Director: Nicholas Rey
Stars: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper
Lesson Learned: Parents just don't understand, nor will they ever.

The misunderstood, brooding teenage outcast—it's one of the school movie genre's most familiar archetypes. Usually, the constantly tense kid walks the halls with a scowl, infuriating the jocks and enticing all girls on the honor roll. But, as is always the case, the loner is much more sensitive than he lets on; sometimes, he's even an insult to Bela Lugosi (see: Robert Pattinson in Twilight).

Whatever the case, he's always a direct descendant of Jim Stark, the tormented focus of director Nicholas Ray's masterful drama Rebel Without A Cause. Played by one of cinema's most enigmatic and tragic stars, James Dean, Jim's a poetic soul trapped inside a troublemaker's body; his attempts to connect with his parents routinely fail, and he's crafty with a switchblade only because his haters demand such skillful retaliation. Jim's also yearning for someone to “get” him, which leads him to Natalie Wood's character, the warm-hearted but equally scarred Judy.

Seen today, Rebel Without A Cause might feel a bit dated, due to its of-another-time practices (switchblade fights, “chicken” car races), but Dean's dynamite performance (first seen a month after his fatal car accident in September 1955) as a lonely teen searching for unavailable answers hasn't lost any of its power.