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Best Punk Rock Movies

Our favorite films that capture punk energy and ideals

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In its earliest days, TV and filmmakers often had a hard time representing punk rock, portraying it as a violent caricature of itself (just check out the classic punk rock episode of Quincy if you don't know what I'm talking about). But the truth is that some filmmakers got it right. Whether it's because they came from punk rock themselves or that they wanted to paint a true picture of the scene, some amazing punk films have been made over the years. Here are our favorites.

10. Brothers of the Head (2005)

IFC Films
Based on a 1977 science fiction story of the same name, Brothers of the Head is a 2005 mockumentary about cojoined twins who, after being picked up by a promoter, start a punk band called The Bang Bang. Real life twins Harry and Luke Treadway play the twins Tom and Barry Howe in a story that is grittily filmed and turns decidedly dark after Tom develops a romantic interest with a music journalist covering the band.

9. Tromeo and Juliet (1996)

Troma Studios
Troma Studios, the same folks that delivered the wonders of The Toxic Avenger and Sergeant Kabukiman NYPD offer up a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet. While we all know the story (star-crossed lovers, feuding families and all that), the original never had as much violence or sexuality, and the ending has been slightly revised. Made in 1996, Tromeo and Juliet features an amazing soundtrack (Compare Prices) and an appearance from Lemmy of Motorhead, who plays the role of the narrator.
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8. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)

Rhino Entertainment
The film that never saw a mass release and seemed doomed to obscurity, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains was a pic that was often cited as a major influence in the Riot Grrrl scene. Depicting the story of fictional all-girl garage punk band The Stains as they lauch a recording career, beginning with a tour with metal band the Metal Corpses and upcoming punk band the Looters. The Looters, played in part by Paul Cook and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, along with Paul Simonon of the Clash add credibility to an excellent film that explores what it means for a punk band to try and make it without being classified as sellouts - an idea still prominent in the music scene today.
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7. This is England (2006)

Warp Films
A film that captures the skinhead scene in the early '80s, just as the nationalists began to use parts of the subculture as a recruiting ground for white supremacist oriented actions, This Is England alternates between bleak and inspirational. With a soundtrack that focuses heavily on old school ska (the music of choice for the scene that had a heavy Jamaican influence), it tells the story of Shaun, a young schoolboy who is bullied and gets invited into a group of skinheads, and later drawn into the nationalist scene. The depiction of the rough working class skins is paralleled with their bonds to one another in a very confusing era of history that has had long-reaching effects.
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6. Sid & Nancy (1986)

MGM
Perhaps the most well-known film to make our list, Alex Cox's 1986 biopic Sid & Nancy tells the story of punk rock's most infamous couple. Covering the years they were together, Sid & Nancy explores the couple's descent into drug addiction along with Vicious' attempt to launch his solo career following the dissolution of the Sex Pistols.

John Lydon has said that Cox never spoke to him as a reference, and that the film got little right - Gary Oldman's portrayal of Sid Vicious was of his stage persona, and not the actual person. In fact, neither the Sex Pistols nor Sid's solo work appeared on the soundtrack. Most of the score for the film was composed by Joe Strummer of the Clash, and the actual soundtrack only featured Sid Vicious songs as they were performed by Oldman.

Even if it lacks in accuracy, the film is a good one, with one of its best facets being the fact that it was unwilling to glamorize the pair's drug addictions, or their lives or deaths.

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5. Hard Core Logo (1996)

Shadow Shows Incorporated
Like This Is Spinal Tap, Hard Core Logo is a mockumentary that follows a fictional band. Unlike This Is Spinal Tap, the film isn't a comedy. Instead, the Canadian punk band Hard Core Logo is treated with such reverence and depth that many had a hard time believing the band wasn't real. The documentary team follows the band as they reunite for a tour after hearing that influential punk Bucky Height has been killed. Along the way, many secrets about the band come out.

Filmmakers furthered the idea that this fictional band was real by releasing a nontraditional soundtrack. Rather than simply using the music from the film, many Canadian punk bands were enlisted to record songs from the film, as well as to contribute to the liner notes about how Hard Core Logo had been an influence on their music. That album, A Tribute to Hard Core Logo (Compare Prices), furthers the mythos of this fictional punk band with a story richer than many real ones.

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4. Straight To Hell (1987)

Microcinema International
Yet another Alex Cox film, Straight To Hell is a punk rock Spaghetti Western. It tells the tale of a group of hitmen on the run, who become stranded in a town in the middle of the desert, peopled by a gang of coffee-addicted outlaws. As absolutely bizarre as that plot sounds, it bears little resemblance to the other films known as being punk rock movies. The surreal film gets its punk rock cred due to the casting, which includes Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Zander Schloss of Circle Jerks, Elvis Costello and Shane MacGowan, Spider Stacy and Terry Woods of the Pogues.

3. Suburbia (1984)

Shout! Factory
From Penelope Spheeris, the women behind the 1981 classic punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, as well as the Wayne's World movie much later, Suburbia is a bleak film about the lives of a group of punk rock runaways living in an abandoned house. As the runaways accumulate at the house, go to shows and seek to survive by squatting, they have run-ins with a group of local citizens that turn increasingly violent. The ending is as bleak as the rest of the film, and while there is little inspirational about the film as a whole, it does a solid job of portraying the unity of gutter punk kids from broken homes, who seek to recreate the idea of family when they've been abandoned by their own.

2. What We Do Is Secret (2007)

Peace Arch Trinity
A biographic film that manages to paint the early days of the California punk scene with gritty accuracy, What We Do Is Secret tells the story of Darby Crash of the Germs. Shane West was cast as Crash, a role he portrayed convincingly enough that he was asked to assume the role of the Germs frontman when the band reunited. West's experience fronting his own punk band Jonny Was helped as well.

Original Germs guitarist Pat Smear (later of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) produced the music for the film, while Chris Pontius of Jackass and Wildboyz makes a cameo as Black Randy, frontman for L.A. punk band Black Randy and the Metrosquad.

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1. Repo Man (1984)

Universal
Alex Cox may be the king of punk rock filmmakers, as evidenced by his numerous entries on this list, as well as several not on it, but he would still retain this title had 1984's Repo Man been the only film of his career.

In one of his earliest films, Emilio Estevez only to fall in with repo man Bud (played by Harry Dean Stanton), who offers him a job. In a surreal turn of events, the repo men find themselves competing with rival repo men and secret agents to repossess a 1964 Chevy Malibu with a $20,000 bounty - as well as the bodies of radioactive aliens in its trunk.

The soundtrack to Repo Man is probably the best soundtrack ever produced (Compare Prices), so much so that it's even spawned its own tribute album, and the cast includes Zander Schloss of Circle Jerks, as well as an appearance by Circle Jerks as a nightclub band.

For all its goofy humor, Repo Man also depicts an underlying paranoia, a sillier representation of the pervading unease in America in the '80s during the Cold War. It's never really spoken of, but it's ever present, making this film a much bigger statement on America in the '80s than it appears at its outset.

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