1. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains
Lou Adler, 1982
Ex-record label honcho Lou Adler’s gritty take on working class girl punks, led by a young Diane Lane (right), enchanting the world and blowing rival band The Looters (played by former Sex Pistols turned Professionals Steve Jones and Paul Cook, and The Clash’s Paul Simonon) off the stage.
2. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin, 2013
A great doc on one of the most fascinating punk protest groups in history, where the members bring their noise activism to the fascist altar and get burned with no apologies.
3. Lovedolls Superstar
David Markey, 1986
David Markey’s masterpiece, a sequel to the already crazed Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984) but with far more punk mania. Featuring an astounding performance by Steve McDonald of Redd Kross as a hippie turned hardcore punker and his brother Jeff’s star-turn as a Gene Simmons-infected freak assassinating an asking-for-it Bruce Springsteen.
4. The Filth and the Fury
Julien Temple, 2000
Julien Temple’s Sex Pistols doc made in response to his own messed-up Malcolm McLaren-orchestrated Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle film from 1980. A hilarious and knowingly myopic retrospect of one of punk rock’s most significant bands.
5. Rodrigo D: No Futuro
Victor Gaviria, 1990
The harsh tale of a teenager in Medellín, Colombia, finding a voice through savage hardcore punk rock, the only expression in a crumbling, desperate environment.
6. We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
Tim Irwin, 2005
Loving documentary about the Minutemen, who were one of the most unique and awesome punk bands from early 80s southern California.
7. We Are the Best!
Lukas Moodysson, 2013
Beautiful take by Lukas Moodysson of three very young Swedish girls finding truth and identity in punk rock.
8. SLC Punk!
James Merendino, 1998
Very believable, and humorous, account of what it must’ve been like to be an alienated punk enthusiast in the middle of nowhere USA (Salt Lake City, Utah) in the early 80s.
9. Shellshock Rock
John T. Davis, 1979
This 1979 doc on the early days of Northern Ireland punk (Rudi, The Outcasts, The Undertones et al) is the first of three directed by John T. Davis. I first saw this in a tiny space in New York’s East Village in 79 and haven’t seen it since, but my memory is of a strange land where leather-jacketed punks dealt with opposition and weird weather but all with hearts full of passion.
Anton Corbijn, 2007
Anton Corbijn’s sensitive portrait of Ian Curtis (left) and Joy Division which, like no other film, captures what exactly it is like to play your first gig with all the anxious energy alive on stage.
In the August 2016 issue of Sight & Sound
Cinema of Punk special
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk, Jon Savage finds echoes in the nihilism and rage that fuel Taxi Driver and the Ramones’ debut album, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore recalls the punk and No Wave cinema of his youth, Will Fowler explores the transgressive world of Derek Jarman and UK punk cinema, Don Letts looks back at the DIY ethic that kickstarted his filmmaking career, Frances Morgan surveys riot grrrls on screen, and Alex Cox remembers the making of Sid and Nancy.