Top Six Skateboard Documentaries to watch on lockdown!
In my last post, the 'Top 6 Skateboard movies to watch on lockdown', I looked at 'Hollywood' skateboard films, so I figured in this list we'd move from fiction to fact! What took me by surprise after my last Top 6 was the number of the great suggestions I received for what I'd missed off the list. Quite rightly a handful of you pointed out that I'd failed to include Cory Adams classic from 2009 ‘Machotaildrop’, which was definitely an error on my part! I’m prepared for a few angry messages this time round but I have included a list of Honourable Mentions at the bottom, so please check there first.
Putting this list together made me realise just how many amazing skateboard documentaries there are out there, and got me thinking, maybe my next list should be the 'Top Six UK Skate Documentaries'...
2001 Dogtown and Z Boys
Directed by Stacy Peralta (yes that bloke), the documentary explores the history of the legendary Zephyr skateboard team of the 1970s and how they helped to evolve and move skateboarding forward. Using a mix of footage of the team shot in the 1970s by Craig Stecyk (also a legend), along with new interviews, with everyone from Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Peggy Oki, Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, and a whole host of skateboard royalty all narrated by two time Oscar winner Sean Penn.
This is the seminal skateboarding documentary about arguably the most influential skate crews of all time. This isn’t so much a recommendation to watch it, as an order!
2006 Rising Son: The Legend Of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi
Hosoi was 'the' rock star skateboarder in the 80's, incredibly talented, world famous and making buckets of cash! It all came to a crashing end when vert died and the trend shifted towards street. Hosoi basically went into a black hole of self destruction which included getting hooked on crystal meth, drug smuggling and eventually prison. The documentary serves as a biopic of Hosoi's life covering his early years, skateboarding career, downfall, prison, release and resurrection as one of skateboardings elder statesmen.
Hosoi found religion in prison, and whatever your views, this definitely helped ‘save’ him from the black hole that he’d dug himself. I’ll never forget seeing a kid online saying how stoked he was that Hosoi, a pro skater, was so open about his religion, and I respect that stoke! In 2012 Hosoi release his biography “Hosoi: My Life as a Skateboarder Junkie Inmate Pastor”, which is a great companion piece to the documentary.
2007 The Man Who Souled the World
If you don’t know who Steve Rocco is, before you do anything else, find this documentary and change that. Love him or hate him, he changed the industry in a similar fashion to the innovation the z-boys brought to skateboarding. The documentary follows Rocco's story from his humble beginnings as a freestyle skater, starting World Industries with Rodney Mullen, and then basically setting fire to the status quo! Like Mike Vallely says in the documentary; “so many established pros have their own brands because Rocco showed them that they could. You didn’t have to be George Powell Engineer, or Brad Dorfman, or Orange County Businessman, you can be a skateboarder and do your own thing, create your own brand and make it happen for yourself!”
To add to the madness on screen (and there's plenty of it), the film is wrapped with animated vignettes hosted by Wee Man, what more could you ask?
2012 Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
A great companion piece to Stacy Peralta’s earlier film ‘Dogtown and Z Boys’, this time charting the history of the legendary Bones Brigade, and featuring pretty much the whole crew; Hawk, Cab, Hosoi, Mountain, Mullen, McGill, Guerrero, plus the likes of Shepard Fairey, Ben Harper, and oh yeah, Fred Durst. Fred Durst aside, this is master filmmaking from Stacy, who brought us one of the most influential skate films of all time, ‘The Search for Animal Chin’ 25 years earlier.
I was lucky to have attended the premier at the Prince Charles theatre in Leicester Square back in 2012. I was sat a few seats away from Mark Gonzales which definitely cements my internal legend for this movie. Despite the odd US pro at the premier, it was a mainly local brit crowd who heckled (myself included), laughed, threw popcorn, spilt beer, cheered, and genuinely felt charged by the on screen stoke. This isn't just a documentary film, this is a historical document.
2018 Minding the Gap
Five minutes into Minding the gap, I knew I was going to like it. What started out as three friends simply filming their skateboarding escapades, grew into a coming of age documentary drawing on over a decade of footage. In just over 90, emotional minutes, director Bing Liu (one of the three skateboarding friends) shows us the struggles of growing up in a rust belt town in the US, young fatherhood, race, poverty, dysfunctional families and trying to escape.
Beautifully filmed, honest, with just the right amount of skate footage, Minding the Gap is one of my favourites on this list. It's currently free to watch on BBC iPlayer.
2020 Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad
Directed by Matt Harris, this is a love letter to one of the UK’s oldest, and only Grade 2 listed skateparks – Rom! Featuring many famous faces from the world of skateboarding and BMX including; Lance Mountain, Warwick Cairns, Iain Borden, Zach Shaw and Bob Haro, but what I really like is, it’s the Rom locals that take centre stage!
The film covers the history of Rom skate park from its inception to the various waves of popularity in regards to BMX/Skateboarding, financial troubles, community and how they came together to fight to save the park. This is not just a beautiful ode to Rom, but also a beautiful ode to skateboarding, BMXing and how it can help shape individuals and build communities. This is not one to miss and is currently available via Apple TV and Amazon.
2020 The Tony Alva Story: Brand new from the folks at VANS featuring a host of skateboard royalty and famous faces including; Tony Alva (of course), Jeff Grosso, Wynn Miller, Steve Olson, Shepard Fairy, Gus Van Sant, Josh Brolin, Glen E Friedman, Robert Trujillo, Jeff Ho, Stacey Peralta, Elijah Berle and many more. This is heavy!
2002 Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator: what happens when it all goes very badly wrong. There’s no feel good factor when this is finished and will always have me questioning why anybody would want to still own a Gator board? That said it's a great documentary.
2019 “Nothing Meaner” The Story of Dean Lane Skatepark: The history of Bristol’s legendary skate park, as Danny Wainwright says in the Doc “it’s a beautiful shit hole” free to watch via Thrasher.
1966 The Devil’s Toy: Swift at a mere 15 minutes this feels more like an art piece than a documentary, it’s dedicated "to all victims of intolerance” and depicts the dawn of skateboarding in Montreal.
1978 Skateboard Kings: early Dog Town skate doc featuring Tony Alvar, Shogo Kubo and more. Also features the infamous Arizona Pipes.
2007 Pray For Me The Jason Jessee Film: 81 minutes of absolute madness from one of the most polarising skateboarders to ever do it.
2005 WHO CARES – The Duane Peters Story: Talking of polarising skateboarders this swift 69 minute doc is produced by Black Label.
2014 All This Mayhem: A great documentary but worth taking everything Tas Pappa says about Tony Hawk with a pinch of salt and for further clarification, check out Jenkem Mags ‘Did Tony Hawk Steal the 900?’ article.