I recently watched Rebel Without a Cause for the first time and I couldn't help but notice the very intentional use of the color red.

Specifically, red seemed to be reserved for the three high school students who we come to know and love. James Dean has his iconic red jacket. Natalie Wood has a very prominent red dress. And, perhaps the most unusual, Sal Mineo has a single mismatched red sock that he wears throughout the movie.

Now, I looked this question up online and found only very unsatisfying answers which didn't seem to give an explanation that aligned with the characters very well at all.

So, why was the color red chosen as opposed to some other color? What specifically is this color meant to say about each of the characters? Can the answer to that be tied into the specific pieces of clothing that they wear which are red?

I think there's also a big red couch at one point...

1 Answer 1


The red in Rebel without a cause represents the key emotions of the characters. Jim reflects his rebellious natures. Judy's her residual anger, and Plato's peace.

Whilst you can view this separately they also wear them in 3 points of the films, Judy at the beginning, Jim in the middle and Plato at the end.

You can view this in line with Todorovs theory of equilibrium, anger > rebellion > Peace = a disruption of order > recognition of the disorder > a resolution. Applying this concept to the film shows the progression of character unity and arc, something that is lacking at the beginning.

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