Six Great and Not So Great Motorcycle Movies

Our Six Motorcycle Movies Worth Watching

There weren’t a lot of criteria applied to these choices, in fact, a couple of them are just plain bad. But like anything in life, how good some things are is often defined by knowing what isn’t good.

Motorcycle movies have the virtue of a made-to-be filmed subject, motorcycles in motion, and for the most part, these flicks fit the bill.

Born to Ride

This is a  “famous motorcycle movie”  (but not necessarily a good one) featuring some stunts involving military Harleys and a  love story which has John Stamos playing a motorcycle mechanic who falls in love with a Colonel’s daughter. Not ideal, but on the list for being notorious, Born to Ride is a sorry effort, but that’s part of what makes it the Plan Nine From Outer Space of motorcycle movies.

The script is pathetic, the dialog tips over into the unintentionally comedic,  and the performances are, well, not entirely professional.

Electra Glide in Blue

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Electra Glide in Blue is everything Born to Ride is most certainly not. Robert Blake played a Harley Electra Glide-riding motorcycle cop, Big John Wintergreen, just back from Vietnam and looking to do some good in the world.

This darkly existential film from director James Guercio and cinematographer Conrad Hall is one of the best-looking movies ever made and the dirt bike versus cop bike chase scene is a breathtaking achievement in its own right.

Electra Glide in Blue gets it all right. Superb performances, beautiful cinematography and a coherent and interesting plot make this movie a forgotten gem.

Easy Rider

Easy Rider is a given on this list. The 1969 classic launched the careers of  Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. It’s the cool point of view, the “road movie” plot and Nicholson playing the foil to Fonda and Hopper’s quasi-hippy characters made sure that Easy Rider would enter the pantheon of great motorcycle movies and set the bar for what we want from them.

Girl on a Motorcycle

Girl on a Motorcycle stars Marianne Faithful, a woman so dissatisfied with her life that she leaves her husband to go back to her former flame, Alaine Delon.

Rebecca, the main character, played by Faithful, chucks her life of comfort and security with a boring teacher husband in search of freedom and excitement. That’s heady stuff in the year before Easy Rider made it a staple of motorcycle movie plotting. It’s a bit dated with its psychedelic and now-hackneyed camera work, but some of the riding scenes and the sight of the lovely Marianne Faithful in a skin-tight leather riding suit make it all worthwhile.

Roadside Prophets

Never meant to be a “Hollywood Movie,” Roadside Prophets features the bass player from the LA punk band X, John Doe, playing Joe, a Harley-riding loner who kisses off his factory job and sets out to find Eldorado, Nevada where he plans to spread the ashes of his pal Dave.

Joe places his buddy Dave’s ashes in motorcycle gas tank, straps it on the back of his 50’s vintage bike and heads out to take care of his solemn duty. On the way, he meets up with Sam, played by Adam Horovitz of the rap band The Beastie Boys.

Guest appearances by Arlo Guthrie, 60’s hippy icon Timothy Leary, David Carradine and John Cusack make this movie a must-watch bit of entertainment.

Cusack steals the movie as an activist with an enormous appetite and a penchant for stuffing his face at restaurants and then beating the check…
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The Wild One

Based loosely on the famous 1947 Hollister incident, the plot of this 1953 classic motorcycle flick revolves around a local townie girl (Mary Murphy) and the bad boy motorcycle gang leader (Marlon Brando) who wants her approval and love.

The Hollister riot went down during the Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally in Hollister, California, over the July 4 to July 6, 1947, weekend. The press at the time had a field day sensationalizing the event which reports said featured outlaw bikers “taking over the town,” and that provided the basic structure for The Wild One.

Originally, the rally was sponsored by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and attended by some 4,000 people there to race and trade parts.

Somewhere around 50 people were arrested for public intoxication, reckless driving, and disturbing the peace, and it was this event that launched the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club into the public consciousness.

This 1953 film about the incident which starred Marlon Brando was inspired by the event and based loosely on an article LIFE magazine. In what has since become an iconic photograph, a LIFE photographer staged picture featuring a drunk man resting on a motorcycle amidst a carpet of shattered beer bottles.

The Hollister event was also famous for spawning a moniker which is still used by outlaw motorcyclists today to describe their status. A representative of the AMA trying to put a good spin on a public relations disaster for the group and motorcycling in general, said: “the trouble was caused by the one percent deviant that tarnishes the public image of both motorcycles and motorcyclists.”

And there you have it…


1966 BARRED OUTLAW MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE | BRUTAL! FRANK! VIOLENT!

barred outlaw magazine

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From the archives of Nostalgia on Wheels comes this lil’ peek at Barred Outlaw Motorcycle magazine– a biker exploitation rag written not for riders, but for voyeurs looking for what makes those bad boys tick. Think of it as a primer for squares on bikers. There’s just enough laughable, inaccurate and hyperbolic writing that when they do actually mention the true 1%’er  MC’s it kinda lacks any sting. Hell, they can’t even get the year right for when The Wild One (the Godfather of all biker exploitation flicks) was filmed… ca. 1960??? What I do love about the magazine is the use of images, the layouts, fonts, etc. It is pure gold for the design-minded among us. It’s kinda refreshing compared to all the stripped-down aesthetic out there right now.

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barred outlaw motorcycle magazine

BARRED OUTLAW MOTORCYCLE SPECIAL– ANGELS FROM HELL! Today’s rebels on wheels, living a legend of violence and excitement. Their love is hate…for everything and everyone– but each other!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 4

The outlaw clubs usually have names such as– the Galloping Gooses, Satan’s Slaves, Road Rats, Cavaliers, Outlaws, El Diablos, Chosen Few (a Negro group), Gypsy Jokers, Rod Regents, Tiki’s, East Bay Dragons (a Negro group), Vikings, Sportsmen, K-Lifts, Devil’s Henchmen, Monks, Coffin Cheaters, Iron Horsemen, and several others scattered throughout the state.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 5

Hanging out at some taco joint or roaring down the highway hell bent for mischief… They command attention and this is exactly what that want and get. Oddball attire, blunt-scissor haircuts, beards and goofy headgear. Add it all up and you’ve got a bunch of Barbarian bastards…or some claim, the mod generation gladiators. Read, look, and decide for yourself after all (as they say) isn’t this a dimocrazzy!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 6

HANGOUTS! Taco joints, drive-ins, low budget coffee shacks– these are “outlaw” hangouts. They love joking and re-living recent episodes in their bizarre lives…stolen bikes, latest spots to obtin a fix, who’s locked up this month…it’s all trashed-over…over a weed!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 7

…on purpose a fellow in a large truck ran into the back of a kid who was riding a little Honda. When the kid got up off the ground, the truck driver walked over and punched him. Unnoticed by the truck driver several outlaw motorcyclists were standing there and saw the whole thing. What happened to the driver and truck in the next few minutes shouldn’t happen to anyone. They literally tore the truck and driver to pieces. A bully is one thing the outlaws don’t like. Anyhow, it gave them a chance to do their good deed for the day…

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 8

“Outlaws” are not of this world…dope, orgies, you name it…they’ll do it!! Outlaws want to smash through the square world that hems them in. They leave no past, expect nothing in the future, they live for the moment, the instant thrill!!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 9

PARTY TIME!! Party to an “outlaw” means six-packs chug-a-lug with any bottle handy…Bay Rum to Jim Beam! Cocktails are for citizens! Petting…that’s for children!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 10

A stamp of individualism are the many Nazi souvenirs which are worn on the “outlaw’s” jackets. Members are not followers of any anti-government movement, but they collect these souvenirs much like a stamp collector. Many times they are seen swapping them with fellow outlaws from different parts of the state.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 11

…In the meantime, while they are stealing the dying outlaw, one of the caucasian roughnecks rapes a young, beautiful Negro nurse– but is in such a hurry that he doesn’t really have time to get her pregnant. This pointed out the fact that the gang is not prejudice. They get the nearly dead cyclist back to the pad to give him first aid through a marijuana cigarette. To their surprise he dies. Well, that’s OK, because it’s a blast to have a funeral…  –Name this biker flick!

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 12

Most outlaw motorcyclists range in age from a minimum of 21 all the way to about 50. The majority are in their middle twenties. The average outlaw lasts about 6 years– he either has too many problems with the law, or he may want to hang it up for a different type life. To be an outlaw motorcyclist means that you must expect to get hassled by the police many times.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 13

Few employers ever want to hire a person who is branded as an outlaw motorcyclist. You have to learn to live away from a conventional society and be looked upon s a non-conformist, beatnick on wheels, or just plain individualist. You’ll have learned to abide by club rules. If a citizen provokes trouble with any of the outlaws, they will always get the blame because of their past reputation.

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BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 15

What is necessary to become a president? Presidents are spokesmen for the club. They don’t necessarily need to be the toughest member– but should be able to hold their own in a good physical brawl. They re usually more articulate and have a fair ability to express themselves. Being an excellent cyclist and having an outstanding motorcycle is very important. On most runs they are road captains and will set the pace. He has to make sure his members make their bail bond payment on time.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 16

When a new member joins a club he is issued his colors which are usually a sleeveless Levi jacket with the club’s name and insignia on the back. They re laid out on the ground to be “initiated.” All members will stand around it urinating, pouring beer, mustard, oil, grease. One member might “flash” (a term for vomiting), and anything else that might add to the filth will be thrown on the colors. They will then jump up and down on the jacket, making sure the dirt and filth is penetrating into the jacket. After the colors are official, the member is never able to wash it, for this is his party cloth and riding outfit.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 17

Brawls are quite common among the Barbarian breed of cyclist. What else might there be to do when the party gets boring? They have never been known to fight fair, or according to the rule book. In some cases after the fight is broken up, they will even shake hands. Then the madder of the two, while his opponent is walking away, will sneak up behind him and rap him over the head with a chain or whatever else might be handy at the time. Then the contest of who can fight the dirtiest will start all over again. To be considered a handsome outlaw, one should have at least several battle or accidental scars. It also makes an excellent conversational piece to reminisce about.

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 18

You can never underrate an outlaw motorcyclist. Many of them are well educated and they’re a tough bunch of guys living the rugged life they live. A noted sociologist once said, “there is a touch of this in all of us, so that is why society tends to aggrandize the barbarian outlaws of the modern day.”

BARRED MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE 1960S PAGE 19

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