Jack Kerouac was the major figure in a movement that would redefine American literature and social norms. He spent much of the 40s and 50s traveling the United States and Mexico on a journey to discover life outside of the mainstream American values. He is credited with coining the phrase ‘Beat Generation.’
While it’s not always easy to find old footage of Kerouac and the Beat writers, here is a list of some of the best Jack Kerouac documentaries about the famous writer and the countercultural movement he started.
Directed by John Antonelli
Best known for his novel, On the Road, this documentary follows Kerouac on the road from New York to San Francisco. Living a ‘beat’ life in New York, Kerouac set out on many road trips to discover America and himself. John Antonelli uses old photographs and film clips, alongside interviews with Kerouac’s closest friends, to portray the journey Kerouac took.
What Happened To Kerouac? (1986)
Directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdams
This biographical documentary focuses on the effect fame had on Kerouac. From the moment On the Road became a hit, Kerouac began his downward spiral to his alcoholism-related death. The film chronicles his successful career and turbulent personal life.
Featuring interviews with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Edie Parker, and using archival footage and home movies of Kerouac, the filmmakers really delve into the question What Happened to Kerouac?
Jack Kerouac’s Road (1987)
Directed by Harmenegilde Chiasson
With the use of old photographs and interviews with some of Kerouac’s peers, this documentary focuses on Kerouac’s adventures across the country. Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti reiterate the Beat’s conscious refusal to conform and their disgust with the materialism of American culture.
Go Moan for Man (2000)
Directed by Doug Sharples
Using actors to interpret some of Kerouac’s most dramatic stories and journeys, Director Doug Sharples retraces Kerouac’s life on the road. Visiting the cities Kerouac lived and loved, the film revives the spirit of one of the most influential writers in American literature.
While the documentary uses re-enactments, there is also archived footage and interviews with those who know Kerouac best. Interviews include Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Edie Parker, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Stella Sampas Kerouac and his daughter, Jan Kerouac.
The film also includes excerpts from Kerouac’s 1959 appearance on The Steve Allen Show, when he read from On The Road.
These are just a few Jack Kerouac documentaries out there. If you know of more, please add them to the comments below.