11 heavy metal movies that kick ass

29th Apr 2010 | 13:50

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Introduction
So you're writing a piece about 11 great metal movies - what would you choose as an opening image?!

Ever since My Gal Sal was first sung in 1927’s The Jazz Singer, music and the movies have been inextricably and harmoniously linked. While it’s doubtful the makers of that legendary talkie could have even predicted heavy metal, they could have seen the now inextricable connection between good movies and good music.

Or to put it slightly more bluntly, a kick-ass flick is ten times better if the music kicks ass.

And thus heavy metal - and thus the metal armageddon that soundtracks this week's hottest movie release, Iron Man 2. Featuring 15 AC/DC rockers plus gonzo shred courtesy of Tom Morello (he’ll be talking about that later this week on MusicRadar's Metal Week), this is one film that’s metallic in more ways than one.

To further celebrate Metal Week, MusicRadar takes a look at 11 movies that rock it metal-style in a variety of ways - that yes, turn it up to 11. Some will make you laugh (intentionally or otherwise), while others may shock and horrify you. But all have one glorious common denominator: heavy metal thunder!

So sit back, read on and once you’re through, hit those websites and stock up on some DVDs. Or, if you don’t mind being sat at your laptop, you can watch many of these movies on YouTube.

We’re sure the folks behind The Jazz Singer didn’t see that coming either.

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Airheads (1994)
Three clueless metalheads succeed in business (without really thinking)

Synopsis

Adam Sandler, Brendan Fraiser and Steve Buscemi are The Lone Rangers, a luckless Southern California heavy metal trio who, armed with water pistols, invade a radio station and demand that their music is played.

Their fake weapons are mistaken for the real things, however, and the band is forced to hold station employees hostage. An LA stand-off ensues. Zippy, goofy and lighthearted, with fine performances by the three leads.

Best bit

When station DJ Joe Montegna says, "The Lone Rangers? There‘s three of you. You‘re not exactly ‘lone…"

Metalness

The Lone Rangers are more power rock than true heavy metal, and Steve Buscemi looks a little long in the tooth to be playing in a struggling band. But it‘s full of Spinal Tap-ish spirit, and that counts.

Available?

It's available on standard DVD or try it on for size at YouTube here.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (2009)
You want topical? We give you Anvil's Steve Kudlow at the UK premiere with Mrs Gordon Brown!

Synopsis

There’s always a band that should have made it but never did. Anvil are such a band. Friends since age 14 and now in their 50s, Steve 'Lips' Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (yes, his real name) have led the Canadian metal/thrash group Anvil through various incarnations and helped inspire the likes of Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer.

Directed by Sasha Gervasi (the band’s former roadie), it’s touching, painfully real (we see Lips and Reiner work crap jobs while refusing to give up the dream) and full of unintentional hilarity (getting lost on their way to gigs - yep, it happens). You can’t help but root for these guys.

Best bit

When the normally upbeat Lips goes ape and physically threatens a Czech promoter who refuses to pay Anvil after they’ve played a half-full club.

Metalness

You can’t get more metal than a band with a song called Thumb Hang (about the Spanish Inquisition) - that is, unless the same band has a number called Metal On Metal. Says it all, really.

Available?

Yup, it's on DVD and Blu-ray.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
Can two proto-slackers get Eddie Van Halen in their band?

Synopsis

This thoroughly winning comedy is hard to resist. Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are two high school fuck-ups who dream of rock glory - if only they can get Eddie Van Halen to join their band Wyld Stallyns.

Only problem is, they’re flunking out in school, and their future hinges on a history presentation. Enter time-traveling wizard George Carlin who literally brings the boys back through the ages to teach them history - as it happens…

Best bit

When the Eddie-less Stallyns combine their history presentation with a rock concert before the whole school.

Metalness

Reeves and Winter breaking out in frenzied, air guitar silliness every time something cool happens. Or when the two are threatened with being put in an actual iron maiden and, clueless, they exclaim, "Iron Maiden? Awesome!"

Available?

Out on DVD and old school VHS or try it on YouTube here.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
LA metal back in the day - the good, the bad and the super-lame

Synopsis

Having first plunged the depths of LA’s gritty, late ‘70s punk scene, director Penelope Spheeris shines a bright light on the excesses and self-absorption of Southern California’s late ‘80s metal stars (and wannabes).

While we do have scenes with incongruously transplanted UK icons such as Ozzy Osbourne (trying vainly to cook breakfast while battling the shakes) and Motorhead’s Lemmy, the emphasis is on the Aqua Netted set: Faster Pussycat, Tuff, Vixen, et al. Many of the subjects are now (appropriately) long forgotten, but thanks to the magic of film, you can still marvel and cringe at their delusions of grandeur.

Best bit

It’s hard to pick with such a boatload, but in the taking-the-cake department it’s gotta go to W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes, who pours a bottle of vodka both in his mouth and on his head while lounging in his mother’s pool - with his mother looking on!

Metalness

See above!

Available?

It’s on VHS and/or an eBay page near you. Not rocking the old school? YouTube is once again your best friend…

Buy

Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1996)
Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Synopsis

It’s 1986, and Judas Priest with perennial openers Dokken are playing the Capital Centre in good ol’ Largo, Maryland. This is where we encounter our lovable - and they really are, no matter how we recoil - cast of characters who are engaging in that time-honored ritual of tail-gating, i.e., partying your freakin’ ass off before the big show.

There’s beer, beer and more beer as leather-and-spandex-clad metal chicks mingle with acid-washed jeans-wearing shirtless dudes. And directors Jeff Krulik and John Heyn had the shrewd sense to bring a camera along. Genius!

Best bit

The 'Hell yeah!' chick is a close runner-up. But the hands-down winner is - you guessed it - that shrieking Steve Perry look-alike who destroys the mic with his Rob Halford imitation. Check out the beginning of this trailer. (A classic doofus all the way, his current prison mates are probably still giving him grief over his brief moment in cinema history.)

Metalness

Aside from the mention of Dokken, it’s all metal

Available?

Well, whaddaya know? It’s on DVD. Hell yeah!

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Heavy Metal In Baghdad (2007)
From left to right: Firas (bass), Marwan (drums), and Faisal (vocals/rhythm guitar) of Acrassicauda

Synopsis

Most filmmakers are scared to enter the bathrooms of nightclubs, but directors Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti strapped on bulletproof vests and hired security detail to interview the members of Acrassicauda (Latin for ‘black scorpion’), the only Iraqi heavy metal band. Now, THAT is metal!

In a country where owning, never mind playing, Western music is forbidden (although, ironically, the band seemed to have a tad more freedom under Saddam Hussein’s rule than under US-imposed ‘democracy’ - go figure), Acrassicauda are brave souls indeed. Tough stuff, heartbreaking at times, but as a portrait of the lengths to which some will go for their art, this hits all the right notes.

Best bit

Watching the group record their first ‘professional’ demo after fleeing to Damascus as "heavy metal refugees."

Metalness

You try making music while bombs are going off outside. Hey, if that ain’t metal…

Available?

DVD. Or you can watch it on Snagfilms here.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005)
Why do people love metal? A scientist (who loves metal) searches for clues…

Synopsis

It’s only fitting that this is perhaps the most thoughtful and serious examination of the world of heavy metal - after all, it was directed by Sam Dunn, a professional anthropologist. Satanism, sexism, Black Metal - it’s all here and more.

Even viewers unfamiliar with headbanging will come away with an understanding of (if not an appreciation for) the genre thanks to incisive interviews with stars such as Tony Iommi, Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, members of Slipknot and Cannibal Corpse, among others.

Best bit

Ronnie James Dio having a dig at Gene Simmons as he explains the origin of the ‘devil horns’ hand sign. (Psst! His grandmother started the whole thing.)

Metalness

Don’t watch this film expecting to have your face melted - there’s little in the way of kick-ass concert footage. But if you want to explore your inner metalhead, or that of a loved one, this flick will do the trick.

Available?

It's on DVD or you can check it out on YouTube.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Rock Star (2001)
The Ripper Owens/Judas Priest story - kinda, sorta

Synopsis

Can a singer (here played by Dirk Diggler himself, Mark Wahlberg) from a cover band go on to front the real thing and realize all of his heavy metal dreams? It happened in real life (for a while, at least) for Ripper Owens, an office supplies salesman who sang in a Judas Priest tribute band and was picked to join the Priest when Rob Halford quit.

Rock Star borrows not so loosely from this true story and piles on more cliches than you can shake a devil’s horned hand at. But whoever said cliches couldn’t be fun? Rock Star is never boring, not for one second. Consider it a very guilty pleasure.

Best bit

When Wahlberg and Third Eye Blind’s singer Stephen Jenkins, playing a vocalist from a rival tribute group, try to out-metal-sing each other.

Metalness

The funky bunch that Wahlberg joins, Steel Dragon, features Zakk Wylde, Jason Bonham and Jeff Pilson. With the exception of Pilson, not too shabby.

Available?

Yup, on DVD.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Some Kind Of Monster (2004)
Metallica happily pose for the snappers at the 2004 US premiere - bizarre given what they're going to see on screen!

Synopsis

Having become perhaps the biggest band on the planet, Metallica were imploding: bassist Jason Newsted quit, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were butting heads, and Kirk Hammett - well, he just wanted to play some cool solos. What’s a rich heavy metal group to do? Hire a therapist, of course! And if he’s "performance-enhancing coach" Phil Towle, you get a guy who tries to get inside your head, write your lyrics, join your band.

Bottom line: the guy gets icky-close. But things end happily: Hetfield goes to rehab, Lars sells some artwork for big bucks, the band hires Rob Trujillo to play bass and they finish their not-so-good album and gig at a prison. Poor Kirk, however, never gets to play those solos.

Best bit

Former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, kicked out of the band for excessive drinking, confronts Ulrich and speaks his mind.

Metalness

Some Kind Of Monster isn’t a rock-out-with-your-cock out good time. It’s a marriage counseling doc, with Metallica playing the husbands and wives.

Available?

It's on 'collector’s edition DVD' (what does ‘collector’s edition’ actually mean? My kids have a ‘collector’s edition’ of Daddy Day Care!) or you can watch it on YouTube.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
And the best heavy metal film ever deserves the best photo… Nigel on stage in Seattle in 1992

Synopsis

Come on, we don’t have to tell you what this one’s about. It’s Spinal Tap, the mother of all metal flicks and as solid a comedy as you can imagine. Required viewing for all bands and music fans the world over.

You’ve got the Tap (David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls, Viv Savage and a series of dead drummers), bizarre gardening accidents, Stonehenge, Lick My Love Pump, Sex Farm, Hell Hole, the puppet show gig, the military base show, "Don’t touch it. Don’t even look at it!"… Every scene is pure gold.

Best bit

Check some out right here while this site should refresh your memory.

Metalness

Any band that does a song about the Druids - that’s metal!

Available?

Oh yeah - on Special Edition DVD, Blu-ray and one of those lovely Criterion Collection DVDs. Take your pick.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

11 heavy metal movies that kick ass
Bad News Tour (1983) / More Bad News (1988)
Bad News: Colin, Spider, Vim/Alan and Den

Synopsis

Like yer Tap but wish it was just a bit more… NWOBHM? We give you the adventures of Vim Fuego (aka Alan Metcalfe), Den Dennis, Colin Grigson and Spider Webb - or not-so-Young Ones Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Rik Mayall plus Comic Strip-per Peter Richardson.

Part of legendary Channel 4 series The Comic Strip Presents… the Bad News films are essentially Tap as filmed in the back of a knackered Ford Transit. Genius quotes, painfully accurate set-pieces, huge following with bands, dodgy spin-off records plus the danger of turning into a real band… Bad News really is Tap but, sadly, without the mainstream crossover. We'd feel sorry for it (especially given it was filmed at exactly the same time as Spinal Tap) if only we could get 'that' Queen cover out of our brains…

Best bit

"Warriors of Genghis Khan is a political song…" "Alright then, Ajax, or whatever your new name is"… "Two quid for one bloody sausage?!" Good times. The idiots.

Metalness

Spoof or no spoof, any band that gets up on stage at Monsters Of Rock and ACTUALLY BLOODY PLAYS is more metal than anyone ever.

Available?

You can find both films tucked away on dirt-cheap-on-Amazon Comic Strip Presents - Complete Collection.

Buy

HMV | Amazon

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