If like me, you are a skateboarder, you may see this as a form of torture as we start a four week lockdown here in the UK. However with the knowledge (hope) that we will someday be free again I thought I’d take a look at my favourite skate movies to pass the time.
You won’t see Fully Flared or Dog Town and Z Boys here! This list is ‘Hollywood’ (I use that term loosely) movies where skateboarding is either the main theme or plays a large role in the movie.
Now regarded as a 'cult classic’ staring a young Thanos (Josh Brolin) is as Chris Chatt pointed out on a recent ‘Skateboarder And…’ episode, "its basically ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on skateboards"! Cory Webster (Josh Brolin) is an amateur skateboarder from out of town staying in Los Angeles with friends in hopes of winning a downhill competition for which he has been training. During his stay in LA, he falls for a beautiful blonde named Chrissy, who just happens to be the younger sister of Hook, the leader of "The Daggers”!!! Yes you read that right. It’s fun, ridiculous, jam packed with skateboarding montages, its 80's cheese at its finest!
The film features appearances from many famous skaters such as Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Mark Munski, Steve Caballero, Steve Olson and even Per Welinder! To top it off even The Red Hot Chili Peppers make an appearance in the film. This is considered to be a cult classic and definitely gets a lot more love than ‘Gleaming the Cube’ which came 3 years later.
1989 Gleaming the Cube
Watch a young Christian Slater play Brian Kelly, a skateboarding underachieving high school student. Brians adopted brother is killed when he discovers the shop he works in is sending weapons to Vietnam, not medical supplies. The police rule it a suicide but Brian our skateboarding hero knows better! This is classic B Movie fodder that holds a huge place in my heart. It jam packed with skateboarding right from the start, it even has both a vert and a freestyle montage!
Before you get worried, the skating technical advisor for the film was original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta. A massive roster of skaters appear in the film such as; Mike McGill, Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Rodney Mullen, Rich Dunlop, Eric Dressen, Lance Mountain, Mike Vallely, Chris Black, Ted Ehr, Natas Kaupas, Chris Borst, and Steve Saiz,Tony Hawk and Tommy Guerrero! There’s a drinking game in there somewhere!
Directed by Larry Clarke this is a classic in my eyes, however it is now sometimes referred to as an exploitation film due to the age of the characters and subject matter. ‘Kids’ is a coming of age movie (as are many of the films in this list) that’s a perfect snapshot of 90’s New York disenfranchised youth. It caused massive controversy upon its release in 1995 and much public debate over its artistic merit. I watched this one at the cinema and saw a number of people leave early on in the film. I was a 16/17 when I saw this movie and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about as the characters on screen felt so relatable. Plus it came in 95 way after the 80’s boom when skateboarding was still considered very ‘uncool’ by the main stream.
It follows a group of teenagers through one day and night during which they travel Manhattan on skateboards and subway trains, have sex, drink, use drugs, talk, party, and crash before starting all over again the next day. The films underlying story of Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) is brutal and in some ways exposes the pitfalls of a carefree lifestyle. The movie famously features NY skateboarding legend Harold Hunter among the main protagonists.
2005 Lords of Dogtown
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and written by Stacy Peralta.The film is based in the 1970’s and follows the early lives of the original z-boys. Whilst it came after the 2001 award winning documentary ‘Dog Town and Z-Boys’ (look out for my next lockdown list) which Stacy Peralta Directed, ‘Lords of Dogtown’ although pitched as biographical, is a very ‘Hollywood’ version of the story. That said it’s a really entertaining flick full of pool skating and surfing
I’m a particular fan of skateboarder Don Nguyen who plays Shogo Kubo in the film. It also features cameos from many of the original Z-Boys including; Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva as well as other cameos from Lance mountain and Tony Hawk. Whilst it didn’t do that well on release it has built up a cult status and ended uo at #417 on the Empire list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time”. Not sure Gleaming the Cub made it on that list?
It was difficult not to approach this movie without trepidation. Especially when as a now 40 something skater, I was the same age as the kids being portrayed in the movie, skating in the mid-90s of the title. That and the fact ‘Jonah Hill’ was credited as the writer and director! Message boards were filled with discussions asking, ‘What does Jonah Hill know about skateboarding?’ turns out, quite a lot especially if you read Jenkem.
The movie is a believable coming of age tale that just happens to be set in mid 90s skate culture. Hill used real skaters in key roles and I was genuinely taken aback by the level of acting. Na-Kel Smith who plays ‘Ray’ and Olan Prenatt who plays ‘Fuckshit’ are both excellent. I imagine most people who don’t skate, wouldn’t notice the cameos throughout the movie that included skate royalty such as the aforementioned Chico Brenes, Chad Muska and Rick Howard to name but a few. It’s a credit to Hill that I didn’t either. I was too wrapped up in story and world that he’d built on screen that is Mid90s. That said i was worried as many of the reviews online drew parallels to Larry Clarkes ‘Kids’ but I need not have worried. As I said when I reviewed the movie for Cold Lips - “whilst both are set in the mid-90s and feature skate culture they are very different movies. Whilst ‘Kids’ was an authentic yet slightly nihilistic slice of the 90’s, Hills movie is authentic but much more accessible and leaves you with a warm feeling inside”
Skate Kitchen (2018)
Directed by Crystal Moselle who’s previous work includes the fascinating ‘The Wolfpack’ documentary, it features the real all girl crew ‘Skate Kitchen’! Much like Mid-90s, it’s a coming of age story that follows introvert Camille whose life changes when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. We follow her troubled home life and her development as she journeys deeper into New York City skate culture. Camille begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her own self. This movie is near perfect I was totally taken in by the film and the emotions being portrayed on screen. Despite being 40 I grew up with parents who initially had a negative view of my skateboarding and in a time when it was still viewed as anarchic by the main stream, this I’m sure helped me empathise with Camille’s story.
As mentioned above the film features real skateboarders; Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, and many of the ‘Skate Kitchen’ crew & friends. This adds authenticity to the groups interactions and everything feels very genuine. It’s already spawned a spin off series ‘Betty’ staring many of the original cast. I haven’t seen the TV series but it’s definitely on my lockdown watch list. ‘Skate Kitchen’ is currently available free to watch in the UK via All 4.
2007 Paranoid Park: Gus Van Sant dreamy psychological drama centres on a skateboarder and uses Burnside as one of the films main locations.
2009 Street Dreams: Co written and produced by Rob Dyrdek this is a who’s who of skateboarding. Although outside of the skateboarding, it feels like a cheesy teen movie. It’s hard to find but does appear on Youtube from time to time.
2005 Whats Up Rockers: Another from Director Larry Clarke but much less focused than ‘Kids’. At 111 minutes it was way too long and needed to lose about half an hour.
1989 Back to the Future II: Come on, we all still want a hoverboard right?
What’s your favourite and what did i miss out? Leave your feedback in the comments section!