Suburbia (film)

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Suburbia (film).jpg
Video release cover
Directed byPenelope Spheeris
Written byPenelope Spheeris
Produced byBert Dragin
Roger Corman
CinematographyTimothy Suhrstedt
Edited byRoss Albert
Music byAlex Gibson
Suburbia Productions
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • April 13, 1984 (1984-04-13)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States

Suburbia, also known as Rebel Streets and The Wild Side, is a 1984 American coming-of-age drama/thriller film written and directed by Penelope Spheeris and produced by Roger Corman. The film's plot concerns a group of suburban youths who run away from home[2] and adopt a punk lifestyle by squatting in abandoned suburban tract homes. The punks are played by Chris Pedersen, Bill Coyne, Timothy Eric O'Brien, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and others.[3]

The film contains live footage of D.I. performing "Richard Hung Himself", T.S.O.L. performing "Wash Away" and "Darker My Love" and the Vandals performing "The Legend of Pat Brown."

The film inspired the Pet Shop Boys song "Suburbia."[4]


Sheila, a hitchhiking teenage runaway, is picked up on Interstate 605 in the Greater Los Angeles Area by a woman with a toddler. When the car gets a flat tire, they find a telephone booth on the edge of an abandoned tract housing district. While the mother is on the phone, the toddler is attacked and killed by a stray dog.

Another teenage runaway, Evan Johnson, leaves his suburban home and abusive, alcoholic mother, ending up at a punk rock concert by D.I., where Keef slips drugs into his drink. The concert ends abruptly when a female attendee has her clothes torn off by the punks in the audience. Jack Diddley offers Evan a place to stay at "T.R. House", a punk house in the abandoned tract housing district off Interstate 605. Along the way, they pick up Joe Schmo, who also intends to move into the house. Joe changes his mind when he learns each resident must be branded with the letters T.R. ("The Rejected"), but winds up coming back and accepting the brand. He begins to form a romantic relationship with Sheila, who has also moved into the house.

The next morning, several men from "Citizens Against Crime", including Jim Tripplett and Bob Skokes, drive through the neighborhood shooting at the packs of wild dogs that roam the area. T.R. kids Razzle and Skinner confront them, but the situation is defused by Jack's stepfather, police officer Bill Rennard. Jack, Evan, and Skinner steal food for the house by raiding the garages of a nearby suburban neighborhood, and they make further enemies of Jim and Bob by disrupting their garage sale. When Evan sees on the news that his mother has been arrested for drunk driving, he collects his younger brother, Ethan, and brings him to live at T.R. House, where Sheila gives him a mohawk. Sheila admits to Joe that she was physically and sexually abused by her father.

During a T.S.O.L. concert, the T.R. gang get into a fight defending Skinner. The men they were fighting with enter the concert and stab a security guard, framing the T.R. kids for the crime by using the knife to hang a flier with "T.R." written in blood. Jim and Bob next witness the T.R. crew vandalizing a convenience store. At a Citizens Against Crime meeting, they accuse Bill and the rest of the police of not doing enough to curb the teenagers' criminal behavior, declaring their willingness to take the law into their own hands. Bill goes to T.R. House and implores the teens to stay out of trouble. That night, Jim and Bob invade the house and threaten the teens, assaulting Sheila in the process. The next morning, the kids find that Sheila has killed herself by overdosing on Keef's drugs. Not knowing what to do, they bring her body back to her parents. When the T.R. kids come to the funeral, Sheila's father insists that they leave. Joe reveals his knowledge of Sheila's abuse, and a fight breaks out, hospitalizing Sheila's father.

At a Vandals concert that night, Bill shows up and warns the T.R. kids to clear out of T.R. house immediately, before their actions bring the Citizens Against Crime down on their heads, but they decide to stay. Learning of the violence at the funeral, Jim and Bob show up at the house and are attacked by the teens, who drive them off. They bring their car back around for another pass, accidentally running over and killing Ethan. Bill arrives, but is too late to prevent the tragedy.


  • Bill Coyne as Evan Johnson
  • Chris Pedersen as Jack Diddley
  • Jennifer Clay as Sheila
  • Timothy Eric O'Brien as Skinner
  • Wade Walston as Joe Schmo
  • Mike B. The Flea as Razzle
  • André Boutilier as Peg Leg
  • Grant Miner as Keef
  • Maggie Ehrig as Mattie
  • Lee Frederick (credited as "Robert Peyton") as Jim Tripplett
  • Jeff Prettyman as Bob Skokes
  • Don Allen as Officer Bill Rennard
  • Andrew Pece as Ethan Johnson
  • J. Dinan Myrtetus as Sheila's father
  • Ilene Latter as Sheila's mother
  • Donna Lamana as Tina Johnson
  • Gavin Courtney as Joe's father
  • Gina Carrera (credited as "Julie Winchester") as Sandy Dawson
  • Marlena Brause as Mrs. Tripplett
  • Dorlinda Griffin as Mother
  • Robert Griffin as Toddler


Director Penelope Spheeris recruited street youths and punk-rock musicians to play each role rather than hiring actors.[5][6]


Vincent Canby called the film a "clear-eyed, compassionate melodrama about a bunch of young dropouts" and "probably the best teen-agers-in-revolt movie since Jonathan Kaplan's Over the Edge."[7]

Suburbia holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews.[8]

Home media[edit]

The film was included as part of Shout! Factory's Roger Corman Cult Classics series, reissued on DVD in May 2010.[9] It was made available for streaming on the Criterion Channel as part of a collection of films directed by women.[10][11]


  1. ^ Chris Nashawaty, Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, Abrams, 2013 p 189
  2. ^ BAM
  3. ^ AV Club
  4. ^ Suburbia - Pet Shop Boys|Song Info|AllMusic
  5. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  6. ^ Penelope Spheeris on Suburbia, Roger Corman, a civilization in Decline|Georgia's Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly
  7. ^ Screen: Down-And-Out Youths In 'Suburbia' - New York Times
  8. ^ "Suburbia". Rotten Tomatoes.
  9. ^ Shout! Factory
  10. ^ Women Filmmakers of New World Pictures - Criterion Channel Teaser on YouTube
  11. ^ Women Filmmakers of New World Pictures - The Criterion Channel

External links[edit]