This Is Spinal Tap. Wayne’s World. Deathgasm. Netflix’s brand new Metal Lords. Some films just get metal, drenching every second they can in witty send-ups and gloriously obnoxious music. These are not those films. From ’80s exploitation horror to dated 2000s throwbacks, metal’s also been the backdrop for a slew of lazy and inaccurate duds. Here are ten films that completely misunderstood what heavy music is all about.
Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park (1978)
Connoisseurs of the “so bad it’s good” film need this Hanna-Barbera-produced fever dream in their lives. Even the premise is hilarious: Kiss fighting an evil inventor to save a theme park. But then you watch it, and see the piss-poor acting, the ridiculous costumes and drummer Peter Criss shooting eye lasers. It was such a masterclass in failure that, for years, the band didn’t permit anyone to talk about it in their presence.
Hard Rock Zombies (1985)
Hard Rock Zombies is a work of pure, insane fantasy. Its plot follows a hair metal band that are murdered by a Nazi cult and then return from the grave. However, the most surreal thing in it is the scene where their manager demands photos of them being worshipped by groupies, and they say no. Glam metal has never been so devoid of sleaze – nor as incomprehensibly ridiculous.
Rock ’N’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
Rock ’N’ Roll Nightmare doesn’t just get heavy metal wrong – it gets everything wrong. This direct-to-video horror was the ego trip of Jon Mikl Thor: a muscleman-turned-rock singer who wrote, produced and starred in this ultra-cheap video nasty. The songs are lifeless, the effects suck and the pacing is skull-numbingly dull. This isn’t even so bad it’s good. It’s just shit.
Black Roses (1988)
John Fasano’s exploitation horror gets some stuff right. The soundtrack was released by Metal Blade Records and has Lizzy Borden on it. However, as a story, it indulges all the negative heavy metal stereotypes of the era. A touring heavy metal band called Black Roses begin influencing a small town’s teens, their performances making them murder their parents. It’s all satanic panic cliche nonsense.
Rock Star (2001)
Bill And Ted director Stephen Herek falls from grace with this Tim “Ripper” Owens-inspired biopic, which is laden with homophobia and casual misogyny. The ending, where Mark Wahlberg single-handedly invents grunge, is also unfathomably shit. At least there’s a killer Myles Kennedy cameo in there.
The Rocker (2008)
Bar This Is Spinal Tap, School Of Rock may be the most beloved rock and metal-adjacent movie. The Rocker, released five years after Jack Black’s modern classic, tries to recapture its endearing, manchild-rocking-with-kids charm and falls flat on its arse. Jokes about using drumsticks as murder weapons and rock stars inexplicably adopting British accents when they get famous have no basis in reality. So, ultimately, everything feels like a lazy cashgrab.
Hesher looks and sounds very heavy metal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt based the style of the title character off of Cliff Burton and the first half of the trailer is nothing but Metallica’s Battery. That said, it’s a bleak picture, employing the depressed metalhead stereotype with none of the fun of the genre getting acknowledged. Add in an aimless plot and this is a skippable meander.
Rock Of Ages (2012)
Director Adam Shankman corralled names as huge as Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin for this jukebox comedy. However, no amount of star power can save you when you don’t know what you’re doing. The plot – a politician trying to shut down an LA rock club – has the nuance of a CBBC cartoon, while jokes about glam rockers looking like girls pluck only the lowest-hanging fruit. Every idea here was well-worn by 1989, let alone 2012.
American Satan (2018)
If you didn’t know a thing about metal and you saw American Satan, you’d never listen to a note of the music. Directed by Sumerian Records founder Ash Avildsen, it’s not only batshit crazy, but misogynistic as hell. Mother take daughters onto tour buses to lose their virginity, women forgive boyfriends for cheating and the topic of rape is handled as delicately as playing football with a vase. In an era where metal’s trying to become a safer space for women, this is precisely the kind of throwback we do not need.
Slayer: The Repentless Killogy (2019)
Slayer’s answer to Metallica: Through The Never, The Repentless Killogy was supposed to be a blood-soaked revenge thriller soundtracked by a thrash metal pummelling. However, as a gorefest, it’s lame. Each kill is either pedestrian or so zany that it’s unintentionally hilarious. Slayer only rock up at the end as well, in a climax soundtracked by thirty seconds of Angel Of Death. Imagine taking a backseat in your own film.