26 user 11 critic

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980)

A rather incoherent post-breakup Sex Pistols "documentary", told from the point of view of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, whose (arguable) position is that the Sex Pistols in particular ... See full summary »




On Disc

at Amazon

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | Biography | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A film about the career of the notorious punk rock band, the Sex Pistols.

Director: Julien Temple
Stars: Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A career retrospective of British punk band The Clash, featuring exclusive interviews with the entire band.

Director: Don Letts
Stars: Terry Chimes, Terence Dackombe, Topper Headon
Documentary | Biography | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

As the front man of the Clash from 1977 onwards, Joe Strummer changed people's lives forever. Four years after his death, his influence reaches out around the world, more strongly now than ... See full summary »

Director: Julien Temple
Stars: Joe Strummer, Steve Jones, Mick Jones
Ramones Raw (2004)
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Climb in the van, buckle your seat belt and hang on tight because you're about to experience life on the road with the founding fathers of punk rock, The Ramones! The band that started it ... See full summary »

Director: John Cafiero
Stars: Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone
Documentary | Music | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

On October 12th 1978 New York Police discovered the lifeless body of a 20 year-old woman, slumped under the bathroom sink in a hotel room. She was dressed in her underwear and had bled to ... See full summary »

Director: Alan G. Parker
Stars: Alan Jones, Steve Dior, George Slattery
Documentary | Biography | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The story of the punk rock band The Ramones.

Directors: Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia
Stars: Rick Rubin, Tommy Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A documentary on the music, performers, attitude and distinctive look that made up punk rock.

Director: Don Letts
Stars: K.K. Barrett, Roberta Bayley, Jello Biafra
Documentary | Biography | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A feature-length documentary chronicling early 80's punk rock band the Minutemen, from their beginnings in San Pedro, California, to their demise after the death of singer D. Boon in 1985.

Director: Tim Irwin
Stars: Milo Auckerman, Joe Baiza, Kevin Barrett
Rude Boy (1980)
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A young British punk and roadie for The Clash navigates life in socially torn 1970s England.

Directors: Jack Hazan, David Mingay
Stars: Dave Armstrong, Barry Baker, Terry Barry
Documentary | History | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

David Markey's documentary of life on the road with Sonic Youth and Nirvana during their tour of Europe in late 1991. Also featuring live performances by Dinosaur Jr, Babes In Toyland, The ... See full summary »

Director: David Markey
Stars: Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 2.8/10 X  

A seedy striptease club in London's West End becomes the target for unpleasant crooks. The club's owners are blackmailed into paying out large wads of cash, but star attraction Mary Millington saves the day with her energetic stripping.

Director: Willy Roe
Stars: Mary Millington, Rosemary England, John M. East
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

On the edge of the 30th anniversary of punk rock, Punk's Not Dead takes you into the sweaty underground clubs, backyard parties, recording studios, and yes, shopping malls and stadium shows... See full summary »

Director: Susan Dynner
Stars: Craig Aaronson, Colin Abrahall, Adri


Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Jones ...
The Crook
Paul Cook ...
The Tea-Maker
The Collaborator (as Johnny Rotten)
Ronald Biggs ...
The Exile (as Ronnie Biggs)
Liz Fraser ...
Woman in Cinema
Jess Conrad ...
Mary Millington ...
Mary, The Crook's girlfriend
James Aubrey ...
Johnny Shannon ...
Man in Prison Cage
Helen Wellington-Lloyd ...
Helen (as Helen of Troy)
Tadpole (kiosk attendant) (as Tenpole Tudor)
Faye Hart ...


A rather incoherent post-breakup Sex Pistols "documentary", told from the point of view of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, whose (arguable) position is that the Sex Pistols in particular and punk rock in general were an elaborate scam perpetrated by him in order to make "a million pounds." Silly and hard to follow at times, but worth seeing for some excellent Pistols concert footage, some wickedly amusing animated sequences, and Sid Vicious' eerily prophetic performance of "My Way." Written by Marty Cassady <martyc@vt.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The staggering story of the group who wrung the neck of rock 'n' roll See more »


Comedy | Music | Musical


See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 March 1981 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Who Killed Bambi?  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) had left the group shortly before filming started. He had had his fill of the band and Malcolm McLaren, and wanted no part in the film. Therefore, he only appears in archival clips of The Sex Pistols on stage. By the time the film had premiered, Lydon was already touring under his real name with his new band, Public Image Ltd. See more »


Towards the end of Sid Vicious' Punk rendition of Paul Anka/Frank Sinatra's "My Way", he pulls a revolver out of his pocket and starts shooting at the audience. He fires eight shots, which is more bullets than a revolver can hold. See more »


The Gimmick: Ok, ready to rock!
See more »


Followed by The Filth and the Fury (2000) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A weird, disjointed, dishonest bore
15 July 2009 | by (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

The brief existence of the Sex Pistols and the making of this film after the controversial, groundbreaking English punk band's break-up both happened before I was born. However, I started listening to their only album, "Never Mind the B*&%@#&s, Here's the Sex Pistols", in 2003, when I was a teenager, and quickly became a big fan. I didn't see "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" until 2006, but saw it a couple times that year, and thought it was pretty good (certainly not great, but pretty good), even if I could only remember bits of it, and didn't see how it all connected. Seeing it a third time, nearly three years after the second, I didn't care much for it at all. I'm not even sure what I found so good about most of it in the first place (can't remember now).

This film is a mockumentary, in which Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren tells his side of the story of the band and its members; guitarist Steve Jones, credited here as "The Crook"; drummer Paul Cook, credited as "The Tea-Maker"; bassist Sid Vicious, credited as "The Gimmick"; and John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) credited as "The Collaborator." McLaren claims that he created the band (and even the genre of punk rock) as a scam to make money. He tells much of the story to Helen Wellington-Lloyd (a.k.a. Helen of Troy), in various places where they go together. It's basically a hodgepodge of McLaren talking, Pistols songs, live footage of the band, fictional scenes (often silly, strange ones), several cartoon sequences, etc., all put together in one film, to tell the Pistols manager's side of the story in a bizarre way!

It has been well proved that McLaren is a liar, I know many have already pointed this out, including band members themselves. He was NOT the driving force of the band, he didn't create them (nor did he invent punk rock, and the Sex Pistols weren't even the first punk band, though they were unique). The band members were the ones who made the band what it was. "The Filth and the Fury", a much more believable film about the band from Julien Temple, who made this film, is told from the point of view of the band members, who contradict McLaren's claims. However, the dishonesty of "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" is not my biggest problem with it. If it were actually entertaining (which I used to think it was to a certain extent), I would be able to overlook that, like I obviously used to be able to do. During my third viewing, apart from Sex Pistols songs, some live footage, and at least one mildly amusing cartoon sequence, it was pretty dull! I found the "Who Killed Bambi" song mildly amusing at first, but it got tiring very quickly.

Is this mockumentary worth watching for Sex Pistols fans? It seems a good number of fans would say it is, not to learn about the true story of the short-lived but groundbreaking 70's punk band, but for entertainment. That was once my opinion on "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle". After the first time I watched it, I couldn't remember a thing McLaren said, and by the time I saw it the second time, I was aware of what the Pistols manager was using this film to imply, but could still barely remember anything I heard him say! Obviously, other aspects of the film were what I found impressive. Now, after my third viewing, I can definitely remember some of the things McLaren says, but it still wasn't 100% clear. Like most of the film, I guess his words are not that memorable, probably because of the way they are presented. If you're a Pistols fan, I guess it wouldn't hurt to give "Swindle" a try, but to me, for the most part, it's just an incoherent, boring mess that tries to be funny but fails.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Lonely Boy boujoir
Malcolm McLaren's influence? trigger_gospel
Really that Dirty? boujoir
Who's that revolting woman with the flies on her face.......?! sbarclay2004
Tona De Brett stigger108
that song video_freak666
Discuss The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: