Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film

 Dam!!! Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide To Punks On Film Files Shapeimage 7 I wasn't expecting to be blown away by Destroy All Movies!!! It's a 566-page A-Z reference of over 1,100 movies with punks in them. It's exhaustive, covering excellent movies with punks as main characters, awful movies where pseudo-punks have minor roles as buffoonish thugs ("No '80s party comedy was complete without some pierced, rainbow-colored man-turd doing a human cannonball through a plate glass window"), straight-to-video drek, 16mm documentary gems, and "movies that barely exist." I was sure I would get tired of reading it after a few pages. The opposite happened -- I got hooked and couldn't stop.

Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, the editors of this mind-bending reference of cinematic trash culture, are obsessives to be sure (read Carlson's blog post titled WHY?), but not the kind who exhaust you with eye-glazing otaku trivia that doesn't matter to anyone but other obsessives. Instead, their reviews (written by Carlson, Connolly and their cohorts) are accessible, insightful, entertaining, and funny in a way that doesn't ruin their usefulness.

Notable punk movies -- such as Liquid Sky, Suburbia, Repo Man, Desperately Seeking Susan, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains, and Rock 'N' Roll High School -- are given special consideration, with much longer reviews, essays, and interviews with their directors and stars. I especially enjoyed reading the interviews with Rock 'N' Roll High School's P.J. Soles ("[The Ramones] were like wallpaper. They were shy and quiet and out of their element. They had to be pulled by their arms to the catering truck at lunch and convinced it was OK to eat with us"), and Mary Woronov (who played Principal Togar in Rock 'N' Roll High School): ("The last scene of any kind in LA was the punk scene, and since then it's been totally dead.") Other good interviews include: Richard Hell, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Alex Cox, and Ian MacKaye.  Dam!!! Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide To Punks On Film Files Shapeimage 9

The reviews of the minor movies are worth reading too, either for the humor value or the solid advice (eg., The Clash's Rude Boy: "For fans of the group, it's a satisfying barrage of material from an era when they were still strong. For anyone else, it's British people stumbling around and frowning.")

As usual, Fantagraphics' in-house designer Jacob Covey produced a drop dead gorgeous book that enhances the experience. With a cool flexibound cover and a tub of Jamie-Reid-pink and Photoshop's halftone filter, his treatment feels appropriately retro and timeless at the same time.

As Richard Hell says in his introduction, "This is one of those gems of immaculate editorial conception, perfectly executed, that will probably not stay in print for long ... if you don't buy it now you will regret it when it's more expensive."

Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film


  1. This would be incomplete without thorough coverage of the cult classic SLC Punk!. The movie that made me want to go to college and make something of myself.

    1. Has SLC punks been around long enough to get cult status? I guess it doesn’t have to be an old movie though does it. We saw it in the theater. Great movie!

      And Rtresco — I wrote and presented a paper at a conference about the Quincy episode (and the House punk episode, too).

    1. Have you watched our punks, mods and rockers web series Oblivion?

      Check out at obliviontheseries dot com

      Repo Man’s a huge influence on it.

  2. I would love to have it just to see how many of the movies featured in I’ve seen. I used to keep track of every punk appearing in movies. And yes, there was an awful lot of stupid “punk” characters in 80’s movies…

  3. I’ve LOVED Liquid Sky since high school — it was a core, formative experience for me, although I was just a little kidder when it first came out. I am soooooo pissed it’s not on Netflix yet! (At least not last time I checked….)

    1. I tried re-watching Liquid Sky in ’96, what a horrible mistake that was.

      Course I also suffered through Anthony Michael Hall’s “Out of Bounds” just to see Siouxsie. Though I’ll Jeff Kober was pleasantly creepy as always.

  4. Over the Edge was the most punk film ever even though the soundtrack had as much 70s/early 80s arena rock as it had punk.

  5. For those who don’t know, there is a whole Quincy Punk page on TV Tropes. My favorite is the punk in Star Trek IV, listening to the lovely ballad “I hate you” on the bus.

  6. Unfortunately, “punk” is such a broad term now. There’s punks as depicted on the book cover, but what about Brando in The Wild One, who is for all intents and purposes punk. And Liquid Sky is New Wave, but shares many punk aesthetics. Books like this are best served staying limited in focus on the “cheesy” aspect of punks in movies, but a much broader scope on the subject does warrant academic discourse.

  7. Ah the things memory retains:

    The cover of the book is taken directly from ‘Class of 1984’ (which was made in 1982) and starred Perry King. It was a second rate teacher in inner city school plot only with some slightly hilarious preppy punks being the ‘evil young hooligans’. I also remember it having a young Michael J Fox pre-Family Ties in it as well.

    I tell you…growing up working in video stores has put me on par with Tarantino in factual recall of dumb shit like this.

    1. OMG! Class of 1984 was my favourite film for ages! It was one of the first films I ever saw on VHS, in fact it was a pirate copy and the quality was awful. (I’m such a hoarder I may even still have it somewhere…)

      I loved the clothes and tried to copy Fallon’s style, as he was definitely the coolest. Neil Clifford who played him is now a Sculptor in Bronze!

      I also think it was Michael J Fox’s first proper movie role.
      Tim Van Patten went on to become a highly respected TV director particularly on The Sopranos and Deadwood.
      Lisa Langlois appears in the L Word.
      I’m also pretty sure there were a few “background artists” and minor characters that went on to better things too. I haven’t seen the film for ages but I’m going to hunt it down again now, many thanks!

  8. “me, me and my rhythm box” there is no reason not to do acid when watching Liquid Sky.

    Favorite punks on screen for me were Vernon Wells in Weird Science, and William Forsythe as a punk in the band Pain in a CHiPs episode (“I dig pain, the feelin’ in my brain”). You remember, it’s the episode where they have a battle of the bands and Ponch wins against the punks with “Celebration” so the punks have to leave town and stop terrorizing the citizens.

    Take a piece of concrete,
    and stick it in my face,
    I like to play with razor-blades,
    I hate the human race.

    Kick me when I’m down,
    come up and rip my shirt,
    my dad will buy another one,
    especially if I’m hurt.

    Cause I dig pain,
    the feelin in my brain,
    the scratchin,
    the bashin,
    the clawin,
    the trashing,
    the given,
    the gettin,
    and the total blood lettin,
    drive me insane,
    I dig pain.

    I love to do the pogo,
    and I love to do the slam,
    but it’s nothing like the feeling,
    of a knife stuck in my hand.

    Now you can never stop me,
    from being what i choose,
    and if you try to shut me up,
    some skin you’re gonna lose.

  9. You guys are reminiscing about a time in your lives, and a feeling of rebellion among a like-minded but fractious gang of fellow travelers, and kidding yourselves that it was meaningful outside of that narrow place that is your nostalgia for a time when you weren’t the establishment.

    For me, electric folk music is the same thing. This is because when Dylan went electric I was the age you youngsters were when the punks started rebelling against music lessons and musical talent. My parents had similar dismissive (and true) things to say about Dylan’s lack of singing ability and Richard Thompson’s drug problems.

    I am waiting for rap to be the new punk.

    Now, you whippersnappers get off my damn lawn!

    1. “You guys are reminiscing about a time in your lives, and a feeling of rebellion among a like-minded but fractious gang of fellow travelers, and kidding yourselves that it was meaningful outside of that narrow place that is your nostalgia for a time when you weren’t the establishment.”

      Um, who exactly is doing that in this thread? Have you actually read any of the comments so far, or does the “you guys” refer to a bunch of people existing only in your imagination?
      ‘Cause I see nothing but people talking about goofy pop-culture representations of a type, not idealized reminiscences. At all.

  10. Added to my ‘zon wish list, although I can guess why punks got so much play in popular culture, particularly as thugs: they were the new hippies. Hippies got a lot of play in mainstream culture in the late sixties and early seventies as murderers, rapists and all-around creeps, especially after the Manson Family murders, until people finally got it through their heads that a) most hippies just wanted to get high, get laid, and talk interminably about their favorite album, and b) there weren’t that many left after ’72, anyway.

    There was a bit of a drought in culture for years after that, in terms of young people to be afraid of, until punk culture percolated down to the popular culture (sometime after Sid Vicious ODed after being arrested under suspicion of killing his girlfriend), upon which the squares had yet another group of colorfully-garbed and -named young people at odds with mainstream society, and this one had the advantage of actually saying menacing things on a regular basis (“I wanna destroy passers-by” rather than “C’mon people now, smile on each other”, as it were). My personal experience of punks were that they tended to be the more thoughtful, cool, articulate and all-around interesting people that I met, at least compared to most people of their age, but the squares have their needs and will not be denied them.

  11. In Los Angeles at The Silent Movie Theater there will be a Destroy All Movies film fest:

    for the details.

    A very rare French punk rock film that’s in the book will be screened – La Brune et Moi. (Disclosure: I help distribute the film in the US and Canada. It will be available on DVD this month.)

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