What makes for a great Punk movie?
Is it the aesthetics? The music? The themes of survival?
I’ve cut out any movies or documentaries based on Punk and just focused on dramatic movies from the 1980s.
Punk was a London thing, a New York thing and even an L.A. thing. When it finally hit the suburbs in the ‘80s it found its rightful home. There is nothing more sinister than the suburbs, no type of housing more filled with existential dread, sorry not even the “projects” in terms of soul-killing darkness. No movie captures the Punk scene in the suburbs better than director Penelope Spheeris’ film.
‘Sid and Nancy’ (1986)
Did Gary Oldman win an Oscar for playing Sid Vicious? Well, he should have. This is the first movie for Gen X that captured codependency and the harsh reality that the Baby Boomer world was long gone.
‘Ladies and Gentleman the Fabulous Stains’ (1982)
First, Diane Lane is amazing, but what this film gets correct is the audience attacking the on-stage talent. I remember being at a Black Flag show and the audience would spit on the performers; this was when Henry Rollins still had long black hair and a big loogie landed in his hair and was there for most of the show. Given my OCD I was able to focus on little else the rest of the set.
‘Repo Man’ (1984)
Before there was the suitcase in “Pulp Fiction” there was the trunk in “Repo Man” and the threat that it could change the world. There’s something about the repossession of automobiles that is very punk.
‘After Hours’ (1985)
This is my favorite Martin Scorsese film, and it’s Punk through and through. Mostly because Griffin Dunne’s character is a survivor of a world gone mad and a night from Hell but also because, spoiler, he’s likely dead and the film is played backward.
‘Something Wild’ (1986)
Before there was the “manic pixie dream girl” there was another form of ex-machina: The “punk babe” who will turn your life upside down and make it way more fun if dangerous. Sure, things often end in a murder, but the guy had it coming, right?
‘Liquid Sky’ (1982)
“All my teachers are dead,” is a very punk thing to say. This movie is the album covers of Duran Duran, the Motels, the Plasmatics and Missing Persons come to life.
‘The Road Warrior’ (1981)
What could be more punk than surviving in a desert wasteland?
‘Turk 182’ (1985)
Jon Stewart’s battle to secure funding for 9/11 survivors is eerily similar to this excellent movie starring Timothy Hutton. His character fights for his fireman brother who was injured while saving a young girl while off duty. The city doesn’t want to pay his medical bills, so Hutton’s character does the most punk thing ever… tags everything he can with “Turk 182” to remind the Mayor of the case.
‘Dogs in Space’ (1986)
The film is both a companion piece and an echo to “Sid and Nancy.” The Australian import stars Michael Hutchence of INXS fame and punk in its DNA. Not much happens in the story yet the sky is falling. Or, in this case, the old space station Skylab. Better duck while the s*@t hits the fan.
BONUS: The most Punk movie over the past few decades:
“Doomsday” from 2008 starring Rhona Mitra. A virus kills most of London, but a scientist travels up to Scotland and finds the most punk scene ever, survivors of the virus… stronger, better, more wild and fun than those who are left.
Did I miss your favorite punk film? If so mention it in the comments.