Top 5 Punk Films to Stream on Kanopy!

Did you hear the news?! King County Library System now subscribes to Kanopy, opens a new window, a streaming movie service with a film selection so vast and eclectic that it's sure to turn you into a film buff in no time! As a KCLS cardholder, you can stream five movies for free each month using your computer, laptop, or one of Kanopy's mobile and TV apps., opens a new window

As soon as I logged in to Kanopy for the first time, I was floored by the huge array of movies just waiting to be discovered: highbrow classics from The Criterion Collection, opens a new window, modern art-house favorites like Melancholia, opens a new window and Donnie Darko, opens a new window, and even grindhouse exploitation films like I Drink Your Blood, opens a new window! Whatever your taste, Kanopy is sure to have something that piques your interest. 

Lately, I've been really into revisiting the raw, spirited masterworks of punk cinema. From earnest documentaries to scrappy super-8 melodramas, Kanopy has an astonishingly versatile collection of my favorites from the punk canon. Here are the five that I'll be watching this month!

Class of 1984, opens a new window

Young music teacher Mr. Norris takes a new job at an inner city high school...only to find that the place is an anarchic, graffiti-covered hellscape ruled by a gang of sociopathic punk rockers! After he gets on the wrong side of the gang's vicious leader, things get real bad, real fast, and Mr. Norris soon becomes a ferocious one man army on a mission to defeat the lawless band of adolescents. Although occasionally mired in excruciating scenes of intense violence, Class of 1984 manages to stand out from other punk exploitation films of its era with skilled acting, a strong story, and a fun, bracing sense of style.

The Decline of Western Civilization, opens a new window

Step right into a sweaty, grimy punk club with Penelope Spheeris's groundbreaking, deeply sympathetic documentary about West Coast punk culture. The Decline of Western Civilization gives viewers an unprecedented look at the venues, personalities, and even apartments of the early Los Angeles punk scene, with ferocious live performances by Black Flag, The Alice Bag Band, The Germs, and tons more. Make it a marathon and follow it up with the other two films in the Decline trilogy, opens a new window

Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, opens a new window


Shot on a super-8 camera for about $350 and clocking in at just about an hour, Desperate Teenage Lovedolls follows the rise and all of an all-girl punk band in sleazy 1980s Hollywood. This is ecstatic no-budget filmmaking at its finest, propelled by outlandish performances, a buoyantly silly script ("Jobs are a bozo no-no!"), and a perfectly scuzzy soundtrack from cult band Redd Kross. 

Smithereens, opens a new window

Three years before she hit it big with Desperately Seeking Susan, opens a new window, director Susan Seidelman made her feature film debut with this darkly comic, guerrilla-style portrait of New York City in the twilight of punk’s first wave.  Susan Berman plays 19-year-old Wren, a deeply unlikeable opportunist and hanger-on with no talent to speak of, but lots determination to succeed no matter what. Although the film can feel bleak at times, its singular style and vibrancy are electrifying and lift it from its more unsparing moments. 

Blank Generation, opens a new window

Punk icon Richard Hell stars in this tale of a torrid romance between a sullen, up-and-coming punk singer and a beautiful French journalist who calls herself "Nada." Director Ulli Lommel clearly struggled with building a narrative arc here, and the meandering plot never quite hits its stride. However, the film serves as a rare and potent time capsule of a special moment in New York's history, when the city's bankruptcy coincided with a burgeoning art scene fueled by passion, inventiveness, and creativity in the face of abject poverty and meager resources.