The 16 Best Movies About Glam Rock and Punk Music

The counterculture nature of glam rock and punk music make them both perfect subjects for movies and documentaries!
The 16 Best Movies About Glam Rock and Punk Music

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Although punk is distinctly more rough-edged than glam rock with its metal spikes, black leather, and mohawks, it was still heavily influenced by the 1970s counterculture championed by David Bowie.

Glam rock is about all things flamboyant and androgynous, and what's more flamboyant than a mohawk, anyway?

Glam rock was born in Britain, where rock-n-rollers took to glittery makeup, platform shoes, and outrageous costumes. They defied all social expectations and gender norms to strut about in metallic outfits.

Alongside David Bowie, prominent glam rock artists include T. Rex, Queen, Slade, Wizard, Gary Glitter, and Elton John.

Glam rock later diverged into various different subcultures, most notably punk rock in the mid-1970s. Punks were anti-establishment, anti-consumerism garage rockers who represented the extremes of young rebellion.

Rather than glitter, they flaunted offensive and vulgar clothing and were often associated with S&M and hard drugs. Notable punk artists include Sex Pistols, Ramones, Green Day, and Buzzcocks.

These movies are an ode to punk and glam rock, featuring characters who ditch their ordinary lives to pursue their dreams of musical chaos.

16. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Directed by Penelope Spheeris

Starring Eugene Tatu, Alice Bag, Black Flag

Documentary, History, Music (1h 40m)

7.5 on IMDb100% on RT

Kicking things off with a documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization never once feels like trudging through a dull historical textbook like some documentaries do. Instead, Penelope Spheeris suffuses her movie with the spirit of the 1970s.

The Decline of Western Civilization is the first in a trio of Los Angeles-based documentaries that explore subcultures of the late 20th century, with Part 2 looking at "The Metal Years" and Part 3 examining gutter punk homelessness.

Potentially a reference to Creem magazine's 1970 quote about rock music signaling "the decline of Western civilization," Spheeris's documentary gets down and dirty with the punk kids of LA, who were ignored by music media who believed "punkism" was just a phase.

The film's poster image of rocker Darby Crash shows him eerily lying on stage, corpse-like, shortly before he took his own life—as many punk musicians sadly do.

15. Green Room (2015)

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat

Crime, Drama, Horror (1h 35m)

7.0 on IMDb90% on RT

Films made during the 1970s and 1980s best depict the punk lifestyle as the grainy footage, shot in the midst of the counterculture's heyday, resembles the grittiness of the subculture.

The polished cinematography of modern cameras doesn't quite fit the aesthetic of punk rock, but Green Room is still a decent movie nonetheless. But it's not so much about the punk movement as it is about group of hostages who just happen to be punks.

Located in D.C., the Ain't Rights prefer to perform on stage than record in a studio because punk music is about feeling and atmosphere more than just the sound that comes out.

Unfortunately, this lands them trapped in a green room by neo-Nazi skinheads, who plan to take out them out as witnesses to a murder.

14. Suburbia (1983)

Directed by Penelope Spheeris

Starring Chris Pedersen, Bill Coyne, Jennifer Clay

Drama, Thriller (1h 34m)

6.9 on IMDb93% on RT

Penelope Spheeris was back to filming the punk scene two years after The Decline of Western Civilization, this time in a dramatized take on a fictionalized Los Angeles.

You can rely on Suburbia to be accurate given Spheeris's prior documentaries. The coming-of-age drama follows a group of rebellious youngsters who run away and subvert their corner of tract homes into a punk sanctuary.

The squatters lives are filthy, feral, and furious, stuffing rats in their mouths and spray painting their walls. It's miles away from the white picket fences of American suburbia, which the film is named after as a reference to the Pet Shop Boys song about a "suburban hell."

If you like Suburbia, you'll likely also enjoy This Is England, a British version of Suburbia that swaps out punks for skinheads!

13. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)

Directed by Lou Adler

Starring Peter Donat, Diane Lane, Marin Kanter

Comedy, Drama, Music (1h 27m)

6.7 on IMDb67% on RT

Members of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Tubes—three prominent punk rock bands—appeared in acting roles for Lou Adler's feisty teen flick Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.

Rock music has long been championed by men, but Corinne Burns is out to give them third-degree burns and steal the limelight. An angry 17-year-old whose mother just passed away, Corinne forms a punk band with her sister and cousin to let it all out.

Dyeing her hair and painting herself in wild red makeup, Corinne builds up a keen female fan base who feel their voices can finally be heard through The Stains. But the punk life takes a lot of work, as Corinne soon finds out.

Diane Lane stars as the angsty diva, who's now garnered a bit of a cult following after the film's quiet initial reception.

12. The Runaways (2010)

Directed by Floria Sigismondi

Starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

Biography, Drama, Music (1h 46m)

6.5 on IMDb69% on RT

The Runaways is another film that features a scrappy female rock band, except these guys aren't fictitious.

The Runaways were an American girl group (who did everything they could to subvert that image) in the late 1970s, greatly influenced by punk culture. Their producer, Kim Fowley, was considered a "punk before punk" who would do anything in pursuit of fame.

He admitted to being somewhat evil, and accusations have since circulated that Fowley abused members of the band. Punks might get a bad rap for being immoral, but most of them aren't like Fowley.

Played by Michael Shannon in Floria Sigismondi's biopic, Fowley was actually a pretty terrible punk, as their whole ethos is built around not selling out—which he did.

Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart star as Cherie Currie and Joan Jett of The Runaways, who were particularly popular in Japan.

11. Starstruck (1982)

Directed by Gillian Armstrong

Starring Jo Kennedy, Ross O'Donovan, Margo Lee

Comedy, Drama, Musical (1h 45m)

6.8 on IMDb83% on RT

Glam rockers often reached for disposable pop art to form their bold aesthetic. For Jackie Mullens (played by Australian newcomer Jo Kennedy), that meant fake breasts and a huge fluffy tutu.

Gillian Armstrong's comedy-drama feels huge for such a small film; a glamorous extravaganza that encapsulates the energy of the new wave.

After its successful release, Starstruck more or less disappeared from circulation until it was restored by the National Film & Sound Archive in 2017. Starstruck then had another round of film festivals and regained its status as an avant-garde musical fairy tale.

10. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper

Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 31m)

7.3 on IMDb81% on RT

Musical meets comedy meets horror in Brian De Palma's satire rock movie Phantom of the Paradise.

Songwriter Winslow Leach (played by William Finley) turns himself into the Phantom after his producer steals his work, then haunts the walls of The Paradise concert hall in the 1970s.

Not only is it a vague parody of Phantom of the Opera, it also adapts content from Oscar Wilde's gothic classic The Picture of Dorian Gray and Goethe's Faust. How very cultured and sophisticated... if you ignore the metallic owl masks and Dalek autotune.

Phantom of the Paradise might have been a box office flop, but that didn't stop it from receiving Oscar nominations and a cult fan base!

9. Moonage Daydream (2022)

Directed by Brett Morgen

Starring David Bowie, Trevor Bolder, Ken Fordham

Documentary, Biography, History (2h 15m)

7.7 on IMDb92% on RT

As the most famous and influential glam rock singer, David Bowie could have an entire list dedicated to his musical documentaries. We're picking the most recent Bowie movie tribute for this spot.

Brett Morgen directed, produced, and wrote Moonage Daydream that remasters Bowie's career with an exclusive peek into his archives.

Moonage Daydream is a daydream come to life, distilling that moment in a concert where it feels like you've been lifted into a different plane of existence—a feeling I'm sure many fans experienced when watching Bowie's omnisexual alien alter-ego Ziggy Stardust on stage.

If you ever have a chance to see Moonage Daydream in a proper theater setting, take the opportunity and make the most of its vibrant, trance-like visuals and electric soundtrack!

8. Good Vibrations (2012)

Directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn

Starring Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Michael Colgan

Biography, Drama, Music (1h 43m)

7.2 on IMDb95% on RT

The 1970s was a decade full of radicals. America had the Black Panthers and the Yippies, but in Belfast you had the nationalists fighting against the unionists. The 30-year Irish spat is now infamously known as The Troubles.

Terri Hooley (played by Richard Dormer) is an optimistic rebel, but he also just wants to run a record shop in peace. The DJ decides to open his store in the most bombed area of Belfast and bring the underground punk scene out from underground.

Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Adrian Dunbar, Liam Cunningham, and Dylan Moran are some of the well-known names in this lesser-known movie, which sets out to inspire, revitalize, and move—both emotionally and to the music.

7. Jobriath A.D. (2012)

Directed by Kieran Turner

Starring Jerry Brandt, Jayne County, Dennis Christopher

Documentary, Music (1h 42m)

7.3 on IMDb67% on RT

Bruce Wayne Campbell took up the name Jobriath after he was drafted into the US Army and went AWOL. The child prodigy was then cast in a lead role of the famous rock musical Hair (1967).

Jobriath went from working as a skint prostitute to signing a two-album deal in Malibu within a matter of months, appearing on the covers of Vogue and Rolling Stone. He was the perfect model for these magazines, sporting a pretty face and trendy glam rock style.

Androgyny was the domineering trait of glam rock, which Jobriath embraced as the first openly gay rock musician. Sadly, this meant he was also the first gay musician to make headlines for dying of AIDS. He was only 36 years old.

Kieran Turner details the life of the psychedelic, self-proclaimed "rock fairy" in his award-winning documentary Jobriath A.D.

6. Sid and Nancy (1986)

Directed by Alex Cox

Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman

Biography, Drama, Music (1h 52m)

7.0 on IMDb89% on RT

Sid Vicious was already a cult sensation whom parents despised long before he (allegedly) killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Why allegedly? Because Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose while on bail, meaning his charge never made it to trial.

A note found in his pocket read: "We had a death pact. I have to keep my half of the bargain." That may or may not indicate homicide, but either way, it's all pretty depressing—like most of Vicious's life as a violent, self-mutilating punk whose mother enabled his drug addiction.

Hailed method actor Gary Oldman took on the role of Sid Vicious in Alex Cox's tragic biographical semi-love story Sid and Nancy, alongside Chloe Webb as his girlfriend (a punk groupie who suffered with schizophrenia).

5. Repo Man (1984)

Directed by Alex Cox

Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter

Action, Comedy, Crime (1h 32m)

6.9 on IMDb98% on RT

Cyberpunk is an off-branch of punk that began in the early 1980s but really took hold in the 1990s.

At first, cyberpunk married the messy counterculture of punk with the essence of science fiction. Then, it grew into a movie aesthetic where low, urban life met high-tech dystopia.

Written and directed by Alex Cox, Repo Man stars Emilio Estevez as Otto, a juvenile American punk who shadily repossesses cars for a living. Rebelling against his ex-hippie parents, Otto finds himself in a strange situation tracking down aliens in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu.

The small budget movie was a surprising hit that still holds up to this day. Although Repo Man isn't set in a grungy dystopian cityscape like Blade Runner (1982), it does show the early merging of punk and sci-fi, with a little sprinkling of black comedy.

4. 24 Hour Party People (2002)

Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Starring Steve Coogan, Lennie James, John Thomson

Biography, Comedy, Drama (1h 57m)

7.3 on IMDb87% on RT

24 Hour Party People isn't exclusively about punk rock, but it is a great movie about the 1970s music scene in general. Steve Coogan stars as real-life music show host and record label owner Tony Wilson, who co-founded Factory Records.

Michael Winterbottom's biographical comedy isn't 100% accurate, but it doesn't pretend to be! The film often breaks the fourth wall to give context or admit what didn't actually happen.

Wilson was known as "Mr. Manchester" during the "Madchester" culture scene of northern England in the 1980s. 24 Hour Party People opens to the ultimate British punk band, Sex Pistols, playing at the Manchester Trade Hall, which inspires Wilson to run a weekly series.

It's this venue that Happy Mondays, Joy Division, New Order, Oasis, and The Stone Roses went on to play in and launch their stardoms.

Tony Wilson also appears as a character in Control (a biopic about Joy Division's Ian Curtis), which isn't quite punk or glam enough to make this list but we recommend watching anyway!

3. Jubilee (1978)

Directed by Derek Jarman

Starring Jenny Runacre, Ian Charleson, Nell Campbell

Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 46m)

6.0 on IMDb100% on RT

Jubilee is widely considered the first-ever punk film. You'd think they'd be thrilled at having their own movie, but punk viewers spent the whole time screaming "This ain't punk!"

In the spirit of Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise or even Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Derek Jarman's Jubilee mixes Elizabethan poetry (giving one of its characters a Shakespearean name) with crude punk language and violence.

Set in a dystopian 1970s England, Jubilee introduces its thieving, murderous, and incestuous characters in a derelict squat. That's pretty much the tone for all of Derek Jarman's grotty, daring cult flick.

Some speculate that punks hated the movie because it foreshadowed their imminent downfall, but nowadays its heralded as a classic.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Directed by Jim Sharman

Starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick

Comedy, Horror, Musical (1h 40m)

7.4 on IMDb79% on RT

The Rocky Horror Show was a hit London stage show from Richard O'Brien, which first opened in 1973. Its blend of gothic horror with glam rock (which was then at its height) made it a sensational success, and two years later it had its very own movie.

In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Curry headlines as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite alien scientist that doesn't look too dissimilar from the members of Kiss.

Dr. Frank-N-Furter is hosting a party in a castle when a young couple stumbles into their "transsexual Transylvania" and are quickly seduced.

Everything about The Rocky Horror Picture Show is wild and weird, which is probably why so many love it. Jim Sharman directed the B-movie-style horror, studded with songs you can't help but groove to.

1. Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Directed by Todd Haynes

Starring Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale

Drama, Music (1h 58m)

6.9 on IMDb62% on RT

Velvet Goldmine is one of the few films where Christian Bale speaks in his mother Cockney accent. This might surprise you if you've only seen him in films like The Dark Knight (2008) or American Psycho (2000)!

Todd Haynes directs a baby-faced Christian Bale in this musical drama that's hugely inspired by David Bowie. The fictional glam rock star Brian Slade (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has an almost identical sound and style... before he fakes his own death.

Arthur Stuart (played by Christian Bale) is a journalist writing about Brian Slade's disappearance, which has something to do with a questionable American rock star (played by Ewan McGregor).

All the big names appear in their long hair, fur coats, and blue eyeliner for Velvet Goldmine, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or.