Dean was contracted to Universal to make two more television movies. The first, The Strange One, was not released until 1953, but the second, The Eternal Sea, was released in 1955. The series was produced by Lew Landers, who also directed two episodes of The Restless Years. Dean was one of several young actors at the time to appear in Landers' productions, including Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, and James Whitmore. Dean played the role of a young man who narrates his life through a series of flashbacks in The Eternal Sea, following the death of his father. The series was shot on location in San Francisco. Director Landers also cast Dean as a young policeman in the horror film The Killer That Stalked New York (1956).
Dean also appeared in the movies Joyride, Easy to Love, Power, Malaya, and The Naked Kiss, which was adapted from the 1959 stage play of the same name by Harold Pinter and starring Peter O'Toole and Julie Christie. Dean's performance in Power earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1961, and he was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of a young man who develops a crush on a pre-adolescent girl in the 1956 movie The Young Don't Cry.
Dean's first feature film was as a teenage runaway in Blackboard Jungle, a 1952 adaptation of the acclaimed 1950 play by Richard Brooks and John Cazale. Filmed in black and white, the film was a major box office and critical success and led to other movies produced by the same team: The Wild One (1953), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), The Children's Hour (1961), Peyton Place (1957), and The Shining (1980).
Dean played the role of James Dean in an unsuccessful 1993 remake of The Wild One, and in June 2005 played the role of the same name in the film James Dean, directed by Rupert Sanders. The film was released in December 2005. He also appeared in the 1998 HBO miniseries Raging Bull as a boxer from the 1950s. Dean's last onscreen appearance was in the 2007 movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 827ec27edc