Documentaries About the Beat Generation

Jennifer Berube
4 min readDec 6, 2010

Since the Beat Generation refers to a group of writers who were making history over half a century ago, it may be a little difficult to find video footage of them. But here is a list of some of the Beat Generation documentaries that best capture the counter-cultural phenomenon and the people that were involved.

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The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (1994)

Directed by Jerry Aronson

This documentary explores the life and work of the greatest poet of the Beat Generation. Allen Ginsberg was a renowned poet, political activist, radical, founding member of the Beat Movement, Buddhist and teacher. For 25 years, Jerry Aronson accumulated over 120 hours of film on Ginsberg, sharing with viewers exclusive interviews with friends and family and a behind-the-scenes look at one of America’s greatest poets.

The film includes footage of Ginsberg’s public readings, most notably Howl, and examines his work as a musician and political activist. Now updated to DVD, the compilation also includes new interviews with the latest generation of literary artists.

West Coast Beat & Beyond (1982)

Directed by Chris Felver

Filmed in San Francisco’s North Beach and at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, this film portrays the most significant members and influences of the Beat movement.

West Coast: Beat and Beyond is narrated by Kerouac’s biographer, Gerald Nicosia and features rare appearances by Jan Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joanne Kyger, Bob Kaufman, Philip Lamantia, and Ken Kesey.

Gang Of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets (1989)

Directed by Maria Beatty

In 1989, director Maria Beatty created a film that explores the insights and influences of the American Beat Poets. In a series of interviews, from the original Beats to today’s great poets, the documentary expresses the Beat consciousness and shows how one group of literary artists inspired social change.

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Jennifer Berube

Photography Writer, Editor & Content Strategist | Owner of Jennifer Berube Writing Services — jenniferberube.com