1 h 42 min2013R
Alan Rickman stars as legendary NYC club owner Hilly Kristal, who during the 1970s, wanted to create a venue for country, bluegrass and blues music (thus the name CBGB). When those acts became difficult to book, he shifted the club's focus to local bands playing original music, launching the careers of Patti Smith, Blondie, the Talking Heads and the Ramones and helping to define the punk scene.
Randall Miller
Alan RickmanMalin AkermanJustin Bartha
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Johnny GaleckiKyle GallnerAshley GreeneRupert GrintBradley WhitfordJoel David MooreTaylor Hawkins
Randall MillerJody SavinBrad Rosenberger
Unclaimed Freight Productions
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Smokingsubstance usealcohol usenudityfoul languagesexual contentviolence
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4.6 out of 5 stars

539 global ratings

  1. 79% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 11% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 5% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

AnonymiceReviewed in the United States on April 22, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Nothing "Punk" About This
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I kept thinking, as I watched, that it was too bad Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, an excellent film about 80s NYC) didn't direct this, as his style is what this film badly needed. If your idea of humor is many shots of a dog with loose bowels (dog collars were punk, dogs and their bodily fluids were not), then this film worked for you. If you want to see how punk was broken in the US, try elsewhere. Regardless of subject matter, this is a terrible movie, with a terrible script, stupid graphics of who is who, and no depth (casting Alan Rickman was a huge mistake). There is nothing about why punk arose, where it arose (England, not CBGB), when it arose, or anything else of substance. I hate that punk and new wave have now been glomed into just punk. Punk was hardcore, nothing but, nothing new wave, just anti-everything.

The Police were NOT punk and often criticized for hopping on the punk bandwagon. They were already popular and had songs playing on the charts by the time they came to the US and played CBGB, yet this movie shows Hilly "discovering" them and seeing what no one else saw (in EVERY band in the film). That is just the tip of the very silly and inaccurate iceberg. Blondie was broken by Aussie DJ Molly Meldrum, not Hilly. The Talking Heads DID play their first gig there, but they weren't very punk, either.

Amazing how the music in the club, by many bands who could barely play, sounded like remastered studio tracks instead of the raw sound that was in CBGB and other clubs of that time. Instead of accuracy, the focus here was on fleas, excrement, roaches and dirty bathrooms. True, punk was a gross scene, and CBGB a dive, but punk was more about what the bands and their audiences were doing, like spitting and stage diving (Iggy Pop)), which they didn't even show, and things related to the bands and performing. Lots of clubs have gross bathrooms, fleas, roaches, etc. This film needed to show what was unique about punk and why we should care about CBGB.

I see so many positive reviews saying this film showed the struggle the bands had to go through to make it, etc. It didn't show any such thing, except the Dead Boys touring and crashing the truck. The characterizations of the bands and musicians was mostly terrible. Lou Reed? Are you kidding me? A pudgy little kid? He was 35 in 1977 and had already come and gone in music by 1972; he was the 'old' man watching over the scene. He only got famous again in retrospect, like so many who are cashing in now or that the media "discovered". And record labels love selling back catalogs. Punk was reviled back then. Prog and stadium rock was big, as was disco (sad as it was). 60s acts were still trying to remain relevant. The Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac was huge. Punk was 2 chords, and grew out of angry, disaffected British youth who had no prospects and could not rise above their station in life (thus punk did not have the same meaning in America). Those outside of that group had trouble 'getting' the punk esthetic, esp the media. New wave was influenced by punk, but hardly punk. Some punks turned new wave or let their labels turn them, like The Clash, who ended up anything but punk.

I think the 4 and 5 star reviewers bought the CGBG t-shirt online (while sitting at a Hard Rock Cafe) and a Ramones CD at Starbucks. Punk was a marketing/media term and turned mainstream very quickly, before the decade rolled over to the 80s. If you want to learn about punk and the scene in NYC in the late 70s and early 80s, watch a documentary and clips on YouTube of that time. This movie is a sugar coated fantasy (but doesn't even reach a watchable level) of that time.
46 people found this helpful
NigelReviewed in the United States on April 16, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
A movie for people who bought their CBGB shirt at Target
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I really wanted to like this. Initially difficult to get past the so so comic book stylized stuff. For a topic with too many stories, too much history; it just breezes through it. It give no real story. Hilly is bad with money, Hilly likes music, Hilly walks a lot, really famous bands make their name at CBGB's... And so on. A incredible cast that does a great job acting, but the writing is just awful. There's some really great moments, like 10 to 15 seconds each. But I couldn't finish it. On the surface it's a good movie. But as a biopic of the most famous music venue of all time, for one of the most volatile era's in music and punk, it just misses the mark by a long shot. And a total personal beef I have with this movie is that when the bands play live, they play a studio recording with a lot of reverb. Not the grungy lofi sound that we should have heard. This just feels as disingenuous as anyone born after 1990 wearing a CBGB's shirt they bought at Target. They might really be a true fan of the era, but they just really don't know.
28 people found this helpful
Damun GraceninReviewed in the United States on April 24, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Rise of the Punk Empire
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Aging Punks have trailed off to Rockabilly, Roller Derby, and Burlesque. Apparently some of them are also sneering movie critics now. Randall Miller captured the texture of yet another post-apocalyptic American era. .When the hippies turned in their bell bottoms and got jobs at the stock exchange, a new creative generation, a mix of Beatnik & BeBop, was looking for a home. Hilly Kristal provided it. Alan Rickman does a fine job portraying Hilly, who was a Jedi , going with the force rather than with the rigid tight-ass business model. This was the Bowery I remember as an angry young man just back from Vietnam. CBGB is a mighty fine docudrama.
21 people found this helpful
The All-Seeing IReviewed in the United States on September 4, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
An Absolutely Worthy Music-Driven Docudrama
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"CBGB" does soften the visceral, underbelly feel its namesake club once embodied. Yet remnants of that atomic era -- visual and tonal -- are still attentively projected throughout this ultimately successful docudrama.

Alan Rickman could play a house cat or a fire hydrant with equal majesty; here he's Hilly Kristal, a forward-thinker who offered up CBGB as a nest for fledgling rock 'n' roll birds. Rickman is fine and then some, as Hilly puts passion and inclination above metrics and flow charts in affording watershed bands their nascent spotlights.

Critics universally panned this film. But perhaps anything other than a straight documentary would have been doomed to derision. "CBGB" takes a story that’s all-too-holy to some and acquits itself as a docudrama worthy of those times. - (Was this review of use to you? If so, let me know by clicking "Helpful." Cheers!)
WATCHED IT? THEN WATCHLIST: [[ASIN:B0037VKDQ0 "Pirate Radio,"]] [[ASIN:B07JVSYPZ7 "Stadium Anthems,"]] [[ASIN:B002YCEZVW "24 Hour Party People."]]
8 people found this helpful
TigerlillyReviewed in the United States on December 20, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
Good as a History Lesson, As a Movie, Not so Much
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I guess if they had called this movie “Hilly Kristal” no one would have watched it; but that’s what this movie is really about: the guy who ended up creating a space (CBGB’s) for the punk movement to be birthed, in spite of poor management, poor judgment, and filth.

Unfortunately, the movie consists of a string of scenes showing Hilly listening to some new band (the writers basically shouting: “Look at all the famous people who played here!”) and then commenting sphinx-like: “There’s something there”, juxtaposed with scenes illustrating the level of filth inside the club and Hilly’s total lack of management skills (and total lack of desire to acquire any.). These two scenes are intercut with cartoons. The cartoons were fun, artistic, and expressed the punk sensibility, but they didn’t add to the story or make it gel as a whole. I wish they’d developed the story and the script instead.

I didn’t feel the full impact of Hilly and CBGB’s until the final credits were rolling while a clip of the Talking Heads’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech was playing. I wish the writers had focused on the nurturing spirit David Byrne talked about and on Hilly’s relationship with the bands instead of focusing on the guy who couldn’t get it together to pay his bills. (For those who would point it out: The movie does show Hilly trying to manage one band in particular but it seems like it’s more for the money and of course, it ends disastrously and with money down the drain.).

Even with these drawbacks, as someone who loves historical fiction, I appreciated the history lesson.
5 people found this helpful
KayReviewed in the United States on October 16, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Love this movie
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Love this movie. From what I've read it's pretty factual to real events. It's very interesting to see where/how so many of these bands became famous. If it wasn't for CBGB and Hilly Kristal many of these bands that are huge names may have not gotten the start they needed. Great cinematography and performances by all the actors.
12 people found this helpful
jduff59Reviewed in the United States on February 12, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must see if you like underground music
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When I was a teenager I dreamed that someday I'd play at CBGB's. It took years to get a band together and get a Monday night by calling Lisa and begging and showing up with cassettes and finally I got on that stage. It was magic. Years later I called and said I had a new band and we were touring and they remembered and we booked a few shows. That was the kind of people who ran the club. They remembered every band that played there. We were more than a number. This film gives a glimpse of the fun and insanity of a special place.
3 people found this helpful
Jason LReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Let's get this straight, it's a story about a club and its owner
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Let's get this straight first off. This is not a documentary. It is not a movie about punk music. It's a story about a club and its relevance to the music scene of the time. It tells the story of Hilly Crystal, his club, his friends, and some of the bands he booked. It's a mostly lighthearted movie with a few comedic and dramatic moments but largely has a party-like vibe. It has a great soundtrack featuring a lot of music from many genres, mostly punk, but also a lot of rock and pop. Ignore the bad reviews from people who are upset that this isn't a different movie. It tells the story of CBGB and it does it well.
3 people found this helpful
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