Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21
  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. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    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
    Messed up as it is, you can't tear your eyes away from this explosion of brutal sounds and images.
  6. 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.
  7. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirshling
    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. 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.
  9. 75
    A raucous, relevant documentary, capturing the mood of the times and the participants' best anecdotes.
  10. Reviewed by: Sally Foster
    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. Reviewed by: Scott Martelle
    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.
  13. 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.
  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: Louis R. Carlozo
    Exhaustive and at turns exhausting.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  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. Reviewed by: Will Crain
    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.
  21. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    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.

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