The Beat Generation on Film

To learn specifically about William S. Burroughs and movies, see Beatdom Issue Five.


The Beat Generation (1959)

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

Pull My Daisy (short)(1959)

- Starring 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

Rebel Roar: The Sound of Michael McClure (2008)

- Short bio, directed by Kurt Hemmer

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

Wow! Ted Joans Lives! (2010)

- Short film

On the Road (2012)

- Finally making it to the big screen…

Big Sur (2013)

- Michael Polish brings another Kerouac classic to the big screen.

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

- Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) plays Allen Ginsberg in this movie about the David Kammerer murder.

Queer (2014?)

- Directed by Steve Buscemi

- Based on the Burroughs novel