As bikes ride into town this weekend for the annual Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, it’s an opportune time to revisit movies featuring characters on two wheels.
While in no way supposed to be an exhaustive list – a quick Google search will yield hundreds of movies, below you’ll find some suggestions to get you started on a good long-weekend binge. There are the classics (“Easy Rider,” “The Wild One”), horror (“Werewolves on Wheels”), racing (“Hitting the Apex”) and this writer’s personal favorite (“Mask”).
So without further ado, here’s your movie-watching assignment:
(1969) Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. Directed by Hopper, produced by Fonda. The granddaddy of biker movies. The undisputed champ of counterculture on celluloid, “Easy Rider” is the story of Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), two Harley-riding hippies, who complete a drug deal in Southern California and decide to travel cross-country in search of spiritual truth. On their journey, they experience bigotry and hatred from the inhabitants of small-town America and also meet with other travelers seeking alternative lifestyles. After a terrifying drug experience in New Orleans, the two wonder if they will ever find a way to live peacefully in America. (Spoiler: They don’t.) Rated R.
(1985) Starring Cher, Eric Stoltz and a very handsome, incredibly mustachioed Sam Elliott. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Based on a true story, Rocky Dennis (Stoltz) is an intelligent, outgoing and humorous teenager who suffers from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia (“Lionisitis”), which resulted in facial deformity, and has now outlived his life expectancy. While his mother, Rusty (Cher), struggles to fight for his acceptance in the public school system, he proves himself to be a highly accomplished student. Though Rocky endures ridicule for his appearance, he finds love (played by Laura Dern) and respect from his mother’s biker gang family and even experiences his first love. Good luck hearing Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” without ugly crying after this. Rated PG-13.
(1971) Starring Steve Oliver and Severn Darden. In the 1960s and ’70s, you could find plenty of biker films that featured elements of satanism. In “Werewolves,” a biker gang and its leader (Oliver) fall prey to a satan worshipper (Darden) and his cult and, if that wasn’t bad enough, they must also battle lycanthropes. Rated R.
(1954) Starring Marlon Brando. Directed by Laslo Benedek. Johnny (Brando) and his motorcycle gang roll into Carbonville for a biker competition and raise enough hell to get kicked out of town. They repair to nearby Wrightsville and continue their reign of terror. The local sheriff (Robert Keith) is helpless to stop them, but when a rival gang arrives, he manages to arrest their leader, Chino (Lee Marvin). Meanwhile, Johnny finds himself attracted to the sheriff’s daughter, Kathie (Mary Murphy), and decides to stick around. Not rated.
(2015) Narrated by Brad Pitt. Directed by Mark Neale. An exploration of the battle for supremacy between six Grand Prix motorcycle racers. The racing footage is awesome. Not rated.
No list of motorcycle movies is complete without Evel Knievel – the problem is the sheer number of movies made starring and about the motorcycle daredevil. Take your pick: There’s the 1971 biography, “Evel Knievel,” starring George Hamilton (!); 1977’s “Viva Knievel!” starring Knievel, Lauren Hutton, Gene Kelly, Red Buttons and Leslie Nielsen; and a couple of documentaries: “Evel Knievel: Last of the Gladiators” (1988) and 2015’s “Being Evel.”
(1972) Starring Dixie Peabody. Written and directed by Barbara Peters. Action/Outlaw biker. A woman seeks revenge for her brother’s murder. Rated PG-13. Breaking the leather ceiling, Barbara Peters was the first woman to direct a biker film.
(2005) Starring Anthony Hopkins. Directed by Roger Donaldson. New Zealander Burt Munro spent years perfecting his classic Indian motorcycle. The year is 1967, and Burt takes his machine to Utah’s salt flats, where he attempts the impossible, using his dream bike to set a new world’s record for speed. Based on a true story, the record Munro set more than three decades ago still has not been broken to this day. Rated PG-13.
(2013) Starring Kenny Alexander, Michael Baer and Alonzo Bodden. Directed by Bryan H. Carroll. Documentary. People discuss their passion for motorcycles. Rated PG.