Kill Your Idols (film)

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Kill Your Idols
Kill Your Idols theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byScott Crary
Produced byDan Braun
Josh Braun
Scott Crary
StarringGlenn Branca
Michael Gira
Eugene Hütz
Arto Lindsay
Lydia Lunch
Thurston Moore
Karen O
Lee Ranaldo
Martin Rev
J.G. Thirlwell
Distributed byPalm Pictures
Release date
July 7, 2006 (2006-July-07)
Running time
75 min.
CountryUnited States

Kill Your Idols is a documentary film about three decades of art punk bands in New York City, directed and produced by Scott Crary and executive produced by Dan Braun and Josh Braun. The film debuted at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival,[1] where it won the award for Best Documentary.[2]


The documentary begins with a historical overview of the early art punk and no wave movements that originated in New York City in the 1970s. Through photos, archival performance footage and interviews with seminal bands like Suicide, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, DNA, and Theoretical Girls, the inspirations for and ideologies of those movements are discussed as well as their subsequent influence on early 1980s post-punk bands like Sonic Youth, Swans, and Foetus. The film then jumps forward to 2002 to introduce bands emerging at that time that either claimed some affinity with the early art punk and no wave movements or were depicted as such by the media. Pitchfork writer Brandon Stosuy cites 2002 as the year when "the post-No New York moment bubbled most briskly."[3] Crary uses this revival as a pretense to discuss notions of artistic influence and cultural nostalgia. Regarding his intentions for the film's thematic premise, Crary stated:[4]

Of course the irony of a movement like No Wave, which sought to consciously rebuke what came before, eventually leaving a concentrated legacy of its own appealed to me. And the film became more about defining that irony than any sort of attempt at a historical document or overview.

— Scott Crary, Interview in Filmmaker Magazine

After offering brief surveys (through interviews and original performance footage) of bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, A.R.E. Weapons, Black Dice, Flux Information Sciences, and Gogol Bordello, the film then dramatically shifts tone, becoming an intergenerational dialectic between those emerging bands and the innovators of art punk and no wave introduced in the first part of the film, so as to contrast the past and the then present. The discussion culminates with thoughts from both generations on the changing music industry and how modern media's ubiquity can prematurely expose and corrupt burgeoning music scenes.

As Dorian Lynskey of Empire writes of the overall effect of the documentary: "Ostensibly about the ultra-obscure New York art-punk scene of 1977-82, this cleverly edited film is really a meditation on originality and nostalgia."[5]


Kill Your Idols is notable for its complete lack of narration, instead relying only on abstract title cards and juxtapositional placement of interview soundbites to build a narrative arc. This results in what Rick Mele of The Cinema Source terms "a sort of minimalist and cynical expressionism," noting: "Crary splices together interviews so deftly and playfully that the different artists seem to continue each other's thoughts."[6]

The documentary also makes considerable use of humor.[7][8]


The film was acquired for distribution by Palm Pictures, premiering theatrically on July 7, 2006 and released on DVD on August 29, 2006.[9]

The film was also acquired for television by Showtime and Sundance Channel.[10][11]

Critical reception[edit]

Kill Your Idols was released to mixed reviews. The film has a Metascore of 52 on review aggregator website Metacritic, based on 10 reviews.[12]

Sight & Sound praised the film's "engagingly raw style", calling it "an enjoyable monument to an undervalued chapter in rock history."[13] NME gave it 4 out of 5 stars, saying the film was "compelling stuff" and "thrillingly scratchy and lo-fi."[14] Moviefone said the film "manages to leave even those who know nothing about punk feeling nostalgic for the passion and intelligence of its early days."[15] TV Guide gave it 3 out of 4 stars, commending the film as a "sharp look at the crisis of innovation in an age of commodified nostalgia."[16] However, both The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly criticized the film's inclusion of the more modern bands, with the former writing that "Crary never figures out what story he wants to tell"[17] and the latter writing that the film "spends more time preaching about the anarchy of the good old days than it does revealing them."[18]

Since its initial limited release, Kill Your Idols has gained popularity as a cult film, continuing to regularly screen at revival and repertory events internationally.[19][20][21][22] The film was included on Black Book Magazine's 2008 list of 'Iconic and Influential Music Documentaries'[23] and Nylon Magazine's 2011 list of 'Top Music Documentaries'.[24] In 2013, the film was invited into the permanent archives of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff. "Kill Your Idols". Tribeca Film Festival film guide. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  2. ^ Hiller, Jordan (9 May 2004). "Movies That Bang coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival". Bang It Out. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  3. ^ Stosuy, Brandon (15 November 2005). "No New York". Pitchfork. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  4. ^ Macaulay, Scott (1 July 2006). "Anxiety of Influence". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  5. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (5 July 2006). "Kill Your Idols". Empire. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  6. ^ Mele, Rick (7 July 2006). "Kill Your Idols". The Cinema Source. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  7. ^ Gira, Michael (March 2005). "Arch Angel". Magnet. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  8. ^ JL (8 April 2005). "Kill Your Idols". Time Out London. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  9. ^ Jason Buchanan. "Kill Your Idols". AllMovie database listing. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  10. ^ Staff. "Kill Your Idols". Sundance Channel film guide. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  11. ^ Hale, Mike (1 October 2007). "What's On Tonight". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  12. ^ Staff. "Kill Your Idols". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  13. ^ Dalton, Stephen (April 2005, Vol. 15 Issue 4). Sight & Sound, p. 64
  14. ^ Staff (April 2005). NME, p. 82
  15. ^ Fischer, Martha (6 July 2006). "Review: Kill Your Idols". Moviefone. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  16. ^ Fox, Ken (2006). "Kill Your Idols". TV Guide. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  17. ^ Dargis, Manohla (7 July 2006). "Kill Your Idols". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (12 July 2006). "Kill Your Idols". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  19. ^ Weston, Hillary (13 November 2014). "17 Films to See This Weekend". Black Book Magazine. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  20. ^ Woods, John (14 November 2014). "Kill Your Idols". Nitehawk Cinema. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  21. ^ Mu, Fan (30 April 2015). "Kill Your Idols". Wooozy. Archived from the original on 2 June 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  22. ^ Frailich, Giulia (9 September 2014). "Interzona: Prospettiva 22". Radio Popolare. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  23. ^ Staff (April 2008). "Rockumentaries". Black Book Magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  24. ^ Darwin, Liz (5 May 2011). "Urban Studies: Take a Wild Trip Through Our No Wave Cinema Favorites". Nylon Magazine. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Kill Your Idols". The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.

External links[edit]