A Timeline of Teen Rebels on Film

Rebels with a cause? Our first monthly theme for members' streaming service Curzon12 - Juvenile Delinquents - explores the emotional punch of rebellious youth on screen, featuring our highlights The 400 Blows (1959), Fish Tank (2009) and The Kid With a Bike (2011). 

Before you get stuck into these must-sees, we look back on the world of teen tearaways through the ages. From a slice of suburban Americana and misunderstood youthful discontent, to futuristic fears of a generation out of control, we pay tribute to the evolution of delinquents through the decades...



The teenager was invented in 1957 - if you believe the urban myth that Bill Haley & His Comets first used the term at a rock n' roll gig back then. 

One thing's for certain, Blackboard Jungle (1955) became a seminal teen rebel film when it played Hayley's 'Rock Around The Clock' over the opening credits, causing young people to riot in cinemas across Europe and fired up a new generation. 

James Dean became an icon for his star turn in Rebel Without a Cause, also released in 1955, but Sidney Poitier's breakout role in Blackboard Jungle paved the way for the misunderstood Juvenile Delinquents in Truffaut's classic The 400 Blows (1959), and many more that followed...


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In a bleak sixties Britain divided by class, Tom Courtenay's Colin is sent to a juvenile detention centre, where he must choose between reforming and rebelling. 

The film poster's byline had a bold message for audiences in 1962:  "you can play by the rules...or you can play it by ear - WHAT COUNTS is you play it right by YOU...".

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Fresh from playing the young anti-hero in Lindsay Anderson's dark satire If..., Malcolm McDowell is the "ultra-violent" psychopathic delinquent Alex in a futuristic Britain.

One of the most controversial films on our list, A Clockwork Orange was withdrawn from UK release in 1973 at the request of Kubrick due to reports of copycat crimes, but he felt  that "To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around.” 


1980s: AKIRA

Cult 1988 anime Akira also projects society's fear of feral youths into a sci-fi setting – this time Neo-Tokyo in the now not-too-distant 2019.

Motorbike gangs, mutants and apocalyptic destruction influenced many other Japanese animations and manga series, and the violence of youth can also be seen in Japanese Lord of the Flies update Battle Royale (2000)

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Before Peter Jackson's The Lord of The Rings trilogy came his 1994 psychological thriller about young girls with a dark secret. Don't miss Kate Winslet's magnetic debut screen performance. 

There's a lack of female delinquents on our timeline until now, and this New Zealand drama, based on a true story, is an antidote to many saccharine 90s US teen movies, with echoes of cult favourite Heathers (1988)

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2000s: FISH TANK

Andrea Arnold's BAFTA-winning drama (2009) dives into the life of 15 year old Mia a volatile teen growing up on a London estate, who's taken advantage of by those around her, and takes a dark turn when she's wronged.

Arnold cast newcomer Katie Jarvis in the role after seeing her arguing with her boyfriend on the street, adding a dose of authenticity to a striking film.

One of our Curzon12 picks of the month.


2010s: MOMMY

French Canadian Xavier Dolan was only 24 when he directed Cannes Jury Prize winner Mommy, and has created both a heartbreaking and at times warm and funny portrait of a troubled teen on the edge. And it features a stunning soundtrack - Wonderwall by Oasis will never sound the same again.  

Set in an imagined future in which parents have the legal option to commit troubled youth to public hospitals, Mommy echoes the themes of The 400 Blows and many others on this list: young people kicking back at a society that doesn't understand them.

Curzon cinemas members can stream 12 free films a month with Curzon12, featuring September 2017's curated theme Juvenile Delinquents: curzoncinemas.com/curzon12

Megan James, Curzon Home Cinema