Unlike our recent feature on Keanu Reeves, you won’t find many top 10 movies lists for James Dean. This is because the iconic movie star’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 24, and of the eight films that Dean featured in, he was only credited for three of them.
But these three movies provided James Dean with all of the coverage he needed to become one of Hollywood’s all-time greats who is still celebrated in everything from boutique T-shirts to online slots games.
So here’s a closer look at the films that made James Dean the ultimate Hollywood icon…
East of Eden
James Dean first burst onto the scene when he appeared in the 1955 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s book, East of Eden. It was Dean’s first lead movie role and his portrayal of a young and questioning Californian farmer gave him his first opportunity to prove that he could handle a starring part.
What was remarkable about Dean’s role was how it gave him chance to work on themes of a generational split in American society that was going to play such an important part of the movie industry in the ensuing years.
Rebel Without a Cause
Whilst East of Eden was an indisputable success for Dean, it wasn’t until Rebel Without a Cause was released in 1955 that he became one of the all-time greats. There has rarely been a movie that so eloquently describes youthful alienation as this iconic Nicholas Ray-directed masterpiece.
Although Dean’s slicked back hair, tight white T-shirt and motorbike have been endlessly parodied, it’s still a movie that offers plenty of intensity and relevance today. And whilst we can all see Dean’s image in everything from movie posters to a James Dean online slots game at the InterCasino website, it’s a credit to the star’s phenomenal on-screen presence that he’s managed to exemplify the young rebel forevermore.
It’s one of Hollywood’s most tragic stories that James Dean was killed in a car accident before he could complete this 1956 epic western. But even though some the star’s lines had to be overdubbed, he still managed to pick up another Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jett Rink.
Although the movie has been unfairly overshadowed by the iconography of Rebel Without a Cause, it’s great to see Dean starring opposite legends like Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. And although Dean’s legend lives on in everything from fashion items to online slots games, it would have been fascinating to see how his career would have developed.