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Film: The Boat That Rocked
A 2009 movie by Richard Curtis (the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Blackadder and writer/director of Love Actually) concerning the adventures of Carl, an English 18-year-old in 1966 who's just been kicked out of school, who is sent by his mother to live with his godfather Quentin, whose ship, the Radio Rock, functions as a pirate radio station. Hijinks ensue, as Carl befriends the various DJs onboard and experiences sex, drugs, and rock and roll. However, the eeeeeeeevil Minister Dormandy and his assistant, the appropriately named Twatt, want to shut down the Radio Rock as well as all the other pirate radio stations.

It's called Pirate Radio in the US. You could have a gander at guessing what was so wrong with the original title, but you probably won't find anything logical. note  The changed title was most likely to differentiate between the original release and the North American version which was about 20 minutes shorter.


This film provides examples of:

  • America Saves Pop Music One of the trailers for the American release states that The Count (the only American DJ) founded Radio Rock and saved rock and roll from the eeevil British.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Yeah, he's married, but some of the things Dormandy says makes you think.
    Dormandy: We have their testicles in our hands... and it feels good.
    • Angus, although the admission of having slept with another man in when playing "I have never.." makes things somewhat less ambiguous.
  • Anachronism Stew: The movie is set in 1966-1967, but the crew play some songs that were released in later years (such as "Elenore" by The Turtles, which is from 1968.) "A Whiter Shade of Pale" WAS from 1967, but would still have been released after the events of the movie.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: A scene shows hordes of female listeners swooning over Gavin's show.
  • Bed Trick: Subverted when she turns the light on before anything happens and is... not best pleased.
  • Bi the Way: Angus
  • Break the Cutie: Elenore's horrible treatment of Simon, especially considering how ecstatic he had been about the marriage.
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: Radio Rock.
  • Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest: Marianne drives Carl crazy trying to defend the fact that he procured a condom before their date, before revealing she was just winding him up.
  • The Casanova: Midnight Mark, and to a lesser extent Dave
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Thick Kevin
  • Creative Closing Credits : A great example, showing hundreds of classic rock and pop album covers.
  • Dance Party Ending: The pre-credits sequence has the cast rocking out on the boat to "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks, and it's near impossible not to dance along in your seat with them.
    • In the non-US release they rock out to "Let's Dance" by David Bowie instead, which literally invites the audience to dance along.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Surprisingly, Dormandy, considering the stick up his butt. Consider the scene where he tells one of his staff that the only people who wouldn't be offended by his haircut are the blind, and that he thinks they might somehow sense its horribleness anyway.
  • Disappeared Dad: Bob.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Thick Kevin conspires about Carl's mother's true reason to send him onto the boat. Considering he was sent there to "clean up his act", Radio Rock was probably a very poor choice. Thick Kevin does in fact come up with the real reason which is for Carl to meet his father. He then suggests that perhaps he should be called "Clever Kevin", and promptly rolls straight out of his top-bunk bed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Though Twatt wants to bring down Radio Rock as much as Dormandy does, he isn't willing to let the ship sink with the radio crew still on it. Dormandy, however, tells him they can't waste the resources on saving them.
  • Fan Disservice: naked Nick Frost
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Carl should probably have gathered from the Bed Trick episode that Dave's a man of questionable sexual ethics...
    • Twatt's observation that the boat isn't in a fit state to sail anywhere if they're pursued.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Count and Gavin, as a result of Nobody Calls Me Chicken.
  • Gene Hunting
  • Good News, Bad News: In this case turns out to be Bad News, Worse News; see Stiff Upper Lip below.
  • Hey, It's That Guy! (It's Ms. Fields! And Betty Draper!)
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: The Count challenges Gavin to a game of chicken by jumping off the main mast of the boat, after it is learned Simon's new bride only married him as means to get close to Gavin, whom she is really in love with. While inching out over the mast, The Count shouts down below, "I never even liked Simon!"
  • Honor Before Reason: The Count bravely volunteers to keep broadcasting right to the bitter end. While the boat is almost submerged.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: "His name was Jackman." "Of course it was."
  • Improbable Age: Several movie reviewers criticised the DJs as being, on average, rather too old when compared with the real-life '60s equivalent. The Radio Caroline presenters were in their mid-to late twenties, while the youngest Radio Rock DJ is Simon played by the nearly thirty year old Chris O'Dowd. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Count) and Rhys Ifans (Gavin) are in their early forties. Ralph Brown (Bob) is past fifty.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dave, the Count, Gavin.
  • Kavorka Man: Dave gets any woman he wants despite being short, fat and bespectacled though this is likely due to his fame.
  • Large Ham: Dormandy and The Count
  • Men Don't Cry: Heavily averted with Simon as he had clearly been crying very heavily. Also with Harold who sheds a few of his own tears, seeing Simon in so much pain.
  • Mood Whiplash: Later in the film, when the government tries to shut down the station, there's a sequence in which all the broadcasters, one by one, decide to stay, standing up in turn and giving their reason for doing so while inspiring and heroic music plays....and then it gets to Bob, who stands up and says sadly, "I've got...nowhere else to go."
    • The finale, in which everyone is saved as the boat is sinking and Manly Tears are shed, does get a bit soured by some thoughtless bastard holding a sign that says "Anyone But Angus".
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: When Quentin is addressing the crew: "Thank you, gentlemen, (nods to Felicity) lady......(nods to Bob) strange bearded thing."
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Bob, although justified since the movie does take place in 1966.
  • Nice Hat: Gavin's feathered one, and the Count's cowboy hat.
  • Nobody Calls Me Chicken: The Count and Gavin have a contest of chicken by climbing up the mast of the ship. They get to the top, and then go out along the spars, and then jump off. In an aversion to Soft Water, it doesn't go well for them
  • Nothing But Hits: Invoked, in that the pirates were basically intended to be the equivalent of Top 40 stations.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Dormandy enjoys being in the government because if he doesn't like something, he can work to make it illegal.
  • Oh Crap: Just about every character utters one during Gavin and the Count's game of chicken. The best one, however, comes later in the film as the boat is sinking.
    Quentin: Ah. We would appear to be in entirely the wrong place at entirely the wrong time.
    Cue water flooding the corridor
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "The Count".
  • The Pornomancer: Mark (witness the scene of him basically bathing in adoring naked groupies). In an unprecedented bout of wordiness, he explains at the end that he uses The Quiet One persona to ramp up the UST to the point that he can get results with the line "So how about it then?"
  • Power Walk: The stag night pubcrawl.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • An in-story example; an attempt is made to invoke the trope, but it is averted at the last minute. The aversion is a case of Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
    • Dormandy's reaction to the station's refusal to shut down is a for-him-extreme "ARSE!"
    • Twatt telling the fisherman to "Shut the FUCK! UP!"
    • Simon's line of "I believe the technical term is a FUCKLOAD of boats!"
      • Even more so when you consider the deleted scene in which Simon backs up The Count's expletive-heavy speech with the hesitant use of "flippin'" and "flip", but his avoidance of swearing is still implied in other scenes.
  • Pun-Based Title: The Boat That Rocked, get it?
  • The Quiet One: Mark, even when he's broadcasting — the only clip we see of him working is his segue from one track to the next: "...Wow. Now..."
  • The Sixties
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The men working to outlaw pirate radio are, naturally, black-suited conservatives entirely averse to fun of any sort, constantly filmed in washed-out greys.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The boat has a strict no women policy, but makes an exception for Felicity because she's a lesbian.
  • Soft Water: Averted. Gavin and the Count end up with broken bones and multiple contusions as a result of their game of Chicken.
  • Stiff Upper Lip : Doubles as Crowning Moment Of Awesome. (This entire conversation is deadpan and completely nonchalant.)
    Quentin: "Gentlemen, I have some good news and some...bad news. Which would you prefer?"
    All: "Good news."
    Quentin: "Okay, the good news is the engine has exploded and we're all going to die."
    Dave: "Hello, hey, er Doctor Dave here, Radio Rock, how ... how's that good news?
    Quentin: "I haven't yet told you how we're going to die, that's the bad news."
    Carl: "How are we going to die?"
    Quentin: "We're going to drown in the freezing waters of the North Sea. There is a huge hole in the side of the boat and in an unfortunate development it transpires that the lifeboats are useless."
    Thick Kevin (to Angus): "So that's quite lucky for you because you can't swim. So you'll die first."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bob almost drowns because he refuses to let go of his box of records when he's fallen into a submerged part of the ship and the box is weighing him down
  • The Unfair Sex: Subverted in fact if anything women get blamed more. Marianne who's only known Carl 1 night is sent to purgatory and has to apologize for leaving Carl's bed for Dave's. While Dave who's Carl's friend and has known him longer, therefore owing him more loyalty is called out by no one for plotting to steal his friends date despite showing zero remorse afterwards. Also when Elenore reveals to Simon: the day after they're married that she married Simon only to get to Gavin, with whom she's actually in love. This breaks Simon's heart and even Gavin is disgusted and sends Elenore packing... admittedly after having sex with her. Elenore obviously thinks that this trope is how the world works, but no one else agrees.
  • Unfortunate Names: Twatt
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Yes, pirate radio stations, such as Wonderful Radio London and Radio Caroline, really did (and in the case of a few still do) exist. But the British government never actually banned rock music; The BBC, which had a monopoly over the country's airwaves at the time, simply didn't play much of it and when they did, they threw it in at a dead hour. By 1967, the Beeb had set up Radio 1, which did the same thing that the pirates did, except legally and better (and the station had attracted some of the most popular pirate radio DJs, like John Peel). A few weeks before the launch of Radio One, Parliament passed the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, which pretty much killed pirate radio (Radio Caroline still broadcasts today, although it's now a legal, land-based station. Sometimes they climb back into one of the old boats note  for special events.)
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy : A rather hilarious subversion in the opening scene. When Carl shows up, Quentin (his godfather and possible father figure for him) asks why he was kicked out of school. When "Both" is Carl's answer to the question drugs or tobacco, Quentin claps him on the shoulder and says "Well done."

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alternative title(s): Pirate Radio; The Boat That Rocked; Pirate Radio
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