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Film / Quadrophenia

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Cover for The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release.

"Sex, drugs, and rock & roll... nothing ever changes."
Tagline from one of the DVD boxes

"Look, I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see?"

The Movie based on The Who's Concept Album Quadrophenia. Directed by Franc Roddam as his first feature film, it's a looser adaptation than that of Tommy, being a straightforward drama film about teenage angst and gang culture in 1960s Britain instead of a surreal musical. It stars Phil Daniels as the main character Jimmy Cooper, Sting as important mod Ace Face, Ray Winstone as rocker Kevin and Leslie Ash as Steph, Jimmy's girlfriend. The film spawned a soundtrack album, featuring tracks from the album remixed by the Who's bassist John Entwistle.

It joined The Criterion Collection's offerings in 2012.

Being an adaptation of the album, much of the double-LP's plot and accompanying tropes are carried over here. That said, several tropes are exclusive to the movie.


  • The Ace: Ace Face, at first.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Ace Face nonchalantly pays his fine in court, even the rockers laugh.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Most of the movie focuses on the events leading up to the Brighton beach riots, which in the album occur near the beginning.
  • Adults Are Useless: Jimmy’s parents do nothing but ignore and yell at him for most of the movie.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • During one of the riots, a Pelican crossing is seen, but this was introduced in the mid-'70s.
    • A Pepsi logo that was not introduced until 1973 appears on the Brighton ice cream shop window behind Steph as Jimmy is carried off to the paddy wagon, as well as the mod hangout Alfredo's Snack Bar in a subsequent scene.
    • The double LP The Who Sell Out and A Quick One special edition was not released until 1974.
    • Many late 1970s cars are seen in the background. Particularly during the "Goldhawk Road" and "Brighton riot" scenes. Similarly, all the street furniture, road markings and road signs are from the same era, and signs can be seen in (Brighton) shop windows advertising credit cards.
    • A 1972 Ivory Mercedes Benz 200 passes by in the background as Jimmy steals Ace Face's parked Vespa from the hotel.
    • Rockers are wearing Motörhead T-shirts but the band didn't exist yet.
    • A cinema advertising Heaven Can Wait (1978) can be seen in the background when the Mods fight against the Rockers.
    • On Jimmy's bedroom wall is an advertising poster for the Who on Track Records, which didn't form until 1967.
    • At the party the Mods dance to the Who's "My Generation"... a song not released until late 1965. Also Jimmy watches the Who on Ready Steady Go on TV performing "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", also not released until 1965.
    • Jimmy and his friends drive their scooters with a "Goldhawk Building Society" sign prominently visible in the background, on the side of a railway bridge. This organization did not come into existence under that name until the early 1970s and had folded by 1981.
    • When Jimmy enters the scrap yard to see Peter Fenton, an "NF" (National Front, a British white supremacist political party) graffiti is seen scrawled on the gates. The National Front was not officially formed until 1966, and its "NF" symbol was not commonly seen in graffiti until the mid 1970's.
  • Artistic Licence – Geography: On the road to the coast, the scooters stop and Jimmy shouts "That is Brighton." Actually, what we see in the distance is Eastbourne.
  • Badass Longcoat: Ace Face wears a snazzy black leather trenchcoat.
  • Bath of Poverty: A downplayed example pops up when we see Jimmy going to a public bath-house to rent a tub instead of bathing at home. This was common for working-class families in Britain until well into the 1970s.
  • Bathtub Bonding: Jimmy meets up with Kevin in a bathhouse (they're in separate tubs). Subverted later when they get dressed and they realize Jimmy is a Mod while Kevin is a Rocker, the two groups being sworn enemies.
  • Bookends: The film ends on the same beach where it begins.
  • The Berserker: Jimmy destroys the garden of the party house on Kitchener Road with his scooter after not getting a piece of pie.
  • Downer Ending: Jimmy steals Ace's scooter and heads out to Beachy Head, riding close to the cliff-edge. Finally, he drives towards the edge before the film cuts to a shot of the scooter flying off the cliff and crashing onto the beach below. The film leaves it ambiguous whether Jimmy simply threw the scooter over the edge or if he decided to go with it.
  • Driven to Suicide: One possible interpretation of the film's ambiguous ending is that Jimmy threw himself off Beachy Head after being unable to cope with his disillusionment and abandonment.
  • False Soulmate: One of the sad things about Jimmy is that he never seems to realise that Monkey is smitten with him, even going as far as to pull out of what was clearly a done deal with her at the party in favour of Steph. Later on, when Steph makes her feelings clear during Jimmy's breakdown, Monkey can clearly be heard defending him by calling her a slag. One can only hope that she is still there for him once he clears his life up.
  • Fandom Rivalry: An in-universe one exists between the Mods, who follow current trends in music and ride scooters, and the Rockers, who lean towards 50's Rock & Roll and ride more traditional motorcycles.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Jimmy and Steph get it on after escaping the police during the riot.
  • How We Got Here: While the movie leaves Jimmy's fate ambiguous, interpreting the ending as him surviving makes the start of the film this. As it shows Jimmy on the same beach where the film ends, him being alive would imply that the start of the film takes place just after he throws Ace's scooter off the edge.
  • I Have No Son!: Jimmy's mother says this when she kicks him out.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Jimmy and Steph having sex is mixed with shots of Mods fighting police officers.
  • Just Train Wrong:
    • Jimmy is in his bedroom and a train is seen moving past his window. The train is an Inter-City 125, which was not introduced on British Rail until the 1970s, but the film is set in the 1960s.
    • When Jimmy boards the train to Brighton, the locomotive shown is a Class 50, number 50 008. This number was applied in 1974, and the class was used exclusively on Paddington services, at the time of filming.
  • Large Ham: Phil Daniels as Jimmy.
  • Lower-Class Lout: The Teddy boys. The Mods are little better.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: One scene takes place in a public bath, with Jimmy and Kevin's naked bodies visible in the bathwater.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Mods are singing and walking by the beach cheerfully when they spot the Rockers who harassed them earlier, kicking off the riot.
  • Motorcycle on the Coast Road: Jimmy goes for a coast ride at the end of the movie.
  • My Car Hates Me: Spider's scooter breaks down moments before he's set upon by a trio of rockers.
  • Present-Day Past: The film takes place in 1964, but the vehicles (including Jimmy and Ace Face's mopeds), as well as advertisements and fashions seen in the background, are contemporary to the film's 1979 release date.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The mods end up in court and fined £75. Ace Face whips out his chequebook and offers to pay the fine on the spot. And he even asks the judge if he has a pen.
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: Most of the cast. The film follows Jimmy, a young mod, as he pops pills, rides his scooter, and stares aimlessly out at the ocean trying to find himself.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: A staple part of the Mods' image throughout the film, with Ace Face in particular sporting a snazzy silver suit. Jimmy gets a nice red suit of his own, presumably with his severance pay, towards the end.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: When hauled up in front of his boss for being AWOL from work after his arrest and charge for being involved in the Brighton riots, Jimmy is effectively put on final written warning. In response to his boss telling him that "many people would give their eye-teeth for your job", Jimmy tells him to "FIND ONE, THEN!", and continues "You can take that mail, and that franking machine, and you can shove them RIGHT UP YOUR ARSE!"
  • Tie-In Novel: Peter Meadows wrote a sequel novel called To Be Someone in 2011. A movie is being worked on.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Jimmy gets arrested in Brighton, gets kicked out of his parents' house, loses his job, his girlfriend, and his mates, gets his scooter wrecked, and eventually finds out his idol, Ace Face, is nothing more than a common bellboy.
  • Two Decades Behind: The film cannot seem to decide whether it's set during The '60s or during the Mod revival in 1979 when it was actually made. For example, the characters have their weekly bath at the local bath-house (which would have been common in inner-city areas in the early Sixties yet by the late 1970s, the vast majority of houses in Britain had bathrooms and such community facilities had nearly all been converted or closed)— and then go home through the streets of contemporary West London.
  • Wall Bang Her: Jimmy and Steph do this in an alley while the big fight between the Mods and Rockers is going on.