It’s no surprise that the motorcycle, often a symbol of cool, risk taking and non-conformity, is featured heavily in many films. Here are some of the best motorbike-related films you’ll find.
Easy Rider (1969)
No list of the best motorcycle films of all time would be complete without Easy Rider. The film, directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Hopper and Peter Fonda, is a psychedelic and confronting film about small-town America and the desire for people to try to fit into a society that doesn’t want them. It was one of the first American films to show how the 1960s weren’t exactly a rosy time, and its influence continues to this day.
The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
Burt Munro was a New Zealander with an intense passion for motorcycles, who set a land-speed record for under-1000cc motorcycles at Bonneville, USA, in 1967 – a record that still hasn’t been broken. The World’s Fastest Indian details his life and speed attempts on an Indian Scout which Munro modified in order to dramatically increase its top speed. At the time of his world record, Munro was 68 and his motorbike was 47, so he proved that age wasn’t much of a barrier to either of them – a race on a beach with some cocky motorcycle riders is one of the most enjoyable scenes in the film.
One of the “Aussiest” films you’ll ever see, Stone may look quite dated these days but it’s a lot of fun. A policeman goes undercover in an outlaw bikie gang when several of its members are murdered, and over time, he begins to side with them. If you’re wondering why several of the actors in Mad Max (1979) look familiar, it’s because some of them first appeared in Stone.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This biopic focuses on Ernesto Guevara, better known later on as Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary. The film follows the adventures of Ernesto and his friend Alberto Granado as they take a road trip across South America during a break in their studies. Based on Guevara’s own memoir, it details how he was exposed to the immense poverty and exploitation of peasant workers, which fundamentally changed him and spurred his fight against capitalists.
The Wild One (1953)
Marlon Brando was one of the coolest actors of the 1950s, and The Wild One centres on a popular theme related to bikes, that of motorcycle riders creating mischief and mayhem. While many actors have tried to copy Brando’s style, his role of Johnny Strabler is one of his most memorable. Watching it now, it may be hard to believe that The Wild One was actually banned in Britain for fourteen years.
The Great Escape (1963)
While not technically a motorcycle movie, this film about Allied soldiers escaping from a German POW camp in WWII is often talked about due to the motorcycle scenes near the end of the film with Steve McQueen (1930-1980). The American actor was an accomplished rider who regularly competed in motorcycle races, although it wasn’t until The Great Escape that most people discovered his talent. While the entire film is a thrilling adventure and one of the most popular war films of all time, the scenes with McQueen on a Triumph are some of the best chase sequences you’ll find.
Image: Screen grab from Easy Rider (1969), produced by Columbia Pictures Corporation, Pando Company Inc., and Raybert Productions via Business Destinations.