Paula Parkins, the bored daughter of a well-to-do newspaper editor father and a socialite mother, seeks excitement by organizing and directing a gang of disaffected young women like herself. The gang dresses in men's attire, robs gas stations, and terrorizes habitués of a local lovers' lane—even raping a young gentleman after tying up his girlfriend.
As a newspaperman, Paula's father has some inside information on police plans to capture the gang, so the girls are able to avoid capture with Mr. Parkins' unwitting complicity. After a party with some local gangsters, Paula and her pals agree to wreck a few classrooms — and destroy the American flag — in a public school at the behest of Sheila, a female crime boss (with the implication that this is part of an anti-American Communist plot). The girls perform the job with gleeful competence until the police arrive and a deadly shootout takes place, claiming the lives of two of Paula's gang while Paula shoots and kills a policeman.
Seeking refuge from the police, the surviving girls return to Sheila's to demand their payment for wrecking the school. Sheila, not wanting to be connected to their crime, starts to call the police until Paula fatally shoots her. While leading the police on a car chase, Paula crashes the car into a store's plate-glass window, injuring her and killing her last accomplice. Paula is captured and convicted, then dies in the hospital giving birth to the child she conceived during the rape. The judge in Paula's case denies her parents custody of their granddaughter, based on the neglectful way they raised Paula.
- Jean Moorhead - Paula Parkins
- Barbara Weeks - Jane Parkins
- Arthur Millan - Carl Parkins
- Theresa Hancock - Georgia
- Joanne Cangi - Geraldine
- Gloria Farr - Phyllis
- Lee Constant - Sheila
- Timothy Farrell - Lt. Holmes
- I. Stanford Jolley - Judge Clara
- Harry Keaton - Doctor
- The Violent Years was written but not directed by Ed Wood. It made some money at the box office, but Wood had sold his rights and collected no residuals.
- This film was actor Barbara Weeks' return to the screen after a 16 year hiatus. She would make one more film before retiring permanently in 1957.
- Joanne Cangi (Geraldine) has only one other film credit. The actors who played the other two members of Paula's gang (and Sheila) have no other acting credits.
- The song “So What” by Ministry uses several samples from this film.