Before achieving pop-culture immortality with the left-field mainstream hit WAYNE’S WORLD, Penelope Spheeris established her DIY credentials as the foremost chronicler of West Coast counterculture. In her essential trilogy THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, she captured the evolution of Los Angeles’s alternative underground, from the anarchic energy of the early 1980s punk movement to the excesses of hair metal to the antiestablishment defiance of the gutter-punk scene. Along with her raw teen-rebellion drama SUBURBIA, these films stand as canonical records of groundbreaking bands—including Black Flag, X, Germs, and Fear—and the world-shaking youth movements they inspired.
Directed by Penelope Spheeris • 1981 • United States
This riveting, unflinching, and hard-core documentary adeptly captures the spirit of a major cultural phenomenon and features performances by X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Germs, and Alice Bag Band. Breaking down barriers o...
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years
Directed by Penelope Spheeris • 1988 • United States
The second in Penelope Spheeris’s trilogy on alternative LA, THE METAL YEARS takes a fast-paced look at the outrageous heavy metal scene of the late eighties. Set in Los Angeles, the film explores the lives of struggling musicians, fans, and...
Directed by Penelope Spheeris • 1998 • United States
With the final installment of her DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION trilogy, Penelope Spheeris focuses on the gutter-punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in Los Angeles. Turning her attention away from the famous musicians profiled in the firs...
Mark Toscano and Penelope Spheeris in Conversation
In the following conversation, recorded in 2014 at the University of Michigan, filmmaker and archivist Mark Toscano talks with director Penelope Spheeris about her career, her beginnings as a music video director, and the DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION trilogy.