (Sal Mineo), and Judy (Natalie Wood) meet while in jail, each there for a minor transgression stemming from problems at home. Jim, new to town and at odds with his parents, befriends the outcasts but gets into hot water when he crosses Buzz (Corey Allen), one of Judy’s delinquent “friends.” Jim and Buzz are immediate rivals, but after Buzz has an accident during a game of chicken, his friends latch onto the idea that Jim had something to do with it, setting up a showdown at Los Angeles’ famed Griffith Observatory. Featuring beautiful Cinemascope lensing by Ernest Haller, an unsettling score by Leonard Rosenman, and the nexus of the expansive myth of James Dean following his death just before the film was released, Ray’s film remains a American masterpiece of the era.