Are you ready to Ruuuuuumble (fish)? Throwback Review of “Rumble Fish” (1983)

After recently watching A Little Romance (1979)—Diane Lane’s first film—I felt the need to delve into her early career. How could I not want to see more of this beauty?



This led me to two early ’80s films directed by Francis Ford Coppola—The Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (1983). These two films, both adapted from books by S. E. Hinton, feature Diane Lane in a supporting role. More importantly, these were filmed one after another, with Rumble Fish seeming to be a kind of creative outlet or pressure release after filming The Outsiders.

Diane Lane on the set of Rumble Fish with director Francis Ford Coppola

While she is not the star of either film, she is the reason I chose to search out these movies. Hay, gurl, hay.


And, thus, it is to Diane Lane that I must first pay respects, though my adoration and interest soon extended to the others involved.

As I was already familiar with The Outsiders, I was more intrigued by Rumble Fish. In fact, I’d never heard of Rumble Fish. Thank Odin that problem has now been rectified! I had no idea what I was missing!!

RUMBLE FISH - American Poster 2

What a poster! What a name! What is a rumble fish? What does it have to do with a motorcycle?! And leaders? Or legends?

I’m trying hard to organize my thoughts here… there are so many elements to discuss! I mean, naturally, there’s the actual plot. Although, let’s get real, I am usually more interested in the visuals than the plot—how it looks and whatnot (forgive my vague and non-cinematic terminology).

Indeed, in this I agree with Ebert’s mostly positive review, which acknowledged that viewers “are likely to hate, unless you can love it for its crazy, feverish charm… if you care how the story turns out, you’re in the wrong movie.”

Let me think of there’s any relevant plot points…all you really need to know is that it’s primarily a story of a younger brother—Rusty James—trying to be the baddest kid on the block and emulate his older brother—the Motorcycle Boy—despite the fact that said older broski is over it all and this is all set amid a sort of disaffected-Outsiders-white-guy-gang world circa midcentury.

Top 10 Reasons to Rumble:

1. Black and white and color



I dug it. Embrace the early art house feel! In fact, Coppola said that this was the intent, “to make an art film for young people.” Furthermore, the Motorcycle Boy is color blind. I don’t totally get it, but I’m down with it.

2. diane lane, as mentioned.

Despite her relatively few scenes, we get to see Diane Lane in a variety of memorable guises: sweet-school-girl, sassy-school-girl, epic-feathered-hair-girl, post-break-up-get-a-new-boyfriend-girl…

rFish022 large


Her hair is full of secrets! And I understand why Matt Dillon daydreams about her in her skivvies while he’s in class.



Plus, she gets to utter this awesome line right after Rusty James is talking, again, about how his brother is “the coolest.”


3. Guys walking together in “V” formation


Yahs. Men should always assume the Flying V, both on and off the ice.

4. All The cinematic vibes!

This film brought to mind several other classic films for a variety of rational and unexplainable reasons. So, if you like these other movies, maybe you’ll like this?!

Okay, first, I got shades of A Streetcar Named Desire, though perhaps just because everyone was really sweaty in Rumble Fish and sweaty men suffering through a heat wave without air conditioning always remind me of Marlon Brando.

StreetCar-3 rumble-fish-1983-hdtv-720p-english-and-russian-mkv_201631

More understandably, perhaps, the film suggests Rebel without a Cause with the whole disaffected-and-charismatic-intelligent-youth-with-a-death-wish thing.


It may, however, be that Rusty James and Motorcycle Boy are simply James Dean types, regardless of which of Dean’s films you have in mind.

Saturday morning, pre-Netflix.
Dean: just your average motorcycle boy.
1983, Oklahoma, USA  --- American actor Mickey Rourke on the set of , written, directed, and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. --- Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis
Mickey Rourke as the “Motorcycle Boy”

Also, for no good reason, I thought of The Last Picture Show and its depiction of an average but desolate town and the youth who make trouble in it. Not entirely, but, as I said, just a whiff of it.



And, obviously, it shares much with The Outsiders, filmed just prior.



Make of that what you will!

5. A preoccupation with clocks & Time

rumblefish-01 fish05hero_EB19830826REVIEWS50826002AR


6. Matt Dillon

Dillon on set with S. E. Hinton


6 and 1/2. Matt Dillon’s eyebrows


7. Rebels who read… and stuff…


Here’s how he describes California, which he has just visited:

“California’s like a beautiful, wild… beautiful, wild girl on heroin… who’s high as a kite, thinkin’ she’s on top of the world, not knowing she’s dying, even if you show her the marks.”

Totally emo. I can see it on a tumblr post already.


8. This film has been Cage-bombed!


Sup, brah?
Sup, brah?

9. brotherly love


“Best. Ride. Ever.” – lil bro

10. Mickey Effing Rourkemickey-rourke-in-rumblefish

I can’t believe how attracted I was to his soft-spoken schtick.


11. The overall WTF-ness of it all


Somebody is about to levitate!!
Everything about this random dude.

And, thus, I have an innate respect for you, Rumble Fish.

And, thus, I have an innate respect for you, Rumble Fish.

In sum, I recommend Rumble Fish if you are in the mood to see something a little random, a little early ’80s, a little pointless, a little fascinating, etc. Also, it’s fun to watch in tandem with The Outsiders. I’m slightly crazy, so I did a double feature. But you all probably have lives, so that’s probably not in the cards.

One thought on “Are you ready to Ruuuuuumble (fish)? Throwback Review of “Rumble Fish” (1983)

  1. Rumble Fish was a fantastic film… I love the actual rumble (as in fighting) fish being in colour, Mickey Rourke is fabulous, and THAT classroom shot left me breathless… she was hot!


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