In this week's Whip It, director-star Drew Barrymore shines a loving light on one of the most brutal and devilishly entertaining sports around: roller derby. If you've ever seen a derby match, you know what I'm talking about: 60 minutes of fast-skating, bruising action between players with names like Axles of Evil and Juana Beat'n. In celebration of the badass beauties of the roller derby world and their Whip It counterparts – including Ellen Page as "Babe Ruthless," Kristin Wiig as "Maggie Mayhem," Barrymore as "Smashley Simpson," and Zoe Bell as "Bloody Holly" – here's a Cinematical Seven remembering some of the scariest, fiercest movie characters to ever lace up a pair of roller skates.
1. Rollergirl - Boogie Nights
In Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, Rollergirl (Heather Graham) is a fixture in Jack Horner's porn family who's up for anything but never, ever takes off those skates. She's young, blonde, and always ready like Freddie for some fun – but don't cross Rollergirl, or you might get a face full of wheels in return. When one unlucky frat boy insults her – and her fine feature films – he gets a sidewalk beating from Jack (Burt Reynolds) before Rollergirl glides over to give him the business end of her silver '70s four-wheelers.
2. The Punks - The Warriors
The Warriors are just a leather-vested street gang trying to make it home to Coney Island in Walter Hill's cult classic, but all of New York is after them for the alleged murder of the most powerful gang leader in the city. They can't even catch a break in the men's room in the 14th Street-Union Square subway station, where the Warriors have been cornered by the Punks, an overalls-wearing gang whose leader rolls on skates with a switchblade at the ready. What ensues is one of the film's most entertaining brawls, and certainly the most entertaining group fight scene set in a bathroom featuring a character on roller skates ever made.
3. Jonathan E - Rollerball
Jonathan E (James Caan) is a standout career Rollerball player in Norman Jewison's dystopian sports thriller, released right around the time that the co-ed sport of roller derby was on the decline during the 1970s. Faced with the prospect of a forced retirement decreed by the corporations that rule society, who fear that his excellence will inspire – gasp! – individualism, Jonathan E chooses to keep playing the game he loves, even when it becomes increasingly dangerous. As his teammates are killed left and right, Jonathan is left alone to finish the championship game bloodied and exhausted, culminating in the crowd's slow-building chant: "John-a-than! John-a-than!"
4. The Wheelers - Return to Oz
It's hard to pinpoint the scariest thing about the four-legged Wheelers in Disney's Wizard of Oz sequel, Return to Oz. Is it their unhinged, birdlike cackles? Or their totally '80s pleather jackets and eye make-up? Tormenting poor little Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) upon her return to a very different kind of Oz, these pawns of the Nome King screech around on their creepy hand and feet wheels while she makes her way through Walter Murch's pseudo-steampunk rendition of Frank L. Baum's more esoteric Oz stories. In a film packed with plenty of freaky characters, the Wheelers popped up more in our childhood nightmares than any other scary creatures.
5. Aileen Wuornos - Monster
It's a sweet little scene. Hard-bitten prostitute Lee (Charlize Theron) has a tentative first date with timid Selby (Christina Ricci) at a roller skating rink, where they dare to display their burgeoning relationship during a couples skate. They share a first kiss set to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and dive headlong into a whirlwind romance. Only thing is, Aileen "Lee" Wuornos is more than a little scary and prone to violence, and we're about to find out exactly how this serial killer earned her frightening claim to fame. (Hint: it wasn't by roller skating backwards.)
6. Ace - Skatetown, U.S.A.
Sure, Skatetown, U.S.A. isn't the only entry in the very brief, and very cheesy, roller disco boom of the 1970s. (See also: Roller Boogie.) But it's the only one to feature Patrick Swayze, so in honor of the late actor we're putting his Skatetown appearance on the list. (Also keep an eye out for fellow past-future stars of tomorrow Scott Baio, Maureen McCormick, and Dorothy Stratton.) Swayze makes his film debut here as Ace, the leader of the local roller disco gang who goes head to head with nice Valley kid Stan in the film's championship. In this extraordinary clip, Ace wears a black leather vest with no shirt underneath and takes off his belt to use as a fashionable whip during his competitive solo skate, which looks a lot like a figure skating routine performed in a club only with more sultry, villainous posing. Which is to say, it is awesome.
7. Everyone - Xanadu
Lastly, we end this Cinematical Seven with the most terrifying skating movie ever made: Xanadu. A camp classic that bombed when it debuted in 1980, Xanadu tells the tale of a struggling artist (Michael Beck) who teams up with an old-timer (the legendary Gene Kelly) to build a new kind of nightclub with the aid of a bubbly roller skating blonde named Kira (Olivia Newton-John). But wait - Kira is one of the nine Greek muses, sent down to Earth through a giant wall mural that lights up in neon to help struggling artists! And she inspires people to skate-dance! To the sounds of ELO! Xanadu culminates in a grand finale dance number that features entire armies of roller-booted dancers clapping, shouting, and skating past the camera, as if trying to jump out of your television and invade your very being. Even more evil, they got poor Gene Kelly to skate-dance in what would become his very last screen performance. If that's not the biggest dance crime of the century, I don't know what is.