The political and social turmoil of Great Britain at the dawn of the Margaret Thatcher Era provides a backdrop for this improvisational drama featuring extensive live footage of punk trailblazers the Clash. Ray (Ray Gange) is a layabout punk rock fan whose interests appear to be beer, the Clash, picking up girls and avoiding a real job -- in that order.
Ray works part time behind the counter at an adult bookstore to supplement his dole payments, but he'd like to become a roadie for the Clash, though his pal Joe (Joe Strummer), the group's singer and rhythm guitarist, doesn't have an opening for him; the fact Ray is openly suspicious of the band's leftist political stance probably doesn't help matters much.
After Ray steps up to help the band during some trouble at a Rock Against Racism rally, Johnny (Johnny Green), the Clash's road manager, invites him to join their road crew for some upcoming dates in the North of England.
While Ray's enthusiasm for the band is unquestioned, he doesn't have much of a taste for the hard work that goes into putting on the Clash's live show, and lead guitarist Mick (Mick Jones) makes it clear he doesn't trust Ray.
As the Clash steadily climb from the punk underground into mainstream success, the band has less use for Ray's drunken antics, and eventually he's let go. Meanwhile, a pair of West Indian youths from the same London ghettos that Ray calls home become victims of the British legal system when a petty theft lands them in jail.
Rude Boy was shot over the course of the Clash's two British tours of 1978 and during the sessions for their second album Give 'Em Enough Rope; it was the first and last film for Ray Gange, who relocated to the United States not long after making Rude Boy.