The Beat Generation on Film

To learn specifically about William S. Burroughs and movies, see Beatdom Issue Five, or read the Beatdom archives.


The Beat Generation (1959)

– Not actually about the Beat Generation artists. Just a sensationalist “beatnik” movie.

Pull My Daisy (short)(1959)

– Staring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, David Amram

– Directed by Robert Frank

– Written and narrated by Jack Kerouac

The Subterraneans (1960)

– Based on the Kerouac novel

– Features a white woman in the role of Mardou Fox

Towers Open Fire (short)(1963)

– Directed by Antony Balch

– Written by William S. Burroughs

William Buys a Parrot (short)(1963)

– Another Balch & Burroughs effort

Wholly Communion (1965)

– Short documentary about Britain’s “International Poetry Incarnation”

Neal Cassady: In the Backhouse and on the Road (1965)

– Filmed by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters

The Cut-Ups (short)(1966)

– Another Balch & Burroughs effort, featuring Brion Gysin

Chappaqua (1966)

– Featuring Burroughs Ginsberg

Me and My Brother (1969)

– Documentary by Robert Frank

– Featuring Ginsberg and Orlovsky

Heart Beat (1980)

– Starring Nick Nolte as Neal Cassady; Sissy Spacek as Carolyn Cassady; John Heard as Kerouac

West Coast: Beat and Beyond (1983)

– Directed by Chris Felver and Gerald Nicosia

Burroughs (1983)

– Documentary by Howard Brookner

Kerouac: The Movie (1985)

– Interviews with various Beat figures

What Happened to Kerouac? (1986)

– Interviews with many people who knew Kerouac, including daughter Jan, Herbert Huncke, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, Gary Snyder

The Beat Generation: An American Dream (1987)

– “Investigation of the Beat Generation” featuring many interviews

Jack Kerouac’s Road: A Franco-American Odyssey (1989)

This Ain’t Bebop (TV)(1989)

– Starring Harvey Keitel as Kerouac

The Black Rider (1990)

– Written by Burroughs

William S. Burroughs: A Commissioner of Sewers (1991)

– Hour long interview with Burroughs

Thanksgiving Prayer (short)(1991)

– Featuring Burroughs

Naked Lunch (1991)

– Movie version of Burroughs’ classic novel

The Junky’s Christmas (short)(1993)

– Written by Burroughs

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (1994)

– Documentary about Ginsberg

Ah Pook Is Here (short)(1994)

– Written by Burroughs

Allen Ginsberg: Live in London (1995)

– Footage of the poet performing

A Coney Island of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1996)

– Directed by Chris Felver

A Poet on the Lower East Side: A Documentary on Allen Ginsberg (1997)

– Featuring Corso, Orlovsky and Ginsberg

The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997)

– Movie about Cassady

Kerouac: On the Road to Desolation (TV)(1997)

The Nova Convention Revisited (1998)

– Apparently a poor quality bootleg copy of the convention

Go Moan for Man (1999)

– Kerouac documentary

The Source (tv show)(1999)

– Johnny Depp as Kerouac, John Turturro as Ginsberg, Dennis Hopper as Burroughs

Beat (2000)

– Terrible movie featuring Keifer Sutherland as Burroughs, Courtney Love as Joan Vollmer

Finding Jack Kerouac (2002)

– About a boy inspired by On the Road

Starving Hysterical Naked (2003)

Beat Angel (2004)

– About the spirit of Kerouac entering a writer

The Ballad of Greenwich Village (2005)

– Featuring Amiri Baraka, Norman Mailer

Breaking the Rules (2006)

– Footage from Beat and other countercultures

Allen Ginsberg: Ah! Sunflower (2006)

– Ginsberg performing at the Roundhouse

Neal Cassady (2007)

– The story of Cassady after the publication of On the Road

Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets (2008)

– Documentary featuring the likes of Dianne DiPrima

Finding My Kerouac (2008)

– Following in Kerouac’s footsteps

One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur (2008)

– A look at Big Sur

Japanese Sandman (2008)

– About a 1953 letter from Burroughs to Ginsberg

Ferlinghetti: A City Light (2009)

– Directed by Chris Felver

Corso: The Last Beat (2009)

– Beautiful film about Corso after Ginsberg’s death

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2009)

– Featuring never before seen footage of Burroughs

Where the Road Ends (2010)

– Originally titled “Visions of Paradise”

On the Trail: Jack Kerouac in Cheyenne (2010)

– Remembering Kerouac’s time in Cheyenne

Howl (2010)

– Starring James Franco as Ginsberg during the “Howl” trial

On the Road (2011)

– Finally making it to the big screen…

Queer (2011)

– Directed by Steve Buscemi

– Based on the Burroughs novel

13 Responses to “The Beat Generation on Film”

  1. Let me know if I’ve made mistake or excluded any notable titles.

  2. just that buscemi has a part in ‘on the road’ but does not say what part he is playing.
    all the actors are listed for the major roles. it is hard to find on imdb but if you go in under steve buscemi, you will find on the road and there is a link to the cast. all the main players are cast from ginsy to burroughs.
    there is a good contest. ‘guess who buscemi plays.’ it is typecasting but i think he would be a good huncke.

  3. How about including Robert Frank’s documentary movie “Me And My Brother” (1965-68), which featured Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Peter’s schizophrenic brother Julius.

  4. Some more beat-related movies:

    KEROUAC (aka JACK KEROUAC’S AMERICA, aka JACK KEROUAC: KING OF THE BEATS) Dir. John Antonelli, 1984 (71m)

    LE GRAND JACK (French-Canadian Kerouac documentary) Dir. Hermenegilde Chiasson, 1987 (55m)

    KEROUAC: ON THE ROAD TO DESOLATION by Andrew O’Hagan, dir. David Stewart, 1997 (50m)

    GO MOAN FOR MAN (Kerouac documentary) Dir. Doug Sharples, 1999 (120m)

    THIS AIN’T BEBOP. Harvey Keitel portrays Jack Kerouac. Written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, 1987. (25m)

    BURROUGHS (documentary) Dir. Howard Brookner, 1983 (90m)

    WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: Commissioner of Sewers. Film by Klaus Maeck. Readings & interview by Jurgen Ploog, Berlin, May 1986 (55m)

    WEST COAST: BEAT AND BEYOND. Dir. Chris Felver and Gerald Nicosia. With Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso, Lamantia, Norse, Howard Hart, Micheline, Kesey, Orlovsky, Kaufman, Joanne Kyger, Bobbie Creeley, Jan Kerouac, 1983 (60m)

    WHOLLY COMMUNION: International Poetry Incarnation, Royal Albert Hall, London, June 11, 1965. A Peter Whitehead film. With Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alexander Trocchi, Michael Horovitz, Harry Fainlight, Adrian Mitchell, Christopher Logue, and others. (33m)

    NEAL CASSADY: IN THE BACKHOUSE & ON THE ROAD: Neal’s raps, filmed by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, mid-1960s. (46m)

    ALLEN GINSBERG, “Ah, Sunflower”, London, 1967. By Robert Klinkert & Iain Sinclair. (30m)

    • Thanks again, Dave.

      The first one was included under the title “Kerouac: The Movie.” I guess that had a few different titles. The “Commissioner of Sewers” film is also on the list, although I have a different year for some reason… I’ll look into that.

  5. David, you are very welcome.
    Sorry about the duplications.

    • I’ve looked through the list and added pretty much all of them. There seems to have been a little inconsistency with the naming of certain films, and some have more or less dropped off the map. However, thanks for the pointers. I hope this resource helps people find all the Beat movies they want.

  6. Hi – You might be interested to know that 14167 Films – essentially me – is a tiny little UK based film company and we’re currently making a series of Beat shorts.

    The first was made with the full cooperation of Michael McClure and has won a few awards (including one at Berkeley) and screened at Cannes in May, the second is in post right now and is made with the full cooperation of The Ginsberg Estate and the third is currently being written and is based on the work of Burroughs and has been given the blessing of James Grauerholz.

    After that, who knows?

    So, check ’em out if you’re interested. The Beats are alive in England!


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