The Decline of Western Civilization
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

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… More

Directed By:
Rated: R
Running Time:
Release Date: July 1, 1981
DVD Release Date: March 4, 2016
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Critic Score: 100% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews
Variety Staff

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.

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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader

[A] still potent 1981 documentary about Los Angeles punk rock.

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TV Guide

This often-fascinating slice of rock history wisely avoids high-profile punk groups, and instead opts for bands who are still struggling to pay their rent.

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Simon Garfield
Time Out

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.

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Cole Smithey

You can't put a price on a filmic document such as this one.

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Giovanni Fazio
Japan Times

This was the first time anyone had seen a mosh pit on-screen, and Spheeris somehow gets right in the scrum, capturing a blur of flailing bodies.

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Janet Maslin
New York Times

The Decline of Western Civilization' is a shrewd and engrossing documentary even for audiences who have absolutely no patience for the music it includes.

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Robert Sellers
Radio Times

This is the first in a trilogy of rock documentaries made by Spheeris that, viewed today, seem like valuable cultural documents. But your granny won't like it.

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Jason Bailey

Spheeris doesn't stand at the remove some documentarians do; you feel like you're in the scene, at those shows, and in those rooms.

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Flixster Audience Score: 85% Flixster User Reviews
Stella Dallas
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… More
Anthony Valletta
Perfectly captures the self destructive nihilism of the late 70s punk movement through interviews and great performances by X, Fear, Black Flag, The Circle… More
Remi Logan
It was interesting, but I guess because I was alive for the end of this era of music, I don't really appreciate it