200 Motels (1971)

R  |   |  Comedy, Fantasy, Music  |  20 November 1971 (Sweden)
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Reviews: 45 user | 18 critic

"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the... See full summary »




(story), (shooting script), 3 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Volman ...
Member of Mothers of Invention
Howard Kaylan ...
Member of Mothers of Invention
Ian Underwood ...
Member of Mothers of Invention
Aynsley Dunbar ...
Member of Mothers of Invention
Member of Mothers of Invention
Rance Muhammitz / Dave
The Hot Nun
Janet Neville-Ferguson ...
Groupie #1 (as Janet Ferguson)
Martin Lickert ...
Lucy Offerall ...
Groupie #2
Dick Barber ...
Bif Debris - The Vacuum Cleaner
Don Preston ...
Pamela Des Barres ...
Interviewer (as Pamela Miller)
Ruth Underwood ...
Fake Drummer


"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid. Written by George S. Davis

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | Fantasy | Music


R | See all certifications »


Official Sites:




Release Date:

20 November 1971 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels  »

Box Office


$679,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jeff: I'm stealing the room!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The closing credits are super-imposed over a number of production-related documents, including sheet music, scripts, shooting directions, memos and expense reports. See more »


Referenced in Comix from the Underground: Down and Dirty Duck (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Beautiful Music in a Layered Environment...."do you worry a lot?" worry no more...
24 June 2011 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

There is in 200 Motels an expression of insecurity matched by delusions of grandeur creating an atmosphere of low self-esteem. I realize musicians can provide a service that seamlessly blends with our lives, intensifying drama and fun, but seeing 200 Motels again at Anthology Film Archives I remember that the point of composing is to add something new to what's already out there...

Some composers innovate while sounding pleasing, their music blending well with other music of the times... Acceptance may be the composer's most comfortable accomplishment...It is encouraging when people like your music, and perhaps you have also delivered something advancing the possibilities of sound... Zappa was completely capable of fitting in while being innovative and original. He's actually a very successful pop star, and his material was always somewhere within the mainstream of commercial distribution.

He represents the universal reflexive response to rejection: reject! He wasn't accepted because why? He could have stepped into the orchestral shoes of the universally acclaimed Guy Lombardo! What a nice guy easing us into a new year with pleasing sounds.

Anyway, in my rejected adolescent insecurity I wasn't appreciating Muzak. I wanted to hear beautiful explosive sounds, and at the time, 1960's-1970, harmonic innovation was part of pop music, primarily through Burt Bacharach, but also with The Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, The Mamas and the Papas... Other innovators of the time include Edgar Varese, Hans Werner Henze, Luciano Berio, Karl Stockhausen... for me the most accessible of radical orchestral composers is Leonard Bernstein. George Gershwin of course passed away at a young age (38) at the height of his innovations and discoveries...so again with Frank Zappa at 53. It appears that musical innovators are not long for this world and it's amazing what they accomplish in their short lives.

The point here is that 200 Motels pushes away the refined classical crowd with a sense of vulgarity...the funniest outcome will be that a tuxedoed audience will jocularly sing along with the lyrics in the songs....

200 Motels offers great performers and musicians interpreting Frank Zappa's writing, while spoofing his plagiarizing leadership, and they especially deserve to be recognized and glorified... and yes, Frank Zappa, through great effort, offers a path for the advancement of musical composition... I wish making the movie was less contentious... It is beautiful and inspiring.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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