Motorcycles have always been an interesting addition to movies. Classic movies such as “Easy Rider” and “The World’s Fastest Indian” as well as modern ones like “Captain America” have made their mark in Hollywood history. These motorcycle movies have also greatly influenced biker culture across the U.S. Let’s discuss the history of motorcycle movies and how they have impacted motorcycling in general.
The use of motorcycles in films started decades ago and screen bikes have become iconic, just like the characters who ride them. Edgar Dearing was one of the earliest actors, back in the 1920s, who was typecast as a motorcycle cop in films, with notable roles in Laurel and Hardy’s short films.
From then on, the appearance of bikes, particularly Harley-Davidson and Triumph, have surged in popularity. Here are some of the most influential motorcycle movies throughout Hollywood history:
The Wild One
In this legendary 1953 biker film, Marlin Brando sports the widely known “bad boy” pose on his Triumph motorcycle. “The Wild One” is an instrumental film that permanently linked the image of motorcycle riders with outlaws and two-wheeled rebellion.
The Wild Angels
Although the plot and acting were criticized as less than stellar, this 1966 movie inspired the outlaw biker film genre.
“Easy Rider” shares the story of two bikers, played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, who embark on a journey through the American Southwest and the South. The 1969 road movie features the custom “Captain America” motorcycle which has become one of the most easily identified bikes of all time.
Being a box office and critical success, this 1991 science fiction action film deserves a place in the motorcycle movie hall of fame for bringing the Harley Davidson Fatboy to the forefront. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stoic expression while riding the bike made for a very memorable movie character.
Beyond the Law
This 1992 film tells the story of an undercover cop. By featuring the custom Softail, the movie introduced the concept of building motorcycles onto the big screen.
The Motorcycle Diaries
“The Motorcycle Diaries” is a 2004 movie about the experiences and journey of Ernesto Guevera, who would later become globally known as the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. It’s a great film in which the motorcycle serves as an iconic symbol for the character’s physical and mental journey.
Mission: Impossible III
In this 2006 action spy movie, Tom Cruise rides the retro-cool Triumph Scrambler 900 that further reinforced the iconic screen image of Triumph in Hollywood. Cruise is considered one of the biggest celebrities to be associated with motorbikes, with his Kawasaki Ninja 900 in “Top Gun” and a Triumph Speed Triple in the second installment of the popular “Mission: Impossible” movie series.
This 2011 superhero film based on the popular character from the Marvel Comics features a vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle in classic olive drab green.
Most of these notable motorcycle movies symbolize freedom, rebellion and independence. More importantly, the best movies portray not only stunning bikes but also a close-knit relationship between the movie character and the vehicle. In contrast to simple props, the motorcycles serve as an extension of the characters riding them.
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A motorcycle enthusiast himself, Richard Ackerman has been working in the auto insurance industry for 20 years. He enjoys combining the two by writing for a selection of motoring blogs online.