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The 10 best clubbing films to stream online

Clubbing has a rocky history with being portrayed on the big screen. Those that get it right are a timeless snapshot of dancefloor experiences, whilst those that get it wrong are a woeful attempt at nightclubs clearly put together by someone that’s never set foot in one. Below, we chart the best rave films so you never have to experience a terrible club scene ever again...

Over the years, clubbing has been represented on the big screen through a variety of stories. Most recently, Beats captures the frenetic energy of the early ‘90s rave days in the UK. Out in UK theaters now, the Brian Welsh-directed film (shot entirely in black and white) follows two young friends as they discover the free party scene in Scotland right before the Conservative government passes the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act, which made gathering around “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” illegal. 

However, most films about clubbing keep their focus almost entirely personal. Human Traffic — which is receiving a sequel soon — is the most classic example, following a group of friends who will do whatever it takes to make it through another day of menial employment, difficult family life, and harsh comedowns without losing their sense of humor, or love for each other. It’s damn near impossible to watch them woozily connect on the dance floor without getting a tingle down your spine — and maybe a flashback or two. 

However it’s done, these 10 films about clubbing will press any club-lover’s buttons in all the right ways: Nostalgia, romance, action, comedy, DJ cameos, and, of course, some of the best soundtracks in film. We’ve provided links to every flick, so you can dig right in.

1.
Human Traffic

It’s the film that spawned one of the greatest catchphrases in raving history: “nice one bruva!” And who can forget that incredible Junglist Movement record store scene with Koop? If you’re not sure what we’re on about, do yourself a favour and watch Human Traffic immediately. It’s not just great because a wickedly fun portrait of a group of raving mates from Cardiff — which it is — it’s brilliant because it’s a refreshingly accurate portrayal of a group of friends who come together for the love of the music — and partying — warts and all.

Watch it here.

2.
It’s All Gone Pete Tong

Shot mockumentary style, featuring interviews with Paul Van Dyk, Tiësto and Pete Tong himself, this Michael Dowse-directed “biopic” follows Ibiza’s biggest DJ, Frankie Wilde, as loses his hearing and career before losing his mind in a cocaine-fuelled, hallucinatory breakdown. Starring comedian Paul Kaye as Frankie, the film is partly a send up of hedonistic club culture and the desperation that comes with constantly chasing a good time. Though once Kaye meets his future love interest, a speech therapist named Penelope Beatriz Batarda, we see another side to Wilde that ultimately brings him a deeper kind of happiness.

Watch it here.

3.
24 Hour Party People

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Manchester was home to some of the most important characters in music. And TV personality turned record label exec/club owner Tony Wilson was right in the middle of the action. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring the always great Steve Coogan as Wilson, this film chronicles Wilson’s anarchic rise as the head of Factory Records — which signed Joy Division and The Happy Mondays — while launching The Haçienda, where club culture in the UK was basically born. Due to the label’s chronic mismanagement and financial woes, it all came crashing down, of course. But that’s why this film is so much fun.

Watch it here.

4.
Eden

In one sense, Eden is an unabashed love letter to early ‘90s raving and the French touch scene. Anyone who raved during that time will certainly get sweet pangs of nostalgia watching the film. But it’s also a film about losing one’s way. While Daft Punk do make appearances, the film focuses on fictional DJ Paul Vallée as he finds success before getting swept up in late nights and the vices that come with them. The soundtrack is also inspired, featuring plenty of Daft Punk, as well as Frankie Knuckles, Joe Smooth, Joey Beltram, The Orb and more. It’s all wonderfully authentic.

Watch it here.

5.
Groove

Written and directed by Greg Harrison, Groove chronicles one night at a San Francisco warehouse rave in the early ‘00s. After a single email gets round to hundreds of wouldbe partiers, the film’s promoter Ernie (Steve Van Wormer) has a massive party on his hands. Though Ernie is in it for the love — or “the nod” that comes with a truly satisfied customer, as Enrie describes it — only charging $2.00 a ticket. Other characters show up, including a wise and friendly drug dealer. And of course there’s a love story with ecstacy fueling the romance. Though perhaps the best part is a cameo by John Digweed, who plays himself.

Watch it here.

6.
Kevin And Perry Go Large

Some people love it, some really hate it. Whatever you’re opinion on this Ed Bye-directed film, there’s little denying its place in the annals of UK club culture and comedy. The film follows two two famous Harry Enfield and Chums characters, Kevin and Perry, and their many, many, many failed attempts at sex, as well as their accidental foil of a bank robbery. As a reward, they’re given enough cash for a wild weekend in Ibiza, where they think all their dreams will come true. They do, but in a way only this film can deliver. With a sex tape and a club hit.

Watch it here.

7.
The Last Days of Disco

20 years after its release, and Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco still feels as fresh as ever. Starring Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale as college friends and co-workers Alice and Charlotte, Disco takes a cynically romantic and comedic look at the end of an era through the eyes of young Manhattan-living aspirationals in the early ‘80s, as the Studio 54-esque club they love closes down due to a scandal (much like the real Studio 54). They search for love, meaning, and eventually, jobs. But they keep dancing until the very end.

Watch it here.

8.
Go

Staring plenty of great ‘90s talent, including Katie Holmes, Taye Diggs, Timothy Olyphant, and even Melissa McCarthy, way, way before she was famous, Go is mostly an action movie about a drug buy and drug bust gone wrong with a wild rave in the middle. But its Pulp Fiction-style narrative and sharp-wit comedy keep the film moving along like the best nights out — before you know it, you’re sitting in a daze wondering how you even got here. Things don’t necessarily pan out for the film’s heroes, but perhaps that’s the price to pay for trying to score a load of ecstasy on Christmas eve.

Watch it here.

9.
Trainspotting

A stone-cold classic of cinema in its own right, Danny Boyle’s directorial adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, Trainspotting has now received a sequel, and a place atop the mantle of movies with clubbing at the center or periphery of the story. In Trainspotting, of course, clubs are only a part of the film, which is really about Scottish heroin junkies and the awful mess they make of their lives because of their addictions. But with ‘Born Slippy’’ serving as the film’s main soundtrack, electronic music runs through its very core, further energizing one of the most charged films of the ‘90s.

Watch it here.

10.
Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

An adaptation of The Undefeated, the third novella in Welsh’s book Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance, this Rob Heydon film follows hapless ecstasy-loving clubber Lloyd Buist (Adam Sinclair), who despite his listless, drug-addled ways, is fallen for by Heather Thompson (Kristin Kreuk) after her marriage falls apart. Together the pair spend plenty of time partying together, and soon Thompson begins wondering how much of their romance is chemically induced. When a local mobster puts Lloyd’s life in danger, he realizes there’s more to life than popping pills, and makes a turn for good.

Watch it here.

Want more? Check out 10 music documentaries worth watching on Netflix.

Chandler Shortlidge is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter here.