(this is the old list from our old website, if you know of a new bike movie please contact us with information so we can add to this list!)
The obvious ones . . .
Bicycle Thief (1948) Directed by the Fascist-era matinee idol Vittorio De Sica from a script by veteran screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, said by the Village Voice to be the most universally praised movie produced anywhere on planet earth during the first decade after World War II. A workman spends a whole day looking in vain in the streets of Rome for the bicycle someone has stolen from him.
Breaking Away (1979) Local cyclist in a small town (townies AKA “cutters”), lives, eats, and breathes cycling and everything else Italian, comes of age in a race against college kids. Based on Dave Blaze, and his experiences at Indiana University and the Little 500.
American Flyer (1985) Two brothers, a former National caliber rider (Kevin Costner) and his enthusiastic brother, take an adventure to the ‘Hell of the West’ (AKA Coors Classic) stage race. Lots of good ‘Coors Classic’ footage in this one, even Eddy Merckx makes an appearance.
Quicksilver Trials and tribulations in the tough world of bicycle messengers in New York City. Stars Kevin Bacon, and Nelson Vails, with great stunt shots of cycling (often in illegal ways) in traffic.
The less obvious Ones . . .
2 Seconds (1998) A mountain biking film about a female bike racer who gets tired of the racing life and finds the true meaning of life with the help of an old, grouchy bike shop owner. There are good downhill racing scenes at the beginning. It’s French Canadian with subtitles, was directed by Manon Briand, and stars Charlotte Laurier and Dino Tavarone. This movie is available in VHS and DVD formats.
20 Shades of Pink (1976) A middle-aged house painter, going through mid-life crisis, takes up cycling for exercise and meets up with an attractive young bike racer. The painter thinks she is interested in him on a personal level when she really only wants to help him prepare for an age-group bike race. Directed by Paul Stanley, with Anne Jackson, Eli Wallach, and Keenan Wynn.
Beasts of Burden It depicts the hard side of the bike messenger’s life and society. It may be realism, with emphasis on the unhappy side, but it certainly makes you want to avoid that life. It shows drugs and alcohol, insufficient money, an alienated approach to living, a very hard job. On the other hand, the scenes of cycling in traffic, taken by a bike-mounted camera, are very exciting.
Beijing Bicycle (Shiqi sui de dan che) (2001) While watching this movie I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette). This is a story of determination of two young men. One works hard for a bicycle courier and on the day he would have earned the bike, it is stolen. The other steals money from his family and buys a bike so that he can impress a girl. Yes, it’s the same bike. Amazingly, Guo is able to find his stolen bike, but that isn’t the end of his troubles. I couldn’t help but feel for all the crap he has to put up with, especially since all he wanted was to be a hard worker. Yet, like us all, life threw him a curveball and he does everything in his power to deal with the situation.
Breaking Away (TV) In this TV series, based on the movie of the same name, Shawn Cassady plays the role of Dave Stoller, bike racer. This one is tough to find, as it only lasted one season in the early 80’s.
The Day I Became a Woman Three short stories about women in modern Iran, one of which is about a woman who wants to enter a bicycle race and her husband who is very much against it.
Hugo’s Magic Pump Hugo is the winningest 6-day racer in Italy, beating everyone, including the Mafia’s ‘Fixed’ riders. To stop losing gambling moneys, the Mafia decides to wear Hugo down by throwing beautiful women at him, hoping to reduce his endurance and stamina. This Adult movie from the late 70’s was Competitive Cycling Magazine‘s choice for best cycling footage in the era before ‘Breaking Away’. Dubbed.
Joey Brown, 6 Day Racer A 1940’s bike messenger wins the big 6-day race. A hard to find B/W film from the 40’s. Lots of 6-day footage, starring era comedian, Joey Brown.
Jour de Fete (1949) In this French film, filmmaker/comedian Jacques Tati plays a wacky bike-riding postman attempting to modernize delivery service.
One Less Car (1991) A Boston filmmaker profiles people who use their bicycles instead of cars for a variety of transportation uses.
Return of the Scorcher (1992) This movie was made by bicycle activist Ted White to show the superiority of the bicycle to the automobile, with scenes from all over the world. One of its claims to fame is that it’s where the name “Critical Mass” comes from.
A Sunday in Hell: 1976 Paris-Roubaix This movie shows the trials of long-distance, “radonneur” bicycle racing.
Stars and Water Carriers Stars and Water Carriers is a better movie with much better scenes of Eddy (The Cannibal) Merckx and how he won so much. The film shows the strain on Eddy’s face and clearly shows how much effort he put into his racing. This is a Danish documentary with added English sound track so it sounds a bit funny, but it takes my vote for best cycling video to date.
Who Owns The Streets/We Are Traffic (1999) Ted White’s documentary traces the unique Critical Mass bike movement from its early days in San Francisco to its growth of thousands of cyclists each months and its spread to more than 100 cities in 14 countries. The movie explores the ideas of reclaiming public space, commercial-free cultural events, and rethinking traditional models of political demonstration.
The Yellow Jersey A PBS Documentary from the Early 70’s, showing the trials of the American team at a stage race in Canada. BicycleCam Videos filmed on a bike during a professional bike race. The first, of the 2000 Golden, Colorado Pro 1/2 Circuit Race is available now. Samples of the upcoming video of the 2000 Bannock Criterium are on line, but I’m looking forward to the announced “Chicago Bike Messenger” video.
Movies Where Bicycling Plays a Part
Americathon I haven’t seen this, but apparently it’s a really bad B-movie about a post-apocalyptic (or post-energy-crisis) California where there’s no oil and everyone bikes. Old cars are used as houses, and there’s a Beach Boys song about biking. Also, Meatloaf is in it and eats a car.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream The 1999 version is set sometime in the late 19th Century, and has lots of bicycles in it. While adhering to Shakespeare’s dialogue, it manages to work bicycles into the plot.
Better Off Dead Not about biking per se, but there’s a tenacious paper boy who follows the protagonist everywhere on his bike — including down the dreaded K12 ski slope — in hopes of collecting his $2 payment. “I want my $2!” has lived on in form of a $2 coupon for Pedro’s.
Brainstorm No bicycle plot, but Christopher Walken commutes on a recumbent and scenes of him arriving at work and at home on it are pretty cool.
E.T. The Extraterrestrial Directed by Steven Spielberg in 1982, this movie is about a boy named Elliot, a lovable extraterrestrial named E.T. and their quest to get E.T. home. The film climaxes in one of the greatest chase sequences ever filmed – as Elliot and his friends (the good guys) take off with E.T. on their trusty BMX bikes, fleeing from the government authorities driving official motorized vehicles (the bad guys). This is a movie where the kids and bicycling dominate – and it’s sheer joy to see bicycles crashing onto and demolishing cars, for a change! And with E.T. riding in Elliot’s front basket, of course, the kids get the bike ride of their lives – and so does the audience. “E.T.” is one of the ultimate feel-good movies – great for family/group-viewing anytime.
Key Exchange The play on which this movie was based used bicycles as scene transitions. The male star waxes rhapsodic about cycling around Central Park. I have heard that the movie de-emphasizes the bicycle motif. Its cast includes with Danny Aiello and one of the actors from “Breaking Away”.
Life is Beautiful Director/star Roberto Benigni, before being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, tools around Italy on a bike, including into the arms of a charming woman he later marries.
Little Miss Marker A depression era bookie (Walter Matthau) gets stuck with a little girl, left as an IOU (marker). Only about 5 minutes of 6-day racing in this one. The track is a portable one, built by the same builder as the portable Atlanta Olympic Velodrome.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure The opening scene is Pee Wee Herman dreaming about winning the Tour de France, and the whole plot of the movie is about Pee Wee looking for his stolen bike.
Project A (1983) Beyond great fights, this movie features a chase scene through alleyways with Jackie on a bicycle that should be included in any “great moments on film” compilation. Plus, it has a great Harold Lloyd homage scene with a clock tower. (from The Jackie Chan Mailing List Proudly Presents the Annotated Jackie Chan Filmography otherwise known as “John’s Little Opinions” at http://www.tmn.com/~schone/chan/com.htm)
The Straight Story (1999) Admittedly a small scene, but look carefully and see the recumbents pass lawn tractor riding Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), in this David Lynch movie.
The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe (1972) A power struggle at the French Secret Service spills into the life of an innocent concert violinist who fiddles obliviously while rival spies and hit men try to set him up for a final bow. Not entirely innocent, as he carries on an affair with a fellow musician while her husband is out bicycling every weekend. Some of the bicycling scenes are pretty funny.
Time Chasers Not only does the hero of the movie ride a bike as a major form of transportation (though he uses an airplane to make his time machine), but when he travels into the utopian future there are tons of bicycles, along with buildings made out of recycled material. This movie was heckled on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and is available from its maker, Edgewood Studios (They even have a trailer online).
Un Affaire D’Hommes (1981) Jean-Louis Trintignant is an architect and joins a bicycle racing group where a detective (Claude Brasseur) is member. He uses this friendship to cover the murder of his wife. The film includes several scenes of the group’s weekly race (which also plays a part in the murderer’s alibi), and the final confrontation is done using bikes, not guns.
Other Bicycle Movie Sites
Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions 5.7 Bicycle Racing Movies Updating this list was how the MassBike Bicycle Movie list got started. It has longer descriptions, though.
Bicycle Austin A good, but shorter, categorized list. Sometimes it has more information about individual movies.