With the recent release of Danny Boyle’s Pistol mini series on Disney, the following list is a selection of some of the so called best Punk films ever made. These will either be about the music and culture, some other may be the characters in the film might be punk. As ever this list is only a short selection, I’ve included a few notable mentions at the end
Repo Man (1984)
The first of two films from filmmaker Alex cox, the cult punk film with the most attitude and brilliant soundtrack which included everyone from Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Circle Jerks. Starring Emilio Estevez a young punk kid who takes great pride in repossessing cars who seeks out the most expensive car with supernatural powers that kills people when they open the boot. A oddball of a story which has a brilliant Harry Dean Stanton at his best.
The Decline Of Western Civilisation (1981)
Penelope Spheeris emerged from the first wave of punk and Hardcore to direct what many call the most documentary on Punk ever made. It was made at a time when many believed Punk was dead, Thrash, Hair Metal was at it’s prime (Metal took centre stage in the follow up film). What the Doc did was highlight the youth were still bored, pissed, frustrated, full of angry energy. The film had early performances by Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, X, The Germs, and Fear, interviews from the kids involved with the scene, psychologists, parents, assorted frightened authority figures.
The Punk Singer (2013)
2013 documentary based on Kathleen Hanna, the feminist activist lead singer for Bikini Kill who is seen as one of the leading figures of the riot girl movement. Directed by Sini Anderson. A fantastic insight into Kathleen’s life. from her troubled upbringing and her start in spoken word performance poetry, through her riot grrrl zines, her prominent punk and dance-punk bands, her coining of the phrase “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for Kurt Cobain, her solo career as Julie Ruin, her feminist activism, her marriage to Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, and ending with Hanna’s 2010 diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease and the severe treatments she endures to combat it. Impressively empowering film.
Green Room (2015)
Nazi Punks F-Off! Jeremy Saulnier’s gruesome follow up film to his fantastically underrated indie Blue Ruin, Would you ever think Sir Patrick Stewart as a leader to a Neo-Nazi group. The film follows a hardcore punk band led by the late Anton Yelchin who take on a gig at a run down dive in the middle of a nowhwere Full of neo nazi’s the band breaks in the classic anti-nazi Dead Kennedy song. Whilst waiting in the ‘green room’ the band witness a death forcing the band to fight for their lives and escape, Brutal, thrilling gore fest which stars Imogen Poots, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat and Macon Blair.
Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Poly Styrene was the first woman of color in the UK to front a successful rock band. She introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism, and everything she saw unfolding in late 1970s Britain, with a rare prescience. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements. But the late punk maverick didn’t just leave behind an immense cultural footprint. She was survived by a daughter, Celeste Bell, who became the unwitting guardian of her mother’s legacy. A riveting Doc that’s celebrates an important figure of the Punk movement and highlights mental health issue.
White Riot (2019)
offers invaluable insight into how music can change the world — and how Rock Against Racism still resonates. Rock Against Racism was formed in 1976, prompted by Eric Clapton. It blends fresh interviews with archive footage to recreate a hostile environment of anti-immigrant hysteria and National Front marches. The film is named after a Clash song who where headlining a gig to support the movement. A blueprint of resistance sadly racism is still with us.
Sid & Nancy (1986)
Alex Cox’s second entry on the list, the story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his turbulent with American Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman is superb as Sid with Chloe Webb equally as Nancy. Both lives destroyed by heroin, both sharing a tragic ending which saw Sid as a suspect to Nancy’s death only for himself to dies shortly after thanks to an overdose. The film goes to some dark, melancholic places. There relationship would lead to the end of the Pistols with John Lydon saying Nancy is like Yoko Ono was to The Beatles.
Derek Jarman’s cult classic which was film in parts of London which where left untouched since the blitz of world war II. Queen Elizabeth I transported forward in time by an occultist to a desolate ’70s Britain in which her successor’s been killed in a mugging and nihilists roam the streets. Punk icons film up the cast, Vivienne Westwood, Jordan, Souxie Soiux, Adam Ant and the slits.
Notable Others – Control, The Return Of The Living Dead, We Are The Best, Blank Generation, Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, American Hardcore, Her Smell, 24 Hour Party People