Pirate Radio Movie Poster 27" X 40" (Approx.): Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

2020 Album Draft- Round 13 Pick 7- Film. Run-Sew-Read selects Pirate Radio/ The Boat That Rocked.

In the mid-1960s, while the British Invasion was permeating the US radio airwaves, things were quite different back in the British homeland, where radio was controlled by the BBC monopoly. BBC Radio played rock and pop music for only about two hours per week. To bring more rock and pop to the airwaves, a few music and broadcasting entrepreneurs established radio stations on ships anchored offshore, that would broadcast rock and pop music to the mainland. It was called ‘pirate radio’.

This movie is an entertaining dramatization of life on a pirate radio ship. The movie is titled ‘PIrate Radio’ in North America; and ‘The Boat That Rocked’ in the UK and Europe. While the movie is captivating for its 1960s wit and nostalgia, the issue of freedom of expression during this time period is a serious underlying theme. The story spans a time period of several months during which the ships went from ‘not actually breaking any laws’, to becoming outlawed by the British government, when it enacted the ‘Marine Offences Act of 1967′. Here’s a movie trailer:

Radio Caroline: The movie is a fictionalized portrayal with an unmistakable resemblance to the most popular pirate radio ship at that time, ‘Radio Caroline’. Radio Caroline, which still broadcasts today, provided props and consultation for the movie.

Back in the 1960s, the Radio Caroline DJs chose the music they wanted to play, and introduced listeners to new music and artists that weren’t being played on BBC. If not for pirate radio in the 1960s, we music listeners might never have heard some of the music that eventually helped define the era. Some of the biggest rock stars confirm this:

–*From Pete Townshend of The Who: “Without Caroline, we would not have sold a single record. … Sometimes the law is more than an ass. Pirates? They were angels.”

–*From Ray Davies of The Kinks: “Radio Caroline was more adventurous than most stations around in its day. It championed bands like the Kinks, who owe much of their early success to Radio Caroline and [DJ] Tom Lodge.”

[Both quotes are from the Radio Caroline website.]

About the movie ending: There are several captivating storylines interwoven in the movie, so no spoilers here, …but when this movie ends, the story isn’t over. Before the credits start to roll, a postscript feature tells the rest-of-the-story of what happened to pirate radio and rock and pop music. The legacy is portrayed with a slideshow of album covers from that time up to the present. You will spot quite a few from our album draft. It’s one of those movies where you’ll be rewarded for staying with it through the credits, until the screen finally goes quiet and dark. The extended postscript and credits can be viewed here.

About the soundtrack: Music from the mid-1960s plays almost continuously throughout the movie, just as it would have been heard all day on the radio. It’s either playing in the forefront, or in the muffled background, as if coming from elsewhere on the ship. It’s too many songs to list them all here, but it’s an extensive who’s who of music on the radio during those years, including The Rolling Stones, Martha & the Vandellas, The Turtles, The Seekers, The Troggs, The Moody Blues, Otis Redding, The Easybeats, Aaron Neville, The Beach Boys, and so many more. It must have been a massive job to secure all of those music rights for the movie. Here is a link to the soundtrack list on https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1131729/soundtrack

About the Marine Offences Act of 1967: Here’s more information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine,_%26c.,_Broadcasting_(Offences)_Act_1967

About Radio Caroline today:  Radio Caroline streams its broadcast from a robust website.  They have a superb corps of veteran Djs; some of whom worked on Radio Caroline when it was a pirate radio ship.  Each DJ curates his/her own programming, staying true to Radio Caroline’s original mission to discover and play the best music.  They play classic rock and pop from their days as a pirate radio ship, as well as current new album releases.  I’ve been reacquainted with long-forgotten songs of the 60s and 70s, and maybe more importantly, I’ve been introduced to great new music and artists who I would never hear on my local radio stations, because of their corporate playlists.  
The website:  http://radiocaroline.co.uk/

The Radio Caroline studio today is land-based, in Kent, UK, but one weekend a month, the DJs broadcast from their old ship, which is permanently moored in the River Blackwater.  On those special weekends, the DJs eat, sleep and hang out on the boat, and mix music with their stories and memories from the pirate days.  The next Radio Caroline special weekend broadcast is coming up next weekend (November 21-22, 2020).  If you enjoy the movie, chances are you’ll enjoy these special broadcasts, too.  Information link here:   http://radiocaroline.co.uk/#manx_info.html

Along with the internet stream, Radio Caroline now broadcasts legally over the air in parts of the UK, but that is a very recent development. Fifty years after the enactment of the ‘Marine Offences Act of 1967’, the British government granted a radio broadcast license to Radio Caroline. Ironically, it is a frequency formerly assigned to the BBC.


  1. Run-Sew-Read recommended this movie to me…I watched it and it was fantastic. You can feel the atmosphere the pirate radio stations made. The music is beyond great…Great choice and write up! Without these “pirates” a lot of bands would not have been heard…and a perfect one for an island!

    • Thanks! And yep, you probably easily guessed what my pick would be. I didn’t have a Plan B if it got picked before my turn. I would have had to scramble to come up with a second choice. I agree about the importance of the pirates back then. I don’t know that their contribution to music can even be quantified.

    • I can’t imagine the way it was on one of those ships. I just wish they could have gotten by with it a little longer…but I guess they were lucky to get by with it as long as they did.

    • It was a brilliant concept, and living on the boat must have been a most memorable experience. I wish I could have experienced it. But according to the movie, I wouldn’t have been allowed on the boat. 🙂

  2. I wanted to watch it when it came out, but didn’t get to and then it sort of slipped from my radar. Now for sure I want to look it up again and see it! Great story and write-up. I think you might like my pick which is coming up soon,Run-sew-Read… a similar underlying theme .

    • Thanks, and I’ll look forward to your pick for sure! I’m glad to put this movie back on your radar. It was almost luck that I found it back then, and unfortunately, it had just left our local theaters. It got maybe one weekend here. Sigh.

  3. I haven’t seen it but will have to -anything with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in it has to be good. He was set to play me in the movie…

    • When he passed away, and people were paying tribute to him, I don’t ever remember this movie being mentioned. Yet it’s by far my favorite of his works. Maybe others would choose another favorite, but still, he’s wonderful in this, imo.

  4. RSR, great choice and great piece. I had heard of those “pirates’ years ago and loved the story and idea. I vaguely heard something about the film. Now I know enough to put it high on the list. How could I not with our Island mates giving it high praise. Kinda of an American Graffiti’ on a boat, cool. I love all those old pirate radio stations. There were a ton in Texas and Mexico way back It’s where you heard the good stuff. Thumbs up. Yeah I could see us Islanders having a station on our islands.

  5. Wasn’t aware of this movie or if I was had forgotten about it. I knew only that at one point there were pirate radio stations on ships there. Added to my list to see sounds like my kind of movie. How *very* cool Radio Caroline continues and they still have the ship and keep the legacy alive by broadcasting from it one weekend a month. We could use something like that in the US these days as radio SUX with rotten music and full of ads. Guess what I’m listening to right now? So easy to tune in to it! Thank you for sharing it, and I vote yes on the DID Pirate Radio!

    • I’m in total agreement with you on US radio these days. We have some really good local DJs, but they are totally restricted by corporate. If only they’d be allowed to play what they know we want to hear. And yes the ads, yuck! I’m glad you checked out RC. I’m a huge fan of their station; maybe one notch short of a groupie. 🙂

    • 🙂 I’m liking what I hear so I may be a groupie in the making. They should have a monthly lottery where they choose one fan to go on the ship for the weekend.

  6. I just watched this last night and loved it. Every bit. Kind of sad to see Phillip Seymour-Hoffman in there. That scene where he’s talking about right now being the best times of your life was difficult to watch 😦

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