The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

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This article is about the film. For the album, see The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (album).
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Julien Temple
Produced by Don Boyd
Jeremy Thomas
Written by Julien Temple
Starring Johnny Rotten
Steve Jones
Glen Matlock
Paul Cook
Sid Vicious
Malcolm McLaren
Mary Millington
Irene Handl
Narrated by Malcolm McLaren
Music by Sex Pistols
Release dates
15 May 1980
Running time
103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle is a 1980 British mockumentary film directed by Julien Temple and produced by Don Boyd and Jeremy Thomas. It centers on the British punk rock band Sex Pistols and, most prominently, their manager Malcolm McLaren.[1]


Guitarist Steve Jones plays a shady private detective who - through a series of set piece acts - uncovers the truth about the band. Drummer Paul Cook and bass guitarist Sid Vicious play smaller roles, and the band's manager, Malcolm McLaren, is featured as "The Embezzler", the man who manipulates the Sex Pistols. Fugitive train robber Ronnie Biggs, performer Edward Tudor-Pole, sex film star Mary Millington, and actresses Irene Handl and Liz Fraser also make appearances.

The movie tells a stylised fictional account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of their then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the music business, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words: "Cash for chaos"), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history - EMI, A&M, Virgin and Warner Bros. Records.


The footage was filmed in early - mid 1978, between singer John Lydon's departure from the band and their subsequent split. The movie was finally released nearly two years later. Lydon (who was listed in the credits as "The Collaborator") and original bass guitarist Glen Matlock only appear in archive footage — Lydon having refused to have anything to do with the production.

The 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury, also directed by Julien Temple, retells the story of the Sex Pistols from the perspective of the band, thus serving as a response to and rebuttal of McLaren's insistence that he was the driving creative force of the band.

The film is also remembered for being shown at the wake of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis's death.[2]

Home video release[edit]

  • 'The Swindle Continues in Your Own Home' was the tagline on the original 18 certificate VHS release from Virgin Video in 1982. In 2005 the film was released on DVD by Sony.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Nice, James (2010). Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records. Great Britain: Aurum Press Ltd. p. 121. ISBN 9781845136345. 

External links[edit]