1990s Cult Classic Party Movie Still Holds Ups, Stream Immediately

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Rebellion comes in many forms, and SLC Punk is a coming-of-age love letter to anarchists that should not be overlooked. Focusing primarily on the underground punk rock movement in Salt Lake City during the height of the Reagan administration, SLC Punk is a fourth-wall-breaking odyssey that informs the viewer on how youthful rage really is just a phase.

Playing out like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but with a prominent backdrop of power chords and substance abuse, this cult classic boasts frenetic energy and philosophical conundrums. It takes you on an acid-induced journey through young adult life as its misguided characters try to make sense of the world they live in. 

Matthew Lillard In SLC Punk

SLC Punk centers on Matthew Lillard’s Steven “Stevo” Levy, an incredibly gifted student who’s wholly dissatisfied with his affluent upbringing. Though he gets accepted into Harvard Law School, Stevo opts to squat in a run-down apartment with his childhood friend, “Heroin” Bob.

Fully embracing a lifestyle of partying hard, fighting preppies, posers, and rednecks, and going to punk rock shows, Stevo lives each day like it’s his last, but slowly comes to the realization that his life has no direction.

Stevo’s Life

Stevo’s father (Christopher McDonald) doesn’t want to see his son waste his potential, and thinks that he’ll one day make a great lawyer like himself.

The primary source of tension in SLC Punk is the contrast between Stevo’s upbringing and his current station in life, which his father thinks he’ll eventually grow out of. 

As SLC Punk progresses, it becomes clear that the punk rock lifestyle has its many downsides. 

Many Issues

SLC Punk

Bob, who had an extremely volatile upbringing at the hands of his mentally ill father, clearly has unresolved anger issues that need to be addressed.

Stevo’s other childhood friend, Sean (Devon Sawa), is now homeless and dealing with mental health issues of his own after accidentally absorbing an unthinkable dose of LSD while running from the cops earlier in the film.

Most importantly, Stevo’s world is turned completely sideways in SLC Punk when the rest of his friends abandon the punk rock lifestyle and leave Salt Lake City to pursue higher education. 

Great Juxtaposition

SLC Punk

Matthew Lillard steals the show in SLC Punk through his fourth-wall-breaking as Stevo. In several instances, the scenes pause, and Stevo’s narration takes center stage as he lays out his philosophies while introducing key characters to the story.

The juxtaposition of what’s playing out on-screen and what’s being said sets a tone that implies that Stevo’s ambitions are just as misguided as his hairstyle.

Through this method of storytelling, the narrative slowly reveals that Stevo is simply a tourist passing through a rebellious phase, and that his stay is soon coming to an end. 

A Cult Classic

SLC Punk

SLC Punk initially received mixed critical reviews upon its release, but quickly became a cult classic, as evidenced by its Rotten Tomatoes scores– 62 percent from critics versus an 89 percent audience approval rating.

Matthew Lillard was praised for his energetic yet insightful performance, which allows viewers to become fully immersed in the subculture that Stevo celebrates throughout the film. The film’s resolution also highlights Lillard’s ability to be more than just a goofball, as his dramatic capabilities are fully explored.

Streaming SLC Punk

SLC Punk

If you’re trying to figure out whether you’re a true punk or just another poser, SLC Punk comes with strong recommendations. There’s a fine line between rebellion and fashion, and streaming this cult classic on Tubi will give you a pretty good idea on what side of that line you fall on.