I had been working on this list for awhile, but, seeing as the world is now officially Ramones-less following the death of Tommy yesterday, I thought I’d put it up now. R.I.P. Tommy Ramone.The films on this list either feature musicians as a major part of the plot line or have soundtracks and aesthetics that could be labeled “punk” or “rock.” They also have to be streaming online on a non-subscription service. If I’m missing any, feel free to leave links in the comments!
1. Rock N Roll High School (1979)
The quintessential punk rock comedy is still a blast to watch, and the Ramones are just so terrible at acting that they’re actually fantastic. It’s a sloppy fun ride for all you kids who wanna watch the world burn.
2. Burst City (1982)
This post-apocalyptic rock ‘n’ roll yakuza film is raw energy from start to finish. Ahead of its time and heavily influential on Japanese cinema going forward (see Tetsuo: Iron Man on this list), this one is so good you won’t even mind that the YouTube video doesn’t have subtitles.
3. Repo Man (1984)
Repo Man is one of my favorite films. Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton are a perfect combo in this tale about punk rockers, repo men, and aliens. Every moment of this film is unexpected, wryly funny, and just about perfect. Especially notable for its insanely good L.A. punk soundtrack featuring Iggy Pop, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and oft forgotten The Plugz, among others. “Let’s go do some crimes.” Watch it here.
4. Jubilee (1978)
Derek Jarman’s time traveling Queen Elizabeth film is a searing jab at youth culture that is both prescient and beautifully constructed.
5. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
People often forget how rock ‘n’ roll this movie is, but take a look at that soundtrack! The Cramps, The Damned, SSQ, Rocky Erickson. Also something people forget is that Return of the Living Dead is not a Romero flick. It was actually directed by Dan O’Bannon, who is known more for his work as a writer for films like Alien and Total Recall, but it’s a shame he didn’t do more zombie movies because this film is a blast.
6. Suburbia (1983)
A raucous, rough little film that features music from D.I., The Germs, The Vandals, and Alex Gibson. Directed by Penelope Spheeris who also put together the punk docs The Decline of Western Civilization I-III, and, surprisingly, directed Wayne’s World. This outsider movie actually does a good job depicting the subculture. Watch it here.
7. Rude Boy (1980)
This Clash vehicle has some fantastic performances, and the staged scenes that intercut the music do a fine job holding it all together.
8. Made in Britain (1983)
Tim Roth plays a troubled young skinhead in this surprisingly powerful and swiftly paced drama.
9. Get Crazy! (1983)
Ed Begley Jr., Daniel Stern, and Lou Reed????? Yes. It happened. The plot revolves around a corporate concert promoter and his plan to bomb a small time promotor’s New Year’s Eve party.
10. Class of 1984 (1982)
A music teacher takes on the drug dealing punks at his new school, and boy do things escalate quickly. This is a fun little film that incorporates elements of b-horror into the whole teacher confronts riff-raff type of film.
11. Liquid Sky (1982)
New wave flick with U.F.O.s and a wacky sense of fashion makes for a pretty enjoyable ride.
12. Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore (1997)
A startling coming of age film with a cameo from Jello Biafra and a soundtrack featuring Babes in Toyland, The Cosmic Psychos, and Mudhoney.
13. Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
I really like this movie. I’ve shown it to way too many people because it’s simply one of the funniest b-horror movies ever made. The bad guy here is pure rock ‘n’ roll with a giant drill on the end of his guitar. Gives a whole new meaning to “axe-murderer.”
14. Intrepidos Punks (1980)
Hairy Mexican biker punks lead a reign of terror while generally being debaucherous and rocking out. They’re led by a blonde pro-wrestler with breast implants. This isn’t a well known film, but it’s an interesting document from the time period — give it a shot!
15. Crass: There Is No Authority But Yourself (2006)
Great little doc about one of the most politically pointed punk bands of all time.
16. Out of the Blue (1980)
Billed as the Easy Rider for the 80’s which makes no sense, Dennis Hopper directs and stars as an ex-con dealing with his junkie wife and their young daughter who’s caught in the middle of the drama. Watch it here.
17. Quadrophenia (1979)
Mods vs. rockers classic. It’s a great history lesson and a fun film. This film is in 5 parts, so you’ll have to go to YouTube to see the whole thing.
18. Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)
I’m not much of a Troma fan, but Surf Nazis Must Die is kinda irresistible. It’s light on the splatter but heavy on the humor, and it actually has a decent plot for being an otherwise knowingly terrible movie.
19. Light of Day (1987)
Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox?????? Yes. It happened.
20. The Punk Rock Movie (1978)
Super 8 footage documenting the punk scene in England in the mid to late 70’s. I’ve tried to avoid documentaries for this list, but this one is worth it.
21. Tetsuo: Iron Man
Pure cyberpunk madness. Frenetic and unrelenting. One of my faves.
22. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
This movie dropped when I was still young and impressionable, but I’m pretty sure it’s a great movie. I mean George Carlin in a time traveling phone booth? Right? Watch it here.
23. Lovedolls Superstar (1986)
Desperate Teenage Lovedolls is the film I wanted to put on this list, but the followup Lovedolls Superstar is the only one streaming. David Markey is a no-wave filmmaker known for punk movies made on shoestring budgets. This film has Jello Biafra, Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, and the Dead Kennedys.
24. Born in Flames (1983)
This film falls into the aesthetically punk category, and isn’t a very “good” film by the average person’s standards. But how many films about socialist feminist revolutions do you know of? The film takes place 10 years after said revolution, and the world is a much different place. Gangs of bicycling female cops. Men protesting for job rights. You get the idea. This film is light on plot, heavy on dialogue, and presents multiple incongruous ideologies, but it’s definitely an interesting experiment.
25. Dudes (1987)
Another Penelope Spheeris joint, Dudes has been largely unavailable due to music licensing issues, but, lucky for us, it’s now up on YouTube! It’s punks versus rednecks in this one.
26. Straight to Hell (1987)
Alex Cox’s acid western film is full of names (Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Dennis Hopper, Elvis Costello, Jim Jarmusch) but has very little of the magnetism of Repo Man. Still, it does have the names and can make for a fun, one time viewing.
27. Times Square (1980)
Not that great, but occasionally entertaining, Times Square follows two run-aways who start a band called the Sleaze Sisters. This one is in parts, so you’ll have to go to YouTube if you want to watch it.
28. Class of Nuke Em High (1986)
More Troma sleeze.
29. Thrashin’ (1986)
I didn’t really touch on many skateboard films, but I have a soft spot for Thrashin’. The soundtrack is actually not terrible, with the Circle Jerks, Devo, Fear, and The Bangles making the cut, but the film is pure 80’s cheese. On the upside, skating is pretty solid since the filmmakers hired some of the best out there. Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Tony Alva all make appearances.
30. Hard Core Logo (1996)
A fairly successful mockumentary a la This is Spinal Tap, this film has some well earned laughs while maintaining a sense of nostalgia for the source material.