Skate or die! Has a cooler phrase been uttered in the last 30 years? Methinks not. Sure, nowadays skateboarding is a multi-million dollar industry thanks to the X Games, the Warped Tour and that damn Tony Hawk video game.
But skateboarding wasn’t always such a socially acceptable activity. Well, I guess it’s still not very appreciated by most law enforcement, but socially your chances of getting beat up by football players because you are a skater are much slimmer. Unless you still live in a small town. In that case, you are out of luck. The following films all, in one way or another, capture that special time, when skateboarding was new, innovative, and most important, a true sign of rebellion. Watch out, because Biff might bust a backside ollie 180 kickflip before you can say T&C Surf Designs!
It’s hard to say which of the many films in the genre is truly the definitive skateboard movie. Some really old-school guy might tell you it’s “Search for Animal Chin,” but as for Biff, well, he’ll tell you it’s got to be “Thrashin”. This 1986 classic is to skateboarding what “Rad” was to BMX and “Airborne” was to rollerblading. Hot on the heels of “The Goonies,” Josh Brolin stars as skateboard hero Corey Webster, who of course ends up falling in love with the sister of Hook, the leader of some creepy cult of skateboarders. It’s truly like “Romeo and Juliet,” only with skateboarding and an appearance by some super young funk band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk and Mike McGill all make appearances as background skaters, and skating legend Tony Alva served as “skateboard technical adviser,” whatever that means. This movie is awesome.
While Biff feels that “Thrashin” is the definitive skating flick, plenty of other angry young men and/or women out there will tell you it’s 1989’s “Gleaming the Cube”. A favorite among teen-age boys and Bop-reading girls, “Gleaming the Cube” was an ambitious action-type movie starring the ever-so-dreamy Christian Slater. The kung-fu-style plot finds Slater’s brother being killed by an international contraband ring (which means coke smugglers) and Christian’s plans of revenge. Watch out for B-movie legend Steven Bauer as the detective appearing while he still had some shred of credibility. As far as ’80s skater cred goes, “Gleaming the Cube” has got it in spades. Tommy Guerrero, Natas Kaupas, Mike McGill, Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen and Mike Vallely all appear in one form or another. Zephyr team founder Stacy Peralta was a second unit director as well as the ever-important skateboard technical adviser. Basically, the skating sequences in this movie are pretty off-the-chain, but the action-movie dialogue and plot can seem a little hokey. Yeah.
How can we talk about skateboard films without talking about the first (well, not really) feature-length film based on the new sport, “Skateboard: The Movie”. Filmed in 1978, this
As the Biffster mentioned before, there is an even earlier skate feature, titled “Freewheelin,” filmed in 1976. Starring Stacy Peralta, Paul Constantineau, and Tom Sims all in their heyday, this oddity was filmed before the advent of the ollie (that’s making the board go off the ground, sillyheads) so it features a LOT of downhill action. Heavy on skating and very, very light on plot, this is quite a fun little find. “Shredder Orpheus,” filmed in Seattle in 1990, is one of Biff’s all-time favorites, and it even features late, great poet Steven Jesse Bernstein. It’s all about guitars, skating and consumerism or something. If you really need the real stuff, be sure to check out the superiffic documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” all about the legendary Zephyr team, which featured Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and Jay Adams among others. Or you could just be a cool guy and try to find “Search for Animal Chin.” God, you people are so stubborn!