Many people are exposed to skateboarding through either random scenes in the movies or random movies set around the skateboard scene.
I for one experienced the 80’s cliché of copping my first proper taste of an ollie in Back to the Future. It may have been a rocket, it might have looked like shit by today’s standards but it blew my mind. Even better than the ollie over the bush, which was Bob Schmeltzer I believe, was Michael J Fox getting towed by an automobile.
Both these moments opened me up to the world of possibility. Even though most are cringe-worthy, the following ten films are worth a gander for their skateboard flavours.
Skateboard The Movie - 1978
The whole film is an extended skate scene. This is a testament to the high note that skateboarding struck in the late 70’s: it was ginormous. Everyone was trying to get a piece, including Hollywood. Teen heartthrob Leif Garrett starred in this and the skating is taken care of by pioneers such as Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Shogo Kubu, Tom Sims and Dave Hackett.
Back to the Future – 1985
If you are ancient (like me) and skated for the latter half of the 1980’s chances are it was due to Marty McFly. He was 80’s cool: he was a lead guitarist, he ignited longing stares from the ladies (even his mum – eek) and he had a Valterra skateboard – a chunky pig of an 80’s beast. Not sure what a Valterra was but we all wanted to be him. How good would have it been if Gonz and Natas took took care of the skate stunts and not Bob Schmeltzer and Per Welinder.
Thrashin’ – 1986
A B-grade embodiment of the era. The flick features Cory Webster (Josh Brolin) is an awkward wannabe skate superstar. On his way to winning the LA Massacre (downhill race) Cory is involved with some of the oddest skate scenes of all time including a skate joust! There is even a sequence set in the twilight weeks of Del Mar. If you haven’t seen the Kill City over-dubs of Thrashin’ you haven’t lived.
Police Academy 4 – 1987
This gave us goose bumps when it came out in the cinema during the “Search for Animal Chin" era. The entire Bones Brigade was featured as well as Chris Miller. Chris' character famously changed stance halfway through a chase scene! Being the 4th Police Academy film mean the plot was far from strong, but the skate scene made up for it.
Gleaming the Cube – 1989
A similar vibe to Thrashin’ but way bigger budget. Except this isn’t so much the hero sportsman vibe, but more of a murder-skate-chase scenario. Aside from having to look at Christian Slater’s annoying head for 105 minutes, the film is mildly enjoyable on the skate front. The highlight for me is Brian Kelly’s (Slater’s) Mad Max hybrid skateboard that he chooses for the climax. Ultimate chequer-plated cheese.
City Hunter - 1993
I first skated Hong Kong in 1997. Back then I heard tales of the entire OG FTC team spending several weeks in Hong Kong. This was of course around the time that “Finally an FTC Video" had come out. As rumour had it a bunch of the guys left, frustrated with filming delays without even finishing the scene. One of the guys that stayed had a good power slide that’s for sure.
Kids – 1995
If they didn’t make Kids, there would have been no documentation of the 90’s scene on the silver screen, nor would there be such a proper portrait of NYC just prior to gentrification. Larry Clark created a controversial, realist, disturbingly raw, AIDs and drug soaked portrayal of our golden era. Of course Kids also featured some much missed skate scholars: Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce.
Lords of Dogtown – 2005
There is a slight chance you might have heard of this? Instead of the usual waffle, can we just applaud the shapes that Heath Ledger makes as Skip Engblom? Growing up in Western Australia I can’t help but wonder which sessions I shared with Heath. From all reports was certainly around in the early nineties. It was his formative years spent skating that helped make him the well-rounded human that he was. And as Skip once said “the kid’s the real deal".
Paranoid Park – 2007
This opens with a bang: a security guard cops a truck to the head and ends up getting chopped in half by a locomotive. This could be the ultimate skateboard-aided killing! Burnside pops up in this, as does Mount Baldy. The legendary Gus Van Sant who was also responsible for Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Goodwill Hunting directs the film.
Machotaildrop – 2009
Canada’s Corey Adams and Scotland’s Alex Craig formed a director / producer / editor duo that hasn't been paralled in skateboard-related films. A brilliantly freaky skate parody that revolves around Walter Rhum – a young ripper aspiring to ride for the best board company in the world: Machotaildrop. You can’t go wrong with the likes of Rick McCrank, John Rattray and Frank Gerwer either. Utter gold from commencement to completion. Watch it.