True Films

The Devil and Daniel Johnston


This is one of those amazing stories that sticks with you forever. In the beginning, a few decades ago, Daniel Johnston is a very talented kid who makes weird art and music and also records his life on film. He hopes to be a famous artist some day. But his art and life get weirder and weirder. He keeps recording his life, but it is clear to others he is going crazy. He is racked by “demons” — which is what his Bible-believing parents and Daniel himself believe. Yet, Daniel acquires thousands of true fans who see him as a genuine outsider artist and musician who makes visionary basement cassette tapes. Over time Daniel slips into self-destructive behavior until he is “rescued” by his father who whisks him away in a small plane. Then Daniel yanks the keys out of the plane in flight. It’s the devil in Daniel Johnston his father says, and by now you believe it. You just gotta see this movie, in large part made by Daniel himself. It’s a cult classic.

— KK






The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Jeff Feuerzeig
2005, 110 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted January 21, 2010 at 5:00 am | comments

  • notlife

    I fell in love with Daniel Johnston years ago. I took my now girlfriend to see The Devil and Daniel Johnston for our first date. I guess she likes me for wanting to see me again after that. I see him live every time hes in town. Iv gone as far as seeing him 2 days in a row. Everyone should give his music a chance.

  • martin

    Something about this reminded me of a film I saw years ago: Henry Darger – Realms of the Unreal. It’s about a reclusive janitor in Chicago who left behind a phenomenal amount of art and a 15,145-page manuscript of a novel he had written. Nobody knew of any of it until they found it in his apartment after he had died. True film, amazing story – you might be interested to see it. A better description here:

  • rodrigo Luff

    Yeah I agree. It’s an amazing documentary, about how something so beautiful, his voice, can come from such dark and difficult times.
    I am seeing him live next week, it is the first time he has ever been to australia!

  • ChuckEye

    Catastrophic Theatre company in Houston has produced two plays based on Johnston’s work/life. Their latest, “Life is Happy and Sad“, ran last month in Houston, and there are talks to take it to Austin this spring, from what I’ve heard.

    It was pretty amazing, and while Daniel himself was a bit distracted the night he saw it, his family & handlers all praised its accuracy and his portrayal.

  • Msdollman

    A nice selection. I whole heartedly second the Darger film. I might recommend Land of Silence and the Darkness, a doc by Werner Herzog. Will break your heart though.

  • Mark Lloyd


    Wonderful list..wonderful work, thank you so much. I would like to recommend a new film, Wretches and Jabberers. It is a documentary about adults with autism. It not only reveals much about our common humanity, it can also be seen as a very direct expression of technology helping us to realize our common humanity.