Film - Rebel Without a Cause Discussion Questions

At some point, I may find my notes on the film and add more questions here. However, every year I kept thinking I would finish this list or even save my notes from the previous year, but usually I just watched the movie again and took notes again. In fact, I rarely used movie days to grade papers or take a nap, so I've seen some of the films I used over twenty times, maybe a couple over forty. Either you get really bored or really good at finding hidden moments to discuss.

The questions here are for discussion and not formatted like a true quiz, though they could be adapted. If you've never seen Rebel Without a Cause, you should. Students respond well even with the early fifties production date. Thematically, it's too perfect NOT to use it with Catcher in the Rye.

Part I to come...

Part II

How do Mom and Grandma compete the morning before school?

What does Dad say about school to Jim?

How does Judy act towards Jim before and after her friends show up?

What types of cliques or individuals are seen in the high school?

How does Jim try to fit in during the field trip?

The man running the planetarium says that “The problems of man are trivial and naïve… man existing alone is of little consequence” How does this fit into the movie?

Why is Plato so afraid in the planetarium?

Why do all “the kids” want Buzz to go after Jim?

How does Plato suggest escaping Buzz and the gang?

The tire deflating and the camera work create a metaphor. What is it?

How could Jim have avoided conflict with Buzz?

How do friends play a key role in the events surrounding the fight?

How are camera angles used in the planetarium scene?

How does setting add to the planetarium scene?


Probably some missing Part III


Part IV

When Jim and Judy role-play as parents in the mansion, what is important/unimportant to them?
How does Plato's death fit in with the field trip to the planetarium (foreshadowing)?
What can the audience infer about Plato’s mismatched socks?
The original screenplay included Jim dying at the end, which could be seen as a fitting end if he is supposed to be a Christ-like figure. Find as many clues as you can that would fit into this reading of the film.
If the rebel without a cause is a rebel without reason for being a rebel, who would you choose as the rebel and why?
If the rebel without a cause is a rebel who stands for nothing, who would you choose as the rebel and why?
Even though the film ends with a death, how can positives be seen from the ending?
Why does the gang seem to be more out of control after Buzz is killed?
How does Jim react when Judy tells him she loves him in the mansion?
Why does Jim return the gun to Plato when he could have ended the standoff?
What is Jim searching for in the film? Does he find it?
What is Judy searching for? Does she find it?
What is Plato searching for? Does he find it?
Even though James Dean is synonymous with the 1950s and rock n roll, why would the rock n roll part not be accurate?
When Jim and Judy are talking about the qualities a girl seeks in a boy, Jim says she should want “a man,” while Judy says she wants someone who can be gentle and sweet and who doesn’t run away. How will these views affect their future together?