20 Movies Inspired by Rave Culture

Movies Lists

It’s 10:30 on a Friday night. You start preparing: You’ve got your favorite tunes blasting from your stereo and you’re raiding your closet for the perfect outfit as you dance through your room. On your dresser, an artistic flyer with nothing but a mysterious phone number is teasing you, beckoning you to call, but it’s still too early. Your friends start arriving, all of them chattering away excitedly, nervous with anticipation. Just before midnight you all gather around your phone and call the info line noted on the flyer. A voicemail picks up with detailed directions to an unknown location. This is it—these are the beginnings of an exciting night ahead. Your destination? A massive rave complete with awesome people, hypnotizing light shows, imaginative backdrops, an intriguing location and the best freakin’ music ever.

Are you feeling it? Those pre-party jitters? Are you ready to strap on your fairy wings and raise your glow-sticks to the sky? It’s time to get your rave on, baby. And if for some reason you can’t get out this weekend—here are twenty movies that will spark some sweet nostalgia.

20. Leave the World Behind (2014)
When the DJ supergroup Swedish House Mafia, consisting of Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell, announced their split in the summer of 2012, their fans were incredibly bummed. In order to soften the blow, they decided to give their audience a farewell gift of a special variety: A feature-length documentary following the DJs on their One Last Tour around the world. Leave the World Behind is an open invitation to follow SHM behind the scenes, to learn who Angello, Sebastian and Axwell really are and to get a better understanding of what brought them together in the first place: Musical Orgasms.

Listening to Sebastian’s account of how he first met Steve is priceless. He paints a perfect picture of himself as the bona fide raver kid—bright orange pants, a glow-in-the-dark batman shirt, Buffalos: the full-on raver kit—whereas Steve was very much the laid-back, weed-smoking hip-hop type who thought techno was “fucking annoying.” It wasn’t until they discovered Daft Punk’s Homework (1997) that they started inhabiting the same world, musically speaking. When they finally teamed up with Axwell, a self-proclaimed “Computer-Nerd-Musician” at the time, they had all the ingredients to cook up their very own sound. They came, they loved, they raved.

19. Put the Needle on the Recordc(2004)
When writer/director Jason Rem was invited by Shahin Amirpour to attend the 18th edition of the Winter Music Conference in Miami in 2003, he had no idea just how big the world of electronic music really was. As is typical for any musical genre, only the real fanatics will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to finding artists and tracks that have managed to build a massive following outside of the mainstream. The WMC in Miami is a gathering of electro lovers and DJs who live and breathe by the beat—the go-to place for the real insider tips.

In Put the Needle on the Record, Jason Rem follows and interviews the likes of Deep Dish, Christopher Lawrence, Dirty Vegas, Jesse Saunders and Francois K and learns more about the origins of drum & bass, house, experimental, downtempo and breaks in Miami. Although this documentary may be a bit outdated musically, it offers great insight into the going-ons at the Winter Music Conference, what it means to be a Vinyl Junkie and the Miami music scene.

18. Naar de Klote! (Wasted!) (1996)
Wie ben je? – Jaqueline (“Who are you? – Jaqueline”)
Wat zijn we? – Samen (“What are we? – Together”)
Waar gaan we heen? – Naar de Klote! (“Where are we going? – To get fucked up!”)
Naar de Klote takes us back to Holland’s infamous Gabber movement, a hardcore techno style that comes with its very own dance moves, namely Hakken. The movie opens to the couple Jaqueline (Fem van der Elzen) and Martijn (Tygo Gernandt) trying ectasy for the first time. They sit around in giggling anticipation waiting for the drug to finally take effect but grow impatient. So they pop another “halfje” (half) and another. They lay in bed, their pupils dilated, staring into space, still trying to convince themselves that they can’t actually feel anything. Suffice to say, that changes in about a nanosecond and next you see is Jaqueline and Martijn dancing around the house crazily before jumping into a car and making their way to an open-air rave. Jaqueline is dressed in nothing but a pair of panties and an oversized dress shirt, but that doesn’t matter. The X has freed her from all inhibitions.

They decide to move from the small town of Tilburg to the cosmopolitan city of Amsterdam where Jaqueline scores a job in a smart shop. Through the people she meets at the shop, Jaqueline slips deeper into the gabber-sphere until eventually she drifts further and further from Martijn. Although fun, Naar de Klote also heavily relies on the darkness that can spring from the world of drugs.

17. Ecstacy (2011)
“The world is changing, music is changing, even drugs are changing.”
Trainspotting’s protagonist Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) was spot on with his observations back in 1996. Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) and Heather (Kristin Kreuk) put it to the test in 2011 (late bloomers, we presume). If ever there was an author capable of examining—and above all, voicing—the ups and downs of drug use and its accompanying culture, it’s Irvine Welsh. In his 1996 story “The Undefeated” from his book Ecstacy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance, Irvine toys with interesting ideas about the relationships that are based on getting high together. Everyone knows what XTC is capable of. You can hate the world and everyone in it with a stubborn passion but pop an E and suddenly you’re all about spreading BIG LOVE and PLUR and HAPPINESS. You’re bound to fall in love at least twenty times a night on X—even if you’re falling for the pretty lights or just this girls’ blonde sparkling hair. But if you fall in love wasted, will you still love each other when you’re not high?

This film adaptation, directed by Rob Heydon, takes us back to the underbelly of Scottish night clubs where the music booms and the drugs are aplenty. FYI, Trainspotting’s Franco Begbie’s Scottish drawl may have been incomprehensible for some, but that’s nothing compared to what you’ll get from some of the characters in Ecstacy. Subtitles are definitely recommended —and that’s coming from a Brit!

16. From Jack to Juice: 25 Years of Ghetto House (2011)
Following her 2009 documentary Whatever Happened to Hip Hop, Sonali Aggarwal now looks into the origins of ghetto house or booty house, if you prefer. While everyone seems to agree on Cajmere’s It’s Time for the Percolator being the original template for Juke House, the origins and timelines of ghetto and booty house are up for debate. Boolumaster says the up-tempo booty house came from the South Side, while the West Side DJs were all about the house; DJ Spinn says the exact opposite. But they all share one common opinion: area codes no longer matter. Everyone is bouncing ideas off of each other; it’s no longer an East Side/West Side thing, it’s the Chicago thing. While other major cities like Atlanta and Detroit have adopted the Juke/Ghetto style, Chicago is where it’s really at—this is the true Juke House Mecca.

Featuring interviews with Tha Pope, K Starke, DJ D-Man and DJ Skip, we learn all about 140/160 BPM “House Music on Speed” and get to see some impressive footwork.

15. Jungle Fever (1994-2014)
When high techno frequencies made way for low frequencies and exaggerated bass lines in the London rave scene, the jungle movement was born. In the extended documentary Jungle Fever, we’re taken back to where it all started as a “small exclusive underground scene” and watch it turn into the “main sound on the streets.” With a growing increase of “Junglists” flooding the rave scene, even the BBC’s Channel 4 wanted to know what all the fuss was about and released the three-part documentary Jungle Fever. The first part of the documentary features Peter Harris, founder of the independent label Kickin Records, which released music by artists such as Blak Prophetz, DJ Hype and Grant Nelson. We also get to hear L.T.J Bukem and Fabio’s take on what constitutes jungle: reggae bass lines, speedy beats, raga break beats and reggae/soul samples. In fact, Peter Harris goes as far as to say that jungle is all about the samples.

Last year, Dazed magazine commissioned Ollie Evans to film part four of Jungle Fever for Channel 4. It takes us to the very source of London’s jungle scene: Belgrade Road, the home of . Break beat, hardcore, drum ’n’ bass and jungle—it all started in Belgrade Road.

14. Groove (2000)
Ever wondered what the underground rave scene in San Francisco might be like? If you don’t have the means to get there for the weekend, the 2000 movie Groove is as close as you can get to a bona fide SF night of raving. Groove starts out with the overall excitement behind planning the actual party in an abandoned warehouse. The neighborhood is studied carefully, making sure that ravers will be left to dance in peace, without unwanted interruptions from nosy, irritated residents or worse yet, cops. But as Ernie (Steve van Wormer) rightfully points out: “There are no obstacles, only challenges.” With one single email and a cryptic voicemail message, the shindig is set in motion, and the warehouse transforms into an orgy of laser lights and shiny, happy people.

Groove features real-life DJs Digweed, Polywog, DJ Forest Green and WishFM spinning their decks, so get ready to turn your living room into party central!

13. Go (1999)
We must admit we were a bit puzzled when we first heard about Go, the crime comedy that involves a rave, a smoky hot ménage à trois and a strip joint. Not because of the variety of unlikely locations this movie might take us to, no—because we still can’t quite get over the words “Katie Holmes” and “Rave” appearing in the same sentence. All of our preconceptions aside, Go is a fast-paced black comedy that couldn’t have been made any better. Yes, even Katie Holmes rocked her role as—surprise, surprise—Ronna’s (Sarah Polley) naïve and wide-eyed side-kick/co-worker Claire. Following a 24-hour timeline, we follow the respective adventures of Ronna, Simon (Desmond Askew) and soap opera actors Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr) who, in hindsight, kind of started this crazy road trip in the first place.

Due to its random order of story-telling and timelines, Go has often been likened to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Roger Ebert referred to Go as a “clever black comedy that takes place entirely in Tarantino-land.”

12. Modulations – Cinema for the Ear (1998)
We’ve already had a detailed look at the history of electronic music genres such as Juke/Chicago House and Jungle. Modulations – Cinema for the Ear covers all bases of “organized noise.” Kraftwerk said it best back in the day: “We have a soul even though it’s electronic and mathematic.” This perspicacious documentary by the director of Synthetic Pleasures gives us a better understanding of what electronic music really constitutes. “As soon as you enter your car, you’re in a musical instrument.” Showing live footage of infamous parties such as the Rainbow Rave on Mount Fuji (2000) and performances by the likes of Squarepusher at the Essential Festival in Brighton, this documentary is guaranteed to get you buzzing.

You even get a better understanding of the toys and tools renowned DJs like Photek, Ed Rush and Doc Scott like to play with to create their tracks.

11. Tomorrowland – 10 Years of Unity, Love and Magic (2014)
When the Dutch entertainment and media enterprise ID&T first set out to organize the electronic music festival Tomorrowland in 2005, they didn’t think it would reach further than Belgium and perhaps The Netherlands. Ten years on and Tomorrowland is known as the biggest electronic music festival in the world with more than 400,000 people having attended the 2014 edition! With the first two editions having gone down so well in 2005/6, the third festival saw more than 100 DJs take to the stage and turn their audience into a fury of stomping feet and massive smiles. As Steve Aoki said: “Tomorrowland is based, essentially, on love. The love of this music, this culture and this community.”

This documentary is going to give you a taste of what this community life is all about. You’ll applaud the people who took time out of their dancing schedule for a quick visit to the Church of Love, you’ll get all cheesy and emotional witnessing a proposal and you’ll feel big love when a teary-eyed Armin van Buuren announces the birth of his son to a crowd more than willing to celebrate (new) life.

10. One Perfect Day (2004)
This film is as much about self-discovery as it is about the exploration of new musical dimensions. Tommy (Dan Spielman) is the perfect example of someone who, like Kraftwerk, finds music in everything. He picks up on unique sounds and melodies in a way most people can only dream of. Studying at London’s Royal Academy of Music, he is thrown into new surroundings whilst still keeping a tight bond with his girlfriend Alysse and his sister Emma back in Australia. The long distance doesn’t stop Tommie and Alysse from working on their dream project—an operatic song titled “One Perfect Day.”

As Tommie explores his new environment and its ever growing music and dance scene, Alysse and Emma take their curiosities to different extremes back in Australia: They have discovered their fondness for combining their love for music with drugs. Unfortunately, one such night ends fatally for Emma, causing a big rip between Alysse and Tommie. In his grief and reflections, Tommie reaches beyond the boundaries of his musical training and merges two rather unlikely musical elements to create an entirely new experience: A fusion of classical music with electronic beats.

9. Better Living Through Circuitry (1999)
We’ve already offered documentaries in this list focusing on a specific EDM genre (Jungle Fever) or the actual history behind dance music and where it originated from (Cinema for the Ear). This 1999 documentary by Jon Reiss takes it all a step further: Better Living Through Circuitry concentrates on the actual rave culture and what makes it so special. It celebrates not only the DJs who provide the beats for the ultimate dance-off but, even more so, all the beautiful people who work together in making a party happen and those who come to establish a vibe that is difficult to imitate elsewhere. This is the anti-club scene—these are the parties that are lovingly put on by DIY-ers who source out locations, create enticing flyers and stunning backdrops, put their wild imaginations into their outfits and costumes and want nothing more than to share the love.

Featuring interviews with DJ Keoki, Carl Cox, Moby, Electric Skychurch and Frankie Bones, this is one of the best documentaries you’ll get to see about the rave culture and its brightly sparkling Candy Kids. Following the DIY philosophy, this film was shot on a Sony VX1000 and edited in a spare bedroom using Media 100 and Adobe After Effects.

8. Free Tekno (2014)
The Netherlands may be a small country, just a tiny little blot on the map, but its rave scene is pretty darn big. Whether you’re looking for a bit of old school acid, raw lo-fi techno without compromise or Tekno met een K (Tekno with a K), the Dutch can provide. The industrial-acid techno crew Unit Moebius set the tone in Den Haag in the early nineties, when they started organizing squat parties, following in the roots of the true DIY punk philosophy. Around the same time further Sound Systems—Zodiak Commune, Dessert Storm, Spiral Tribe—emerged from all over Europe, all following the same principles and the “Free Tekno for Free People” mentality. Over the years, the fusion of hardcore, Detroit techno, Chicago house, acid and jungle made way for an entirely new genre: Tekno. Thunderous beats, dark spiraling visuals and the type of (pyro) performances and light shows you would expect in an Alice in Wonderland version darker than Tim Burton’s, established an adventurous counter culture that incorporates various aspects of electronic sounds freely.

Gunnar Hauth’s documentary gives you a true sense of what to expect from Tekno gatherings around Europe—and not just the fun side: You’ll even get a taste of the German police!

7. Moog (2004)
Seeing as we’re talking about documentaries and movies inspired by rave culture and its musicians here, we figured it was just as important to mention one of the pioneers of electronic instruments: Dr. Robert Moog, a.k.a. the man who invented the Moog Synthesizer in 1966. His creations—the Moog Synthesizer, Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, Little Phatty, Sub 36 and the Moogerfooger—were revolutionary to the world of music. When he presented his equipment to the Acoustical Society in Canada a few years after it had been introduced, they had a hard time wrapping their head around these experimental sounds, calling them unnatural. The media quickly found a way of putting the Moog into a negative limelight, blaming the state-of-the-art equipment on rock musicians turning deaf. But as more and more musicians found the appeal in playing and adapting these new, electronic sounds, the world suddenly realised: This guy is a genius.

This documentary doesn’t follow any chronological order and it won’t necessarily get you into the party mood. It will however give you a better understanding of who Robert Moog was and what his inventions meant to the world of electronic music.

6. 23 Minute Warning – The Spiral Philosophy (1994)
Meet the Sound System responsible for the longest running and most expensive trial in British legal history: Spiral Tribe. This 23-minute warning opens up to one of the Spiral Tribe members sharing her take on the origins of raving England: “The rave scene was a product of the Margaret Thatcher years, all them years of repression, oppression. The ’80s in England was shit. Very capitalist, trying to make everyone buy their houses, the whole work thing … that’s why when the rave thing happened in ’89 it was like, oh yeah, wicked, let’s go!”
This also happened to be the time that acid music was slowly changing into looping bass lines and changing frequencies. Gone was the “three minute {pop music} sale,” in came the “programmed voyage of the mind.” This documentary introduces the lovable traveling circus behind Spiral Tribe, their philosophy and ideals in a way that will make you hope you’ll get a chance to dance in front of their rig sometime.

5. It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004)
What was supposedly based on a true story turned out to be more of an urban myth, but we liked it all the same: It’s All Gone Pete Tong tells the story of notorious DJ Frankie Wilde who is starting to lose his hearing. Despite his doctor’s orders to stay clear of the drugs and not expose himself to loud noise, Frankie goes on doing exactly that, until he loses his hearing completely. Falling into a downward spiral of drugs, depression and angry badgers, things aren’t looking too good for Frankie. At a pivotal moment, just as it seems there’s no more hope for the guy, Frankie decides to make some changes in his life. As he slowly gets back on his feet, he realizes that there are other ways to pick up sounds and make music. In resting his bare feet on the booming speakers and watching changing voltages on the oscilloscope he was able to record an entire album that went down a bloody treat!

All you lemon squeezers out there will have already figured out what the title refers to here – not only does it pay tribute to “the global ambassador for electronic music”, (radio) DJ Pete Tong, it’s also a cockney rhyming slang rather befitting of Wilde’s situation, meaning, “It’s all gone a bit wrong.”

4. Heretic – We had a Dream
Heretik is more than just a Sound System—it’s a political statement. They became a symbol of the free party movement and they were clear in their Heretik ways: We do not conform to the established standards of conduct. They were the “newbies” at the ’95 Teknival in Tamos, amongst established systems like Spiral Tribe. This was a lifestyle that certainly resonated with them and by ’96 they set up their own first party.

“It’s a different life, living in a truck, living outside of society, living far from capitalism. {…} I want to follow people that are open minded, that have an impact, that know things.”
The police were always right behind them; when the system was busted for their respective drug stashes, a five-month stint in jail resulted in the prohibition of attending any of these magical, illegal parties. Suffice to say, that didn’t keep them away, on the contrary—they now saw themselves as “musical terror activists,” spreading messages like: Free parties should be recognized as a public utility. The cat-and-mouse game continued all over France and ex-officer of the French Police Intelligence Unit, Jaques Prigent, is the first to admit that Heretik had magnificent organizational skills—they weren’t always easy to track down.

This is an intriguing, intimate account of one of the most celebrated Sound Systems in Europe, offering in-depth interviews with Heretik members as well as their arch-nemesis, officer Jaques Prigent.

3. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
Ok, so this movie doesn’t just focus on rave but all music scenes to have sprung from the Manchester era between 1976-1992. Whether you’re a diehard punk waiting to come by forgotten tracks of the late ’70s, a Madchester fanatic looking to soak up some ’80s nostalgia or would like to learn more about the birth of the rave scene and the moment “even the white man started dancing,” 24 Hour Party People presents an amazing, humorous mix of it all. Steve Coogan does a fantastic job at portraying the one and only, the legendary Tony Wilson, manager of the infamous Hacienda nightclub, co-founder of Factory Records and journalist for Granada Television.

The film follows Tony to his first Sex Pistols gig in 1976. He is so taken by the music and the performance he decides to organize a series of weekly punk rock shows at a club in Manchester. This is where he’s introduced to Joy Division—the first band he would sign on his label, Factory Records. In Ian Curtis’ blood. In 1982, Wilson opened the Hacienda, which was considered the most famous club in the world during the ’90s. It was around this time that Wilson signed bands like Happy Mondays but they soon made way for a change in the music scene: the rise of acid house and Madchester style rave parties.

2. Party Monster: The Shockumentary (1998)
When Andy Warhol died in 1987 so did the NY downtown scene. Who would have thought a young kid from Indiana would be the one to revive it all? Michael Alig arrived in New York with big dreams and an obnoxiously ambitious attitude. Having learned a thing or two about party promotion working at the Danceteria, he soon took the New York club scene by storm. Following in the footsteps of his “mentor” James St. James, he started organizing insanely creative and outrageous parties, usually surrounding a particular theme. It started with the weekly Disco 2000 parties at The Limelight. Club-goers came dressed in fantastic, colorful costumes, loud makeup and some impressive headwear. Michael’s ideas pushed boundaries, ultimately turning a nightmarish fairy tale into the sweetest dream for all clubbers. You’d see all types of things at Disco 2000: people getting naked on stage for the Hot Body Contest, a dancing Go-Go Chick(en), the Drug Child who was kept in a cage all night, with sounds strictly stating, WARNING DO NOT FEED THE DRUG CHILD – THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. The Drug Child was of course a slutty, gothic looking James St. James, repeatedly pleading for bumps.

Michael’s parties outgrew the clubs and were often held at seemingly random locations like Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and the subway. You know—as you do. Michael was the leader of the “Club Kids,” “the mother hen creating all these fairytale characters,” as columnist Michael Musto put it. But as the parties grew more grotesque and Michael, James St. James and various other members of the Club Kid family lost themselves in their K-Holes and heroin dreams, things started getting ugly. So ugly, Michael and drug dealer Robert “Freeze” Riggs turned one of their bloody, morbid party scenes into a reality when they murdered fellow club kid Andre “Angel” Melendez. Michael served a seventeen year sentence and was released last year. He has since started his “the Pee-Yu” show online.

This is a discerning piece about the rise and fall of Michael Alig which should definitely be followed up by the film Party Monster, featuring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green.

1. Human Traffic (1999)
Anyone who has ever gone on a real blinder consisting of drugs, contagious beats and buzzing people will understand that there is a specific build up and a particular come down to every party. No other movie highlights these ups and downs, these crazy intense feelings and paranoias quite like Human Traffic. This film has become a true cult classic for a whole variety of electro heads and ravers. Justin Kerrigan explores various details of disillusioned twenty somethings who have found their escape in the music they love. Jip (John Simm), Koop (Shaun Parkes), Nina (Nicola Reynolds) and Lulu (Lorraine Pilkington) all work shitty jobs, go through ridiculous relationship dramas, put up with daily stick from their bosses and deal with their respective, disapproving families. The only one who hasn’t yet committed to a nine to five and earns his keep dealing is Moff (Danny Dyer). He sums up the sentiment perfectly: “I don’t have one single friend who actually enjoys their job. Each one counts down the days until Friday night. I’m not ready to become that miserable!”

The one thing that keeps them going is their countdown to the weekend when they can blow steam out of their heads like a screaming kettle and celebrate the “second summer of love” amidst fellow clubbers of the chemical generation. Exploring all the themes that occupy the mind of people in their twenties in such an honest, sarcastic, intelligently funny and imaginative way, the characters click with you in much the same way as the overall vibe of this, their gloriously holy weekend. You’re not just following their peaks and lows as a silent observer but as a silent participant. This film truly communicates and connects with its audience: you buzz off of their energy as they’re dancing, loving and tripping in unity and you relate, truly relate, to their struggles and insecurities off of the dance floor. It portrays the chemical generation and all its unwritten rituals and experiences in such a beautifully well-rounded manner it makes you laugh and feel kind of special. Because this is a language only you and your chosen family will understand.

With appearances by Howard Marks, Carl Cox and Pete Tong, a master soundtrack, witty dialogues and an excellent cast, this movie is the rave movie of all rave movies. Dive into the world of Cardiff’s rave scene, discuss spliff politics and contemplate the meaning of it all at the end of the night.

“What’s your name? What have you had? Reach for the lasers. Safe as fuck.”

Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist, co-author of The Pink Boots and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Facebook. She likes getting creative in padm?sana.

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