The Oscars are probably the least punk event to take place in the film industry. Year after year, celebrities in designer clothes gather to honor films of highbrow esteem that most of us probably won’t even see until the week after all of the winners have been announced. (Everyone should really go see Arrival; it has aliens.) However, punk themes have been in film since the 1970s, if not before. They might not always tell the story of a combat-boot-wearing suburbanite with a mohawk, but the tropes and trends that defined the musical movement are ever present. So, since the Oscars got its first major taste of real anarchy during the announcement of Best Picture, here are some of the most aesthetically punk films of all time that the Academy might have overlooked.
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SLC Punk! (1998)
There’s nothing quite like watching a blue-haired Matthew Lillard pogo around with a young Jason Segel and a dude simply known as Heroin Bob in the middle of Salt Lake City. With its fairly accurate portrayal of the reception of punk in Middle America, this ’90s dramedy gives viewers a microcosmic view of the punk subculture and its opposing lifestyle movements. It’s a bittersweet bildungsroman you’ll want to watch again and again.
20th Century Women (2016)
The Academy royally snubbed this film this year. 20th Century Women is like the femme fatale version of Dazed And Confused with a far better soundtrack. This retrospective look at California in 1979 tells the story of a teenage boy and the many women who helped raise him. All the while, the film carries an entire subplot comparing the importance of Talking Heads to Black Flag, a subtle remark as to why art rock resonates more throughout time than hardcore.
Green Room (2015)
What happens when a simple gig goes very, very wrong? Green Room takes things from bad to way worse when a broke, underground punk band winds up trapped in a venue with a bunch of bloodthirsty neo-Nazis after witnessing a murder backstage. Gory and suspenseful, this film is truly remarkable for its effortless inclusion of new and old punk jams, most notably a cover of Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off!”
The Filth And The Fury (2000)
There are many rockumentaries out there, but none quite like this story of the Sex Pistols. Combining interviews from the original four members cast entirely in silhouette with statements from the late Sid Vicious and the ever-eclectic Malcolm McLaren, The Filth And The Fury depicts the famous British punks through self-reflective film noir as unconventional as the music they made over the mere 26 months they existed as a group.
Sid And Nancy (1986)
Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen are easily one of the most infamous couples in rock music, and this dramatic, over-the-top biopic depicts their cringe-worthy, doomed-from-the-start relationship to a T. Romanticized and bizarre, Sid And Nancy is no Oscar-award worthy moment for the silver screen, but it does share the hopeless story of a punk-rock Romeo and Juliet to tell for years to come.
Repo Man (1984)
Bored with your suburban life? The mosh pit not cutting it for you anymore? Try repossessing cars instead—you might just meet some aliens. Okay, so that sounds pretty weird, but it’s also basically the plot of Repo Man. Wise-cracking punk rocker Otto (played by Emilio Estevez) gets a hell of a lot more than he asked for when the CIA gets involved in his new business endeavor. It’s a strange film, but watching those green-glowing ’80s sci-fi effects is pretty damn entertaining.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
Sometimes the bass player needs a moment to step into the spotlight to try to get the girl. While trying to reach success with his garage band, Sex Bob-Omb, small town Scott Pilgrim attempts to woo a crazy-haired Amazon delivery girl by battling her exes in a video game, comic-book-inspired world. Believe it or not, the best part of this film is not watching Michael Cera attempt to fight Chris Evans: It’s listening to his fictional band and wishing they were real. They are Sex Bob-Omb and they are “here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff.” (Should we check the credits for Jesse Lacey’s consultancy input? —empirical ed.)
Wayne’s World (1992)
Dana Carvey messing up the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” during a headbanging car ride is just one of the many moments that makes Wayne’s World so memorable. Based on the infamous Saturday Night Live skit, Wayne’s World tells the story of two music-loving burnouts who somehow make it. But what really adds to the punk-rock nature of this film is the blatant breaking of all film conventions as it is filled with broken fourth walls, intentional sellout product placement and even multiple, optional endings.
Fight Club (1999)
Nothing is quite as punk-rock as trying to take down the patriarchy and reset the world to a total state of anarchy and chaos. Tyler Durden and his team of space monkeys just happen to use homemade soap in the process. Fight Club might not come off directly as a punk-inspired film (or novel), but it’s filled to the brim with undertones of DIY, no future and absolute anarchy from start to finish.
It’s impossible to not feel uncomfortable while watching Trainspotting. Following the lives of a group of working class heroin addicts in Scotland, this film focuses more on the negatives to an alternative lifestyle than the punk musical movement. It’s a progressive, yet dark film, but one worth diving into. Just don’t expect a happily-ever-after.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Alex DeLarge is one of the most fiendish characters ever portrayed in film. Alongside his team of “droogs,” DeLarge embodies the darker side of anarchy in youth. The most punk scene? Easily when director Stanley Kubrick asked for actor Malcolm McDowell to add more to his breaking and entering scene and instead McDowell burst out in a displaced, skin-crawling rendition of “Singin’ In The Rain” that actually made it into the final cut.