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 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.
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…
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…
During the years between 1910 and the end of the 1920s, thrill-seeking motorcycle riders from rough-hewn roots converged on circular or oval race courses built from planks of “green lumber”.
This type of track, often enormous and bracketed by grandstands filled with yowling, well-lubricated fans, was often called a motordrome. Less sanguine scribes of the day referred to them as “murderdromes” for their penchant to produce spectacular, high speed racing. The breakneck racing on them also resulted in vicarious thrills and regular, grisly casualties among riders. In a few notorious incidents, swaths of spectators were injured (and even killed) as the riders left the track and scythed them down in their seats.
The majority of the American national championship races were contested at such venues across the nation during the 1920s from California to Ohio to New York.
While board tracks were relatively inexpensive to construct, they fell apart with alarming speed and regularity. As a result, they lacked durability and required a great deal of maintenance to remain rideable.
Tracks survived for as little as three years, and were summarily abandoned.
This Is How Much I Believe You’ll Like My Photography
I am certifiably insane…
Since I miss the work of creating great photos, the vision and collaboration involved, I’m trying something new.
Call it ‘Pay For Play.’ You book a shoot, we do the work, then you pay what your conscience dictates and your pocketbook can stand.
That’s right, no set price, just what you think the images are worth to you. You tell me your honest opinion, swipe your card for the agreed-upon amount, I burn a disc of the images for you, and we call it good.
Call me crazy – and this deal won’t last for long – but until I’m booked so tight I need a day off, that’s how it works.
Give me a call to discuss your needs and ideas and we’ll make it happen…
Okay, I’m not completely insane. Weddings operate under a different price structure. They take a ton of hard work and love, but I still offer them at a price which won’t make you cry before your big day. Call or email me for those prices.
What if you found Elvis Presley’s motorcycle in a crate in the back of your garage? Do you keep it? Pimp it on ebay? Get out the wrenches, assemble that sucker and take off looking for adventure and Barbara Stanwyck?
Dan Maxey had that problem.
Maxey found what is surely the only 1967 Honda 305 Dream left which is new in a crate, a crate that’s never been opened. And as you may well guess, the bike has never been titled or registered.
Maxey began working in his father’s Oklahoma motorcycle shop at the tender age of nine, and now owns the shop himself. He says he and his dad planned to give the bike away during an open house or anniversary celebration at the shop, but they just never got around to organizing the giveaway. His father, Jim Maxey, passed away back in 2005, and that left the question of what to do with what is a very, very rare machine to be answered by Dan.
Unwilling to make that call, Dan has now passed the fate of the bike on to his own son, Tony Maxey, who currently serves as the sales manager for Maxey’s Cycles and works with his dad.
So what has Tony Maxey decided to do with the legacy of a pristine, forty-five year old Honda? He plans to cash in on the find, and it won’t come cheap to whoever wants it. The bike is for sale on Ebay for a cool $250,000, and if you think that sounds like a whole lot of money, then take heart; the bidding starts at $150,000, so you might have a shot.
- Bonhams and Benelli – A Million Dollar Marriage
- Zen and the Art of Million Dollar Motorcycle Making
- A Quarter Million Plus Seems Like A Lot Of Money For A Bike to Haul Firewood
Spend five minutes with one of the Isle of Man TT’s all-time greats.
John McGuinness talks about how he runs the treacherous TT course and what’s going through his nimble mind – on the way to yet another victory.
Hang on tight as you’re about to ride along with fastest ever man around the Isle of Man TT.
McGuiness is the 19-time winner and is clearly an unquestioned expert on the 37.7-mile mountain course.
Listen as he talks his way through a lap on Isle of Man TT course and gives you his unique account of the techniques he employs on his way through some of the most famous sections. From Bray Hill to Rhencullen, Kirk Michael and the Sulby Straight, the Mountain, the Verandah, Creg-ny-baa and the start-finish section on Glenclutchery Road, this video chronicles a legendary lap by a legendary rider.
- No, no, no…Video Of A Lunatic Mountain Motorcycle Ride
- Ridiculous Motorcycle Mountain Stunt Riding – Video
- The Isle of Nan TT? Closer to the Hedge A Low Speed Racing Phenomenon
It’s a yearning that’s been around as long as there have been motorcycles; the urge to roll up a sleeping bag and hit the highway with your pals on an epic journey across America.
There’s just something about riding with the wind whistling past you, the sound of your bike thumping and the sights and smells of the world as it is all around you.
The crew at Death Science and Malvista Productions have put together a film of the Revenge Run, a start to finish document of a run a group of friends on the East Coast put together which starts in Rocky Mount, NC and continues through that state’s lowlands.
This film has it all. The crashes, inevitable engine and mechanical failures, the preliminary shakedown runs, some ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, cookouts, bonfires and roadside repairs. If you’ve never had the pleasure of tearing down a narrow island 90 miles from land surrounded by the ocean and riding as part of a pack of 100 choppers, this might be as close as you ever get.
All four of the videos here will take you damn near an hour to watch, but the sum total of the time you’ll spend won’t be wasted, so enjoy.
- Video of the Revenge of a Peevish Motorcycle Rider or Ticket to Disaster on the Highway
- Motorcycles Are A Gift to Mankind So We Bless Them And Each Other
- Live Fast, Ride Slow – Bad Bikers on Baby Machines
This is an oldy but goody from the Ad Guys responsible for an ever-expanding skein of Old Spice ‘viral’ ads currently featuring impossibly ripped, shirtless pitchman Isaiah Mustafa.
This one is a killer because, well, it features a motorcycle theme, and we love anything which features a motorcycle theme. What could be better than a Royal Enfield pulling at very, very large hottub sidehack rig filled with a cocktail-swilling bear and a bikini-clad babe.
Nothing, mon frere, nothing could be better.
Well, maybe the product itself. I personally love the smell of Old Spice, but when I put a little on to impress my wife with my spicy-smelling goodness on one of our first dates, she very gentle informed me later that I “smelled sort of like an old man.” Given the fact that, at the time at least, I didn’t officially qualify as an “old man,” I was justifiably taken aback and determined never to repeat my monstrous olfactory mistake.
When this ad came out, it racked up an impressive 730,000 views in 3 days, and it’s yet another testament to the power of the motorcycle when it comes time to shill a product:
- Synchronized Swimming? No Way. Synchronized Motorcycling, Molto Buon!!
- Cafe Racer TV A Motorcycle Show Home Run
- Keira Knightly Chanel Parfum and A Classic Ducati 750 SS
Yeah he’s a movie star, a Hollywood superstar in fact, but Tom Cruise says he wanted to ride motorcycles since the age of 12.
With horrifically bankable films behind him and more to come (like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) Cruise is also famous for doing his own stunts from motorcycle chases, to hanging off the 124th floor of the world’s tallest building.
“From as early as I can remember, I wanted to ride motorcycles and race cars. I wanted to do jumps and stunts. Every birthday I wanted only a motorcycle. By the time I was 12, I`d bought my own,” Cruise said. “I crashed a lot, because I like to go fast. I`d create ramps to try to jump over garbage cans on my bike, figuring it out on my own.”
Now 49-years-old, Cruise wasn’t always successful and suffered a fair share of injuries in his quest to keep his adrenaline levels topped off. Among those injuries – he’s broken his nose three times – and that’s not the entire list.
“I’ve broken my leg,” he said. “Another time, I got hit with a baseball bat by accident. Then I re-injured it on a motorcycle. No one thought about helmets or pads back then. When I was 18, on the set of Taps, I met the stunt guys. I was like, `You train for stuff like this?` Back in the day there were no videos of this stuff.”
- Take Your Motorcycle – onto a Caribbean Cruise!
- Memorize Every Part on Your Motorcycle? Not. Then Follow the Road Map, Brother
- The Last Great Leap Forward for Evel Knievel
Did you know that in 1999, Harley-Davidson finally sprinted past Honda to become the best-selling motorcycle on the American market?
If not, then put Motorcycles (Modern Marvels: Season 5, Episode 28, Nov. 1999) – on your must-watch list. It’s a History Channel documentary about the cultural, technological and artistic story of motorcycles through the ages, and it’s good stuff indeed. This exceptional documentary features more recent events, so it must have been updated since it was first shown in 1999.
As the film traces the development of motorcycles through the decades, along the way, it showcases pioneers in the manufacturing industry like Indian, Harley Davidson, and Honda, includes interesting facts from the industry and you get some pertinent insights from talk show host and wealthy motorcycle looney, Jay Leno.
If you’re more into industry insider info, the doc includes lots of commentary from former Editor-in-Chief of Cycle World, David Edwards, Motocross rider Jeremy McGrath, and lots of other motorcycle obsessives.
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 1
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 2
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 3
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 4
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 5
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 6
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 7
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 8
Video Documentary: Modern Marvels: Motorcycles Part 9
- The History of More Things That Were, And Now Are, Sort of Motorcycles
- Motorcycles On Any Sunday? Not In Indiana Until Now
- Dream Classic Bike Auction Features Immaculate Ducatis
Nagata has won numerous awards for his custom motorcycles, some of which take him over 7000 hours to build, which, I guess, elevates them to the level of art, at least the kind of art people pay for these days.
And they pay a lot for them.
They sell for over $1 million each and can be seen at the Ippodo Gallery in NYC.
- Bonhams and Benelli – A Million Dollar Marriage
- A Quarter Million Plus Seems Like A Lot Of Money For A Bike to Haul Firewood
- Collectors Shell Out More Than $4 Million at Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction