Pump Up the Volume (1990)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Teenage angst finds a new voice in this drama. By day, Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) is a quiet, studious student at an ordinary suburban high school in Arizona. But at night, Mark creeps down into his basement, fires up his pirate radio transmitter, and broadcasts to the community as Hard Harry, a sexually obsessed social commentator who passes along angry philosophy about the state of teenage life when not blasting punk rock or gangsta rap cuts. Hard Harry's sworn nemesis is high school principal Mrs. Cresswood (Annie Ross), who keeps SAT scores up at the expense of her students' dignity and individuality by eliminating "troublemakers" from the student body. Hard Harry's broadcasts, however, have become a rallying point for the school's misfit underclass, and Mrs. Cresswood is determined to track down the mystery student and bring him to justice (broadcasting without a license, he's not merely an annoyance, but a criminal). The war against Hard Harry intensifies when he broadcasts data from confidential school board reports; Mark's father is a school commissioner, but he has no idea what his son is doing in the basement. Meanwhile, Mark gains the attentions of Nora (Samantha Mathis), who has figured out who he becomes at night. More serious and intelligent than the average teen film, Pump Up the Volume was written and directed by Allan Moyle, who previously dealt with disaffected, music-obsessed teens in Times Square and would return to them with Empire Records.
R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Christian Slater
as Mark Hunter/Hard Harry
Andy Romano
as Murdock
Mimi Kennedy
as Martha
Annie Ross
as Mrs. Creswood
Jill Jaress
as Mrs. Kaiser
as Janie
Ahmet Zappa
as Jamie
Nigel Gibbs
as Marshall
Seth Green
as Joey
James Hampton
as Arthur Watts
Clayton Landey
as Shep Sheppard
Billy Morrissette
as Mazz Mazzilli
Jonathan Mazer
as Jonathan
Robert Schenkkan
as David Deaver
Allan Kolman
as Postal Clerk
David McKnight
as Detective #1
Tony Auer
as Police Officer
Robert Harvey
as Detective Denny
Steve Archer
as Harry Video
Lin Shaye
as PTA Parent #3
Roger Scott
as TV Announcer #1 / Crispin
Gary Dubin
as TV Announcer #2
Marc Siegler
as Teacher Stern
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Critic Reviews for Pump Up the Volume

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (5)

The perfectly cast Slater effectively propels the film, his intensity and dry delivery giving it a definite edge, as does a soundtrack which includes Ice T, Concrete Blonde and the Cowboy Junkies.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It's a howl from the heart, a relentlessly involving movie that gives a kid every reason to believe that he or she can come of age.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

As a movie, 'Pump Up the Volume' is a lot like a teenager: at times unbearably self-important and pretentious (Nora's poems, good lord), yet undeniably, and admirably, earnest.

Full Review… | May 27, 2016

Sharply uneven, this teen-angst feature begins exgremely well with some relevant social commentary; it also put on the map Christian Slater as a talent to watch.

Full Review… | January 8, 2012

Slater is Moyle's generator, powering the film through some sludgy melodramatics, and while his separation of Mark and Hard Harry is practically Kabuki theater, the effort is just wonderful.

Full Review… | August 30, 2010

Much more than a teen movie....an experience, and one you'll never forget. TURN IT UP LOUD!

March 2, 2006

Audience Reviews for Pump Up the Volume

Rewatched this for the first time in years. I think my last viewing may have actually been on VHS. Really enjoyed it, was actually better than I remembered it. Excellent 1990 teen film with the usual themes of alienation. Very well done with good soundtrack and interesting spin with the anonymous pirate radio show.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


Slater does it again, this catapults straight into my top 10 alongside 'Heathers' another Slater movie that I watche and while back and have been repeatedly watching since. This movie really speaks to me and I think what it has to say about youth still stands today: We're not ourselves, we live by other peoles standards, can't we just be free?

Cameron Sherwell
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer

Slater is so hot in this movie! This rebellious teen drama is full of both angst and celebration of being a teenager at the turn of the decade. I really loved it when I was a teen, and I highly recommend it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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