10 Motorcycle Movies You Haven’t Seen Yet

Hell For Leather, HFL -

By

electra

So you have been in the saddle all day and have ridden several hundred miles and now just want to kick back, open a beer and watch a film. Here’s RideApart’s arbitrary list of 10 motorcycle films that you may have never seen or even heard of. All of them we think are worth taking a look at.

10. The Wild One (1953)
This is Lazio Benedek’s cult black and white motorcycle club film that shot Marlon Brandon to stardom with his portrayal as moody gang leader Johnny Strabler. The film was based on a magazine story that was published in 1951. The plot is pretty thin. Bike club rides into town led by Strabler during a motorcycle race weekend. The club fall out with the residents and the local police and have to move on to the next town. There’s a standoff with another club, more trouble with the police and someone gets killed when Strabler falls off his motorcycle and it hits an innocent person. It all looks pretty tame when compared to some of today’s films. But nicely shot with some truly iconic images of 1950’s American motorcycle culture that launched a thousand wannabe Johnny Strablers.

9. On Any Sunday (1971)
Considered to be one of the best ever motorcycle sport documentaries ever made, this 1971 film was nominated for an Academy Award. Director Bruce Brown successfully reflected the lives of various types of motorcycle enthusiasts that were racing in motocross, desert racing and the Grand National in the early 1970’s. From a motorcycle point of view they are all here – BSA, Harley-Davidson, Triumph, Husqvarna, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Hodaka and Bultaco. The film focuses on the people and what makes them want to ride a motorcycle in competition and features Steve McQueen, AMA legend Mert Lawwill and off-road racer Malcolm Smith. A fascinating glimpse of why people race bikes, any bikes, and still a relevant film today.

8. Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
The open desert roads of Arizona, a pair of Harley-Davidson riding traffic cops called John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) and his partner Zipper (Billy ‘Green’ Bush) are on a mission to prove that a suspected suicide is in fact a murder. Not the best plot line in the world but some great motorcycle footage and worth watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

7. Choppertown: the Sinners (2005)
An interesting take on Southern California motorcycle culture and life. This award-winning documentary takes a refreshing look at what it takes to build a custom motorcycle with a group of friends. It’s not your OC Chopper story but an honest look at why Rico Fodfrey and his So Cal Sinners crew build their bikes. How they do it and why they do it. How they search for parts and re-use parts in clever and innovative ways. These are average guys keeping motorcycle culture alive and who are not interested in building bikes for big bucks but creating motorcycles for themselves.

6. Hells Angels on Wheels (1967)
One of Jack Nicholson’s first films which tells the story of a disillusioned gas station attendant who’s attracted to the life with the Hells Angels MC. Lots of late 1960’s bikes and an attempt at portraying what life in an outlaw motorcycle club was really like then. Several fist fights, an occasional stabbing and an interesting film to watch. Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger, President of the Hells Angels, is credited in the titles as being a consultant to the filmmakers and he plays a non-speaking part early on in the film. So it must be true…

5. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Before he became an international icon for revolution, Che Guevara was just a medical student with a big, old Norton 500 that he called La Poderosa (The Mighty One). One day Che (played by Gael Garcia) and his best friend decide to take the Norton on a trip around South America. Much of what they saw in terms of poverty and the lives of the South American peasants led ultimately to Guevara to deciding the revolutionary life was for him. Great script and beautifully shot and the Norton features a lot.

4. Stone (1974)
Don’t let the fact this is classed a low-budget film, it’s actually quite entertaining. Set in Australia it features an undercover cop (Ken Shorter) who joins an outlaw motorcycle club called The Gravediggers to find out why their members are being murdered one by one. There are quite a lot motorcycles involved included a Norton at the outset followed by a Kawasaki Z1 900cc. Not a seat of your pants film but an interesting snap shot of motorcycle culture outside the U.S.

3. Dust to Glory (2005)
When you’ve finished watching this you will go straight out and buy yourself an off-road motorcycle and head to Baja. This documentary, which was actually filmed in 2003, follows the Baja 1000 race and all of the competitors through 650 miles of the Mexican desert. There was a huge film crew, several helicopters involved in making this film and the result is pretty spectacular. Not only do the competitors have some fearsome terrain and weather conditions to ride through but they also have to watch out for the spectators that take some pleasure in laying traps for them. Despite being eight years old this is still a riveting watch.

2. Closer To The Edge (2011)
If you’ve never been to the Isle of Man in May to watch the annual Tourist Trophy, this film is almost the next best thing to being there. Filmed in 2010 you get some truly spectacular footage of the world’s greatest motorcycle race. This 104-minute documentary follows racers Guy Martin and Ian Hutchinson in their bid to claim the title of King of the Hill. You won’t believe how fast or how dangerous the 37.73 course is. There is no other motorcycle race – or for that any motor sport event – like this and we could watch this over and over again. Ultimately the only thing to do is go and see this astonishing race for yourself. You won’t regret it.

1. The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
There are several other films that could be at the number one slot but The World’s Fastest Indian is just a great film. Based on the true story of a middle-aged but very determined Kiwi Burt Munro, who against the odds brought his modified Indian scout to Bonneville to set land speed records. It may not be historically accurate but there is a fantastic performance by Anthony Hopkins playing Munro and it takes little time before you start to empathize with this character and the huge challenge he has to overcome to achieve his dream. Lots of motorcycle content and one of those films that you will want to watch again and again.

We’re not saying this is the definitive list of all motorcycle films ever made. Just a cross-section of a wide variety of films that have motorcycle content that we think are worth watching. If you’ve got some better suggestions then let us know.

  • V Twin

    I would have to place all the above movies: = 1st.

    What a list!

  • yoooks

    You guys need to start writing your headlines in less absolute terms. I’ve seen six of these movies.

    • ThePass

      Chillax bro.

    • sdyank

      Yeah really! I saw, like, four of these movies before they even hit the theater!

    • motoguru.

      I’ve seen them all. So there.

    • runnermatt

      I’ve seen none of them. Now I have a list to start with.

    • grindz145

      Sensational titles are the key to internet journalism. Wait, all journalism.

  • Kr Tong

    Cycles South (spoiler) with all its turtle eating goodness

    • adam

      I second this addition to the list. Watch it now

    • Digvijay Singh

      Awesome movie. Thank you.

  • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

    No Biker Boyz???

    • Tim Watson

      I’m looking into it. Think I may have some in the garage.

  • Chuck

    The list shows little understanding of the importance of The Wild One or On Any Sunday and how they set the tone and look for movies and motorcycle culture that came after them. I’m surprised, given the weak quality of the lists here lately, that you did not select Wild Hogs as the No. 1.

    • Tim Watson

      I think this was a suggested list of films not a definitive guide to their importance in world cinema. Got any you’d like to add?

      • Chuck

        You made a list of movies with an order of apparent importance and posted it on the Internet. It becomes subject to criticism just as my posted comment is criticized by you. Sorry I offended you, I’ll be sure and take anything you write in the future less seriously.

        • Tim Watson

          I think you maybe taking this all a bit too seriously. It was a list of motorcycle films we thought were worth watching. No offence taken but as I said before do you have any suggestions of films that you think are good?

          • Chuck

            Someone mentioned “Faster” and also “The Doctor, The Tornado, and the Kentucky Kid.” The original documentary buried inside the DVD of Worlds Fastest Indian is, I think, better than the movie. There is On Any Sunday II but it’s a pale imitation of the original. Watching all the cheesy chopper flicks of the ’60s is good late night fun, mostly to see the interesting variety of bikes in use. There is also the recent “TT:Closer to the Edge,” and from days gone by “Little Fauss and Big Halsey,” “Born Losers,” and the seldom seen but very interesting Canadian movie “One Week.”

            It’s not tough to put together a list of movies and deciding which ones are the best is more fun but of course invites controversy. For me, “The Wild One” set the tone for much of US motorcycle culture today and On Any Sunday is simply the best motorcycle movie ever in terms of showing what motorcycling is about apart from the the hooligan crowd, but then I have some slight ties to OAS so I’m a little prejudiced.

            • Tim Watson

              Cool – thanks!

            • shabazzdazz

              Hmmm….you don’t happen to have a Selleck-esque moustache and a fondness for the Baja peninsula, do ya?

        • sdyank

          Please read again the first two sentences of the article below:

          “Here’s RideApart’s arbitrary list of 10 motorcycle films that you may have never seen or even heard of. All of them we think are worth taking a look at.”

          Your argument that Tim “made a list of movies with an order of apparent importance” ends with the word “arbitrary” which is the third word in his post.

          • Chuck

            Listing something as 10 – 1 isn’t arbitrary. Words and numbers mean things and should be considered when posting for public consumption.

    • V Twin

      I would say that all the above movies have an historic value. Having said that, I know exactly were you’re coming from. The narration was subliminal with (Steve McQueen) the greatest icon of ‘motorcycle culture’ being the main thread in a documentry-movie, which for me, is unsurpassed even today.

    • UrbanMoto

      It’s a list of cool motorcycle movies to check out, not a freakin dissertation. Jesus.

      • Chuck

        They are listed 10 through 1, that would seem to indicate some level of importance assigned to each one by the writer. Maybe you missed that while you were trying to be snarky.

        • sdyank

          Third word of the post:

          Arbitrary: meaning based on choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

          • Guest

            Duh. Brain fart. You’re right.

  • Jordan

    Dust to Glory. It made me a fan of VAST, lust for a trophy truck, and dream of pre-running the Baja on an off road bike.

  • sdyank

    Can we put “Best Bar in America” in at #11 without even seeing it? I have it on pre-order and can’t wait to find it in my mailbox.

    • Tim Watson

      I’ve just checked this out – looks like a terrific film. Thanks!

      • sdyank

        Let’s just hope it “sets the tone and look for movies and motorcycle culture that comes after it.” That’s all I hope for anyway!!

        • sdyank

          (tongue firmly in cheek)

  • Trevor Stepan

    Hands down, The Place Beyond The Pines is the best motorcycle movie I’ve ever seen. Even better if your father taught you how to ride.

    • Matt Bernhard

      Are you serious? I thought it was a great movie but from a motorcycle fans point of view it was terrible. How can you use a 2 stroke dirtbike sound track for a 4 stroke and then when it gets on the highway use an inline-4 streetbike sound track? Ruined the movie for me

      • Trevor Stepan

        Matt, I didn’t even notice. Most people agree with you. It’s not a motorcycle movie. It’s a motorcycle movie in the way The Great Escape is a motorcycle movie. They’re about something bigger, but the bike scenes are memorable. It had a personal impact on me. So much in fact, I think about that movie every time I ride up to the ATM :) Every one sees something different. Documentaries are dope, but I’ve been waiting for MY motorcycle movie. Classics like The Wild One and Easy Rider don’t really speak to me. Riding it like you stole it speaks to me. Now, if the bike went away when Gosling died and the son caught a bus at the end, haha, I would feel differently.

        • Matt Bernhard

          Totally understand, loved the final barn find honda scene as well

    • Mugget

      Now there is a movie that I haven’t seen yet… thanks for the tip!!

    • Guest

      Thank you for sharing. Awesome movie.

  • mid40s

    All by Mark Neale: “Faster”, “The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid”, & “Fastest”. All great imo.

  • stever

    Burst City
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS4p4ihS0QE

    It’s not an explosive movie. It’s a movie explosion.

  • clasqm

    “Silver Dream Racer”, “Beyond the Law”.

  • UrbanMoto

    Tron?

  • Robert Horn

    Please tell me that HFL, er, RA isn’t getting into the “Curating” business.

  • Isambard

    No Easy Rider? Come on, now…

    • http://cody-jones.com Mediumjones

      This is supposed to be a list of movies we *haven’t* seen. Anybody reading Ride Apart that hasn’t seen Easy Rider… Now seriously, c’mon.

      • Isambard

        Same could be said of half a dozen of these movies. Don’t take the click-baity headlines too seriously.

  • Chris Cope

    Come on, not even a nod to “Cool As Ice”?

  • Glazedmcguffin

    I don’t know how you guys could have forgotten KnightRiders, the clear #1:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3q0iHYVjBA

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      Oh my god. I had forgotten I had ever even seen that movie.

  • TraderJoesSecrets

    Continental Circus is a film that captures the privateer era in Grand Prix racing, with a catchy, albeit kitschy, soundtrack. But as much as motorcyclists have emotional attachements to films like OAS and, although it’s not on this list, Easy Rider, precious few genuinely good films have been made in which motorcycles or motorcycling play a significant role. I confess to not seeing The Place Beyond the Pines, but of the films on this list, only World’s Fastest Indian and Motorcycle Diaries have any real staying power *if*the*viewer’s*not*in*love*with*bikes*.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Place Beyond the Pines has about 10 minutes of motorcycle action, then Ryan Gosling dies and the rest is some bullshit about growing up in New Jersey.

  • Eric

    with the comments that is a lot of material. how about a bike movie library?

  • Davidabl2

    HellForLeather isn’t very good at this…or hasn’t watched enough movies yet.

  • RT

    Long time ago I used to work in a m/c retail store. My boss would play On Any Sunday from open till close all day, everyday [on his days off we had one of the "Crusty Demons of Dirt" series on]
    I got to the point were I could tell what was on the screen at any moment by the sound.
    Still a must see documentary for any one passionate about motorbikes.
    Few years ago I got to met Mert Lawwill at a m/c event. I was a bit start struck :]
    “I don’t want a pickle…”

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      “Just wanna ride my motor-sickle.”

  • V Twin

    ‘No Limit’ George Formby. Often played at the IOM TT!

  • appliance5000

    Easy Rider is an oversight, but even worse is forgetting Brown Bunny. Much hated but kind of beautiful.

  • Tommy Erst

    Haven’t seen any of them, but do own 5 of them on DVD.

  • V Twin

    The problem with video, is the frame rates that don’t do the speeds any justice. Look at 39.27 in this vid:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8J6s7qSUbY

    I always get frustrated when cameras don’t fully capture racing pace. That’s why only a visit to the TT will do it real justice!
    Ride Safe!

  • 310driver

    “One Week” Typical indy movie plot, weird writing and pacing, but some amazing footage featuring a Norton 750 Commando riding through Canda.

    • Joel Sparks

      As a long-term expat, I watch this once a year just for the homesickness it brings. Solid film!

  • Graham Dorey

    Brown Bunny, Akira, Cool as Ice (because it’s so bad), Mad Max are all potentials. Might just read Jupiter’s travels instead actually.

  • AHA

    Rumble Fish as the Not a Motorcycle Movie entry. Mickey Rourke channelling Brando-as-Strabler but moved a few decades on. Not much bike action but bang on for the attitude. And for the top 10 two wheeled turkeys list, the thankfully little known Brit 70′s eco-exploitation mess No Blade of Grass.

  • Alexander Dillon

    Miami Connection – Ill just leave this blurb and trailer here…. EPIC 80s movie…

    A martial arts rock band goes up against a band of motorcycle ninjas who have tightened their grip on Florida’s narcotics trade.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpZu69OB2KM

  • akvamme

    what, no tt3d? worth getting just for the opening clip.

    • orangelion03

      TT3D is part of the title for Closer To The Edge.

      • akvamme

        duh. Brain fart. You’re right.

  • DeanIverson

    meh, best cycle movie had to be the Great Escape with the Great Steve McQueen, simply cuz its not about LSR or RR, its a good old fashioned I need to GTFO of here quickly so of course a motorbike is the tool of choice. plus it was McQueen who actually jumped the fence on his prized 62′ Triumph T-bird

    whoever came up with this list is lame, “Then Came Bronson”? “The Glory Stompers”? (dennis hopper)

    for drama theres “5 the hard way” then what about “Werewolves on Wheels”? google rare biker flicks, its a big world

    fastest indian is in my top 20

    • 70′s Kid

      It was actually Bud Ekins who jumped the fence on The Great Escape,

    • V Twin

      1961 Triumph TR6. Had one myself before I sold it to a dealer, it ended up in Japan!

  • 70′s Kid

    “Little Fauss and Big Halsy” should have been on this list.

  • grahluk

    Another good one to add is “Full Throttle”. Andy Lau as the conflicted young man street racing NSR250′s in Hong Kong. Cheesy as many moto movies are but some great 90′s race reps. Rothman’s Honda NSR250/MC21 FTW!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVM2Ugk9zCU

    Another mention for “Little Fauss & Big Halsey”

    Motorcycles is a mean toy lady

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I61hU4SF1M

  • Brian

    Silver Dream Racer and the original MAD MAX.

  • Gare’

    “Naked under Leather” AKA “A girl and a motorcycle” For those who want to see biker films check out the book Two Wheels on Two Reels.

  • Callie

    What about Wild Hogzzz???!!!

  • Ray Cumberland

    Cycles south should be on this list.

  • Joe Bielski

    Wild Zero anyone??? Best drinking games ever for that movie to!!!

  • MJ

    The World’s Fastest Indian is a great movie. But I also love the really bad biker movies like She-Devils on Wheels. LOL