The Decline of Western Civilization

1981

The Decline of Western Civilization

Critics Consensus

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100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 21

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,667
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Movie Info

An intimate look at the punk subculture of the 1980s, this Penelope Spheeris documentary captures more of the ambiance of the time than outstanding examples of the music subculture itself. The music of X, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag are featured, however.

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Critic Reviews for The Decline of Western Civilization

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (21)

  • Director Penelope Spheeris neither champions, patronizes nor condescends to the participants' stylized fury. The result is a film that will appeal equally to the furious and the curious, assuming that both enter the arena with an open mind.

    May 10, 2019 | Full Review…
  • The ingenuity and appeal of this bizarre, riveting and compelling film lie in its value as reportage.

    Apr 27, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A bracing, stimulating and technically superb close-up look at the LA punk scene, pic is pitched at a perfect distance to allow for simultaneous engagement in the music and spectacle, and for rueful contemplation of what it all might mean.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The interviews are mostly very funny, probably not always intentionally so. It's far from unmissable, but it's valuable rock history with some great noise.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The Decline of Western Civilization' is a shrewd and engrossing documentary even for audiences who have absolutely no patience for the music it includes.

    Aug 30, 2004 | Full Review…
  • [A] still potent 1981 documentary about Los Angeles punk rock.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Decline of Western Civilization

  • Jan 26, 2010
    It was interesting, but I guess because I was alive for the end of this era of music, I don't really appreciate it
    Remi L Super Reviewer
  • Dec 16, 2008
    a view from the pit at the height of the l.a. hardcore scene, circa 1980. blistering performances by black flag and x among others. film quality isn't great as this hasn't had a dvd release but it's well worth watching for those interested in a bunch of bored middle class kids bent on self destruction. i enjoyed it!
    Stella D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2008
    Perfectly captures the self destructive nihilism of the late 70s punk movement through interviews and great performances by X, Fear, Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Alice Bag Band, Catholic Discipline, and the Germs. Especially fascinating is watching interview and performances with Darby Crash of The Germs, in the months prior to his suicide. A powerful document of a moment in time.
    Anthony V Super Reviewer

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