Guitarist Steve Jones plays a shady private detective who - through a series of set piece acts - uncovers the truth about the band. Drummer Paul Cook and bass guitarist Sid Vicious play smaller roles, and the band's manager, Malcolm McLaren, is featured as "The Embezzler", the man who manipulates the Sex Pistols. Fugitive train robber Ronnie Biggs, performer Edward Tudor-Pole, sex film star Mary Millington, and actresses Irene Handl and Liz Fraser also make appearances.The movie tells a stylised fictional account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of their then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the music business, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words - "chaos"), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history - EMI, A&M, Virgin, and Warner Bros. Records.
The footage was filmed in early - mid 1978, between singer John Lydon's departure from the band and their subsequent split. The movie was finally released nearly two years later. Lydon (who was listed in the credits as "The Collaborator") and early bass guitarist Glen Matlock only appear in archive footage — Lydon having refused to have anything to do with the production.
The 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury, also directed by Julien Temple, retells the story of the Sex Pistols from the perspective of the band, thus serving as a response to and rebuttal of McLaren's insistence that he was the driving creative force of the band.The film is also remembered for being shown at the wake of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.