This is a guest post written by Greg Davies. Greg is known in social media circles as cGt2099, and runs the sites cGt2099.com, Social Blend. We’ve previously featured his talents on the post: Five Films about Australia better than ‘Australia’ and Before the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Influences on ‘Star Wars’
From the 1980’s air-raid siren singing of Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden to the deepest guttural growls of the darkest Black Metal, I listen to it all. I have been a metalhead since I was a kid, and the metal subculture has been a part of my life for many years. So, unsurprisingly, when something popular takes off on the internet that has some relation to any form of Metal, I am usually all over it.
But in recent weeks, the site MetalInjection.net decided to compile a list of the “best” movies about Metalheads. It hit the front page of Digg.com, and did very well at numerous other social news sites as well. Aside from the author’s inclusion of This Is Spinal Tap (a good quality and mandatory selection which I wholeheartedly agree with), the other five choices were pathetic lampoons of the depth and scope of the Metalhead subculture.
Do not get me wrong: I am a fan of MetalInjection.net, and have been for some time; it’s a great site… but this list? Abysmal! It should have been called “A List of Movies That Portray Metalheads as Cheesy Idiots”. Off the bat, the author declined to include documentaries, which was an inadequate decision seeing as there are so many fine documentary flicks out there about the Metal subculture. The Metal Injection listing included the predictable cheese ball comedies: Bill and Ted, Tenacious D, Beavis and Butthead, Wayne’s World, and Airheads.
In reply, I decided to come up with my own list… The REAL top 6(66) movies about Metalheads – and why you ought to see them:
1. Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey
Rated 90% Fresh at RottenTomatoes.com, released in 2005, Sam Dunn’s anthropological glimpse at the Metalhead subculture has become the definitive look at the world and history of Metal, from its inception during the years of Black Sabbath, through to the international phenomenon it is today. While there is a great focus on bands and musicians, the documentary also focuses on the fans and the culture of the genre. It is a definite must-see for metalheads; but is prepared in a way for the average “outsider” to gain a fresh perspective and understanding of the culture.
The film delves into how the fans of the music have evolved into a worldwide subculture; but also takes a look at some of the controversies over the years – including the Norwegian Black Metal related church burnings (recently highlighted in a new documentary entitled Until The Light Takes Us). Metal has faced many challenges over the years, from censorship to its relationship with religion, and the filmmaker does his best to attempt to cover all bases.
Sam Dunn has since moved on to film a sequel entitled Global Metal and has also co-directed the documentary Iron Maiden: Flight 666. If you want to watch a movie about Metal, then Sam Dunn’s Metal: a Headbanger’s Journey should be the first in your list, or at least alongside This Is Spinal Tap.
2. Still Crazy
In the mid- to late-1990’s, there was a development among classic metal bands and classic rock bands… nostalgia had kicked in, and reunion tours were announced. Numerous bands joined the movement – each one declaring that their reunion tour was individualized and not influenced by other acts getting back together: Black Sabbath, KISS, Sex Pistols, and a slew of bands they influenced who were from the 1980’s zenith of hair metal… It was an exciting time when it first started as many younger fans were getting the opportunity to see their favorite bands for the first time ever.
Capturing the spirit of this era is the film Still Crazy directed by Brian Gibson and starring Stephen Rea and Billy Connolly. The movie focuses on getting the members of the fictional band Strange Fruit back together for a reunion show. The film is testament to the reunion movements of the 1990’s, but also a tribute to the classic rock and metal acts of the Seventies; and includes some great humorous scenes with Billy Connolly as well! Still Crazy is a rockin’, yet touching flick, with some witty moments too.
3. Detroit Rock City
After the tacky parody-filled comedies (most of them listed in the MetalInjection.net top 6) had come and gone, but also just after the Reunion Tour chapter of many Metal bands, came the movie Detroit Rock City. Released in 1999, directed by Adam Rifkin, and starring Edward Furlong and Sam Huntington (who would later star in a similar movie, but about Star Wars fans entitled Fanboys), the movie follows the journey of four teens during the 1970’s on a pilgrimage to a KISS concert. Detroit Rock City, in several ways, is more of a “coming-of-age” film than it is a comedy (though there are some fabulous scenes that are highly amusing; most notably the vomit jug scene).
While the film never did fantastic at the box office upon its theatrical release, it has since gathered a sturdy cult following among rock fans and metalheads around the world. It was the antidote to the “Bill and Ted and Wayne’s” of the early Nineties; but more importantly had a key scene that metalheads would pinpoint as a classic one for years: where the four KISS Fans take out a bunch of disco dorks with Black Sabbath playing in the background. Pure awesomeness!
In recent years, metal fans will point to documentaries such as Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and Anvil: the Story of Anvil as exceptional films looking at metal bands behind the scenes. While these two examples are exceptional movies indeed, there was one movie that was the forerunner for all of these documentaries, and that was 1988’s Decline of Western Civilization Part II: the Metal Years by Penelope Spheeris. Spheeris first represented the hard edged element of hard core and punk on the west coast in the first Western Civilization documentary; and for her follow-up, she focused on the Metal advancements during the late 1980’s: a period of glam and image, which was being eroded away by the behind-the-scenes existence of excess after excess.
While it does paint a very broad picture of the metal scene in Los Angeles (with a heavy prominence on hair metal), the film is most notable for its interview with Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. – an interview in his swimming pool, awfully drunk, as his concerned and worried mother looks on. It was perhaps the first glimpse fans had of the bearing and effect of the excessive “partying” lifestyle had on their idols, and was certainly an eye-opening image to many.
5. Rock Star
Even though 1998’s Still Crazy gave metalheads a taste of a tale depicting a fictional rock band, it wasn’t until 2001 that the appetite was satisfied with the movie Rock Star. Starring Mark Wahlberg with Jennifer Aniston, and directed by Stephen Herek, the movie was initially loosely based on the story of the band Judas Priest: where Rob Halford left the band and was replaced by a vocalist from a Priest tribute band named Ripper Owens. The storyline eventually evolved into something else, though comparable elements of the Judas Priest story remain: the tale of a metalhead who has a dream, sees that dream come to fulfillment, and slowly discovers that perhaps the dream wasn’t exactly he had hoped for.
Panned by critics on its release for being gorged with rock clichés, it was embraced by rock fans for portraying an era in the history of metal that had finally been given a place in film – and by paying homage and doing justice to it, without succumbing to the cheese of the parody comedic films of the 1990’s. Notable in this movie are the band member roles filled by metal musicians including Zakk Wylde, Blas Elias, and Jason Bonham – as well as ex-rapper “Marky Mark” truly playing a convincing metal singer / metalhead performance!
Side-note: the metal musicians take the opportunity to make fun of Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg during the closing credits of the film as well – worth “the price of admission” alone, in my opinion!
6. Trick or Treat
It was 1986 and the metal scene was crazy at the time. Whilst the second generation of Glam Metal was starting to fire up, Thrash Bands were gaining in popularity, as were some of the underground Black Metal and Death Metal acts of the era. But as the popularity of the metal scene was skyrocketing across the world, the bands and the fans were tackling threats from those considering themselves to be the “moral majority”. Metal came under fire for numerous disparagements, but the one that came to the forefront during this era was that of Satanic worship and dabbling in the Occult. Metal musicians were accused of hiding secret messages in their music when the tunes were played in reverse, deep and shadowy secret messages of the Devil.
While it is true that there were many bands during this time (most notably Venom) that declared themselves to be Satanists, the majority of the claims made by the “moral majority” were ridiculous, misguided, and more significantly: untrue. The accusations eventually became somewhat cliché, and no movie better cements this corny “done to death” and passé moment in metal history than Trick or Treat. Yes, it’s a horror film, and yes it is a cheesy one – but it’s significant in using the cliché of a Satanic Metal Musician named Sammi Curr who kicks the bucket and then comes back to life when his music is played backwards. Comparatively, the film sits nicely in the Slasher horror movies of the day (known during this period of the 1980’s as becoming less threatening and more comedic), but is also noteworthy for the appearances of Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne in the movie.
Trick or Treat was never and WILL NEVER be taken into account for critical accolades and awards, but it remains in the hearts of metalheads as a popcorn flick to escape from reality for a couple of hours – it WAS the “rock movie” of its time.
Other Metal Related Articles by Greg Davies:
- 10 Things That Uniquely Identify and Define Metalheads
- Stomping True: The Metal Bands that NEVER Sold Out
- Stumble and Fall: The Worst Mistakes made by Metal Bands
- The Devil Made Me Do It: Famous Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Controversies
- 10 Underrated Metal Bands You Should Be Listening To
What do you think of our Top 6 choices? Are there any we missed?