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The Rumble of Nostalgia

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vision of Boyhood

Molly Lewis


Rumble Fish, based on the young adult novel published by S.E. Hinton in 1975 and made into a film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983, is often overshadowed by Hinton’s more popular 1967 novel and Coppola’s more successful film, The Outsiders, from earlier in 1983, even though the later film, Rumble Fish, has been discussed by a few notable scholars of teen cinema. This article examines why Rumble Fish, which centers on a juvenile delinquent and his elusive brother, failed to attract an audience during the time of its release. A detailed comparison of the novel and the film as well as an analysis of Coppola’s director’s commentary reveals that Coppola’s autobiographical touches resulted in a film that provokes a varied subjective and emotional response from its viewers. The film, like the novel, is constructed as a memory. Rumble Fish is best understood as a nostalgic exploration of Coppola’s own feelings regarding his boyhood rather than as a universal coming-of-age tale.