The 10 Best Motorcycle Movies Every Motorcyclist Will Want to Watch
Motorcycles and Hollywood are a match made in heaven. Where else can you get sex, drugs, rock n roll and an age-old conflict between nonconformity and society?
Obviously, we all have varying tastes when it comes to choosing movies. The following ten films all have something in common, and not just bikes either. Their plot was cutting edge or the actual movie itself was.
Sit back, grab a brew and enjoy.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #1: Wild Angels: 1966
Three years before Easy Rider, we find Peter Fonda packing Nancy Sinatra on the back of a hardtail Panhead. As you would expect, the plot has more holes in it than a sieve, but film producer Roger Corman was a perfect choice and whoever sourced the motorcycles certainly knew what they were doing.
Film makers American International, went out of their way to get middle America’s back up, including using a swastika in the opening titles and movie posters with great one-liners.
Fonda and Bruce Dern do all their own riding shots. The duo race across a canyon floor, complete with riverbed, which is not the easiest thing to do on hardtail chops.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #2: Worlds Fastest Indian: 2005
Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Munro, an eccentric Kiwi, who left his wife and children to live in a shed and work on his motorcycles. Here, he spends 20 years casting homemade pistons and hand filing conrods from tractor axles for his pride and joy; a 1919 Indian Scout.
At the age of 68, Burt travels across the world. Eventually getting his old bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the officials, after a lot of persuasion, allow him to run his bike. Much to everyone’s surprise, he coaxes the ancient Indian to just under 200mph breaking the world record. A great movie, made even better because it’s a true story and stars a very talented actor.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #3: Choppertown – The Sinners: 2005
This documentary features Southern California bike club the Sinners. The Sinners came along at the height of the Orange County Choppers (OCC) debacle when Walrus Snr and his sulky dysfunctional offspring turned every couch potato with a TV, into a chopper expert.
The Sinners were totally old school, like a breath of fresh air in a room full of rotting vegetables. No big egos, no big names, no endorsed products or hidden agendas. A bunch of guys wearing the same shirts and riding the hell out of battered self-built bobbers. Even the soundtrack rocks.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #4: No Limit: 1935
From the sublime to the utterly ridiculous you might say, but this movie, which features British music hall legend George Formby, opens a fantastic window on the pre-war Isle of Man TT. The story sees Formby’s character entering the 1935 TT on an AJS H5.
Against all the odds, he wins the race even after breaking down 500 yards from the finish, pushing his bike across the line before collapsing. What everyone doesn’t know, however, is that the actor collapsed for real after shooting 15 takes in the summer heat.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #5: The Wild One: 1953
Marlon Brando plays cultural icon Johnny Strabler, leader of The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club (BRMC) whose outlaw motorcycle gang tear up a small Californian town in middle America.
The so-called Hollister Riot, which sent America into an anti-biker frenzy, forms the basis of the plot. The front cover of Life magazine in July 1947, showed a drunken ‘Hollister Riot’ biker and was in fact staged by the photographer, Barney Peterson.
The truth behind the movie is even more interesting. It was banned in the UK for 14 years after censors called it a ‘spectacle of unbridled hooliganism.’
It did, however, launch the Schott Perfecto leather jacket and the Triumph Thunderbird into overnight sensations.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #6: On Any Sunday: 1971
This early seventies offering is a real piece of motorcycle cinematic history. Directed by Bruce Brown, the feature length documentary shows the various types of motorcycle sports around in the early 70’s. These range from beach racing to Grand National racing. It also includes some of the all time great names of the era such as Mert Lawwill, Dave Aldana, and Malcolm Smith.
The documentary also features Steve McQueen, who was also responsible for partially funding On Any Sunday. Notable for its great close-up and slow motion photography, Brown also pioneered the use of the helmet cam. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1972 but losing out to The Hellstrom Chronicle.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #7: Mad Max: 1979
Police Officer Max Rockatansky (at the time an unknown Mel Gibson) sees his wife and child run down and killed by scruffy biker gang, the Toe Cutters. Max, quite naturally goes Mad and the rest of the movie is turned over to revenge.
The close -up riding shots by Dave Eggby, who filmed the high-speed chases from the pillion, are so good you can see the frames flex on the Z1000 and CB750’S. Gibson plays a role in two further Mad Max follow ups with Tom Hardy taking the lead in the 2015 version. The movie does raise the question though, why does it always take an apocalypse for people start building cool bikes?
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #8: Easy Rider: 1969
Of course, Easy Rider made the top ten list. Whenever you mention bike movies, this is always the one that springs to mind. And why not, it has two beautiful Panheads, built by Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy and arguably one of the best sound tracks ever.
The movie was originally a Western (hence the title), and the two lead characters, Wyatt (Earp) and Billy (the kid) stuck. Apparently, filming began without a screenplay, and most of the lines were unscripted. The original finished version was four hours long. What happened to the four bikes built for the film I hear you ask? Well, the count is; three stolen, one destroyed. Unfortunately, this is the reason why in the final campfire scene we don’t see any bikes in the background.
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #9: Closer to The Edge: 2011
The annual Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is known as being the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world. In 1911, the famous 23-mile course claimed its first victim and this year; it’s 255th.
The race attracts a particular type of rider, and this documentary which is the first ever made, gets close to what makes the riders tick. Focusing on racing legend and professional tea drinker, Guy Martin, the movie shows the year-long preparations and the philosophical approach he and his fellow racers take to the event.
If the onboard race footage doesn’t have you squirming in your seat, call for a medic immediately!
10 Best Motorcycle Movies #10: Somewhere Else Tomorrow: 2013
Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman may very well have traveled around the world on two wheels, but they had a production crew and back up vehicles. Former graphic designer Daniel Rintz, the maker of the Somewhere Else Tomorrow documentary, did it on his own with only his battered BMW, Marianne for company.
Daniel’s journey from Germany, via Asia, to Australia took just under three years, with the East German working for money to buy food and gas along the way. No fuss, frills or fanfare, just beautifully shot footage that recounts the world as it opens out before him and the people he meets along the way.
Some motorcycle movies are pure entertainment, while others are adrenalin fuelled or inspirational. Whichever you prefer, you’re bound to find a favorite amongst the ten best motorcycle movies you will want to watch.