The Boat That Rocked

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A 2009 movie by Richard Curtis (the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Blackadder and writer/director of Love Actually) concerning the adventures of Carl, an English 18-year-old in 1966 who's just been kicked out of school, who is sent by his mother to live with his godfather Quentin, whose ship, the Radio Rock, functions as a pirate radio station. Hijinks ensue, as Carl befriends the various DJs onboard and experiences sex, drugs, and rock and roll. However, the eeeeeeeevil Minister Dormandy and his assistant, the appropriately named Twatt, want to shut down the Radio Rock as well as all the other pirate radio stations.

It's called Pirate Radio in the US. You could have a gander at guessing what was so wrong with the original title, but you probably won't find anything logical. [1] The changed title was most likely to differentiate between the original release and the North American version which was about 20 minutes shorter.


Tropes used in The Boat That Rocked include:
  • America Saves Pop Music One of the trailers for the American release states that The Count (the only American DJ) founded Radio Rock and saved rock and roll from the eeevil British.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Yeah, he's married, but some of the things Dormandy says makes you think.
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Dormandy: We have their testicles in our hands... and it feels good.

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  • Bed Trick: Averted in that it goes horribly, horribly wrong.
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: Radio Rock.
  • The Casanova: Midnight Mark, and to a lesser extent Dave
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Thick Kevin
  • Dance Party Ending: The pre-credits sequence has the cast rocking out on the boat to "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks, and it's near impossible not to dance along in your seat with them.
    • In the non-US release they rock out to "Let's Dance" by David Bowie instead, which literally invites the audience to dance along.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Surprisingly, Dormandy, considering the stick up his butt. Consider the scene where he tells one of his staff that the only people who wouldn't be offended by his haircut are the blind, and that he thinks they might somehow sense its horribleness anyway.
  • Disappeared Dad: Bob.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Thick Kevin conspires about Carl's mother's true reason to send him onto the boat. Considering he was sent there to "clean up his act", Radio Rock was probably a very poor choice. Thick Kevin does in fact come up with the real reason which is for Carl to meet his father.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Count and Gavin, as a result of Nobody Calls Me Chicken.
  • Fridge Logic: When the boats arrive to save everyone at Radio Rock their fans cry out the names of the DJs as they pull them from the ocean. How would they know what any of them look like?
    • If you watch the deleted scenes (all 45 minutes of them!), you will see two scenes about "Magnificent Monday," which is when 200 "lucky contest winners" get to come aboard the Radio Rock for a day. That explains how the fans would recognize their beloved DJs (as well as the young black guy, Harold, who's just a tech guy).
  • Gene Hunting
  • Hey, It's That Guy! (It's Ms. Fields! And Betty Draper!)
  • Honor Before Reason: The Count bravely volunteers to keep broadcasting right to the bitter end. While the boat is almost submerged.
  • Hot Mom: Carl's Mom. Lampshaded by everyone.
  • If It's You It's Okay: "His name was Jackman." "Of course it was."
  • Improbable Age: Several movie reviewers criticised the DJs as being, on average, rather too old when compared with the real-life '60s equivalent. The Radio Caroline presenters were in their mid-to late twenties, while the youngest Radio Rock DJ is Simon played by the nearly thirty year old Chris O'Dowd. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Count) and Rhys Ifans (Gavin) are in their early forties. Ralph Brown (Bob) is past fifty.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dave, the Count, Gavin.
  • Kavorka Man: Dave gets any woman he wants despite being short, fat and bespectacled.
  • Mood Whiplash: Later in the film, when the government tries to shut down the station, there's a sequence in which all the broadcasters, one by one, decide to stay, standing up in turn and giving their reason for doing so while inspiring and heroic music plays....and then it gets to Bob, who stands up and says sadly, "I've got...nowhere else to go."
    • The finale, in which everyone is saved as the boat is sinking and Manly Tears are shed, does get a bit soured by some thoughtless bastard holding a sign that says "Anyone But Angus".
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: When Quentin is addressing the crew: "Thank you, gentlemen, (nods to Felicity) lady......(nods to Bob) strange bearded thing."
  • New Age Retro Hippie: Bob, although justified since the movie does take place in 1966.
  • Nobody Calls Me Chicken: The Count and Gavin have a contest of chicken by climbing up the mast of the ship. They get to the top, and then go out along the spars, and then jump off.
  • Nothing but Hits: Kind of justified, in that the pirates were basically intended to be the equivalent of Top 40 stations, but still...
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Dormandy enjoys being in the government because if he doesn't like something, he can work to make it illegal.
  • Oh Crap: Just about every character utters one during Gavin and the Count's game of chicken. The best one, however, comes later in the film as the boat is sinking.
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Quentin: Ah. We would appear to be in entirely the wrong place at entirely the wrong time.
Cue water flooding the corridor

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"Gentlemen, I have some good news and some...bad news. Which would you prefer?"
"Good news."
"Okay, the good news is the engine has exploded and we're all going to die."
"Hello, hey, er Doctor Dave here, Radio Rock, how...how's that good news?
"I haven't yet told you how we're going to die, that's the bad news."
"How are we going to die?"
"We're going to drown in the freezing waters of the North Sea."
"There is a huge hole in the side of the boat and in the an unfortunate development it transpires that the lifeboats are useless."
"So that's quite lucky for you because you can't swim...so you'll die first."
[Part of the boat explodes]
"Alright! Alright, alright, alright! I'm going up to the studio! Harold! John! Up here now!"
[The DJ gets on the radio, and in his DJ persona asks if anyone in the vicinity can save them]

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  • The Unfair Sex: Brutally subverted with Elenore and Simon: Elenore reveals to the day after they're married that she married Simon only to get to Gavin, with whom she's actually in love. This breaks Simon's heart and even Gavin is disgusted and sends Elenore packing... admittedly after having sex with her. Elenore obviously thinks that this trope is how the world works, but no one else agrees.
  • Unfortunate Names: Twatt
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Yes, pirate radio stations, such as Wonderful Radio London and Radio Caroline, really did (and in the case of a few still do) exist. But the British government never actually banned rock music; The BBC, which had a monopoly over the country's airwaves at the time, simply didn't play much of it and when they did, they threw it in at a dead hour. By 1967, the Beeb had set up Radio 1, which did the same thing that the pirates did, except legally and better (and the station had attracted some of the most popular pirate radio DJs, like John Peel and Kenny Everett). A few weeks before the launch of Radio One, Parliament passed the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, which pretty much killed pirate radio (with a couple exceptions, like Radio Caroline which broadcast until 1990). In the film the Act is passed in January 1967; in real life it was August.
  1. Maybe Americans just don't like punny titles? A 1936 British film about mind transference was originally titled The Man Who Changed His Mind but changed to The Man Who Lived Again in the US. Or it could just be Viewers are Morons.
  2. It did, once, in the English subtitles. Cheeky.