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The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980)

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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 »



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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 <>

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?


Marianne Faithfull was to play Sid's mother in the original draft of the film, but backed out at the idea of a sex scene. 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 Embezzler: Lesson seven: cultivate hatred; it is your greatest asset. Here at home, create a tour that no one can turn up to. Throw the groups name away, and leave a question mark in its place. Create confusion. The Sex Pistols made sure that they failed to turn up at certain venues. Reading false rumours wherever they could.
See more »


Referenced in Sid and Nancy (1986) See more »

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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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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