The Camera in Film: Camera Angles

This article is a summary and a collection of all types of camera angles that are used in cinema, as an attempt to introduce the reader to camera angles. If you want to learn more about camera angles and cinematography, a great source is Gustavo Mercado’s book The filmmaker’s Eye: Learning (and breaking) the rules of cinematic composition (2010), which I totally recommend. A few examples from that book are used in this post.

There are six basic angles in films: the bird’s-eye, high, eye – level, low, worm’s-eye and canted (or Dutch) angle. Each of them has a specific purpose and is interpreted differently according to the elements of mise-en-scène. However, the most important function of the camera angle is – if used appropriately – to evoke to the audience a specific range of feelings depending on the themes and characters of the story.

The bird’s-eye-view is considered to be the most confusing and disorienting angle since it requires the shooting of a scene from directly overhead. Because of the fact that people in real life seldom view events from this perspective, the subject which is photographed in such shots might seem unrecognisable, and the whole shot can be characterised as almost abstract. This angle is most often used for establishing shots at the beginning of a scene as it is really helpful to set the tone and mood of the location in which the story takes place. The bird’s-eye-view shot can also be used for practical reasons in benefit of the story. An example of this, is a shot in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) (see below). Finally, the shots that are photographed in this angle could acquire a symbolic meaning and serve a purpose according to the mise-en-scène elements and story of the film.

Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott. The establishing shots at the beginning of the film’s scenes set the environment of the story perfectly. The orange and brown colours, the chimneys that spit out fire, and the appearance of humidity simulate a filthy and unhealthy environment that instantly transfers the viewer to a futuristic dystopian city.


Batman Begins (2005) (above) and The Dark Knight (2008) (below), directed by Christopher Nolan. The use of establishing shots in The Dark Knight trilogy is quite extensive. Through the use of establishing shots taken of various existing cities of USA (Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh), the director depicts a modern Gotham City that is authentic and thus, convincing to the audience. The faceless urban buildings and the use of a cool colour palette create a very cold, distant and miserable environment. The establishing shots of skyscrapers, flickering lights and wealthy modern buildings are contradictory to other shots in the film, which illustrate other parts of the city: factories, buildings with smokey chimneys and the grey neighbourhoods of city’s lower class. One of the films’ themes is the corruption of the wealthy and police; this theme is masterfully underlined by the antithesis that exists between different areas of the city.



The Conversation (1974), directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film tells the story of a surveillance expert and the moral dilemma he is facing when his recordings reveal a potential murder. The opening shot of the film is a bird’s-eye-view shot of a square full of people. As the shot proceeds, the camera gets closer and closer to the people, revealing the main character of the film, played by Gene Hackman. The opening shot conveys the feeling of surveillance and invasion of privacy, immediately placing the viewer within the story.
Psycho (1960), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The use of the bird’s-eye-view shot while Mrs. Bates kills Detective Arbogast (played by Martin Balsam) prevents the audience from identifying her true identity. The shot also creates the feeling to the viewers that they are merely passive observers of the murder, making the character of Det. Arbogast even more helpless and weak.



Taxi Driver (1976), directed by Martin Scorsese. Travis (played by Robert De Niro) invades the prostitutes’ accommodation and kills everybody to save young prostitute, Iris (played by Jodie Foster). After the massacre, he sits on the sofa and stays there, while Iris is sobbing at the corner of the room. Finally, the police force enters. We observe the aftermath of the massacre from above. The high angle, the slow moving camera and the stillness of the police officers makes the moment more dramatic, and allows the audience to feel the brutality and violence of this act. The cries of Iris that echo in the room while the rest of the environment is soundless create a very shocking sight. The time seems to stop; the audience fully grasps the savagery of the act. The viewers are a witness of the human barbarity and ferocity, and there is no escape.

In a high angle shot, the camera is placed above the eye-level of the character, and results in a framing that has the audience looking down on a subject. High angle shots are used to emphasize the subject’s powerlessness and weakness. Since the camera is placed from above, it minimizes the subject making it look small and thus, helpless. High angle shots can also be used to predict the murder or injury of a character, underlining his/her vulnerability and making him/her more sympathetic to the audience. The high angle shots can also convey feelings of entrapment, suffocation, suppression and panic. In addition, this angle can be used for practical purposes, for example when an incident is happening outdoors and a character is viewing it from his/her window or balcony.

 Psycho (1960), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The high angle shot of Detective Arbogast (played by Martin Balsam) moments before his violent murder evoke his vulnerability and state of danger he is in. The shot “predicts” that something harmful will occur to the character.
Notorious (1946), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The high angle shot of Alexander Sebastian (played by Claude Rains) while he informs his mother of his shocking discovery: that his newlywed wife Alicia (played by Ingrid Bergman), is a spy working against him, evokes panic and suffocation.

In eye-level shots the camera is placed at a height that matches the subject’s eyes. This angle is used in routine expository scenes that lack drama and intensity. This angle does not evoke any particular feelings to the audience but it somehow makes the character equal to the viewer. Traditionally, filmmakers avoid shooting in extreme angles since such angles may be confusing to the audience. Therefore, the directors photograph the characters in eye-level shots, which are very comfortable to the viewer since this is the way an actual observer might view a scene. Visually, this is the clearest way to view an object because it lacks any embellishments and exaggerations. Of course, there have been exceptions to these rules throughout film history.


The Thin Red Line (1998), directed by Terrence Malick. Eye-level shots are used during scenes that bear a lot of dialogue and exposition, such as in this interrogation scene with Pvt. Witt (played by Jim Caviezel) and 1st Sgt. Welsh (played by Sean Penn).
Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The story follows Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) travelling from South Vietnam to Cambodia to assassinate Colonel Kurtz after he was declared mentally unfit and his methods unsound by the US Army. Throughout the film, Colonel Kurtz is called insane by some, and genius by others.  He lives in the jungles in a neutral area of Cambodia, commands his own troops, and is treated as a demi-god.  The audience is introduced to Colonel Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando) in an eye-level shot; one of the most powerful shots in the history of cinema. His face is kept in the darkness for the most of the scene. He is monologuing and occasionally asks Captain Willard about his secret mission. By the end of the scene, his face becomes fully visible when he belittles Captain Willard and his mission. The height of the camera, the hard lighting, and the brilliant acting of Brando create a very unsettling and disturbing mood; the shot echoes Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro paintings. The height of the camera allows Brando’s eyes to somehow pierce through Captain Willard’s soul and therefore, the audience’s. The character is intimidating and the hard lighting adds to the drama and intensity of the scene.




Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu. The film tells the story of an old couple that visits their children and grand-children in Tokyo. Ozu always placed the camera just a few feet off the ground to photograph his actors while they were seated down in eye-level shots. He kept the same height of the camera for most of his shots. He felt that, by using this angle, the viewers would relate to the characters, sympathize with them and feel closer to them.

In a low-angle shot, the filmmaker places the camera below eye level and lets the audience look up at a subject. Low angle shots convey the subject’s power, confidence and control; because of the low angle, the size of the character is exaggerated and the subject looks bigger than normal. Due to the dominance of the subject’s figure in the frame, the subject inspires fear, respect and awe. Usually the villains of films are shot in low angle shots to underline their overwhelming supremacy.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012), directed by Christopher Nolan. Low-angle shots are very common in superhero films. The villains, in this case the character Bane (played by Tom Hardy) is framed in a low-angle shot which evokes fear, awe and emphasize the character’s strength and superiority.
2001 Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick. The monolith is photographed in low-angle shots that induce feelings of awe to the audience, underling the monolith’s importance to humanity’s course of history and evolution.
Gravity (2013), directed by Alfonso Cuaron. At the end of the film, where Astronaut Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) has finally returned to Earth after enduring a traumatic experience in space, she is framed in an extreme low-angle shot. The low-angle shot emphasises the character’s strong will to survive, evoking emotions of gratification to the viewers.

In worm’s-eye-view shots, the camera is placed on ground level and allows the audience to view a scene from a very low perspective. From this point of view, the size of a subject is exaggerated and looks enormous to the audience, evoking feelings of power and control. This angle also allows the viewer to observe the environment in which the scene takes place. The worm’s-eye-view is not that common in films, and is mainly used as a subjective shot of a character that lies on the ground.

Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is very famous for the extensive use of low-angle shots of the leading character Charles F. Kane (played by Orson Welles). The low-angle shots convey the overwhelming power, confidence and superiority of Kane. This particular shot is an extreme low angle, a below ground level shot which makes the tall figure of Kane enormous, emphasising his controlling and selfish nature.

Canted shots are composed with a camera tilted laterally with the horizon in a non-straight line and vertical lines run diagonally across the frame. These compositions create spatial imbalance and disorientation. They convey confusion, insanity, psychological instability, drug induced psychosis and dramatic tension. Canted shots are mainly used to showcase a character’s abnormal state of mind, but they can also be used to represent the whole psychology of a group of people that are facing a stressful or unusual situation. Additionally, another use of the canted shot is to convey that an abnormal or unnatural situation is happening, without necessarily reflecting a character’s psychology. The bigger the degree to which the frame is canted (usually up to 45 degrees), the higher the abnormality and instability it reflects. However, some directors may use it for stylistic purposes without conveying anything, such as Tom Hooper in Les Misérables (2012), and Danny Boyle in Yesterday (2019).



Twelve Monkeys (1995), directed by Terry Gilliam. The extensive use of canted shots in the scenes in which the central character of the story, James Cole (played by Bruce Willis), is in the mental institution create an unsettling and disturbing atmosphere, emphasising the insane and chaotic nature of an environment as such. At the moments when Cole tries to escape, he is framed in Dutch angles to showcase the disorientation he feels due to the drugs he was given by the doctors.


Do the Right Thing (1989), directed by Spike Lee. The film takes place during the hottest day of the year in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. The viewers observe the characters trying to endure the heat, which eventually ignites an explosion of violence and aggression by the end of the film. Throughout the film, the use of canted shots convey the instability and suppressed aggression of the characters. Towards the end, there is a broad use of canted shots that photograph the characters’ violent behaviour, leading to a full scale riot and the destruction of the local pizzeria. The frequent use of canted shots illustrates the unnatural and chaotic nature of the characters’ acts.

Camera angles are significant to build an appropriate image system for a film, but it should always be designed according to the central themes of the story. Extreme-angle shots should be utilised in films in a balanced away, otherwise the viewer becomes disorientated, and the film itself may look ‘gimmicky’.


MERCADO, G., 2010. The filmmaker’s Eye: Learning (and breaking) the rules of cinematic composition. Routledge.

PRAMAGIORRE, M., & WALLIS, T., 2008. Film: A critical introduction. Laurence King.

Rebel without a Cause: Crushing the Façade of the American Family

Rebel Without a Cause was directed by Nicholas Ray and was released in 1955, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. The film fairly gained a place among the best films ever produced, and is praised for the directing of Nicholas Ray and the acting of the main actors, securing three Academy Award Nominations including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Sal Mineo, and best actress in a Supporting Role for Natalie Wood. What was ground-breaking at the time was that this was the first film that dealt with the life of teenagers in -what was considered at that time- more ‘realistic’ manner. The film illustrates their agonies and emotions and presents the dilemmas and issues that face during their school years, which mostly have to do with functioning in a society and finding their identity. After the release of Rebel Without a Cause, more and more films were released each year that presented the life of teenagers creating a new genre of films: the teen films, and coming-of-age films. A few examples of such films are West Side Story (1961) by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, The Graduate (1967) by Mike Nichols, American Graffiti (1973) by George Lucas, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) by John Hughes.  Rebel Without a Cause was also the first film that dared to reveal the wild and aggressive side of teenagers, stepping away from the embellished, conventional, suppressed and downright forged image of teenagers that was up to that point depicted in films. The film was a box office success and one of the reasons that lead to the growing of the popularity of the film is the premature death of James Dean less than a month before its release. However, the film was met with mixed reviews by critics. Few critics praised the directing of Ray and the young actors’ performances, especially the performance by James Dean, who was praised for his ‘raw talent’ that shined throughout the film (Carter, 2008). While other critics, such as Bosley Crowther (1955), characterised the film as ‘violent, brutal and disturbing’, and as an unreasonably graphic portrayal of teenagers and their ‘weird ways’. Despite mixed -and often negative- reviews, the character of Jim Stark (played by Dean) with his iconic red jacket became an immortal symbol of the rebellious nature of teenagers against their parents. Teenagers felt that their issues were finally addressed, and found a hero in the image of Jim Stark.


Society Vs Family

The film has been acclaimed for the performances of the actors, but most importantly about the original material that it chose to focus on. So far in films, and mainly in Hollywood, the modern American family has been portrayed as a model family, which is admired but also that is accepted and formed by social conventions. Such a family is primarily characterised by stability, discipline and order.  Usually the family members are religious, as religion and especially Christianity becomes a source of order and ethos. This enhances the family’s sense of honesty and fairness. In Hollywood, it was not desirable to show real family issues and conflicts, but instead depict a family that would be an example to real families. Certainly, family issues have been shown before, such as adultery, widowhood and divorce, but they were dealt with in a dramatic manner, such as in film-nor films. These films did not attempt to make any statements about these issues, they merely used these issues as instigators to move along the story. In Rebel Without a Cause, the model family is exposed only as a facade and immediately collapses, revealing that its content is rotten and decayed.  The constant depiction, but mostly the need to maintain this depiction of this kind of embellished family creates a notion of suppression and control, since all the members of the family should succumb to this perfect image and become model family members suppressing their issues, conflicts and concerns. Rebel Without a Cause showcases the stories of three teenagers that come from problematic families, with each family facing different issues, destroying the idea of the model American family, but also illustrating the pressure that comes from society, which is imposed upon the families in order to force them to ‘keep up with appearances’.

Before exploring the main characters, it is worthy to mention that there are a few subtle incidents in the film that indicate this suppression and control. The first scene worth noting, is a moment that takes place in the front yard of the school. All teenagers are chatting and seem cheerful and happy when suddenly a cannon fire is heard. Then everybody stays quiet and still while the flag is hoisted up. It certainly shows that this is a sensible and respectable act, but it also feels forced and obtrusive to the teenagers’ normal behaviour. The silence of their chatter seems very uncomfortable and unnatural. Another incident is in same scene, where students go through the school’s main entrance and avoid stepping on the school insignia, which is engraved on the ground. Jim does not notice it and steps on it by mistake since it is his first day in this new school. Another student immediately reacts upon this, and tells him that his act is disrespectful. Jim apologises and the other student understood his mistake for being so abrupt and helped him to find his classroom. This incident acts could also be a metaphor. The school milieu is considered to be the “first” society a person comes across. This “society” tests the functionality of the individual. If the student conforms to the rules and acts accordingly then this means that the individual has accepted the social conventions, and at the same time he/she is accepted by society. Therefore, in this case, this event acts as a metaphor of a person acting against the social rules. The incident evokes a sense of control and suppression towards the students. Not stepping on the school insignia seems like an easy and insignificant rule, but it could also be considered as an image of a person rejecting the social norm; this is frowned upon, and should immediately be dealt with, like the student does with Jim.

Moreover, another point that is worth mentioning is the ‘atomic age’. In the scene in which Judy is having dinner with her family, her little brother is playing with a toy gun and shouts ‘the atomic age’. It is well known that after the fall of the atomic bombs in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the whole world became horrified of the atomic technology and its destructive abilities. In schools, children were taught about nuclear power, watched documentaries and succumbed to practice drills in case of a nuclear destruction. The children that were born after the end of the Second World War were raised under the ‘shadow of the mushroom cloud’; they were raised in fear and uncertainty, and this had definitely some effect on them. This reference in the films adds a sense of instability, which is antithetic to the solidity of at the typical American family. The teenagers’ fear might act as an extra motive for the teenagers to be aggressive and rebellious against their parents and thus, the society.

Lost Sense of Honour: the Character of Jim Stark

The film looks at a day of the life of Jim Stark, a teenager living in the United States in a middle-class family with his parents and grandmother. In the opening shot Jim Stark is lying down on a street drunk next to a toy monkey (fig. 01). He gently grabs the toy and starts playing with it (the scene was entirely improvised by Dean). The use of a close shot and eye-level angle makes the character likable to the audience. After a few moments he lies the monkey down and covers it with a wrapping paper; like a mother does when she puts her child to sleep. Then, he crawls closer to the toy and lies in foetal position. His facial reactions and motions, and especially his posture at the end of the shot highlight his innocence and childlike behaviour. The film successfully manages from its opening shot to make the audience relate and sympathise with the character. The shot also indicates that Jim still has a long way until he becomes an adult; and this is his character arc.

fig. 01

Jim is masterfully played by James Dean as the child living in a family with a domineering mother, strict grandmother and a submissive father. The first scene of the shows that Jim is taken to a police station because he was arrested wandering the streets drunk. The scene depicts his suppressed anger against the female figures of his family as well as, his disappointment due to the meek nature of his father. In the scene, in which Jim is in the police station and his parents are arguing while trying to understand what bothers their son, the tight framing and the position of his parents’ figures in the right and on the left of the frame emphasise the character’s feelings of suppression and suffocation caused by his parents (fig. 02). The most famous scene in the film is when Jim Stark talks about his dilemma to his parents; whether he should go to the police to testify about an accident that occurred at his presence and caused the life of one of the school bullies (fig. 03). His parents advise him to conceal this fact and not testify to the police but Jim feels this action is not honourable. Jim asks his father to stand up with him against his mother and support his opinion but his father is reluctant and hesitates to do so. Jim attacks his father in a desperate act of anger and disappointment. At the end of the scene, he storms out of the house in tears feeling that once more he was not understood by his parents.

fig. 02
fig. 03. While Jim is having an argument with his parents if he should go to the police to testify about the death of Buzz or not (even though he strongly believes that he should talk to the police instead of pretending that never happened) the camera tilts a bit, creating a very interesting composition. The shot is canted, adding tension and anxiety; his mother is higher in the shot than the rest of the characters, implying that she is the dominant figure of the house. She has the power and control over her family. His father is at the lowest point, making him look small, underlying his weakness to stand up to his wife and support his son. Jim stands in the middle contradicting with both his parents.

The character of Jim Stark is probably the most relatable figure of the film. It is very easy for teenagers to relate and sympathise with this character since they might see aspects of their self in him. Many teenagers during their adolescence realise that their parents are not the kind of people they thought they were. They start seeing their parents’ weaknesses and faults and become disappointed. Often, they wish to rebel in order to escape from their families because they fear that they might end up being like them when they grow up. In the case of Jim Stark, he sees the weak nature of his father and considers it as pathetic and sad, and loses his respect towards him. He cannot stand his mother since he considers her responsible for emasculating his father and tries to somehow avenge him by rebelling against her (fig. 04). He feels that the autarchic nature of his mother is an obstacle in their attempts of communicating with each other and feels lost since he cannot talk to his parents for advice and guidance. Jim Stark feels angry, trapped, suppressed and lonely since he cannot communicate with his family and has no friends, as they just moved in to a new town. 

fig. 04. The sets throughout the film were cleverly designed to evoke imprisonment, suppression and suffocation. They constant use of vertical lines and barriers like doors (a very interesting fact is the line of Jim’s father to his son: do you always have to slam the door in my face?), staircase spindles and the wire mesh in the police station’s windows act as a metaphor of the dichotomisation of the characters due to the generational gap and thus difference of opinion. In this particular shot, the composition of the staircase spindles in front of Jim’s father emphasises his weak personality, and implies a sense of entrapment; the use of the feminine apron as part of his costume ‘humiliates’ the character completely.

There are a few points to raise here. Despite the claims of Jim that his father is weak, we do not see his father actually being a weak character or being suppressed by his wife. The couple seems to have a good relationship; they certainly argue, but that does not mean that their relationship is dysfunctional. The supposed weakness of the father as seen by Jim is only Jim’s perception of his father, and if we evaluate his position by today’s standards, we come to the conclusion that it is quite toxic. His perception of what a man is reeked with toxic masculinity. Wearing a kitchen apron and tending to your wife does not mean that the character is weak. This is not how a man is defined. During their conflict, Jim’s father does not ‘stand up’ for his son. He does not do it not because he is weak or scared of his wife, but because he agrees with her, and this brings another point of discussion.

Rebel Without a Cause is a kind of film that ‘changes’ depending on the age you watch it. The first time I have watched it, I was a teenager, and the second time I was an adult finishing up my MA on film production. The film seemed totally different on the second watch. It seemed that the film is not only addressing the problems of misunderstood teenagers, but also the issues parents are facing while raising their children. When I watched Rebel Without a Cause as a teenager I completely related with the teenagers of the film and especially with the character of Jim. The angry and the rebellious nature of the character illustrated all confused teenagers. The performance felt realistic, and the conversations with his parents and specifically his father bear all the appropriate attitudes and reactions of a real dysfunctional family. The insecurities and agonies, his feelings of entrapment and suppression make the character more human, adding more realism to his performance and thus, making it very easy to relate with the character. Consequently, when a teenager watches the film, he/she feels retaliated that he/she was finally understood.

But when I watched the film again as an adult, I saw something different, and it lies in one of the strongest scenes of the film, the scene in which Jim asks his father some advice on the issue of one’s honour. Jim was not sure if he should show up to the “chickie” run (two kids race in stolen cars towards the edge of a cliff, and whoever jumps first out of the car before it falls into the bottom of the cliff is a coward). In this scene, Jim’s father tries to tell Jim that this matter might look important to him now but when he grows up and looks back at it, he will realise that is a very weak problem. On the other hand, Jim tells him that he cannot understand him, and feeling completely lost and unguided asks his father to give him answers immediately. His father tries to reason with him and decides to make a list of the pros and cons of the matter, but Jim being impatient and disappointed storms out of the house because his father never gave him a clear answer. This is a very interesting scene. The first time I watched the film I related to Jim. I thought that his father was not strong enough to help him, and he could not give him answers because he did not understand the importance of the matter. But when I re -watched the film as an adult, I very much related with the father. Children are taught that they are to follow a sense of honour: stand up for the weak man, always tell the truth, confess your lies. But as one grows up, realises that this is only a façade. There is no honour in society, nor among people. People act according to what is best for them; they do what they have to do in order to be safe, gain money or keep their position in the world. Honour in the world becomes a utopian concept. This is something that an individual learns as he/she grows up, and this is the lesson of Jim, and the precise reason why Jim’s father agrees with his wife and does not ‘stand up’ for his son. The ‘chickie run’ was an insignificant issue, and like his wife, believes that going to the police is wrong as it could affect Jim’s life. It is interesting to see both perspectives of father and son to be so masterfully portrayed, and to actually make the audience realise how a teenager can change and evolve into an adult. At the end of the film, we see a different Jim. He sees the consequences of not so well-thought-out actions: the death of his friend Plato.

fig. 05. Jim gets close to Plato’s body and zips the jacket he gave him a few moments before he was shot and Judy puts on his shoe he dropped. Their actions are parent like; Plato is like their surrogate son and they wish to protect and look after him. They feel responsible for Plato, who was seeing them as his parents since he was neglected by his own family. 

Plato’s death made Jim realise how difficult it is to raise a child. At that moment he is ready to enter the world of the adults since he accepts himself and his parents. He introduces Judy to his parents and they accept her with a warm smile (fig. 06). In these shots the couples are equal and the similarities between them are strong. Both of them wear adult clothing and Judy’s hairstyle is the same as Jim’s mother (fig. 07). This is a reflection (fig. 06), an opposite image of the first shot of Jim (fig. 01): the child has finally become an adult, and his character arc is finally complete. During the last shots, we see Jim’s father promising that he will be a much stronger and supportive father, and helps his son stand up. This means that he learned something from his son; he reevaluates his priorities and sees what is important to Jim, and how he can be a better father to him.

fig. 06
fig. 07

Becoming a Wife: the Character of Judy

We first encounter the character of Judy in the same police station where Jim was taken at the beginning of the film. Judy explains to the police officer that her father was angry with her, and had violently tried to smear off her lipstick since he thought that it is inappropriate for her because of her young age (fig. 08). Judy complains that her father does not treat her like he used to. He became less affectionate and it seems that this is because of her growing up and entering into womanhood. Her father does not feel comfortable with his daughter’s sexuality, and does not know how to treat her properly, resulting in having arguments with her.

fig. 08. In this scene we see Judy for the first time; she is explaining to the police officer about her arguments with her father. The use of the red colour evokes the character’s anger as well as, expresses her sexuality and femininity. The red hue is a very loud colour and is used in films as a symbol of anger, sexuality and passion. 

This is an interesting topic and somewhat unusual for the 1950s as female sexuality was not so broadly explored in Hollywood then. The sexuality and sexual urges of teenagers, and especially of girls and women was a taboo subject; this has changed in the 1960s. An example is the film Splendor in the Grass (1961) by Elia Kazan, which was about a teenage couple questioning whether they should have sexual relations or not. Even though this character might have been considered as ground-breaking in the 1950s, nowadays might be regarded as anti-feminist. What is good about the character is that it brought to the light the sexuality of girls, which is a topic that men back then -and especially fathers- felt uncomfortable about, and chose to ignore. Nevertheless, in today’s modern society we might consider the character as anti-feminist in the sense that her acts and motivations throughout the film seem very man-oriented. One may argue that this derives from the rejection she feels from her father. In one scene Judy asks from her father to be affectionate and treat her like he treats her much younger brother but the scene ends in them having a loud quarrel, and finally, her father slapping her when she tried to kiss him. After this scene, Judy leaves her home in tears. The rejection she gets by her father evolves into feelings of resentment and disappointment, resulting in her wanting to rebel against her family. A form of rebellion is her participating in bullying Jim at school and afterwards taking part in a race with stolen cars. After the death of Buzz, who was the boyfriend of Judy and the leader of their gang of bullies, she becomes attached to Jim and sees a potential husband in him. Her sudden feelings of romance and affection towards Jim underline her desperate need of filling up the void inside her, which was caused by her father’s behaviour, with another male figure. It seems that the film instead of focusing on her becoming a woman, we see her fulfill the role, which was acceptable and preferable then; she is now fit to become someone’s wife.

The film was released over 60 years ago, but it is still a cinematic masterpiece and has a rightful place among the best films of all time. Some aspects of the film have not ages so well, like Jim’s perception of his father, which some aspect of it reeks of toxic masculinity, and Judy’s anti-feminist character. Nevertheless, the ideas and themes of the film still hold up, such as the relationships between parents and their children, and the issues parents face trying to raise their kids. In the end, after all is said and done, growing up is never easy, and it is a comfort when someone recognises that.

Reference List

Graydon Carter (2008). Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood: Rebels, Reds, and Graduates and the Wild Stories Behind the Making of 13 Iconic Films. Penguin Books. pp. 71–72.

Bosley Crowther (October 27, 1955). “The Screen: Delinquency; ‘Rebel Without Cause’ Has Debut at Astor”. The New York Times.