Over the Edge (film)

Over the Edge is an American coming-of-age crime drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan and released in May 1979. The film, based on actual events, had a limited theatrical release but has since achieved cult film status. It was Matt Dillon's film debut.

Over the Edge
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Kaplan
Produced byGeorge Litto
Written by
Music bySol Kaplan
CinematographyAndrew Davis
Edited byRobert Barrere
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • May 18, 1979 (1979-05-18)
Running time
95 min.
CountryUnited States


A group of teenagers are living in an isolated planned community called New Granada, east of Denver, Colorado. Their needs were not considered by those who designed the community, to school and hang out at the local recreation center, which closes at six o‘clock. The kids turn to drugs, sex, and petty crime as a way to kill their boredom, but their outcry falls on deaf ears. The adults are too concerned with pursuing wealth and stomping out the seemingly senseless behavior to actually understand the reasons why the adolescents are misbehaving. After one of the kids is shot and killed by a police officer, the youths violently rebel against their parents and the authorities, an uprising that results in fiery mayhem in and around the junior high school.



The film was inspired by events described in a 1973 San Francisco Examiner article entitled "Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree" by Bruce Koon and James A. Finefrock. The article reported on young kids vandalizing property in Foster City, California. The middle class planned community had an unusually high level of juvenile crime.[1][2] Screenwriters Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter began work shortly after the article's publication, including field research in the town itself where they interviewed some of the kids. Hunter said that the script accurately reflected the article with the exception of a more violent ending.

Orion Pictures helped finance the film; producer George Litto borrowed an additional $1 million. Director Jonathan Kaplan, who was just 30 when hired, took a documentary approach to filming, using unknown actors. Among them was Matt Dillon, then age 14, whom the filmmakers discovered in a middle school in Westchester County, New York. This was Dillon's feature film debut. Shooting took place over 20 days in 1978 in Greeley and Aurora, two cities in Colorado.[1]

Due to the negative publicity surrounding a wave of recent youth gang films such as The Warriors and Boulevard Nights, Over the Edge had a limited theatrical release in 1979. But the film has since gained cult film status. In late 1981, it was shown at "Film at Joseph Papp's Public Theater" as part of a program called "Word of Mouth", devoted to films that had been overlooked because of poor marketing or distribution. This screening led to it being listed on critical top-10 lists and was favorably reviewed by Vincent Canby at The New York Times. The film then re-emerged in the 1980s with showings on cable, including HBO. Director Richard Linklater said the film influenced his film Dazed and Confused.[1] Over the Edge was an inspiration for the music videos for the songs "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana[3] and "Evil Eye" by Fu Manchu.[4]

Soundtrack album

Side one

  1. "Surrender" – Cheap Trick
  2. "My Best Friend's Girl" – The Cars
  3. "You Really Got Me" – Van Halen
  4. "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace" – Cheap Trick
  5. "Come On (Part 1)" – Jimi Hendrix

Side two

  1. "Just What I Needed" – The Cars
  2. "Hello There" – Cheap Trick
  3. "Teenage Lobotomy" – Ramones
  4. "Downed" – Cheap Trick
  5. "All That You Dream" – Little Feat
  6. "Ooh Child" – Valerie Carter


Over the Edge received critical acclaim from critics. Vincent Canby of The New York Times gave the movie a positive review, stating, "It's to Mr. Kaplan's credit that he makes New Granada look just as boring and alienated to us as it does to the unfortunate children who live there."


  1. Mike Sacks (August 2009). "Over the Edge: An Oral History of the Greatest Teen Rebellion Movie of All Time". Vice. 16 (9). Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  2. Koon, Bruce; Finefrock, James A. (November 11, 1973). "Mousepacks: Kids on a crime spree". San Francisco Examiner.
  3. St. Thomas, Kurt. Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects (2004): 103–104
  4. Reece, Doug. "Popular Uprisings" Billboard November 1, 1997: 18
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