Punks on Film

I had a terrific time recently watching the newest movie by director Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room. The basic premise: a lefty punk band winds up taking a show at a skinhead club because they are desperate for cash. The show goes well, but afterward the band accidentally witnesses something they shouldn’t have and are trapped in the club’s green room. The film is brutal and intense, especially because you actually care about what happens to the characters. Bonus: Sir Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the skinhead organization, and gives a subtle yet effectively sinister performance. While some truly horrific acts of violence occur (especially in the back-half of the film) they really do serve the story.

This movie is now available for check out at your library, but watching it also got me to thinking about my other favorite punk movies. These are all movies either about punks or featuring punks. Enjoy!

The Decline of Western Civilization

The punk documentary by which all other punk documentaries are judged. Part one covers the Los Angeles punk scene from 1979 – 80. Part two is about the metal scene from 1986 – 88. And part three chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in the 1990s. The film has gained cult status and was unavailable for years due to copyright issues. It was finally released on DVD in 2015.

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones

This 2003 documentary tells the story of the New York punk band the Ramones. It covers their early days in 1970s, their subsequent years of touring, their tumultuous 1996 breakup, and the deaths of two of the founding members.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

Three teenage girls in working class Pennsylvania start a punk band, go on tour, and create a movement. This movie has been credited with influencing Riot Grrrl (the underground feminist hardcore punk movement) in the 1990s.

The Punk Singer

This film is all about the life and work of Kathleen Hanna, the feminist icon who was central to the creation of the Riot Grrrl movement. She was the lead singer for the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. The film also covers Hanna’s battle with Lyme disease.

Repo Man

A weathered repo man in desolate downtown Los Angeles takes a nihilistic middle-class punk under his wing. The job becomes more than either of them bargained for when they get involved in reclaiming a mysterious, and other worldly, Chevy Malibu with a hefty reward attached to it. 

Return of the Living Dead

A group of teenage punks have to deal with the sudden appearance of a horde of zombies in their hometown. This film is credited with introducing the idea of zombies eating brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh.


Penelope Spheeris directs this 1983 Roger Corman punksploitation classic. A group of punks are living in harmony with each other in a Los Angeles squat, until a group of angry suburbanites unite to kick them out of the neighborhood. Things end poorly.

Valley Girl

Julie and Randy are two star-crossed teenagers — while Julie hails from the Valley, Randy is a punk from the wrong side of the tracks. Can these two love birds overcome the judgement of their peers and like totally ride off into the sunset? Features a totally rad 1980s soundtrack. Also loosely based on Romeo & Juliet. No, seriously.