SXSW Movie Review: Beautiful Losers

At first glance, it appears to be a doc painted with a broad stroke, giving it a jumpy, unfocused feeling — that is, until it evolves right before our eyes into something special…
By  · Published on March 13th, 2008

Artist, writer and independent curator Aaron Rose’s documentary directorial debut Beautiful Losers begins as a sometimes confusing but extremely vibrant account of the lives of some of the most eccentric, creative artistic minds of the past 2 decades. At first glance, it appears to be a doc painted with a broad stroke, giving it a jumpy, unfocused feeling — that is, until it evolves right before our eyes into something special, something memorable and something that catches the eye and the hearts of everyone who is lucky enough to be in the theater.

Beautiful Losers follows a loose-knit group of artists who met in the early 1990’s and ultimately led one of the most memorable cultural movements since the late 1970’s. Rooted in the popular underground youth subcultures of the day, everything from skateboarding to graffiti artists to punk and hip-hop, their “do-it-yourself” attitude and their carefree lifestyles drew others to them, leading to a revolution of an artistic subculture.

The film, which is co-directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard, is a wonderfully composed love letter to these eccentric, creative rebels. Like its subjects, ten of the most popular artists of the movement, the film is a mess from a distance — but once you really get to know it, get to understand its message and understand how all of its parts come together, you discover its true beauty. It is one of those documentaries that will leave audiences in its wake, yearning for more information, yearning to be part of something special.

From start-to-finish, the film is visually dynamic and beautiful. Mixing archived footage with more updated footage, Rose and Leonard show off this vast, beautiful landscape of art that has captivated followers of the real life Beautiful Losers, the modern-day street culture contemporary artists. They also do a wonderful job of tying the work of their subjects in with their impact on pop culture, showing that some of these “losers” have been part of some very popular mainstream things, like Pepsi Commercials or the signs at Coney Island. It brings even the most average audience-member into the conversation, something that should be an aspiration of any documentary.

In the end, Beautiful Losers is more than a film about art — it is a film about rebelling against the standard, finding your passion and making that your direction in life. No one grows up wanting to be a conceptual artist or a political activist, but some people end up their because of those who are there to support them — thankfully for those who appreciate their work, these Beautiful Losers continue to stick together, even today.

Beautiful Losers is directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard. It features original music from Money Mark and the artwork of Barry McGee, Ed Templeton, Mike Mills, Margaret Kilgallen, Geoff McFetridge, Jo Jackson, Chris Johansson, Harmony Korine, Shepard Fairey and Cheryl Dunn. It has a runtime of 91 minutes. It made its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival on Sunday March 9, 2008. For more, visit

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)