Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

Critics Consensus

Displaying Joe Strummer warts and all, The Future is Unwritten succeeds as both an engrossing documentary and a comprehensive examination of one of music's most legendary figures.



Total Count: 64


Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,644
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Movie Info

Filmmaker Julien Temple takes a look beyond the guise of the late, anti-establishment icon Joe Strummer to offer a warm portrait of the self-described "mouthy little git" who was born John Mellor and was destined to become the frontman for one of the most influential punk bands ever. A complex figure who would learn to use his gift for music as a means of decompressing his conscience, Strummer is revealed here through unearthed interviews and the illuminating recollections of his closest companions. At times idealistic to a fault, the flawed Clash singer/songwriter had a special gift for compelling listeners to think as they moved to the music. Vintage performance footage and excerpts from Strummer's popular BBC radio program offer the ideal musical backdrop for an affectionate tribute to a punk-rock legend. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

All Critics (64) | Top Critics (29)

  • Julien Temple's film is an energizing work of art, a visually striking and inspiring look at a band that never 'sold out' and the leader who saw to it that they didn't.

    Jun 20, 2008 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • The big unanswerable question is: Do we wish Strummer would have listened to David Lee Roth's advice that "You don't have to take life so seriously, honey"?

    Feb 3, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Miracle of miracles, a valuable portrait of Strummer manages to emerge from the chaos, helped by the film's one consistent thread: tapes of a BBC World Service radio show he hosted in his final years.

    Feb 1, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Temple, who chronicled the Sex Pistols...offers the full, sometimes bloated, context of Strummer's life through the testimony of his many friends and collaborators.

    Feb 1, 2008 | Rating: 3/4
  • Temple's film is a fittingly conscientious and absorbing tribute to his complex, contradictory personality.

    Jan 9, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Steve Rose

    Top Critic
  • A beautiful, evocative collage composed of concert footage, photographs, interviews and film clips, as well as interviews with people who knew him, the film is a rigorously thorough biography and an impassioned accolade.

    Jan 4, 2008 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

  • Jul 21, 2009
    I'd have to watch it again to remember why I didn't like it.
    Lesley N Super Reviewer
  • Jan 27, 2009
    This documentary about The Clash?s lead singer debuted at Sundance a couple years ago and then kind of disappeared. I?ve long been a fan of The Clash, in fact I still have a Clash poster up in my bedroom. The problem is that Joe Strummer didn?t really have a wildly interesting life after he left the band, I probably would have preferred a doc that focused on The Clash. That said, this is pretty well made. They assemble all the interview subjects around a campfire, and that give the whole thing a pretty unique and homey feel.
    MJS M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 23, 2008
    The only fault I can find with <I>The Future Is Unwritten</I> is that some of Julien Temple's celebrity interviewees are not particularly insightful, seemingly having been selected purely with a view to marketing his film. However, Temple does an impeccable job of finding a cinematic style to match the urgency of Strummer's music, weaving a dazzling collage -- of stock footage, home movies, film and television excerpts, animations and live performances -- around some excellent interview material. I think those people who bleat about the lack of identifying titles for the talking heads are missing the essential point: to single those people out would be to elevate them above the common (wo)man, which would be the very antithesis of everything Joe Strummer stood for. Temple's decision is absolutely right; in this film, the rich and famous, spurned bandmates, ex-girlfriends and family are communally anonymous! (Many thanks to s.d. for ushering me to my seat!)
    Stephen M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 19, 2008
    the clash is the music of my youth. with that said, i have seen most clash films and have all the band's music through the years. This is the best documentary in that it humanizes joe throughout his youth, 101ers, the clash and its demise, the wilderness years, and true joy with the mescaleros. i still need to view the bonus footage for the complete portrait.
    Stefanie C Super Reviewer

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