One of the earlier stages of sneaker addiction involves an insatiable hunger for information. When you’re new to a field of interest that’s as vast as that of sneakers, the instinct is to read and research. Enough of that will lead you to movies about sneakers—source material you can’t discount. Over the years of its existence and proliferation, sneaker culture has churned out a few good feature-length films; and inversely, a few good feature-length films have helped to inspire sneaker enthusiasts. Whether you’re new to the game or thoroughly steeped in it, here are a few such films for your research purposes.
Let’s start with the most obvious. Despite (or perhaps due in part to) its ridiculous plot and premise, Space Jam is a classic; a beloved childhood favorite for millennials and a novelty for the generation before us. Every sneakerhead remembers at least two moments from this movie: first, when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck break into Michael Jordan’s personal trophy room to steal the shooooes; and second, when Jordan shows up to the game against the Monstars in the now-legendary Air Jordan 11. The impact of Space Jam on sneaker culture is significant, and it’s often first-to-mind when it comes to sneaker movies. And don’t even think of owning a pair of Space Jam 11s without first seeing this movie.
Do The Right Thing
One of the first scenes in this 1989 classic will resonate with anyone who’s ever treasured a new pair of shoes. When a man in a Larry Bird jersey passes by and scuffs Buggin Out’s fresh Air Jordan 4s, he is understandably incensed, so he begins on a tirade against the offender. It’s an especially relatable scenario for sneakerheads who are precious about their shoes, and a scene that contributes to Do The Right Thing’s exceptional portrait of New York and its multiracial culture in the late '80s and early '90s.
Just for Kicks
As far as sneaker documentaries go, Just for Kicks may well be the best one out there right now. While it was released way back in 2006, JFK is still the best look we have at the sneaker culture at large. The filmmakers speak to prominent sneaker personalities, who all toss in their insights about how sneaker culture came to be in the first place, and how it got to be so rampant. It’s the best film for getting oriented with sneakers as a newbie, precisely because it gives you an idea of the scale of sneaker culture as a whole.
Back to the Future Part II
We have to admit: the MAGs are the reason that Back to The Future Part II is on this list. The MAGs, and of course, the movie’s other shoes: Marty’s Nike Bruins and Doc Brown’s Vandals. But also, who can forget the scene in BotF3 when Cowboy Biff calls out Marty for his Nee-Kays? But yeah, it’s mostly the MAGs.
Never have a pair of Blazers been such good performance shoes, and never has a movie been so focused on magical shoes. The entire plot of Like Mike revolves around one fictional pair of sneakers that once belonged to Michael Jordan. When Lil Bow Wow discovers them he finds out that they grant their wearer incredible basketball abilities. However frivolous the plot, Like Mike speaks to the universal, but intangible (and quite frankly, ridiculous) tendency to just feel like you can run faster and jump higher when you wear a new pair of shoes. Didn’t you ever feel that as a kid?
This more recent sneakerhead documentary is the spiritual successor of Just for Kicks. However, while examining the rise of sneaker culture and the frenzy surrounding it, Sneakerheadz also tackles the darker side of collecting shoes: the side that paints it as an addiction and a reason for violence.
Kicks may well be the only sneaker-related movie to score an 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s an indie film if you ever saw one, premiering first in the Tribeca Film Festival. The plot of this one is about a young boy who yearns to escape poverty and his insecurities, finding recourse in a powerful symbol: sneakers. One of the best things about Kicks is its ability to use sneakers in subplots that are all really about deeper personal and socioeconomic issues. It’s an excellent movie that speaks of the significance of sneakers in culture.
Sole Searching in South America
This one isn’t so much a movie as it is a short film. Sole Searching is a collaboration between adidas Originals and one of the foremost collectors and authorities on the three stripes: Gary Aspden of SPEZIAL. The film follows Aspden and other adidas collectors in a journey across South America, digging for rare sneakers. When they chance upon a boutique full of incredible finds, you can’t help but share in their excitement and sense of discovery. It’s a taste of the thrill of sneaker hunting—something every enthusiast must experience in their lifetime.