The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle

  • Directed by Julien Temple
  • United Kingdom, 1980, 103 mins., English

“To be bad is good. To be good is simply boring.”—Malcolm McLaren. The urge to self-mythologize is written into rock’s DNA. In 1978, the Sex Pistols’ story—who did what for whom and why—was still up for grabs. THE GREAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SWINDLE is manager Malcolm McLaren’s attempt to write himself into history as the band’s creator, manipulator, and ideologue and to steal back from the music industry what he felt it had stolen from rock and roll. Julien Temple’s bizarre and hilarious fictional documentary charts the rise and fall of punk’s most notorious band through the eyes of its calculating manager. Mixing animation and live footage of some of the Pistols’ most electrifying performances, the film presents the band’s success as an elaborate scam perpetrated by McLaren to make “a million pounds” at the expense of record companies, outraged moralists, the British royal family, and even the fans and band members themselves.

Genres: Comedy, Music