As inseparable as the Olsen twins and as complementary as the sun and the moon, film and music project a connection that refuses to be ignored. Between visual albums and best score nominations, movies and music have always shared a bond, interlacing beyond the standard soundtrack or music video. However, one form of collision often overlooked by film and music critics alike is the brilliantly fortified and viscerally electrified bands in film that, on more than one occasion, manage to steal the show.
The most remarkable of these bands, from my experience, tend to wean on the side of punk rock music in its many forms. Though the fishnets, safety pins and vibrant hair spikes do not always stud the movie screen, the energy remains, encapsulating the anarchist aura of the punk movement. The defining moment for on-screen punk rock fiends lies within one performance ‒ one moment where the song supersedes the storyline, the characters and the movie itself. More often than not, the fictional band and its legacy will transcend the fabricated trappings of a film’s fantasy world.
Here are just a few of the fictional punk bands we wish would rock on, even after the director yells cut.
Freaky Friday (2003) remains my first encounter with this phenomenon. Though the movie centers around a supernatural body switch between a teenage daughter and her chronically exhausted mother, the huge takeaway is not to appreciate others’ perspectives (as director Mark Waters had intended) but rather to not let anything ‒ not even a gypsy curse-esque body switch ‒ keep you from winning the Battle of the Bands. Formally known as Pink Slip, daughter Anna Coleman’s punk group performs “Take Me Away” at the climax of the film. The song immediately became an anthem of the early 2000s punk scene with its utterly irresistible hook and guitar solo, masterfully delivered by the duchess of y2k culture: Lindsay Lohan.
The greater majority of film buffs recognize Edgar Wright from his critically-acclaimed directorial work on Baby Driver – however I argue that his greatest contribution to film is the masterpiece that is The Clash At Demonhead: the fictional band featured in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World made up entirely of the film’s villains. Their star performance of “Black Sheep” not only introduces lustrous antagonists Envy Adams and Todd Ingram but additionally sets the entire plot in motion in the best way Wright knew how: a pop punk riot in the form of a bleached blonde Brie Larson. The film vessels that the track’s memorability is its scarcity, for Wright has greatly disserviced the music industry by keeping “Black Sheep” off the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack. In many ways, the song’s availability – or lack thereof – only adds to its glory.
The next honoree forces a conversation I was hoping would never have to be brought up. Green Room (2015) tells the story of borderline-metal band The Ain’t Rights and their fight for survival after its members are kept hostage in a Nazi-affiliated bar. Unknowingly performing “Nazi Punks, F*** Off” at the start of the film might have been the band’s first downfall, but I refuse to let their stardom be overshadowed by the subsequent events in the movie – though they probably forgot all about the song by the time the Nazis threatened dismemberment. The reason I find this timeless film and marvelous band so difficult to discuss comes from my emotional instability surrounding The Ain’t Rights’ lead guitarist and Green Room protagonist: Anton Yelchin. After suffering from blunt traumatic asphyxia, Yelchin passed in 2016 at the age of 27, with his starring role in Thoroughbreds (2018) yet to be released. This makes The Ain’t Rights from Green Room even more significant, for his memory lies within his countless contributions to film, including the indisputable banger that is “Nazi Punks, F*** Off.”
My slim selection of punk maestros only scratches the surface. Bands like The Stains of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982) or the Stiff Dylans from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) delve into another entirely unappreciated film element. It is important we highlight directors and filmmakers that put such detail into their movies, making sure even something as overlooked as the token punk band is crafted to perfection.