Absent-minded street thug Rusty James struggles to live up to his legendary older brother's reputation, and longs for the days of gang warfare.


S.E. Hinton (novel), S.E. Hinton (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Dillon ... Rusty James
Mickey Rourke ... The Motorcycle Boy
Diane Lane ... Patty
Dennis Hopper ... Father
Diana Scarwid ... Cassandra
Vincent Spano ... Steve
Nicolas Cage ... Smokey
Chris Penn ... B.J. Jackson (as Christopher Penn)
Laurence Fishburne ... Midget (as Larry Fishburne)
William Smith ... Patterson the Cop
Michael Higgins ... Mr. Harrigan
Glenn Withrow ... Biff Wilcox
Tom Waits ... Benny
Herb Rice ... Black Pool Player
Maybelle Wallace Maybelle Wallace ... Late Pass Clerk


Rusty James is the leader of a small, dying gang in an industrial town. He lives in the shadow of the memory of his absent, older brother -- The Motorcycle Boy. His mother has left, his father drinks, school has no meaning for him and his relationships are shallow. He is drawn into one more gang fight and the events that follow begin to change his life. Written by Bruce Janson <bruce@cs.su.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


No leader can survive becoming a legend. See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In the German translation, the Motorcycle Boy's age was changed from 21 to 24. See more »


Camera shadow visible on Rusty-James' torso after The Motorcycle Boy has shown him the photograph of himself in the magazine. See more »


[first lines]
Midget: Biff Wilcox is looking for you, Rusty James. He's gonna kill you, Rusty James.
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Alternate Versions

Some TV versions include a scene where the gym teacher offers to pay Rusty-James if he beats up a kid. See more »


References Pac-Man (1980) See more »


Don't Box Me In
Written by Stewart Copeland and Stan Ridgway
Performed by Stewart Copeland and Stan Ridgway
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User Reviews

Coppola's Most Underrated Work
23 March 2007 | by MC1-BjornsonSee all my reviews

"Rumble Fish" (1983) Rated "R" by the MPAA for Adult Situations, Profanity, Brief Nudity, Some Violence, Minor Gore, Brief Drug Use & Underage Alcohol Use. Running Time 1hr&34mn. My Take: ***1/2 (Out of ****)

"Rumble Fish" just might be Francis Ford Coppola's most overlooked film.

This movie, based on the Susan E. Hinton novel, tells about young street tough Rusty-James (Matt Dillion) who idolizes his older brother known only as 'The Motorcycle Boy' (Mickey Rourke).

Rusty-James longs for the days of rumbles and being a part of a gang. His friends are somewhat reluctant to feel the same way. His girlfriend Patty (Diane Lane) goes to an all-girl prep school. She's supportive of Rusty-James' need for acceptance and wanting to be cool like his estranged brother. "You're better than cool", she reminds him. "You're warm!" That's also a warning. Will Rusty-James heed?

Subtly, this is a film about the failure of the 'American Dream' and making choices, whether right or wrong. After all, Rusty-James' family fell product of the socialization process. They live in the slums, but that may not always have been the case. The boys' alcoholic father, memorably played by Dennis Hopper, was once a well-to-do lawyer earlier in life. What about the enigmatic Motorcycle Boy? Is he truly crazy? Or does he have 'an acute perception' that drives him crazy?

Brilliantly shot in black & white, Stephen H. Burum's cinema-photography makes "Rumble Fish" feel like something out of a chaotic dream. Everything is surreal, yet relative to each other. Clouds stream by overhead symbolizing the passage of time. Clocks appear throughout the movie suggesting time-is-a-burnin'. The suggestion here is: don't waste the time you do have while you still can. Stewart Copeland's almost all percussion and highly rhythmic score adds to that effect.

In "Rumble Fish", Coppola skillfully addresses the need to belong, to lead, to have goals, to have vision and warns not to fall deeper into an urban trap. Will Rusty-James discover what it means to step out and become his own identity before it's too late? As The Motorcycle Boy points out, "If you're going to lead people, you need to have somewhere to go."

That's good advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

21 October 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rumble Fish See more »


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$18,985, 10 October 1983

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo


Black and White | Color (some shots)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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