The two loves of my life: motorcycles and movies. This is my list of my favorite motorcycle movies. Please vote for your favorite movie by scrolling to the end of this post.
1. On Any Sunday (1971)
IMDb.com Rating: 7.3/10 from 595 users
An American documentary feature about the sport of motorcycle riding directed by Bruce Brown and staring Steve McQueen, along with Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith and a handful of 1960s and 1970s motorcycle racers. Brown showed the unique talents needed for different forms of racing. Brown pioneered the helmet cam. McQueen partially financed the documentary. Its a classic feel good documentary following the lives of motorcycle racers and enthusiasts asking “Why do they do it?” The soundtrack is “groovy!” being made in the late ’60s/early ’70s. If you’ve ever wanted to go for a ride on a bike without leaving the comfort of your living room watch this movie.
2. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
IMDb.com Rating: 7.8/10 from 49,755 users
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, who would later go on to be known as Che Guevara. A medical student, Ernesto teams up with Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) his cousin, a biochemist. They travel across South America, through Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. The motorcycle trip through some of the most desolate impoverished areas of South America showed Ernesto’s his life’s calling. Along the way he and Granado gain a better sense of the distance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” (as you do when you are on the road touring). With each pit-stop on the road you feel the stir of ire alighting within the man who became Che Guevera. As they travel it is obvious how much has changed in terms of perspectives and emotions. Restored Nortons were used in the film.
3. The Great Escape (1963)
IMDb.com rating: 8.3/10 from 83,454 users
Absolutely awesome and based on a true story of an Allied Prisoners of war plan for several hundred to escape from a German POW camp in WWII. The Great Escape had a cast of amazing actors: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, and Donald Pleasance. The Great Escape contains one of the most famous movie scenes when McQueen has half of the German army chasing him while riding his motorcycle trying to jump the barb wire fence to get to Switzerland. The studio would not allow McQueen to do the stunt and the actual jump was made by stuntman Bud Ekins on a Triumph TR-6 Trophy 650CC made over to look like a wartime BMW.
4. Mad Max (1979)
IMDb.com Rating: 7.0/10 from 56,555 users
Leather clad Max husband, father and cop turns judge, juror and executioner after his best friend, wife and baby are killed by a vicious biker gang. Directed by George Miller and set in an apocalyptic future in the Australian outback this movie made Mel Gibson a household name. After 30 years it is still an amazing trip at high speed. They had a budget of just $350,000. Miller swept glass off the road himself after the stunts. Several local motorcycle clubs contributed bikes and riders to the throng of extras. Bernard Cardart who played Crank recalled that Byron Keneddy offered him the seven surviving modified Kawasaki Kz1000 bikes for five grand claiming they would be collector’s items one day. He replied “Yes, sure”. The bikes got wrecked or put back to bog-stock and sold. Not a single bike survived in its Mad Max hay day incarnation.
5. Faster (2003)
IMDb.com rating: 7.4/10 from 398 users
Narrated by Ewan McGregor and filmed around the world during the 2001 and 2002 seasons,FASTER asks this question: How do you go faster than the rest, how do you win at this glamorous, dangerous game? The movie could be subtitled: How do you beat Valentino Rossi? The first film to go inside the MotoGP world since television took a sport watched by a few thousand spectators at race tracks and turned it into prime-time entertainment for over 350 million people worldwide. The MotoGP world championship is the pinnacle of motorcycle sport, a series of sixteen races on five continents contested by twenty-four of the world’s top riders. If you get goosebumps when you ride or by watching madmen push two wheeled vehicles further than the laws of physics should allow then you MUST watch this movie. It is the closest you can possibly get to being on the bike yourself. Its the “On Any Sunday” of our generation.
6. The Wild One (1953)
IMDb.com Rating: 6.9/10 from 6,522 users
An oldie but a goodie. It was ground breaking stuff in its time and even managed to get banned in Britain for 18 years. Marlon Brando plays Johnny, leader of a motorcycle gang in the 1950s calling itself the Black Rebels, which terrorizes Wrightsville, a little American town. The film reflected the problems of the period and it marked a step in the progress of the rebel hero and crystallized Brandon as the rebel image. “What are you rebelling against?” It also introduced the motorcycle as the symbol of youth rebellion foretelling such films as ‘Wild Angels’ (1966) and ‘Easy Rider’ (1969). Brandon rode a 650cc Triumph Thunderbird in the film.
7. Easy Rider (1971)
IMDb.com rating: 7.3/10 from 43,451 users
Still the granddaddy of all road movies. It perfectly captures the era and the angst of those living in it. You have Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a funny Jack Nicholson tooling down the “high”way from L.A. to Mardi Gras on motorcycles during an angry era of war and social change. What I love about this movie is that it shows the true reality of the open road. Yet it still has the philosophical edge, and an artistic expression. Fonda and Hopper channel their rebellious energies exceptionally well. But it is Nicholson who steals the movie playing a nerdy lawyer. Four used Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide cop bikes were turned into choppers for the film.
8. Terminator 2 (1991)
IMDb.com rating: 8.6/10 from 341,501 users
“I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.” and with George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” thumping in the background. A classic that won four academy awards for makeup, sound mixing, sound editing and visual effects. Terminator 2 is hugely influential in the genres of action and science fiction. And what a chase scene with Arnie’s 1990 Harley-Davidson FLSTF “Fat Boy”, a dirt bike and the tow truck driven by the T1000. Who said sequels aren’t any good. Many people think it surpasses the original. John Cameron with his $102 million budget spear-headed CGI history. The movie recouped half its mega budget on the first weekend.
9. Stone (1974)
IMDb.com Rating: 6.6/10 from 476 users
This is a low budget timeless all Australian quirky cult film about a bunch of renegades riding Kawasaki 900s. An undercover cop infiltrates the Grave Diggers Motorcycle Club in Sydney because they’re being knocked off one at a time. Stone was a labour of love for biker enthusiast Sandy Harbutt, who took four years to get the script written with his pal Michael Robinson on to the big screen. Stone doesn’t have expensive actors or a great script but it does have high voltage action scenes. It gave a fairly realistic view of outlaw Aussie bike gangs in the 1970s and I think it’s a pretty good effort and great nostalgia and emotions. Cinematically the low-angle bike race shot and the helicopter aerial view of the funeral procession down the freeway are “classics” of the motorbike movie genre. Stone paved the way for Mad Max. Quentin Tarrantino declared it as the ultimate biker-exploitation classic. 40,000 riders showed up for the 25th anniversary Stone ride. Say no more.
10. The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
IMDb.com Rating: 7.9/10 from 26,061 users
The true life story of Burt Munro, a New Zealander Burt Munro played spectacularly by Anthony Hopkins, for whom motorcycles became an obsession as he tinkered with his beloved 1920 Indian Scout and modified the engine and frame. When heart disease threatens his life he mortgages his house and takes a boat to L.A. and heads to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Munro set the land-speed world record in 1967. This is a great feel good movie about beating the odds regardless of your age to achieve your dream. It’s a biopic road movie about an old coot and his motorcycle and a long forgotten type of heroism.
“You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a life time.”
A movie that didn’t quite make it into the top ten was Restless Natives (1985) a gentle comedy about two lads from Edinburgh who become local folk heros when they dress up in clown masks and act as modern highwaymen, robbing coach loads of tourists in a non-violent spree.
In my opinion there are not enough movies about motorcycles!