American Hardcore


Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Excellent documentary American Hardcore chronicles the short-lived but influential musical moment when a defiantly anti-commercial underground put a distinctive U.S. stamp on the hitherto Brit-driven punk movement.
  2. 83
    The triumph of American Hardcore is that it convinces general audiences that there were vast underground reservoirs of angst and anguish to be tapped.
  3. 80
    The story of American punk rock (1980–1986) isn't a lot easier to summarize than that of any other major war, but it's quite a bit funnier, as this belated documentary overview--based on Steven Blush's like-titled tome--proves in each of its 90 exuberantly irritable minutes.
  4. 80
    Stands as a valuable chronicle of a brief and snarling musical movement.
  5. 75
    A first-rate documentary on this subgenre of punk rock, which flourished roughly between 1982 and 1986 as an anarchistic response to Ronald Reagan and the disco era.
  6. 75
    Messed up as it is, you can't tear your eyes away from this explosion of brutal sounds and images.
  7. Illuminating nostalgia, stuffed with all the right tattooed talking heads (like Black Flag's Henry Rollins), plus grim-looking concert footage of wailing skinny guys.
  8. 75
    A raucous, relevant documentary, capturing the mood of the times and the participants' best anecdotes.
  9. Hardcore remains, in the words of Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye, the voice of "kids who refuse to be slotted into generic kids roles," so fans of current groups such as Disturbed may feel shortchanged by allegations that it was all over by 1986.
  10. 70
    Not only documents a fascinating part of American history, but also leaves us wondering how (and if) this era's youth will manage to find a voice of their own.
  11. 70
    Some of American Hardcore is amusing -- many of the aging punks Rachman and Blush track down have turned into highly ordinary middle-aged Americans -- and some is profoundly disturbing.
  12. A toned-down cinematic equivalent of the music: fast and loud, but not too loud. The movie scrambles to cover so much territory that there is room only for musical shards and slivers; few complete songs are heard, and no signature anthems stand out.
  13. The documentary is an enlightening journey to a dark corner of contemporary punk's dank little basement. It also will surprise some to hear how articulately some of the former performers explain the dark impulses that propelled them.
  14. 67
    American Hardcore encapsulates a largely forgotten (by the mainstream, that is) moment in maximum rock & roll history.
  15. 67
    Hardcore might have been confused and crude, but it was never guilty of being tepid, like this film.
  16. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    A sloppy mosh note to the genre, with its own excesses and oversights. It's like a flier for a band you've never heard of: torn, soaked with beer, itchy with aggression.
  17. In a better work, the filmmaker would talk to hardcore punks about their parents, affairs, regrets, dreams and day jobs in an effort to explore the fledgling movement. Here, however, we get little more than a marathon MTV rap session, as Rachman drives about North America, yakking with aging punk heroes about the good ol' bad ol' days.
  18. Exhaustive and at turns exhausting.
  19. 60
    Fans will dig the abundant performance video and commentary from Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye; everyone else should steer clear of the mosh pit.
  20. 50
    Twenty-five years on, hardcore continues to be the soundtrack of choice for extreme, white-supremacist groups hoping to tap into teenage rage. With no one on hand to counter the argument, this may go down as hardcore's lasting legacy.
  21. There's a lot of interesting material here, but Rachman doesn't offer any real analysis of his own, and the film suffers from a lack of narrative focus.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 21 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 10
  2. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. caporegime
    Jun 10, 2009
    Perfectly explained and documented.
  2. ChadS.
    Apr 3, 2008
    Punk rock never quite made it to Hawaii. We had Frank Orrall, whose first band was called Hat Makes the Man. Orrall, of course, is the Punk rock never quite made it to Hawaii. We had Frank Orrall, whose first band was called Hat Makes the Man. Orrall, of course, is the brainchild behind Poi Dog Pondering, Hawaii's sole contribution to the "alternative" music scene during college radio's heyday. What Blue Oyster Cult did for the cowbell("Don't Fear the Reaper"), Poi Dog Pondering did for the tin whistle("Living with the Dreaming Body"). Needless to say, I was listening to Gary Numan at the start of the hardcore movement("Here in my car, I feel safest of all"), and moved on to China Crisis("Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms" is underrated, man!) when Black Flag called it quits. "American Hardcore" is only as good as the music they're covering, and since this documentary insists on being a comprehensive one, the film drags a bit when the film shines the spotlight on the midwest. Things pick up again when the film covers the advent of SST Records, because Henry Rollins and Ian McKaye are brought back as testifiers to this, yes, ancedotal, but entertaining oral history. On IFC, Rollins talks about his renewed love for ELO, and all things classic rock, but his contemporaries are diehards, apparently, still ragging on those dinosaur acts like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Foghat? Why pick on Foghat? I'd love to hear Vic Bondi(Articles of Faith) comment about Jack Johnson. According to the British, hardcore never existed. After The Sex Pistols disbanded, the era between 1978-1984 is commonly labeled as post-punk. You can probably play "Holiday in the Sun" to a mixed audience with a minimal amount of agitation from the MOR-jetset, but that's not the case with Bad Brains' "Pay to Cum". So, is punk rock dead? Don't tell that to Les Savy Fav, who kicked everybody's ass on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" during the writers' strike. I've lived in Hawaii my entire life and I had no idea Dan Inouye's son played in Marginal Man. Full Review »
  3. JesseO.
    Nov 26, 2007
    One of the best films of the 80's true punk evolution really liked the interviews of some of those most resposible for it all.