The history of skateboarding has been chronicled through countless skate videos and documentaries, from the earliest trick films to big-budget Hollywood productions.
If you’re passionate about the sport and skate culture in general, these skate documentaries are not to be missed.
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Seven of The Best Skateboard Documentaries
A skate documentary can teach you more about the sport and its participants.
It can inspire, entertain, and inform.
It’s also a great way of killing a couple of hours!
Take a look at the list below to see some of our personal favorite skateboard films.
Dogtown and Z Boys
Dogtown and Z Boys is the first documentary on our list because it is one of the most iconic skate films, bar none.
Stacy Peralta directed Dogtown and Z Boys back in 2001.
It follows the history of skateboarding throughout the Santa Monica and Venice area, and is a must-watch for any fan of skateboarding.
The name comes from the Venice/Santa Monica area, known as “Dogtown”, and the Zephyr Skate Team, known as the “Z Boys”.
If you want to catch a glimpse of one of skating’s most important eras and its most influential skaters, make sure you stream this documentary.
Blind Video Days
Blind Video Days had a huge impact on the skateboarding community and inspired many teenagers to take up the sport.
This 1991 documentary features Jason Lee, who followed Spike Jonze into Hollywood and featured in several iconic films, and Guy Mariano. It spans just under 24 minutes of runtime but was a hugely influential film at the time and has earned a spot in the annals of skateboarding history.
If you’re interested in the history of skateboarding or you want to shoot some skating videos of your own, this is a must. It’s considered by many to be the definitive template for skating videos.
Skateboard Kings is one of the oldest skateboarding films on this list, as it dates back to 1978.
It appeared during season 5 of The World About Us, a series of documentary shows that lasted for a couple of decades.
Skateboard Kings depicts several top skaters during the 1970s, giving you some insight into the early years of skateboarding and featuring future superstars such as Stacy Peralta, Ray Flores, and Tony Alva.
Skateboard Kings is available on YouTube, where you can watch the full hour-long episode for free.
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography is the third time that Stacy Peralta appears on this list, showing you just how important he has been for the skateboarding industry.
Peralta directed this two-hour-long documentary back in 2012, showcasing the history of the Bones Brigade, often said to be one of the best skateboarding teams in the world.
It covers the rise of skateboarding in the 1980s, along with its near destruction as authorities began clamping down on the sport and sending skaters into the shadows.
Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Mike McGill, and Tony Hawk all feature in this film.
It’s long, but it’s worth watching for anyone keen to learn more about the skateboarding world and its troubled history.
We Are Skateboarders
A documentary directed by Ben Duffy and released in 2012, We Are Skateboarders chronicles the changing face of skateboarding as it moved from illegal street skating and vert skating in empty swimming pools to a major international sport.
It’s a discussion about the heart and soul of the sport and it raises some interesting points.
Christian Hosoi, Rob Dyrdek, Peter Smolik, and Greg Lutzka all make an appearance in this skateboarding documentary.
Waiting for Lightning
Another 2012 release, Waiting for Lightning follows Danny Way as he prepares to jump the Great Wall of China.
It was an impressive feat that required a lot of preparation, and you can watch it all unfold in this classic film.
There’s over 1.5 hours of content in total, and it keeps things interesting by going into detail about Danny’s life, following him from his difficult childhood (including the death of his father and a mother who struggled with substance abuse) to his famous jump.
Danny is one of the world’s most influential skaters and his story is a must-watch.
The Devil’s Toy
The Devil’s Toy trumps Skateboard Kings as the oldest documentary on this list.
It was released back in 1966 and while it lasted for just 15 minutes, it had a massive impact on the sport and is still remembered fondly to this day.
Devil’s’ Toy was the first-ever Canadian documentary about the sport of skateboarding, and it was filmed at a time when skating was hated, skateboards were pretty basic, and skaters were considered to be minor criminals.
It’s a fun and beautifully shot film dedicated to “all victims of intolerance”. It captures the camaraderie and enthusiasm of a group of youngsters—a perfect snapshot of what it was like to skate during the dawn of this great sport.
It’s also an important piece of skateboarding history.
Nothing Meaner: The Story of Dean Lane Skatepark
Nothing Meaner is a UK documentary that spans over 45 minutes and tells the story of Dean Lane Skatepark.
Dean Lane opened in 1978 and kick-started a skating revolution in the city of Bristol, England. The skatepark became a home for thousands of kids across Bristol, and it was considered one of the best places to skate in the UK.
An amazing community of skaters formed around this park and it’s great to see how they evolved over time, with stories of skating squats, shared tattoos, and plenty of broken bones, all played to a punk and hardcore soundtrack. As noted during the film, “Everyone knew everyone” in the area and it was all down to Dean Lane.
Bristol itself has a rich urban history. Not only was it home to one of the best-known parks, but it also produced one of the country’s most popular skating magazines and some of its most accomplished skaters. And don’t forget, Bristol is also the home of the world-famous graffiti artist, Banksy!
If you’re interested in UK skating culture and want to learn more about a park that helped to lay the foundations for UK skateparks, this is the film to watch.
You can watch Nothing Meaner on YouTube. It is hosted on the Thrasher YouTube channel and has been watched by hundreds of thousands of skate fans all over the world. And if you’re looking for a dose of UK skating nostalgia, check out the comments, as they are loaded with stories of Dean Lane and other UK skateparks during the 1990s and early 2000s.
DAEWON was produced by Transworld Skateboarding and Adidas and shot by Joe Pease. It chronicles the life of Daewon Song, a legendary skateboarder once voted Skater of the Year by Thrasher magazine.
The South Korean-born skater was raised in California in a troubled family environment. He began skating when he was 14 years old and went to a school known for its violent reputation. He also grew up around a lot of gang activity and used skating as a means of escape, even though he was one of the only skaters left in his school at one time.
Daewon has led a very interesting life, and that’s before you even consider his many skating achievements. By his late teens, he had appeared in several major skating videos and was mixing with some of the country’s best skaters.
DAEWON reveals this story in full, featuring footage and pictures of Daewon when he was young, as well as interviews with his friends.
The Motivation is a documentary by Adam Bhala Lough that’s based around an NYC Street League Championship and its $200,000 prize. It tracks the event and its skaters, highlighting their struggles with injury, fame, family, and everything else that goes with being a top skateboarder.
The Motivation features Rob Dyrdek, Chris Cole, Red Cole, Paul Rodriguez, Ryan Sheckler, and more. It was produced in 2013 and has a runtime of just under 90 minutes.
The Motivation 2
This 2015 sequel to The Motivation features several of the same cast members, as well as Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, and Bam Margera. It was also directed by Adam Bhala Lough. But rather than focusing on a number of skaters across a major event, it tracks the story of a single legendary athlete, Chris Cole.
The two-time Skater of the Year is followed on his journey to the very heights of the skateboarding world, with scenes shot in Los Angeles, San Diego, Philadelphia, and China.
The Motivation 3
The third Motivation documentary was released in 2017, four years after the original. At 5.7/10, its IMDB rating isn’t as high as the other two and it wasn’t as well-received by critics, either. Still, it’s well worth a watch and it was nominated for two awards at the Motion Picture Sound Editors.
The Motivation 3 takes a break from big-money events and legendary skaters and focuses on the next generation. It follows youngsters from all over the world as they compete for a chance to strut their stuff on the biggest stage. It’s the next generation, and if you’re interested in seeing the struggles that young skaters face, it’s well worth watching.
The fact that the film was shot half a decade ago now means that many of these young amateurs have had a chance to progress through the ranks. It’s always interesting when that happens, as it means you’ll be watching the documentary on one device and then frantically Googling with another.
Freeling is a short but beautifully-shot documentary that you can watch on YouTube. It’s all about the freedom that you get from skating and serves as the perfect inspiration if you’re struggling to find the motivation you need to skate.
Freeling won two awards at the Student Television Network Nationals, picking up both the “Best Documentary” and the “Best Cinematography”. It also has a couple of other “Best Documentary” awards under its belt, and when you watch it for yourself, you’ll understand why.
Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy
The story of a place that Tony Hawk once called a “rite of passage” for hardcore skateboarders. Skatopia is a commune that blends hardcore skating, hillbilly culture, punk music, and absolute chaos, creating the perfect opportunity for an action-packed documentary.
It’s anarchic, chaotic, outlandish, and beautiful all at the same time.
Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy serves as the perfect introduction to this unique community. It was shot a number of years ago, but the community flourishes to this day. A number of famous punk bands have played there and it also hosts a skateboarding museum with over 12,800 pieces.
There is no charge to enter Skatopia (a donation is encouraged) and it’s open 24-hours-a-day, but there is a warning that declares “Enter At Your Own Risk”.
Learn more by visiting the Skatopia website.
Tic Tac 2 Heelflip
Tic Tac 2 Heelflip is a skateboarding documentary that showcases Australia’s rich skating history. When you think of skateboarding, your mind probably jumps to California, Oregon, and other states with a rich skating history. But it was popularized in Australia at much the same time, and while it hasn’t produced as many famous skaters, there are still some big names to look out for.
This film was produced in 2001, so it’s a little old, but it’s still well worth watching. It features appearances from Ted Bainbridge, Rob Bain, Sally Clarke, Chad Bartie, Andrew Currie, and more.
Bones Brigade Video Show
One of the first-ever skateboarding videos and one that still holds up to this day. The Bones Brigade Video Show is a classic, and one that every skater should watch, study, and understand.
It was produced by Powell-Peralta and features many legendary skaters during the start of their careers, including Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, and Rodney Mullen. It was filmed way back in 1984 and runs for just 35 minutes, but if you’re passionate about skating, you can’t afford to miss it!
Most young skaters in the ‘80s and ‘90s owned VHS copies of the Bones Brigade Video Show and wore those copies thin. These days, you can watch recordings of this classic video on YouTube.
OP King of Skate
A skating video that is nearly 20 years old but is still incredibly entertaining. It showcases 6 of the world’s best skaters as they tackle a range of tough tricks and obstacles. You’ll see Tony Hawk on The Bar of Fire, Danny Way as he attempts a couple of World Records, and Bob Burnquist as he tries the Loop of Death.
There are a couple of copies of OP King of Skate circulating online, including a full video on YouTube. You can also find it on Amazon.
Rodney Mullen: From the Ground Up
Rodney Mullen is a skating legend whose influence is undeniable. He won his first event when he was just 14 years old, and he helped to shape modern skateboarding.
Mullen has appeared in a lot of skateboarding videos, including several of the documentaries listed here. From the Ground Up adopts a more personal approach and it is all about Mullen, as opposed to his generation or community.
Skate World: England
Skate World: England is hosted on the Vice YouTube channel and gives skaters some insights into the unique English skating scene, with a focus on London. It follows some amateur skaters living and skating in the city and highlights their struggles, including the fact that many famous spots are being closed and parks are being turned into apartments.
Real estate comes at a premium in London. It has some of the most expensive property prices in the world, and that means that famous skate parks and other spots are being sold to private property developers.
More of the Best Skate Films (Tony Hawk, Peralta, and More)
The above list is a great place to start if you’re looking to learn more about the history and culture of skateboarding, but it’s just a snippet of the many great films that have been produced over the years.
If you’re looking for some Hollywood storylines, check out Thrasin’ and Gleaming the Cube.
For more from Stacy Peralta, take a look at Riding Giants (a surfing documentary) and Lords of Dogtown, which is based on the aforementioned Dogtown and Z-Boys.
Tony Hawk fans can see more of their favorite skater in Powell Peralta Eight, Future Primitive, and The End, to name just a few.