The 20 best punk movies

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What we do is secret (2007)

Director: Rodger Grossman

Penelope Spheeris features in this list three times – here it’s not as a director but as a historical figure, played by an actress, and seen approaching Darby Crash to appear in his documentary. In the case of the singer from Germs, the unreal thing goes beyond the real icon as captured in Decline: Shane West is bigger and more magnetic than Crash ever was. The same applies to Rick Gonzalez as guitarist Pat Smear and Bijou Phillips as bassist Lorna Doom – it’s an embellished version of an ugly story, but it makes it watchable.

A chronic Anglophile, Crash imitated Bowie, then Vicious, then finally, absurdly, Adam Ant. Here, Crash is presented as a “Jim Morrison for our generation” who reads Nietzsche, a poet-visionary who martyrs himself. The film’s other intellectual and ideologue is Brendan Mullen, promoter of punk haven LA Masque, whose spiel about “medieval filth therapy for teenagers” is delivered with a heavy Scottish accent and, with a touch of wit , subtitles. All is well until the failed ending: without the narrative necessity that led Ian Curtis and Sid Vicious to their doom, Crash’s deadly overdose feels like a pose taken too far rather than the martyrdom of rock.

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Suburb (1984)

Director: Penelope Spheeris

The nothingness of the suburbs was one of punk’s favorite targets. It’s this spiritual void, along with dysfunctional domestic situations, that separately propel runaways Sheila and Evan out into the wilderness, where they find refuge in a punk commune. The children live a parody of family life in the suburbs: watching television for hours, grilling in the freezers of Norman garages. Calling themselves the Rejected, they mark their flesh with the stigmata of their alienation, an austere and literally burning TR. Suburb is full of memorable scenes: Flea inserting the entire top half of her pet rat into her mouth, the children stealing the lawn turf from a schmuck to make a cozy rug. But the kids don’t seem much more enlightened or inspiring than the straight world they feed off of. Spheeris pointedly includes nasty sexism and a scene where punks make fun of a disabled shopkeeper. “Everyone knows families don’t work,” the Rejected tell a cop who asks why they don’t want to do something with their lives. “It’s the best house we’ve ever had.” It doesn’t mean much.

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The virgin generation (1976)

Director: Amos Poe and Ivan Král

A collaboration between Patti Smith Group guitarist Ivan Král and No Wave Cinema figurehead Amos Poe, The virgin generation is a crude dispatch from the subcultural frontline. The hazy focus and high-contrast black-and-white film exaggerate Tom Verlaine’s lunar thinness and make Tina Weymouth look like the ghost of Jean Seberg. The sound quality is variable and deliberately out of sync with the performances, partly because the audio comes from demo recordings by the bands rather than the concerts actually filmed, and partly because Poe was a fan of French directors of the New Wave like Godard. and the disruptive insanity effects they used. Talking Heads is in there, but there are no talking heads providing explanation and context. But in its opaque, literally voiceless way, the film is a wonderful document serenely capturing future (Blondie, Ramones) and soon-to-be-forgotten (Tuff Darts, the Shirts) stars.

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