Stodgy old Rolling Stone has issued its picks for The Top 25 Punk Rock Movies of All Time, and pogoing in at a solid #17 is 1991: The Year Punk Broke, directed by WE GOT POWER! coauthor David Markey.
This list starts way down with SLC Punk (1998) and tops out in first place with The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), nodding along the way to, among others, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), Repo Man (1984), The Filth and the Fury (2000), and The Punk Singer (2013). (Incidentally, the majority of these also feature in Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s wide-sweeping HEAVY METAL MOVIES.)
Nestled between the new-wave concert sampler Urgh! A Music War (1981) and the sweaty documentary American Hardcore (2006), Rolling Stone tips its glue-on Mohawk to 1991: The Year Punk Broke in the following words:
“Poised on the cusp of the alternative rock era, David Markey’s documentary follows Sonic Youth on a European festival tour, with guest appearances by Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, the Ramones, and Iggy Pop. But by the time the movie was released, the focus had shifted to their opening band: an up-and-coming Seattle trio called Nirvana. As the title, punning on music-industry slang, suggests, alt-rock’s breakthrough was also the beginning of its breakdown: A running gag has band members re-enacting scenes from Madonna’s Truth or Dare, mocking pop celebrity even as they come to terms with their own. Ending a week before the release of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ it’s a perfect time capsule of the calm before the storm.”
Read WE GOT POWER!: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California, by David Markey and Jordan Schwartz—with essays by Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, and others—for the details on how hardcore broke open punk in the first place a full decade earlier.
And check EXPERIENCING NIRVANA: Grunge in Europe, 1989, by Sub Pop Records founder Bruce Pavitt, for a glorious visual account of the band’s first trek to Europe as total triumphant unknowns at the end of the 1980s.