I may have just been a clueless young girl when I was first exposed to Malcolm McLaren, and to this day, I'm still not entirely sure what Madame Butterfly was about, but I quickly learned about the legend of the punk Svengali. So whether you loved him or hated him, you can't deny that the world is short one pop-culture legend because of his passing. Most people might know McLaren from his early days in fashion with his partner, Vivienne Westwood, but he will forever be known as the manager (and some argue, creator) of The Sex Pistols. Above all, McLaren was a self-promoter of ruthless intensity, and long after the Pistols had imploded, McLaren had moved on to the next big thing and found new proteges; '80s one hit wonders, Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant, and he remained a fixture on the art scene up until his death.
Now you might be wondering what all of this has to do with the movies. Well, if you know your music history, then you know that it didn't turn out so well between the Pistols and their former manager -- and one of their more notorious battles was on the big screen, in the film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. Which got me thinking about all the other tales of punk rock at the movies, so as a tribute to one of the most controversial men in music history, I've put together a little list of some of the better punk flicks around.
The Great Rock and Roll Swindle (1980)
If you needed proof of McLaren's love of his own legend, Swindle is it. The film starred the remaining members of The Pistols after their disastrous US tour, and told a fictionalized version of the band's rise to fame -- unfortunately, McLaren wasn't shy about giving himself all the credit.
The Filth and The Fury (2000)
If Swindle was about the myth of McLaren, Fury was about finally telling the other side of the story. Swindle's director, Julian Temple, returned to the story of The Pistols rise and fall, but this time he told the story from the perspective of the band. I guess in the end we'll never really know who you can believe, but something tells me the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Hard Core Logo (1996)
It makes me awfully proud as a Canadian that one of the best films about punk is from my home and native land. But patriotism aside, Bruce McDonald's film captures the spirit and the self-destruction of punk all through the fictional band Hard Core Logo on one final tour.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)
I would be remiss if I didn't remind everyone that punk isn't just for the boys, and us former Riot Grrls owe a debt to those feisty chicks. Besides, it's nice to remember that before we had Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, there was Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and the tale of the Fabulous Stains.
24 Hour Party People (2002)
Michael Winterbottom's film is a little more "big picture" than some of the other selections, and even though the film charts the Manchester music scene from punk to the birth of rave, it does teach a valuable lesson about the lasting influence of punk on music. Not to mention it is one of the most inventive rock 'n' roll films biopics around.
Of course there are tons of other flicks I could have included, but a quick list is a harsh mistress. So even though there wasn't enough time to include them all, I couldn't leave without giving a few honorable mentions, including: SLC Punk (1999), Valley Girl (1983), Rock and Roll High School (1979), and last but not least, Repo Man (1984).
Now I'll turn it over to you! Leave your favorite punk rock movies in the comments section below.