All of New York seems to be pretty heavy on the punk with the arrival of Punk: Chaos To Couture at the MET — which finally opens today. And after we saw the offerings on the red carpet this Monday, plus the awkwardly odd comments celebrities gave as their favorite moments/songs from punk, we took to thinking: Maybe we need a little extra fashion inspiration? Sure, we get the popular references: CBGB and The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and Anarchy in the U.K., but what about the movies that shaped the scene?
Some of the best examples of what it meant to be punk rock came from indie films that morphed into cult classic or B-movies that were unearthed by later generations. Here are some of our sartorial favorites. Oh, and before anyone takes away our punk cred, we skipped out on docs: We love both The Decline Of Western Civilization and The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle — see them immediately if you haven't — but we stuck to the scripts only.
Derek Jarman, the British born director known for his bizarre, colorful, and heady films in the '70s and '80s, decided to blur some genres with Jubilee, turning it into a sci-fi fantasy meets rock'n'roll history meets post-apocalyptic condemnation (celebration?) of British youth. Led by Amyl Nitrate (who arbitrarily writes her own history and paints her face), there isn't so much fashion here as "anti-fashion," something that disintegrates into the surreal. Which is pretty punk — especially with cameos by Adam Ant and transsexual icon Wayne County. Inspiring, but perhaps not an aesthetic we'd copy.
Photo: Courtesy of Megalovision
Rock'n'Roll High School, 1979
So, here's a brilliant idea: Let's make a movie about The Ramones, set in a high school. And they can be honorary students! There is the pretty simplistic plot of Rock'n'Roll High School, which uses the familiar storyline of having rambunctious students fighting authority over their crazy rock music. (Honest question: How many times has the evil of rock'n'roll been used as a villainous administrator's motivation in movies?) The whole thing is a little cheesy — but what isn't is the ultimate peans to the jeans/leather jacket uniform, Joey, Johnny, Marky, and Dee Dee. When in doubt, just dress like a Ramone.
Photo: c.New world/Everett/Rex USA
Christiane F., 1981
Punks in film didn't just serve to buck authority; sometimes they appeared to teach the audience a cautionary lesson. Christiane F. is apparently a true story about a poor young Berliner who just wanted to listen to Bowie in the '70s — who then becomes horribly addicted to heroin. The movie is a strange one because the message is heavy-handed and dark, but Christiane, with her pouty lipstick, silver jacket, and bright red hair, undoubtedly looks awesome. Perhaps, the first example of heroin chic...
Photo: Courtesy of Solaris Film
Ladies And Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains, 1982
"We're The Stains, and we don't put out." A teenage Diane Lane tackles The Runaways phenomenon as the foul-mouthed, baby-faced singer of The Stains, a group that also featured a very young Laura Dern. (Fact: Laura Dern sued for emancipation from her family to be in this movie. Now that's punk.) The message is mixed: On one hand, Lane (as Corinne Burns) serves as a mouthpiece for disaffected, angry youth who are shocked and enamored by her makeup, hair, and frank sexuality. On the other hand, the girls can't play to save their lives. Image, it appears, is the message.
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Return Of The Living Dead, 1985
Okay, this isn't a punk movie. And the fact is, the punks are only there because it is funny to see kids who act particularly tough get eaten by zombies. But they still look
so good, playing into all of their delinquent tropes. The best happens to be "Trash", who orgiastically asks if anyone has "ever fantasized about being killed" while stripping off her suspender-clad outfit. Guess who dies first?
Photo: Courtesy of Hemdale Films
Repo Man, 1984
The day kids with two-foot mohawks stop naming Repo Man as their favorite film will be a sad one. Packed with ironically dark quotes ("It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.") Emilio Estevez finds a future — after his college fund is spent by his hippie parents — repossessing cars with Harry Dean Stanton. Then aliens appear. All to the soundtrack of Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag.
Photo: Rex USA
Sid And Nancy, 1986
Director Alex Cox (who also helmed Repo Man) tells the story of rock-and-roll's most abusive, insane, and doomed couple: Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and his dealer-turned-girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Sid is expertly (expertly) played by a young doppleganger named Gary Oldman, and the early '80s have never looked so rough. The spiky hair, the bleach and leather — this might be the most seminal punk fashion statement on film.
Oh, and for anyone who doesn't know how this ends, well...it isn't exactly a date movie, to say the least.
Photo: Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Company
The Doom Generation, 1995
Nihilistic, violent, depraved: The Doom Generation is not for those with a weak constitution. Jordan White and his girlfriend, Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) pick up sexy hitchhiker Xavier Red (also known as "X"), and descend into the worst parts of America. McGowan is at her most bad-assed, however, with cherry red lips and a blunt bob that mimics Uma Thurman's in the previous year's Pulp Fiction. Shot by Gregg Araki and with a host of subculture icons (Margaret Cho, Parker Posey, Perry Farrell), the whole movie — and everything McGowan wears — is soaked in '90s goodness...even if it feels bad.
Photo: Courtesy of Blurco
SLC Punk, 1998
You can be a punk, you can be a mod, a redneck, a teddy boy...just don't be a poseur. Matthew Lillard's all-out performance as a smarter-than-average blue-haired anarchist who is dropped in the middle of Mormon country feels particularly honest. Razor blades in his ears, Doc Martens, slam-dancing, and a whole heckuva lot of waffle knit — this is a real and unglamorous, but still really alluring, look at the inherent complexities of being "punk" in America; it's hard being an anarchist when you want to drive a car. (Shout out to the nerd-cool Jason Segel as the punk who doesn't dress punk
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures