With autumn upon us, now’s the perfect time to while away those chilly evenings with a cosy night in and a good movie.
For those of us who like our films with a little bit of full throttle goodness in them, here are some of our favourite classic bike films.
As iconic as biker movies get, Easy Rider tells the story of Californian bikers Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) who set off from Los Angeles on their Harley Davidsons to explore America on their way to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. However, the pair soon discover that their own freewheeling philosophy isn’t shared by the locals they meet on the way. The film’s heavy Americana might seem clichéd for today’s audience but the ending still packs an emotional punch.
One of Steve McQueen’s greatest roles sees him play Hilts in this classic American World War II epic. Based loosely on real events that happened in Poland, the film tells the story of a group of Allied prisoners of war who plot their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. While McQueen, who escapes on a Triumph TR6 Trophy, is the main attraction, the film also stars Richard Attenborough, James Garden and Charles Bronson.
One of the greatest coming-of-age movies ever made, The Motorcycle Diaries tells the story of young medical student Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his best friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) as they travel across South America. Their journey starts on a 1939 Norton 500 before a breakdown opens their eyes to the plight of the locals and sets in motion of a chain of events that would eventually see revolutionary Guevara change history.
In one of his earliest screen roles, the sight of a brooding Marlon Brando in the leather jacket he wore in The Wild One set many a teenage pulse racing. Brando plays Johnny Strabler, the leader of an unruly motorcycle gang called The Black Rebels. Strabler ends up falling for the daughter of the local sheriff before chaos ensues when a rival gang rolls into town. Despite its age, The Wild One remains one of the archetypal biker gang movies.
Based on real events that happened back in 1967, The World’s Fastest Indian sees Antony Hopkins play Kiwi speed bike racer Burt Munro, who took his beloved 1920 Indian all the way from Invercargill in New Zealand to Utah, USA, in an attempt to break the land speed record. The film charts this journey, following Munro as he charms the locals with his own brand of openness and friendliness.
When four middle-aged wannabe bikers travel across the States on their bikes, chaos ensues as the suburbanites get to grips with life on the open road. An all-star cast, including Tim Allen and John Travolta, means Wild Hogs goes out with a bang when the foursome fall foul of motorcycle gang Del Fuegos somewhere in New Mexico. Martin Lawrence, Ray Liotta and William H Macy also star.
A classic example of British kitchen sink realism, The Leather Boys caused a storm upon its release because of its inclusion of a gay character. The film sees biker Reggie (Colin Campbell) strike up a friendship with eccentric fellow biker Pete (Dudley Sutton) as his marriage turns sour. Although little-known in popular culture, the movie remains an important early example of LGBT representation in British cinema.
Legendary British singer Marianne Faithfull stars as Rebecca, a bored housewife who leaves her husband to run away with university professor Daniel. As the movie’s name suggests, Rebecca does this on the back of a Harley Davidson, a gift from her lover. Heavy on nudity and the psychedelic special effects typical of many 1960s films, it comes as little surprise that the film’s alternative title is Naked Under Leather.
Set in the run up to the infamous 1964 riots between mods and rockers, iconic Quadrophenia is a British take on the classic tale of a rebel without a cause. Only this time the rebel, Jimmy (Phil Daniels), has a Lambretta scooter. The film follows Jimmy as he balances the pressures of his scooter gang with his growing disillusion with the mod lifestyle and his feelings for Steph (Leslie Ash). And if that wasn’t enough, the film has a soundtrack by The Who.
Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen plays Dan Saxon, an undercover cop who infiltrates a criminal biker gang who are behind an elaborate drug-smuggling operation. To win the trust of gang leader Blood (Michael Madsen), Saxon must prove himself by carrying out more and more crimes. One of Sheen’s better movies, the film is made all the more chilling due to the fact it’s based on real events.
Has your favourite bike film made it onto the list? Let us know which films you would add to this list in the comments!