LET’S GO! 20 FURIOUS PUNK ROCK FILMS

Furious Cinema is a website that focuses primarily on movies but we’ve always been, in some way, inspired by the DIY/anti-corporate ethic that punk rock was founded on. The spirit of punk has been around since the early days of rock, but in the late 60s/early 70s, kids who were tired of the same old, watered down pop music (and the hippies) began creating their own angry sounds of rebellion and discontent. Many couldn’t even play their instruments well but they had a furious energy and expressed their ideas through fast paced, bombastic music that was extremely fresh and exciting. Proto-punk pioneers like MC5, The Stooges and The New York Dolls would inspire some kids from Queens to form The Ramones who would themselves get various UK teens to practice their songs and start punk bands like The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash. Following in their bootsteps, American punkers from the East Coast such as SS Decontrol, Bad Brains, The Misfits, and Minor Threat were fronting a strong music movement of their own. Out on the West Coast the scene exploded further with Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, The Germs and other crazy acts. Of course, this kind of hard hitting, powerful, controversial youth music was perfect to be documented on the big screen. So, soon movies were released that focused on the outrageous and colorful characters who made up the underground Punk Rock genre.

L.A. punk legends The Screamers perform “Vertigo”

Our new list, which contains a variety of documentaries, mockumentaries and punk themed stories, is dedicated to all the Mad As Hell kids who did music their way without any rules and influenced the musical art form forever with unfiltered sounds of protest and angst. Now, Let’s Go! with FC’s 20 FURIOUS PUNK ROCK FILMS!

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The Punk Rock Movie (1978, Dir: Don Letts)

Filmed during a three month period in 1977, this gritty Super 8 doc of the original UK punk scene at The Roxy club in London is a treasure. You’ll get to see very early footage of groups like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, Generation X, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Eater, Subway Sect, X-Ray Spex, Alternative TV and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers. Also includes the first performance by legendary punk icon Sid Vicious with The Sex Pistols at The Screen On The Green cinema in London on April 3, 1977.

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The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle (1980, Dir: Julian Temple)

This abstract work of punk performance pieces and animation thrown in a blender is both dated and timeless. The Sex Pistols may have been a group of snotty kids who caused trouble wherever they went, but they were also an integral part of pop culture/music history. They represented youth turning against societal decay and oppression and they also were very inspirational to many people who went on to form their own bands around the world. Performances include: Anarchy in The UK, Johnny B. Goode, You Need Hands, No Feelings, God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant, Somethin Else, Cmon Everybody, No Fun, My Way.
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Punk: Attitude (2005, Dir: Don Letts)

A celebration of the birth of the music we now know as punk rock, its ideology and lifestyle. From bands like the The MC5, The Velvet Underground and The Stooges to The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and other early pioneers of the anti-establishment genre. Featuring in-depth and enlightening interviews with all the folks who made the wild, groundbreaking music and lived through its infancy: Henry Rollins (Black Flag), David Johansen (New York Dolls), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Jim Jarmusch (filmmaker), Darryl Jenifer (Bad Brains), Mick Jones (The Clash), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie Soiux and the Banshees).
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The Blank Generation (1976, Dir: Ivan Kral, Amos Poe)

Set around the birth of New York’s punk scene in the 70s, this 55 minute doc contains rare behind the scenes footage of musicians such as The Ramones, Television, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers. Another must see for punk fans that takes you back to the birthplace of some of the most influential musicians of that era. Shot on 16mm without audio, which was later synched up in editing. That’s punk baby!
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Another State of Mind (1982, Dir: Adam Small, Peter Stuart)

A raw, in your face DIY doc about bands Social Distortion, Youth Brigade and their friends in Minor Threat during a US tour in the summer of 82. An intriguing study of their personal views on the music scene and the life experiences they share on the road meeting new people, getting in adventures and having various troubles along the way.
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Suburbia (1983, Dir: Penelope Spheeris)

A gang of alienated, neglected teens who start their own squatter family called “The Rejected” (or T.R.) take care of each other while trying to survive living on their own. Instead of hiring trained actors, Director Spheeris went to punk clubs and cast kids from the scene. A cult film that depicts the punk lifestyle in all its squalid glory. Watch for a hilarious scene when Flea tries to eat a rat. Live performances by SoCal Punk bands: TSOL, The Vandals and DI. Starring Chris Pedersen, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Bill Coyne, Jennifer Clay.

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We Jam Econo: Story of the Minutemen (2005, Dir: Tim Irwin)

Out of the many punk rock docs I’ve seen, this is one of my top favorites. I really enjoyed listening to bassist Mike Watt tell the story of his friendships with late singer/guitarist D. Boon and drummer George Hurley as well as their history/influences as a band. The Minutemen were easily one of the most unique acts to emerge from the SoCal punk scene. They brought together thought provoking lyrics with very catchy yet offbeat instrumentation that combined psychedelic, jazz and funk sounds. Featuring interviews with family members and good friends including Jean Watt, Joe Baiza, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Jack Brewer, Dez Cadena, John Doe, Chuck Dukowski, Flea, Richard Hell, Ian MacKaye, Mike Mills, Keith Morris, Raymond Pettibon, Kira Roessler and others.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982, Dir: Lou Adler)

Diane Lane, in her first lead film role, stars as Corinne “Third Degree” Burns, leader of The Stains, an all girl punk group. The gals go from playing small clubs as a lowly opening act to becoming a national sensation with a legion of devoted fans. Co-starring Laura Dern, Ray Winstone, Fee Waybill, Black Randy and the Metro Squad and members of The Clash. Featuring original music performed by Barry Ford, The Stains, The Looters and The Tubes.
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Sid and Nancy (1986, Dir: Alex Cox)

Gary Oldman gives a brilliant performance as Sid Vicious, the lanky, spike haired British punk star who led a life of wreckless abandon. Chloe Webb is also wonderful as the extremely annoying, desperate groupie Nancy Spungen. The two punk brats fall in love and soon turn to a life of co-dependency and drug use which fuels their bombastic relationship and then sends them into a downward spiral. The moral of this story: living fast and dying young is a waste.
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Hardcore Logo (1996, Dir: Bruce McDonald)

A satirical mockumentary about the death of punk, based on a novel by Mike Turner about the fictional Canadian group Hardcore Logo. The band, comprised of lead singer Joe Dick (Hugh Dillon) and musicians Billy Tallent (Callum Keith Rennie), John Oxenberger (John Pyper Ferguson) and Pipefitter (Bernie Coulson) hit the road on a reunion tour but due to a myriad of unresolved personal and artistic troubles begin a downward spiral. Real punk rockers Art Bergmann, Joey Shithead (DOA) and Joey Ramone (The Ramones) make cameos.

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Reality 86’d (1986, Dir: David Markey)

Filmed in 1986 but not released officially until 1991, this 62 min. Super 8 doc chronicles Black Flag’s final US tour (“In My Head”) and gives an insightful view of life on the road (and in the van) with the hardcore punk legends. The band’s lineup at this time was Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Cel Revulta, and Anthony Martinez after other original players had departed. Featuring performances by Black Flag as well as tourmates Painted Willie and Gone. WATCH MOVIE

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Repo Man (1984, Dir: Alex Cox)

As well as being a hilarious punk rock-sci-fi-comedy cult classic, this film is also a social commentary on many pop culture crazes of the day (Evangelism, nuclear war, Reaganomics). When it was released, Repo Man was not a big hit, but over the past 30 years, due to its uniquely offbeat, independent style as well as being shown on TV (in a peculiarly comical edited version), it has garnered a devoted cult-like following. I grew up watching the movie on VHS and on TV and its been a favorite of mine ever since. Starring Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton, Vonetta McGee and Tracy Walter. Music by Iggy Pop, The Plugz, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Fear, Burning Sensations.
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American Hardcore (2006, Dir: Paul Rachmann, Steven Blush)

Inspired by the book American Hardcore: A Tribal History, this is an excellent doc about the US hardcore punk scene spanning from 1978-1986. The legendary groups featured like Bad Brains, Black Flag, D.O.A., Minor Threat, The Minutemen and SS Decontrol give the rundown of their lives making some of the most amazing music which remains just as vital and exciting as ever. Includes interviews with Flipper (Bruce Loose, Ted Falconi and Steve DePace), Greg Ginn (Black Flag), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), H.R., Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Kira Roessler (Black Flag), Henry Rollins (Rollins Band, Black Flag, State of Alert), Mike Watt (Minutemen and Firehose) and many others.

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Decline of Western Civilization (1981, Dir: Penelope Spheeris)

An intimate view of the late 70s/early 80s punk rock scene in Los Angeles that every music fan should experience. At the time of its release LAPD Chief Daryl Gates didn’t want it shown in the city due to all the punk riots. Featuring humorous interviews with teenage punkers and performances by The Germs, Black Flag, The Weirdos and X, bands that made an indelible mark on the genre. The first of a trilogy of cult classic music docs by Spheeris which continued with Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years set around LA’s metal scene from 1986-88 and Decline of Western Civilization III about homeless punks in the late 90s.

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The Clash: Westway To The World (2000, Dir: Don Letts)

A Grammy award winning doc charting the rise and fall of one of the greatest punk bands ever: The Clash. Includes rare personal footage from the band’s visit to New York City in 1982 and interviews conducted with original band members Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon as well as friends/fellow musicians Siouxsie Sioux and Dave Vanian (The Damned). NOTE: Although the movie claims the band disbanded in 1983, only Mick Jones and Topper Headon left due to personal differences. A final Clash album “Cut The Crap” was released in 1985 with Strummer, Simonon and new members.

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End of the Century: Story of the Ramones (2004, Dir: Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia)

I’ve always loved The Ramones and punk rock music. To finally get the real story of their career straight from the members of the band and their friends was something special. I got to find out all the information on how the group got together, their influences, their perspectives on the band’s career, and all the people THEY influenced and inspired. One thing The Ramones never did was compromise their vision. They always stayed together in the face of adversity, new music trends and the overall bullshit that seems to saturate the business. THAT’S FURIOUS!
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The Filth and the Fury (2000, Dir: Julian Temple)

This follow up to The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle (which was based on producer Malcolm McLaren’s vision of the band) gives us the Pistols’ own honest views of their very short but impactful career as punk pioneers. The film takes the viewer from their modest beginnings in London’s Shepherd’s Bush district in the mid 70s to their final appearance in 1978 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco when they ultimately imploded onstage. Featuring interviews with band members John Lydon, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Paul Cook, Sid Vicious and producer Malcolm McLaren.

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Rock n Roll High School (1979, Dir: Allan Arkush)

At Vince Lombardi High School, Riff Randell (PJ Soles) is The Ramones’ number one fan. The new principal, Ms. Togar (Mary Woronov) despises Riff and the other wild kids who love rocking out and having fun. When the evil Togar takes Riff’s prized Ramones concert tickets away and begins burning records in protest, Riff and her friends must get their heroes The Ramones to come to the rescue. A cult classic comedy musical that will have you chanting Hey Ho! Let’s Go! Co-starring Dey Young, Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller and Don Steele.
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Over the Edge (1979, Dir: Jonathan Kaplan)

New Grenada is a planned community somewhere in the Midwest. The kids who live there are very disallusioned and start to cause problems due to lack of entertainment and general neglect. When the schoolboard, police and parents are alerted that all is not well with their children, things get even more out of control and the kids protest in very destructive ways. Starring Michael Kramer, Matt Dillon, Harry Northup. Based on true events that took place in the 1970s. While it’s not about music, it’s very much a punk rock mindset movie that deals with teenage rebellion and angst. We think it belongs on this furious list. Kickass tracks by Cheap Trick, The Ramones, The Cars and Van Halen are featured on the soundtrack.
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Urgh! A Music War (1982, Dir: Derek Burbidge)

This ultimate new wave/punk rock concert film showcased popular and not so popular acts of the early 80s like XTC, Steel Pulse, Surf Punks, 999, UB40, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Police, Devo, The Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Magazine, The Go-Go’s, Toyah Willcox, The Fleshtones, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Dead Kennedys, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, Wall of Voodoo and Pere Ubu among others. A satisfying taste of the kinds of cutting edge modern rock that was being created in this period.

We hope you’ll track these movies down and check them out. Rock On Furious Film Fans!

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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1 Response

  1. emma says:

    Over the edge was a favorite of Kurt Cobain’s, and it’s easy to understand why, bored teenagers with nothing to do, except, take drugs, have sex and engage in basic vandalism, too young to drive anyplace else, the only thing to do or to go was the tiny shed that serves as a “rec center” constantly under the threat of being closed from the cops, and nervous community leaders, who are convinced the kids who gather there to listen to music and play ping pong will use the center to do drugs and plot illegal activities, and strike fear into the hearts of potential new residents. and pretty much everything you need to know about New Grenada is summed up in what the jr. high calls it’s lunchroom, the “cafetorium”

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