The Punk Rock Doc Club: Week One

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk, London’s Regent Street Cinema is hosting a series of classic and new documentaries from February 19 to 21.

Over the course of three days, they’ll be screening films such as The Filth And The Fury, Who Killed Nancy? and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten and more.

This got us thinking… what are the greatest punk documentaries ever made? To create the definitive collection, we’ve been inspired to start our own weekly punk rock doc club, and call it something like, we dunno, The Punk Rock Doc Club. Entry is free and you can host it in your own home. Whether you watch these on your telly or blag a projector and beam it onto a wall, it doesn’t matter. It’s punk as fuck and you can watch these films whenever you like. Popcorn, however, is optional. And don’t spit on your mates.

(2000, 108 mins)
Let’s start with a film showing at this weekend’s festival. Director Julien Temple’s relationship with the Sex Pistols dates back to 1978, when he began filming material for The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle. That 1980 mockumentary depicts the band’s fictional rise and fall through the eyes of their former manager, Malcom McLaren. But never mind the bollocks. If you want the real story of the Pistols, told in unflinching terms by the band themselves, then Temple’s follow-up is a compelling look at the brief career of one of Britain’s most notorious bands.

**(1981, 100 mins)
This snapshot of the volatile Los Angeles punk scene between 1979 and 1980 caused such a stir that LAPD chief Daryl Gates wrote to director Penelope Spheeris demanding that the film was never shown again in the city. Featuring early live footage and candid interviews with the key players – Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs and X – it may seem a little outdated like a school educational film, but nevertheless, it’s an honest, gritty and engaging insight into life as a punk, both on and off the stage. Spheeris went on to direct 1992 comedy Wayne’s World but it’s not known what the LA police chief made of that. Excellent!

(1993, 90 mins)
Hated is the directorial debut of Todd Phillips, who went on to achieve huge commercial success with comedy hits like Road Trip, Old School and The Hangover trilogy. But the gross out, over-the-top moments from those blockbusters will never top the scenes of filth and chaos captured in this documentary about the late GG Allin. It isn’t for the faint-hearted – scenes include on stage defecation and self-mutilation for a start – but if you have an iron stomach, Phillips’ documentary is a fascinating look into the life and death of one of the most uncompromising characters in the history of punk.

(2011, 98 mins)
Andrea Blaugrund Nevins isn’t massively concerned with punk rock in her documentary. Rather, she examines the ways ageing punks attempt to reconcile the anti-authoritarian values of their youth with the responsibilities of parenthood. The film features interviews with Fat Mike (NOFX), Lars Frederiksen (Rancid), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182) and Jim Lindberg (Pennywise) interspersed with tour footage and quieter moments with their families at home. It’s an amusing, heartwarming and at times emotional look (we’re looking at you, Flea) at the struggle to balance punk rage with conscientious parenting.

(2013, 82 mins)
There’s a notable lack of documentaries about female punk figures, especially when you consider how many incredible and inspirational women have put their stamp on the scene, particularly Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene and Ari Up. As the leader and mastermind behind both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna’ vibrant and confrontational music was pivotal to the development of the riot grrrl movement during the 90s. Hanna was a radical and a role model to an entire generation of women, as interviews with Kim Gordon, Joan Jett and her husband and Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz confirm. The singer’s struggles with Lyme disease caused her to withdraw from music in 2005. However, Sini Anderson’s film The Punk Singer is a first-rate eyewitness account of a vital movement in underground feminist punk, and a joy from start to end.

(2012, 98 mins)
Here’s the story of three brothers born to a Baptist preacher in 1950s Detroit, and the evolution – during the era of Motown and disco, no less – of the first all-black punk band, and indeed one of the first punk bands, period. Directed by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett, A Band Called Death is one-part music documentary and one-part family drama, shining a light on an unexplored corner of musical history and gives long overdue recognition to one of punk’s truly pioneering bands.

For more information on the Regent Street Punk Doc Festival, click here.

Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.