An oral history of Over the Edge, "The greatest teen rebellion movie of all time"


David and I love the 1979 movie Over the Edge, about youth run wild in a suburban cultural wasteland. The (out-of-print) soundtrack is terrific, and so were the kids in the movie (most were not professional actors).

On the 30th anniversary of the movie, Mike Sacks of Vice magazine put together an oral history of the movie with comments from 20 members of the cast and crew.

Jonathan Kaplan (director): I was only 30 when I was hired to do Over the Edge, but I had some unique experience, which helped. I had studied with Martin Scorsese when I was younger. And I had been the director of an infamous Sex Pistols movie called Who Killed Bambi?

What I took away from that experience was the spark and the truth that I saw in the punk aesthetic. And I saw that same spark and truth in the Over the Edge script. I thought, These kids are American punks. They’re not as articulate as the English punks, but they’re also in a rage.

With that in mind, I decided to attack Over the Edge from a punk angle: keep it simple. No fancy camera moves, visual effects, nothing fancy. I remember when I first saw Super Fly. There were boom shadows, badly shot scenes, and mistakes. But there was a simplicity and an authenticity to it that I really appreciated.

When it came time to cast Over the Edge, we tried to go for that same authenticity. We wanted real teens, as opposed to professional actors–and kids who were also age-appropriate. No twenty-somethings playing 14-year-olds.

Here's the Over the Edge trailer.

OVER THE EDGE: An Oral History of the Greatest Teen Rebellion Movie of All Time


  1. I remember being fired up by this one as a kid. I was about 7 when it came out, but I think it must have played on HBO later. I wished I could be as tough as these kids, and even though I never went full-metal-rebel like they did, it affected my outlook for sure. How cool to get some context on the film so long after it colored my youth.

  2. This is a great, great overlooked movie. One of the writers, Tim Hunter, was the director of River’s Edge, and I consider them to be sister films about teen alienation in 70/80’s Northern California.

  3. i seen this when i was a kid, and i have thought of it over the years,but i didnt know the name of it. it was a good movie.and the music was good too.

  4. LOL. I actually tried out for the lead in this movie and made it to the final 2 kids (losing to the dark-haired kid, not matt dillon). Matt and I are from same hometown and a casting-type convinced us to both give acting a shot. I was pretty clueless and quickly decided acting was not my bag. Didn’t really know this movie had much cult value. I think the working title through casting was “Rat Patrol.” I guess that was as close as I got to my 15 minutes.

  5. Thanks so much for this post. This and River’s Edge are the only two movies that tell the tale of my youth. Deep down I always knew their had to be a connection between them, because there was for me. I never looked into that connection, but in this article, found it.

    I saw this movie first when I was in the thick of my own delinquency. Then, it was just a really cool movie with a perfect ending. But I remember seeing it at age 17, just after I had been forced to clean up my act by being locked up for a year in a paramilitary rehab. I was not supposed to watch anything drug related, and at that time, never did. And then this movie came on HBO, and I could not turn it off or look away. The affect on me was profound, and still is. The characters were all people I knew, or was (right down to the cut-off t-shirts). It wasn’t long after that I saw the River’s Edge, and again met my friends and myself in a film, only later on in our ride.

    The hippies, to this day, still have a powerful voice; their story still gets told again and again. By for my generations counterculture (people called us heads, or, oddly, Hessians), the story has only been told twice.

  6. I still prefer “Smithereens”, “Desperate Teenage Lovedolls”, or “Surburbia”, and especially “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains”… and of course “The River’s Edge”!

  7. Weird that a movie that played, IIRC, every few hours on HBO when I was a teen is considered under-appreciated. Even weirder that Matt Dillion was an unknown when cast, since we had already seen him in My Bodyguard.

  8. Oh, heck yes. I saw this when it first appeared on HBO in 1979. I was 10. I later recorded it to a VHS tape and then wore the tape out. When it came out on DVD, it was a dream come true.

    The only thing that would top the DVD release is if it was released in HD with a stereo score, commentary from the actors and some outtakes.

  9. Ha, see the picture and then remembering this movie gave me goose bumps. I remember watching it over and over on cable as a young teen. It was the first movie I ever saw that seemed like it portrayed teens realistically (guess it depends what your childhood was like). Fast Times was the second movie that did it for me.

  10. Favorite-est teenage movie ever. I taped it off of A&E at some ungodly hour in the Late 80’s and watched it dozens of times, Practically had it memorized. My favorite quote: “A kid who tells on another kid, is a dead kid.”
    Now THAT was a free range childhood.

  11. I was JUST talking about this movie with a bunch of friends the other night… I saw it at the drive-in with “The Outsiders”

  12. I loved that weird Atari Navahjo blanket image on the tv, the kid who didn’t talk, and the look on one of the kid’s faces when the girl was waving the gun around to a Cheap Trick tune.

  13. The out of print soundtrack is available as a torrent (with the film) via Pirate Bay.

    Why, yes! Yes it is!

    Thank you.

  14. i lived in colorado, near where this was filmed, at the time it was filmed, and i was about the age of these kids, and i have NEVER heard of this movie until this day. this, truly, is a wonderful thing. thank you, Bb!

  15. OMG, I haven’t thought about this movie in ages.

    A good portion was filmed in my neighborhood whilst in my formative years.. Dinstince memories of some of the outdoor scenes being shot and some of the actors hanging out in the local 7-Eleven with bashed up faces makeup on.

    It was quite the event ’round those parts at that time.

  16. One of the Top 3 films of my youth (the others being Rock and Roll High School and Hair)! I was only 9 or so when it hit HBO (1979?) and me and my sister watched it religiously! Have the DVD and also recorded it off one of the HD movie channels….been on my DVR for a year and a 1/2!
    A former coworker has a copy of the soundtrack album and I tried everything to get it from him…but he wouldn’t budge.

  17. “Even weirder that Matt Dillion was an unknown when cast, since we had already seen him in My Bodyguard.”

    I think this was made before My Bodyguard. I vaguely remember something about the studio getting cold feet and shelving it for a awhile. It was finally released due to Matt Dillon’s fame from “My Bodyguard”.

    “One of the writers, Tim Hunter, was the director of River’s Edge, and I consider them to be sister films about teen alienation”

    He also directed “Tex”, based on the S.E. Hinton book, and starring Dillon as well. A trilogy of sorts.

  18. @15 this was Matt Dillon’s first film, it came out in ’79. My Bodyguard and Little Darlings came out in 1980. And yes…yes I did staple his Tiger Beat pictures all over my wall lol

    also, just because it was played to death on HBO for a short period in the 80s doesn’t mean it’s got the recognition of the masses. I mean, do you remember the stuff they used to play? Ghoulies, Troll, Hot Dog the Movie lol Such classics.

    The only thing that would have made Over the Edge better/more relatable for me is if it was set in NY.

  19. This movie should be required for all so-called urban planners. This is what you get when you focus your community plan on a typical Ma, Pa and their 5 and 8 year old children.

  20. This NEVER made it to the theaters here in northeast Florida; I saw it when it was on near continuous rotation during non-peak hours on HBO, early 1980 or thereabouts. Our area had just gotten cable, and I swear this was on almost daily just after school! I was seventeen at the time, about the same age or a little older than most of the kids in the movie.
    The incidents in the movie left a pretty stark impression on me, though I was generally a good kid. Some of my friends, though, may have been inspired enough to trash our high school just prior to the 1980-81 school year (my senior year). I was implicated by association and was nearly jailed myself.
    Good times, good times…

  21. I remember watchign this on HBO when it was released to cable. the thing that struck me was how authentic that house party scene was. It was exactly like any party I went to when I was in highschool. And the kids were pretty much the same kids I grew up with. It is hard to articulate.

  22. One of my favorite movies from my youth, this definitely mirrored the late 70’s era I grew up in and the kids I knew. I’ve been trying to get this on DVD to see how it holds up after all these years.

  23. I own this soundtrack on vinyl. Bought it when I was in high school and it survived several Great Vinyl Purges. It’s a wonderful collection of music: Come On (Part 1) by Hendrix plus Little Feat, The Ramones and *tons* of Cheap Trick. My day job is audio archivist for a collection that has no music but thousands of hours of oral histories. Golly, Mark…it’s like you wrote this post just for me. Thanks! ;)

  24. For decades I’ve asked people if they remember a movie from the 80’s where suburban youth go wild and no one knew what I was talking about. I could not remember the title and google was no help at all. Finally about a month ago I tried again and finally came across the title. This was a huge deal for me.

    Born in 1974, and living in a household that got cable as soon as it was available in Delray Beach, FL, I watched this movie over and over again. I think HBO had it on the playlist for years. Growing up in South Florida suburban hell, I felt like this movie was about me. It definitely helped shape my identity and non conformist attitude later in life. Thank you world for making this movie.

  25. I think a lot of us who grew up in the suburbs can relate to the story. I have distinct childhood memories of riding around on bikes throwing rocks, looking for bottles to break or stuff to set on fire, getting into fights for no particular reason, petty but thrilling vandalism. To this day there are always kids drinking stolen booze around a campfire in the woods on the outskirts of town; the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

  26. My brother had the soundtrack on 8 track. We played it all the time before we ever saw the movie. We waited for it to hit cable and saw it several times. I have not thought of this film in 20 years and then out of the blue a Boing Boing post. I always wanted to take of our school, but never had the opportunity. Was this not the suburban kids dream? Taking it over with the Ramones and then blowing it up was the ultimate though.

  27. Thanks David Pescovitz@34! There’s a Radio Shack opening two doors down from my work. I’m the only one excited about it. I’ll attempt making it.
    Franko@42. I second your bravo to Ill Lich on the Rush lyric. Amazingly done.

  28. I’m trying to figure out how I didn’t see this movie. It must have been heavy in the HBO rotation the two years we didn’t have it. Unfortunately, BMX Bandits was in heavy rotation by the time we moved back to civilization. I’ll definately have to check this one out.

    Ill Lich, I’m shocked that there are youth so undersupervised where you live that they’re doing the same things we did. Must be one of those liberal meccas (you know, like Ann Arbor is supposed to be, but isn’t). Around here it’s all helicopter, all the time.

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