5 Memorable Movie DJ Scenes
From the ‘50s on, the silver screen has been filled with iconic images of guitar-wielding rock stars, but when the art of the DJ began to give turntablists a new kind of “rock star” status, filmmakers started getting in on the action and including the dudes and dames behind the decks in their movies. The phenomenon of DJs seen on screen really began full-force when hip-hop started blowing up, but just as DJ culture grew up and expanded over the years, do did the filmic depiction of the star-quality spinners whose beats keep clubs all over the planet in business. Twenty years ago, the finishing touches were being put on one of the first and most influential movies to make filmgoers wish they were behind the wheels of steel, and our roundup of memorable moments in DJ cinema – from the sublime to the silly – starts there.
1. Wild Style (1983)
Hip-hop cinema pretty much starts here. And DJ battles be damned, this clip of the mighty Grandmaster Flash getting it on in his kitchen is somehow more striking than any drama-laden showdown/throwdown.
2. Party Girl (1995)
Nineties indie-film It Girl Parker Posey stars as a clueless club kid here, but Guillermo Diaz kills it as her aspiring-DJ roommate. The scene where Posey rearranges all his records according to the Dewey Decimal System is classic, but the one where a suddenly lovestruck Diaz nearly blows a big club audition mixes mirth and romance.
3. Groove (2000)
Granted, this attempt at capturing rave culture with a rather flimsy plotline might not have earned a place in the upper echelon of film history, but it does at least maintain a degree of credibility by having DJs play themselves, and the appearance of John Digweed as the DJ to the rescue is impossible to ignore.
4. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
Conversely, Michael Winterbottom’s dramatization of the Factory Records story has points both profound and (intentionally) funny to make about rave culture, especially in this scene, which shows how things started at the Hacienda, with another as-himself DJ appearance, this time from Manchester main man Mike Pickering.
5. It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004)
Let’s go out on a goofy one – in this satirical take on the rise, fall, and rise of an Ibiza superstar DJ, Paul Kaye achieves the improbable, making the notion of a deaf DJ seem not entirely implausible. Of course, anyone who has wandered into the right club on the wrong night (or vice versa) can probably attest to the plausibility of that notion as well, but that’s another story…
Fear of a Black Hat (1994)
We couldn’t resist. Let’s let this quintessential clip from the Spinal Tap of hip-hop, featuring Mark Christopher Lawrence as the inimitable Tone Def, speak for itself.