Chucks On Film: 30 Iconic All Star Screen Cameos
The word ‘iconic’ gets thrown around a lot, but there’s perhaps no shoe more deserving of the title than the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. Transcending its athletic roots, the Chuck Taylor has become a staple of popular culture – representative of individual spirit and a sense of quiet accomplishment. Characters who wear Chucks in film and television are often the valiant underdogs – reliable and trustworthy – just like the shoes themselves. Join us as we recount some of our favourite on-screen cameos from the humble canvas All Star.
DENNIS THE MENACE (1959-63)
The earliest televised appearance of the All Star we could track down comes courtesy of a famous 50s nuisance. We can all relate to Dennis the Menace in some way. Sure, you may not have tormented your neighbour constantly or been deadly with a slingshot – but everyone gets up to a little mischief every now and then. Aside from his penchant for trouble, Dennis is also remembered for his iconic outfit of a striped tee, overalls and Chucks.
TALL STORY (1960)
This basketball-based romantic comedy was not only the debut film of Jane Fonda, it’s also widely stated to be the first big-screen appearance of the All Star. The plot is centred around a college basketball hero, played by Anthony Perkins (Psycho), who becomes an unwitting pawn in a complicated gambling scandal. Although we can’t speak for the accuracy of the film’s portrayal of 50s campus life, we can say for certain that they got the court footwear spot on.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
If Paul Walker’s character in The Fast and the Furious – Brian – has a mantra, it would have to be ‘pedal to the metal’. When the camera isn’t focussed on his puppy-dog eyes, you get a good look at his Chucks tapping clutches and slamming accelerators. Perhaps it’s fitting that a sneaker with such a rich history would feature in a film that has become Universal Film Studio’s biggest screen franchise.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Telling the true story of the formation of one of the biggest groups in hip hop history, N.W.A., this film is steeped in the LA street culture of the late-80s to early-90s. True to form, the Converse All Star features prominently as a staple component of West Coast outfits – with the actors playing Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E all donning the sneakers at various point.
Telling the true story of the formation of one of the biggest groups in hip hop history, N.W.A., this film is steeped in the LA street culture of the late-80s to early-90s. True to form, the Converse All Star features prominently as a staple component of West Coast outfits – with the actors playing Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E all donning the sneakers at various points.
Stranger Things (2016)
Last year, the world went wild for the retro-styling of the Duffer brother’s Stranger Things, an eight-part series that was drenched in signifiers plucked from the golden age of monster flicks. From the stellar soundtrack to the popular culture references – the story gripped the imagination of audiences everywhere. Perhaps the most iconic image from the show (and one that inspired a thousand Halloween costumes) came courtesy of Eggo-obsessed heroine, Eleven. Her pairing of a long pink dress with a denim jacket, matched with tube socks and beat-up white All Stars, encapsulated the resilience of her character perfectly.
Though we’re sure that the fictional TelAmeriCorp has a strict dress code, Workaholics’ Blake still manages to finesse his favourite footwear into his work wardrobe. Whether he is at his desk or kicking back on the roof of his house, he’s often sporting Chucks. Off screen, the real Blake Anderson has become a fashion icon as the embodiment of SoCal stoner style – and is often snapped rocking his All Stars around town.
The Outsiders (1983)
Directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, this coming of age drama paints a world of teenage cliques that’s fuelled by violence. Our troubled heroes, the Greasers, constantly clash with their rivals, the preppy Socs, in their hometown of Tulsa. Like any good gang of adolescents, the Greasers have an unofficial uniform – consisting of a denim jacket, cuffed jeans and a pair of well-loved All Stars. Stay gold Ponyboy.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
The fifth instalment in the Harry Potter franchise is one of the darker ones in the series, portraying an increasingly grim reality for everyone’s favourite boy wizard. Right from the first scenes, we’re re-introduced to Harry via a slow pan across his black All Stars as he sits forlornly in a park. The shoes are present throughout the film and are prominently featured when ‘the boy who lived’ squares off against his nemesis Voldemort – symbolically representative of Harry’s muggle-world connections.
Wayne’s World (1992)
Party time, excellent! From his origins as a sketch character on Saturday Night Live, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) – together with sidekick Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) – grew to take on the silver screen. The mega-hit about two small-town slackers with a hokey public access show grossed a staggering $183 million at the box office. Of course, being a film that’s set in the world of rock and roll, what else could the lead pair have on their feet but All Stars?
Grease’s Danny Zuko may well be the coolest guy of all time. He’s the leader of the T-Birds gang, has a wicked hairdo and drives the slickest car – and at the end of the film, he gets the girl and flies off into the sunset. Who can forget Danny in his tight red tee, white shorts and Chucks as he waxes lyrical with Coach Calhoun? We've already got the shoes – time to get working on the pompadour.
In 2007, Rob Zombie remade John Carpenter’s iconic slasher flick Halloween, updating it for a new audience of horror fiends. In this version, a pre-hockey mask Michael Myers begins his psychopathic rampage by exacting his revenge on those who torment him in his home and school. There’s something deeply unsettling about seeing the young Myers’ black Chucks dripping with the blood of his victims – making it one of the most effective scenes in the film.
The Basketball Diaries (1995)
This dark drama tells the semi-autobiographical tale of talented young high school basketball player Jim Carroll (played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio), whose life spirals into a void of addiction. On the court, Jim is frequently seen wearing a pair of All Stars – which become steadily more battered and bruised as his life careens out of control.
It’s easy to argue that Johnny Knoxville has made some questionable decisions in his time – from self-administered tazering to voluntary bull goring, he’s taken a few knocks. Still, his choice of footwear is rock solid – through the bulk of his Jackass stunts, he’s rocking Chucks.
Back to the Future (1985)
There are few movie series as highly regarded for their sneaker cameos as the Back to the Future trilogy. While audiences would go on to be captivated by the high-tech footwear of the year 2015, Marty McFly would first don a shoe equally as iconic for his visit to the past – the humble Chuck. In an effort to blend in with the teens of 1955, Michael J. Fox’s character adopted a black and white pair of All Stars into his period-wardrobe. The retro footwear allowed for the time-traveller to slip by undetected due to its timeless style.
Stand By Me (1986)
Based on a Stephen King short story, Stand By Me is a classic tale about the sort of all-consuming friendship that can only exist between kids. Recounting the lost summer of four boys in small-town America, it brought together a stellar cast that included a young River Phoenix among many others. Before the tides of teenagehood inevitably separate the quartet of friends, they embark on one last adventure – strapping up their All Stars and setting off down the road into the unknown.
Happy Days (1974 –1984)
Richie Cunningham of Happy Days is the definitive boy next door – a wholesome American archetype wrapped in a letterman jacket – and it’s hard to imagine anyone but Ron Howard in the role. The character was the epitome of preppy style and when Richie slipped into his athletic attire, he would wear the premier ball shoe of the day – the Chuck Taylor All Star.
Anaconda presents possibly one of the most bizarre ensemble casts of all time, uniting Jennifer Lopez, Danny Trejo and Ice Cube on the silver screen alongside some poorly made mechanical snakes. The film racked up an impressive six nominations for Razzies, including ‘worst director’, ‘worst screenplay’ and ‘worst picture’, but still managed to be a smash hit at the box office. Despite the film’s flaws, we can’t fault Cube’s footwear choice – if we were traversing the Amazon we’d want to lace up a pair of fresh blue Chucks as well.
The Last Dragon (1985)
The Last Dragon didn’t exactly captivate the critics with suspenseful plot twists or unexpected revelations – but the 1985 cult hit won its fans with an endearing Motown-meets-kung-fu action fusion. Although the story is centred around aspiring master, Leroy Green (aka Bruce Leroy), no martial arts story would be complete without an over-the-top villain. In this case, it’s Sho’Nuff – the Shogun of Harlem, who demands a fight with the protagonist by taunting him with the memorable line, ‘Kiss my Converse.’ This is one bad guy that we were secretly rooting for.
Rocky is the definitive story of grit and determination, with the titular character teaching us to work hard for ourselves – regardless of the outcome. This entire attitude is summed up in the iconic training montage wherein Rocky runs up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum, soundtracked by ‘Eye of the Tiger’. As a result of that one scene, his grey tracksuit and black Chucks have become a part of cinematic history.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
John Hughes managed to capture the sense of displacement faced by teenagers with a remarkable body of work that spanned the 80s and 90s. Perhaps no other film in his canon summed up the fragility of adolescent identity as vividly as The Breakfast Club, which offered us a portrayal of the social dynamics between a group of teen archetypes. In the tale, five young people from varying social cliques are forced by proximity to confront their differences, and ultimately, recognise their similarities. This sense of self-discovery coalesces in a dance scene (after all, this is an 80s movie) where we see the fancy footwork of Chuck clad outsider Allison Reynolds.
Who doesn’t want to roll around with an entourage? Imagine being able to hire a childhood friend as your driver – it seems like a pretty good way to get around. It’s said that the character of Vincent Chase is based on a young Mark Wahlberg, an actor and well-known sneaker collector. Throughout the series, our leading man is regularly seen in All Stars – speaking to the laidback attitude that he’s able to retain despite astronomical success.
The Sandlot (1993)
The Sandlot kids taught an entire generation what it meant to face their fears, and how to play a mean game of baseball along the way. A ragtag group of neighbourhood children must unite to retrieve a ball signed by the legendary Babe Ruth from the slobbering jaws of 'The Beast', who turns out to be little more than a friendly neighbourhood pooch. When a young Grant Gelt, playing Bertram, takes to the field – you can bet that he's wearing his trusty All Stars and matching Converse tee-shirt.
Doctor Who (2005-10)
Each incarnation of the famous Doctor is as well-known for his outfit as the actor that plays him – who could forget Tom Baker’s scarf? So when David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, paired beat-up Chucks with a pinstriped suit, we interpret that as a solid indicator of their multi-dimensional appeal.
Cool Runnings (1994)
Cool Runnings is arguably the greatest film ever made about a Jamaican bobsled team, and Sanka has to be our favourite character. Even though he’s fully aware of the ridiculousness of the situation he’s in, he proves himself to be just as dedicated and loyal as any teammate you could ever wish for. From the very beginning, as he’s kicking up his Chuck-clad feet, it’s easy to see that he’s a guy you can rely on.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is a cinematic masterpiece that details a non-linear story concerning the interplay between two hitmen, a gangster, his wife and a champion boxer by the name of Butch Coolidge. The winner of the 1994 Palm d’Or features insanely quotable dialogue, a great soundtrack and the hyper-realistic depictions of violence that the director is known for. Of course, there’s also plenty of foot closeups – another Tarantino signature – including a lingering scene that shows Butch’s white All Stars.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Despite being a comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High offered some refreshingly honest insights into the reality of high school life. The chronically shy character of Mark finally gets up the guts to ask out his mega-crush, Stacy, and they find themselves seated on the edge of her bed. The palpable awkwardness of the moment is depicted by a close up on the couple’s legs. Stacy’s bare feet fidget on the carpet, and next to them sit Mark’s Chucks – toes pointed together. It’s the perfect visual encapsulation of the trials and tribulations of teenagehood.
The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors is a film that involves a lot of running, as the titular gang navigate the streets of New York City from the Bronx to Coney Island while attempting to avoid rival gangs along the way. So perhaps it’s not a surprise that footwear would play an important role in the plot. The young artist of the group, Rembrandt, allows some foes to spot his Chucks below a bathroom-stall door and lures them into an ambush – helping to ensure that our heroes all make it home in one piece.
Sin City (2005)
Adapted from Frank Miller’s series of graphic novels, Sin City presents a neo-noir tale of a dystopian Los Angeles where crime and corruption rule the streets. True to the stylistic conventions of the genre, the film is shot predominantly in black and white – occasionally using hits of bright colour to emphasise points of significance. In several scenes, we see anti-hero Dwight’s All Stars illuminated in eye-searing red against the colourless backdrop – a strong image that underscores the significance of the iconic kicks.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
When the future of humanity is at stake and it’s down to a couple of unlikely dudes to sort it out, the scene is set for an excellent time travelling buddy comedy. Whereas Marty McFly had to change into his Chucks to avoid raising any suspicion in his jaunt to the past, Ted Theodore Logan, played by Keanu Reeves, is one step ahead – strapped up in his bodacious All Stars from the word go. The duo manages to guarantee a peaceful future for mankind, completing their assignment with the help of a time travelling phone booth, and rock Converse from 410 BCE to the year 2688 along the way.
The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star is available now via Converse Australia.