Nicholas Ray's juvenile-delinquent film (originally a vehicle for Marlon Brando) opened after the death of its star James Dean in a car crash and made Dean into an icon of rebellion. The storyline takes place over a 24-hour period and follows Jim Stark (Dean), a restless teenager always in trouble with the law. His mother smothers him, while his father is weak and ineffectual and the family has only recently moved to Los Angeles to try and save Jim from a life of crime. However, when Jim is picked up for being drunk and disorderly he notices Judy (Natalie Wood) at the police station and determines to ask her on a date at high school the next day. This leads him into conflict with Judy's boyfriend, Buzz (Corey Allen). He is determined to prove himself with his new found 'friends' by taking part in switchblade fights and a 'chickie' game where cars race to the edge of a seaside cliff.