From Jubilee (1978)
If you are stuck at home (future readers, please note this is the time of the Coronavirus epidemic), then make use of the time to catch up on some subculture with this array of films. We’ve curated a selection of some of the greatest subculture movies of all-time, here they are in alphabetical order:
THE BEST SUBCULTURE MOVIES OF ALL-TIME
1991: THE YEAR PUNK BROKE. Released in 1991 and directed by Dave Markey. The film centres on the Sonic Youth Tour of Europe and includes Nirvana and the Ramones.
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. Released in 2002 and directed by Michael Winterbottom. A journey through the Manchester musical scene from late 1970’s punk, through the 80’s rave and club culture through to the Madchester of the 90’s. Plenty of references to Tony Wilson, Factory Records, Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays, and that’s why it’s one of the subculture movies you can’t miss.
AFRO PUNK. A 2003 documentary directed by James Spooner. The film charts the role of African Americans in the US Punk scene. The movie inspired the Afropunk festival.
BREAKING GLASS. 1980 and directed by Brian Gibson. The film portrays the rise and fall of Kate who forms a New Wave band called Breaking Glass, starring Hazel O’Connor.
BRIGHTON ROCK. 2010 and directed by Rowan Joffe. A remake of the original 1947 film, this version is set in the 1960’s during the Mod/Rocker wars and follows the sociopathic gang member in Brighton. It’s definitely one of our favourite subculture movies starring Sam Riley (who also features in our next choice).
CONTROL. 2007 and directed by Anton Corbijn. The film is based on the book Touching from a Distance, the biography of Joy Divisions’ Ian Curtis written by Curtis’s widow Deborah. Corbijn had worked with the band as a photographer and the film was co-produced by Deborah together with Tony Wilson.
COSH BOY. 1953 and directed by Lewis Gilbert. Early days of the “delinquent Teddy Boys”, this is the story of Roy, a 16-year-old tearaway member of a post war London gang.
EDEN. Released in 2014 and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve. Based around the EDM scene and Daft Punk the movie follows a French DJ in the euphoric French dance scene, trailing through abandoned buildings to the giddy heights in NYC.
JUBILEE. Released in 1978 and directed by Derek Jarman. Following the Queens Jubilee in 1977 the film charts the death of Queen Elizabeth at the hands of a mugger with Queen Elizabeth 1 being transported in time to walk through London to observe the ensuing chaos and anarchy. Includes Richard O Brien, Jordan, Toyah Wilcox, Adam Ant, Wayne County, The Slits and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
MARLEY. 2012 directed by Kevin MacDonald. A bio-doc of the life and times of Bob Marley with archive footage and interviews with amongst other Bunny Wailer, Rita Marley and Lee “Scratch” Perry.
NORTHERN SOUL. 2014 directed by Elaine Constantine. The film is centred around two Lancashire boys who discover the B sides Detroit soul and the Northern Soul scene.
PSYCHOMANIA. 1973 directed by Don Sharp. A British horror-cult film. The story of a biker gang that commit suicide in order to return from the dead to terrorise the locals.
QUADROPHENIA. 1979 and directed by Franc Roddam. Loosely based on the rock opera of the same name from The Who, the film follows the shenanigans of Jimmy Cooper as he leads the Mods to Brighton to do battle with the Rockers.
RADIO ON. 1979 and directed by Christopher Petit. A British road movie with a DJ on the road from London to Bristol with New wave music from Kraftwerk, Devo and David Bowie.
REGGAE IN BABYLON. 1978 directed by Wolfgang Buld. A documentary charting the beginning of the British Reggae movement and the young black artists who started it.
ROCKSTEADY THE ROOTS OF REGGAE. 2010 directed by Stascha Bader. A doc film chronicling the rocksteady era of Jamaican music in the 1960s, and the birth of reggae. The great and good of the Islands music legends reunite.
RUDE BOY. 1980 directed by Jack Hazan and David Mingay. The part doc part fiction features Ray Gange who quits no future job to become a roadie for The Clash. When it comes to subculture movies, this is one not to be missed.
SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS. 1968 and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis. With the motto “Never Fall in Love “the Man Eaters, all-girl biker gang terrorise the folks of Florida. The late 60’s film was one of a series with the same theme including the Naked Angels and the Mini Skirt Mob.
SID AND NANCY. 1986 directed by Alex Cox. A biopic portraying the life of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Includes supporting performance by Courtney Love.
SUBURBIA. 1984 and directed by Penelope Spheeris. Runaway Teenage Punks on the loose in LA. The film inspired the Pet Shop Boys “Suburbia”.
SUPERSONIC. 2016 directed by Mat Whitecross. The history of Oasis from the early years through to the pinnacle Knebworth concerts. Insightful journey with the Manchester legends.
THE CLASH WESTWAY TO THE WORLD. 2000 directed by Don Letts. Using original footage including that supplied by the band the film charts their history at the epicentre of Punk rock.
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILISATION. 1981 directed by Penelope Spheeris. A documentary of the LA Punks scene featuring interviews with the bands, the punks and the publishers of Slash magazine. Including Black Flag, Germs and Fear.
THE FILTH AND THE FURY. 2000 directed by Julien Temple. A classic rockumentary with archive footage and interviews that cuts and splices hoards of material into a comprehensive overview of the UK Punk scene.
THE GREAT ROCK N ROLL SWINDLE. 1980 directed by Julien Temple. This mockumentary centres on the Sex Pistols, their formation, rise and decline seen through the eyes of Malcolm McLaren. The film included Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs.
THE HARDER THEY COME. 1972 directed by Perry Henzell. Starring Jimmy Cliff, the film with its Reggae soundtrack is accredited with bringing Reggae to the world. Described as being “possibly the most influential of Jamaican films and one of the most important films from the Caribbean”.
THE PUNK SINGER. 2013 directed by Sini Anderson. A documentary of the life and career of punk riot girl Kathleen Hanna, the frontwoman of Bikini Kill.
THE STORY OF LOVERS ROCK. 2011 directed by Menelik Shabazz. Lovers Rock was a unique form of British Reggae Music in the late 1970’s and 80’s. A previous untold story of British cultural, musical and political history.
THE WILD ONE.1953 directed by László Benedek. One of the iconic subculture films with the usual Rebel motorcycle gang tearing up the tarmac and causing havoc with the locals. Marlon Brando causing chaos falling in love with the Sheriff’s daughter.
THIS IS ENGLAND.2006 and directed by Shane Meadows. A social commentary movie of England in 1983 with the skinhead movement torn between its traditional Ska based culture and those veering off to nationalist extremism. Thomas Turgoose as the charming Shaun.
TRAINSPOTTING. 1996 and directed by Danny Boyle. Renton escapes to London from his heroin-soaked life in Edinburgh and finally chooses life.
UPSIDE DOWN THE CREATION RECORDS STORY. 2010 directed by Danny O’Connor. A story of one of the great record labels with contributions from Alan McGee, Noel Gallagher and Bobby Gillespie.
WE ARE THE MODS. 2009 directed by E E Cassidy. Sadie and Nico explore the UK Mod scene as viewed from LA. The fashion, the music, the culture and the mirror laden scooters.
ZZ TOP. THAT LITTLE OL’ BAND FROM TEXAS. 2019 directed by Sam Dunn. An absolute must-watch. The band with the longest continuous run with the same band members, ZZ TOP are in their own league. In the words of IMDb, “The story of how three oddball teenage bluesmen became one of the biggest, most beloved bands on the planet.”
Our ongoing series of reports on film from the underground with a special emphasis on those films with a subculture theme.
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