V&A Dundee

Ana M’s Imperfect 10: Ultimate Club Watch List

Get your fix of clubbing films this festive season as the iconic Ana Matronic shares her top 10 watch list of dance floor movie magic, from downtown edgy to all night raves. Grab your popcorn and settle in 🍿

1. Beats — A coming of age film about a night that changes everything, and that night is a rave. Hands down the most accurate depiction of an underground rave experience, uniting story, music and visuals into something that truly encapsulates the 90s experience of pirate radio-fueled party people. A sweet and illuminating film that brings both politics and culture to life in nostalgic-but-unsentimental fashion, this film was an instant classic and brings back such great memories for me.

2. Human Traffic — Nice One Bruva. A hilarious, fun romp following a group of friends out in Cardiff and the music their lives revolve around. A rom-com, buddy flick, coming of age and wry social satire all at one, it’s a great example of 90s life and film making all in one. And just like Beats, a perfect soundtrack full of classic bangers.

3. 24 Hour Party People — Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson in one of the best films about music ever made. British Punk, Factory records, the Hacienda - it’s all here with Coogan/Wilson breaking the fourth wall to break down all the action in hilarious fashion the entire way.

4. Paris is Burning — Jennie Livingston’s documentary made stars of figures like Willi Ninja and Pepper LaBeija in this enduring slice of New York life. Showcasing the brilliance and resilience of many members of the Harlem Ballroom culture of the late 80s, Paris is Burning is in my top five films of all time, and tied with Grey Gardens as my favorite documentary ever. It breaks down ball culture into its very important components and introduced the world to Vogue — strike a pose.

5. Studio 54 The Documentary — The most comprehensive look at the iconic venue I’ve seen. Interviewing Ian Schrager, it delves into the history and culture of the world’s most notorious disco. With archival footage galore, it makes you want a time machine, and a space on the guest list, desperately.

6. Saturday Night Fever — the film that signaled both the domination of disco and its decline in the USA. It’s a surprisingly deep film, with the first 20 minutes really driving home the difference between Tony the everyday working class New Yorker, and Tony the dance floor stud. The soundtrack is iconic, the dance moves equally so, and the footage of vintage Brooklyn and the Bay Ridge disco 2001 Odyssey is worth the price of admission (same with the Fran Drescher cameo!).

7. Babylon — a film that I first caught randomly on British television, it tells the story of Dub Culture in London. It’s an incredible immersion into the reggae and dub underground in the Big Smoke, telling the story of Blue who fronts a sound system in Brixton. Not unlike Saturday Night Fever, just the Black and British version, it’s a slice of life following the trials and tribulations of a young man who lives for music, and survives as a vital portrayal of cultural history.

8. Party Girl — the film that put Parker Posey on the map, and inspired a legion of young club kids - and librarians. Playing a a gal-about-town who invests in her own success and love in quirky, unexpected fashion, it’s a fun romp through 90s New York - and nice to see club life portrayed from a young woman’s perspective.

9. Art Boy — a documentary about the all-too short and brilliant life of artist Keith Haring, this film explores the importance of music, club culture, and drug experimentation in Haring’s work. About much more than visual art, with archival footage of early 80s New York galleries and nightclubs, during the age where they often merged as one. There are some great little snippets of film taken at Paradise Garage, where Keith was a faithful member.

10. Wigstock the Movie/Wig — The original Wigstock the Movie was a huge influence on a young Ana Matronic, and was the film that made me want to be a drag performer. A documentary about the drag culture of downtown New York and the festival that propelled Lady Bunny from notorious ne’er do well to a cultural force. The update, WIG, shows how the culture has endured and introduces the new generation of performers bringing drag and gender expression into the 21st Century.

Honorable Mention: Mondo New York — an extremely weird and sometimes disjointed look at the downtown art and club scene of the 1980s, this documentary is an anthology of work by some of the brightest stars of the movement, shot in a pulpy “Mondo” style fashioned after exploitation films of the 1960s. Back when I was a fledgling club kid, this VHS was a holy artifact, often stolen from video rental stores and passed among friends. Best of luck finding it - BUT it was made by Stuart Shapiro who made the cult classic tv show Night Flight, and they have a subscription streaming website, fingers crossed it will make it up there someday!