10 Must-Watch Movies About Rave Culture

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Electronic music has a rich history that traces back to the late-20th Century, with early examples found in disco, house, and techno. Emerging primarily in underground club scenes, it gained global popularity in the ’80s and ’90s, becoming a cultural phenomenon. As a genre centered around beats and synthesized sounds, it provided a soundtrack for the burgeoning rave culture. Electronic Dance Music’s (EDM) evolution has been closely intertwined with technological advancements, shaping the sonic landscape of each era. This genre’s infectious energy and ability to unite diverse communities have not only fueled dance floors, but also inspired filmmakers to explore its cultural impact on the big screen.

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Raves, with their pulsating beats, vibrant lights, and uninhibited atmosphere, have been a cultural phenomenon synonymous with electronic dance music. Here, we’re looking at the greatest movies that have successfully brought the energy and spirit of raving to the screen, exploring the cultural significance, characters, and narratives that make these films stand out.

From the vibrant chaos of the dance floor to the personal journeys of those immersed in the scene, these movies have earned their spot on the list through their ability to authentically depict and celebrate the electrifying world of rave culture.

10 We Are Your Friends (2015)

We Are Your Friends follows the journey of an aspiring DJ named Cole Carter, played by Zac Efron, as he navigates the electronic dance music scene in Los Angeles. Cole faces challenges, friendships, and the moral dilemmas that come with pursuing success in the music industry.

Why It’s Great

As the most “Hollywood” movie on this list, We Are Your Friends rubbed some long-term fans of the electronic music scene the wrong way due to its celebration of the more commercial side of the scene and its shallow outlook on those involved. That being said, it did receive praise by others for its energetic portrayal of the electronic dance music scene and the charismatic performance of Efron as the lead. While it garnered mixed critical reviews, the film’s soundtrack and visual style resonated with audiences. Rent on AppleTV

9 Party Monster (2003)

Macaulay Culkin as Michael in Party Monster
Strand Releasing

Starring Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green, Party Monster is based on the real-life story of Michael Alig, a notorious figure in the New York City club scene. Alig rises to fame as a party promoter, but descends into a world of drugs and crime. The film explores themes of excess, the dark side of fame, and the consequences of hedonistic lifestyles.

Why It’s Great

Party Monster was praised for its bold storytelling and the committed performances of Culkin and Green, although some thought it was all a little over the top, with some critics going as far to say that it actually glamorizes the seedy lifestyles of its real-life characters. Despite these mixed reviews, many did applaud this stylized approach, including the vibrant cinematography and flamboyant costumes, which were lauded for capturing the eccentric and hedonistic atmosphere of the New York City club scene during the early-90s era. Stream on Peakcock

8 South West 9 (SW9) (2001)

All taking place within one day before a big rave, South West 9, AKA SW9, is a British drama that delves into the diverse lives of characters residing in the Brixton area of London. The narrative weaves together multiple storylines, offering a mosaic of urban experiences as they prepare for a huge all-night party.

Wil Johnson and Amelia Curtis lead the cast of characters whose lives intersect and collide against the backdrop of the vibrant and dynamic Brixton community. The film addresses themes such as race, relationships, and social challenges, providing a snapshot of the complex and interconnected lives of its characters.

Why It’s Great

SW9 nicely captures the nuances of urban existence, offering a poignant exploration of identity and societal dynamics within the distinctive context of Brixton. With a complex interweaving story of drugs, drama and dancing, it manages to immerse viewers in the pulsating beats, colorful atmosphere, and diverse characters that define the rave experience.

From the energetic soundtrack to the genuine portrayal of the cultural influences shaping the characters’ lives, South West 9 resonates with the spirit of rave culture. In 2001, it won “Best Music” at the British Independent Film Awards and was nominated in five other categories. Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase

7 Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000)

Two stunned-looking men in funky bucket hats.
Icon Film Distribution

Kevin & Perry Go Large is a British teen comedy film. Based on the successful British comedy characters created by Harry Enfield, the story revolves around two socially awkward teenagers, Kevin and Perry, who dream of becoming superstar DJs. In pursuit of their goal, they embark on a journey to Ibiza, encountering various ridiculous situations.

The film hilariously explores the challenges of adolescence and the desire for acceptance. It has since amassed a cult following in its native UK, and is still frequently quoted at house parties across the country to this day.

Why It’s Great

Despite being a little juvenile at times, this British teen comedy is commended for its outrageous humor and the entertaining performances of its leads. Foremost, however, is its ability to adapt a popular short-form sketch routine into a fully fleshed-out movie. With a modest budget of around $2.5 million, the film achieved box office success, grossing over $12 million worldwide. Interestingly, on Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a dismal 14% approval rating from critics, but a shockingly more favorable 70% audience score. Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase

6 Groove (2000)

A man in an orange puffer vest sits on an empty bus with an oversized disco ball in his lap.
Sony Pictures Classics

Groove provides viewers with a snapshot of the San Francisco rave scene. Set over one night, the film introduces characters attending an underground rave, highlighting the diversity of people drawn to the electronic music community. It weaves together multiple storylines, capturing the spirit, music, and sense of community that define the rave culture.

Why It’s Great

Groove perfectly captures the essence and aesthetics of the San Francisco rave scene, and with a well-thought-out character-driven narrative. This is reflected in its strong Rotten Tomatoes score, where it holds a 57% approval rating from critics, but a much higher 80% audience score. Stream on Tubi

5 Eden (2014)

Eden
Eden

Release Date
November 19, 2014

Director
Mia Hansen-Løve

Cast
Félix de Givry , Pauline Etienne , Vincent Macaigne , Hugo Conzelmann , Zita Hanrot , Roman Kolinka

Rating
R

Eden, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve and released in 2014, is a French drama film inspired by the experiences of the director’s brother, Sven Hansen-Løve. The movie spans two decades, exploring the rise and fall of Paul, a Parisian DJ and electronic music producer. Eden provides a nuanced portrayal of the electronic music scene, capturing the passion, sacrifices, and evolution of the protagonist’s life and career.

Why It’s Great

Critics raved about Eden, pun intended, with particular praise aimed at its nuanced and authentic portrayal of the electronic music scene, its compelling storytelling spanning two decades, and the film’s ability to capture the passion, sacrifices, and evolution of its protagonist’s life and career within the rich cultural backdrop of the EDM movement. Stream on Tubi

Related: 15 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix to Watch Right Now

4 Berlin Calling (2008)

Berlin Calling follows the story of DJ and producer Ickarus, as he experiences a rapid rise to fame, but grapples with the pitfalls of a hedonistic lifestyle, leading to a mental breakdown. As he confronts the consequences of his choices, the film not only serves as a visual and auditory celebration of Berlin’s iconic techno culture, but also delves into the personal struggles of its central character, offering a unique perspective on the highs and lows of the electronic music scene.

Why It’s Great

Very rarely is a movie so funny yet poignantly sad at the same time. A movie just as much about mental health as it is the club scene, Berlin Calling excels in its immersive storytelling, weaving in a pulsating techno soundtrack masterfully crafted by Paul Kalkbrenner. It’s not hard to see why it’s such a hit in its native home of Germany. Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase

3 XOXO (2016)

XOXO
XOXO

Release Date
August 26, 2016

Director
Christopher Louie

Released on Netflix in 2016, XOXO is a coming-of-age drama that follows a group of young adults as they journey to the biggest EDM festival in America. Focused on separate individual experiences, the movie explores themes of passion, friendship, and the transformative power of music in the lives of its characters over the course of a single night.

Why It’s Great

XOXO is perfect for a younger generation delving into electronic music as it authentically captures the vibrant energy and sense of community found in the EDM festival scene. The movie delivers a dynamic portrayal of young individuals navigating the excitement and challenges of a music festival, providing an immersive experience that mirrors the real-world enthusiasm of discovering electronic music in a live setting.

With its contemporary soundtrack, relatable characters, and a narrative centered around self-discovery and connection, XOXO serves as a relatable entry point for the younger generation exploring the electrifying world of electronic dance music. Stream on Netflix

Related: The 10 Best Movies About Music Culture

2 It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004)

It’s All Gone Pete Tong is a mockumentary film that follows the life of Frankie Wilde, a fictional superstar DJ. The movie explores Wilde’s rise to fame, struggles with substance abuse, and his journey towards redemption. The title is a play on the Cockney rhyming slang phrase, “It’s all gone a bit wrong,” as well as a reference to the world-famous DJ Pete Tong.

Why It’s Great

This mockumentary is great if you’re looking for a unique take on the rise and fall of a DJ that combines genuine emotion with spates of hilarity. Featuring a standout performance by Paul Kaye, the movie holds a 76% critics score and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating widespread acclaim. Stream on Fubo

1 Human Traffic (1999)

A close-up of two men who are clearly high.
Fruit Salad Films

Released in 1999, Human Traffic is a British coming-of-age movie starring a young Danny Dyer and centered around the rave and club culture of the late 1990s. The movie follows a group of friends in Cardiff, Wales, as they navigate the ups and downs of their lives during a wild weekend of hard partying, self-discovery, and the exploration of their friendships and relationships.

Why It’s Great

Human Traffic stands out to us as the quintessential movie about rave culture, earning its status as the best in the genre. It masterfully captures the vibrant, chaotic, and transformative nature of the late-90s rave scene. Whilst immensely funny, it still remains a genuine and relatable portrayal of young adulthood, friendship, and the desire for escapism through music and dance.

The film’s eclectic soundtrack perfectly complements its energetic pacing, creating a sensory experience that resonates with viewers. While it only holds a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, it has proved far more popular among general audiences with an impressive 89% audience score. Rent on AppleTV

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