As a performer, James Dean had a profound impact on a whole generation. According to IMDb, these are his most memorable roles in film and television, listed by number of appearances.
In the eyes of many, James Dean is one of the greatest performers of his generation. Contemporaries such as Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift were inspired by Dean’s somber and vulnerable performance style.
All of Dean’s films have gone on to become cinematic classics despite the fact that he only starred in three. When he was just 24, Dean was tragically killed and Giant was released posthumously following his untimely demise. Although he only worked on a few films, Dean had a profound effect on the industry. For further information, take a look at IMDB’s list of James Dean’s 10 greatest film and television roles.
1. The Evil Within (1953) 7.2/10
During Season 2 of the short-lived horror/mystery series Tales of Tomorrow, Dean appeared in episode 37. The Evil Within tells the story of a scientist named Peter (Rod Steiger) who discovers the ideal formula to unleash the beast within us all.
An errant injection of the formula mistakenly causes Peter’s wife Anne (Margaret Phillips), played by Margaret Phillips, to be transformed into a feral monster. A bespectacled medical assistant is Dean’s character role in the Jekyll and Hide knockoff.
2. Harvest (1953) 7.4/10
Robert Montgomery Presents’ fifth season and 13th episode, Harvest, featured Dean. Dean portrays a jilted lover who longs for a sophisticated older woman at Thanksgiving in the episode.
This summer’s fling with Arlene (Rebecca Welles) has come to an end for Paul Zalinka (Dean). Paul’s Gramps (Vaughn Taylor) is celebrating his 100th birthday this Christmas season, and Paul is struggling with his desire to marry Arlene. The shame of quitting his family business, on the other hand, is a heavy burden on his conscience.
3. Sentence Of Death (1953) 7.4/10
Stage dramas were broadcast live on television for a decade on Studio One in Hollywood. Sentence of Death, the 46th episode of Season 5, was Dean’s breakout role as Joe Palica.
Ellen Morrison, a Hollywood starlet who sees the murder of a pharmacy owner, is played by Betsy Palmer. Ellen argues that the cops have the incorrect man when they arrest Joe (Dean). As a result, Joe is convicted and sentenced to prison, which prompts Ellen to search for the real culprit before it’s too late.
4. Giant (1956) 7.6/10
After appearing in George Stevens’ epic drama Giant about a Texas cattle farming family and their rivalry with another family, Dean’s final role in a major motion picture was as a supporting actor.
As Jett Rink, a troubled young handyman who discovers oil on his property and goes on to become a petroleum tycoon, Dean was nominated for an Academy Award. Because of Jett’s pursuit of married socialite Leslie Benedict (Elizabeth Taylor), his relationship with her husband Bick suffers significantly as a result (Rock Hudson).
5. The Dark, Dark Hours (1954) 7.7/10
In the 1954 episode of General Electric Theater called The Dark, Dark Hours, Dean appeared on TV alongside Ronald Reagan, who would go on to become the United States’ 40th President.
Bud (Dean), a teenage street criminal, intimidates Doctor Joe (Reagan) and his wife Betty (Constance Ford) into removing a bullet from Pewee’s hand in the 12th episode of Season 3 directed by Don Medford (Jack Simmons). A revolver is drawn on Joe when he suggests calling the police, and Bud pushes him to work with the frightened Betty.
6. Rebel Without A Cause (1955) 7.7/10
For Dean, the character of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause is unquestionably his most enduring and defining role of his brief acting career. His portrayal of a troubled adolescent who is both tough and vulnerable completely rewrote the rules of what it meant to be a movie actor at the time.
It’s the story of a rebellious and independent-minded youngster who has problems establishing friends at his new high school, and the film is directed by Nicholas Ray. While battling bullies, Jim develops a romantic interest in Judy (played by Sal Mineo) and becomes friends with Plato (also played by Sal Mineo) (Natalie Wood).
7. East Of Eden (1955) 7.9/10
Elia Kazan’s faithful adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel East of Eden garnered Dean his first career Oscar nod for the actor’s debut lead role.
In the movie, he plays Cal Trask, a sensitive young man who only wants to please his dad. The more successful older son Aaron (Richard Davalos), a spitting likeness of his father Adam (Raymond Massey), is preferred by his father Adam. The plot is based on the Biblical parable of Adam and Eve.
8. The Capture Of Jesse James (1953) 8.0/10
His portrayal of famed wild west bandit Jesse James killer Bob Ford was featured in an episode of true-crime television series You Were There in which Dean played the role of Bob Ford.
The Capture of Jesse James, directed by Sidney Lumet, takes place on April 3rd, 1882. John Kerr portrayed Jesse James in the half-hour drama, which was hosted by Walter Kronkite. Ford’s willingness to kill one of his own gang members is the crux of the conflict in this one-man show.
9. Forgotten Children (1952) 8.1/10
Dean participated in the 25th episode of Forgotten Children, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in one of his few humorous roles.
Martha Berry (Cloris Leachman) is a schoolmarm in post-Civil War Georgia who is dedicated to educating the poor. Dean portrays Berry’s love interest and maybe spouse, Bradford. One of the show’s major plot points involves the father of two pupils, who forbids his children from studying anything beyond what he already knows himself. Instead of listening to the guy, Berry develops her own school.
10. The Unlighted Road (1955) 8.5/10
Schlitz Playhouse presented an episode of The Unlighted Road in May 1955, during the height of Dean’s fame, in which the actor took center stage.
Dean portrays Jeff Latham, a troubled young veteran of the Korean War from Wisconsin who gets a job at a roadside restaurant. Jeff also had a brief flirtation with Ann Hardy while he is there (Patricia Burnett). Unexpectedly, Jeff finds himself in the middle of an organized crime syndicate operating from inside the diner, and it’s up to him to stop them before it’s too late. When Jeff inadvertently runs a police officer off the road while carrying illegal cargo, he finds himself in even more difficulty.