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Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005)

An examination of the heavy metal music subculture that tries to explain why, despite the longevity and popularity of the genre, fans are marginalized and ridiculed for their passion.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gavin Baddeley ...
Blasphemer ...
Joe Bottiglieri ...
Eric Bryan ...
Jackie Chambers ...
Monte Conner ...
Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour ...
Malcolm Dome ...
Rose Dyson ...


Sam Dunn is a 30-year old anthropologist who wrote his graduate thesis on the plight of Guatemalan refugees. Recenly he has decided to study the plight of a different culture, one he has been a part of since he was a 12-year old: the culture of heavy metal. Sam sets out on a global journey to find out why this music has been consistently stereotyped, dismissed and condemned and yet is loved so passionately by its millions of fans. Along the way, Sam explores metals' obsession with some of life's most provacative subjects - sexuality, religion, violence and death - and discovers some things about the culture that even he can't defend. Shot on location in the UK, Germany, Norway, Canada and the US, this documentary is the first of its kind. It is both a defense of a long-misunderstood art form and a window for the outsider into the spectacle that is heavy metal. Written by Scot McFadyen

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Film That Will Take You Into the Heart of the Beast.


Documentary | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, violent images, some nudity and sexual content | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 June 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Metal - A Headbanger's Journey  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$1,300,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The 21 year sentence in Norway is called "life sentence", so the life sentence in Norway is 21 years. See more »


Dunn also mentions the "Filthy 15", a list of artists with lyrics considered obscene in one of a number of ways. Sam mentions that, of the 15, 8 are metal bands- he has miscounted. Upon reviewing the list, Danish black metal band Mercyful Fate make the list but bump the count to 9 bands. They are also not highlighted like the other metal bands sharing spots on the list. See more »


Alice Cooper: I love going to Norway and Denmark, because I love picking up the black metal magazines. It's so 'Spinal Tap',
Alice Cooper: 'cause each band is trying to be more wicked and evil than any other band, you know. And I can't turn the page without going; "Look at this one, here are these guys and they're..."
[mimicking the pose and look of black metal photoshoots]
Alice Cooper: You know, and they're... And you know these guys, when you meet them in the mall they are;
[lightens his voice]
Alice Cooper: "Hello, Mr. Cooper. How are you?...
See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »


Run to the Hills
Written by Steve Harris (as Stephen Harris)
Performed by Iron Maiden
Licensed courtesy of EMI Music/Sanctuary Records Group Ltd.
See more »

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User Reviews

a good subjective approach to the many strands and off-shoots of an under-looked genre of music
28 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Actually, to say that heavy-metal music is just a genre of music is almost insulting in some circles. As someone who's too eclectic to really be solely a metal-head, but has been in the realm of the metal world to see how it goes, I can empathize with Sam Dunn's main intention with the documentary; this music should not be seen as just some goofy, crude, offensive, or dangerous off-shoot of old-time rock n roll (not that the last one doesn't apply in one or two cases). It's to show how personal this music, and how this 'way of life' can be for a person, and how it affects personality but not necessarily in the perceived negative light. Dunn, of course, has his head totally together, which is how he can go head-to-head with metal legends &/or notorious sorts like Tony Iommi, Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, Alice Cooper, Dee Snider, Dio and Rob Zombie (Geddy Lee is also among the big known interviewees, though it's strange to see him here when he's not really 'metal', at least in league with these guys).

But through him and his collaborators, he is able to get inside not just the off-shoots and specifics of the world of heavy-metal. The look, the style, the attitude, the controversies both domestic (i.e. Dee Snider's battle with Tipper Gore) and foreign (a superlatively done look at the Norwegian black-metal scene, which is both tense and hilarious), the women bands in the world, and how it helps some people really get better on with life either to hear it or play it or, of course, both. Dunn's look is good if, by necessity perhaps too, too brief, as he at one point lists a kind of heavy-metal family tree of sorts- all too quickly to really see every single one- and barely scratches the surface in the 96 minute running time. Maybe there is only so much that can be covered in a feature-length film, but the subject matter serves to be even more looked into; VH1 had also done a heavy-metal documentary, and it lasted four hours. On the other hand, Dunn and his people actually do get some material here that is more precious, and more enlightening. The juxtaposition of the 'true believers' and horrors in Norways black-death-metal scene with a band like Slayer, who are bad to the bone and have fans who go toe limit, is interesting.

It's the kind of documentary that really does work for that it's worth, but not enough of a good thing is explored for fans. Non-fans may get just enough that they can handle, a mix of the basic facts and key points (i.e. the coining of the term 'metal', the roots in the blues, the devil horns, and a look at outrageous album covers). It's good subjective film-making, though edging a little much on trying to get enough history along with the personal history.

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