Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that this landmark depiction of teen alienation and delinquency has plenty of don't-try-this-at-home moments, including knife fighting, gunplay, breaking-and-entering a disused house, a fatal game of "chicken" in stolen cars, and animal cruelty. Young people drink to inebriation and smoke. There is a link made between a single-parent household (actually less than that; never-seen mom lets the maid oversee things) and a loner mentally ill son.
Pistol shots cause wounds and a casualty, as does a fatal car plunge. Blood is drawn by jabs in a non-fatal knife fight. Jim physically attacks his father and a policeman, and kids beat up on other kids.
"Heck" and "tramp" is about as bad as it gets.
The gang violence and youthful recklessness that drives the plot is shown to be petty and futile. Even Buzz, Jim's hood-like enemy, says he likes Jim, but fights with him just for appearance's sake, or maybe boredom ("Gotta do something"). Part of the message -- supposedly the result of filmmaker Nicholas Ray researching hundreds of police reports -- is that out-of-control teens, even in apparently "good" families, get a raw deal from moms and dads unable to understand and cope with them.
Drugs / Tobacco /
Jim is shown drunk from the opening scene, and there is a sense his parents frequently imbibe socially. Jim also smokes and shares his cigarettes with other boys.