Our list is not comprehensive and in no particular order of importance, well, maybe except for the last one.
So what constitutes “Iconic” in our Motorcycle Movie Moments rundown? We think its cool dudes, riding cool bikes, and high action. Memorable movies with a chase scenes, tales of the open road, and ridiculous motorcycle stunts. If things blow up, that’s cool too.
But don’t take our word for it, judge for yourself. Have a recommendation? Add it to the comments section.
An obligatory entry on any 10 Motorcycle Movie Moments list, Easy Rider stands as a classic piece of American cinema.
Released in 1969, Easy Rider was co-written and starred both Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as two disaffected young men traveling through the U.S. after smuggling cocaine from Mexico.
One of Peter Fonda’s custom Captain America production bikes fetched 1.35 million at auction in 2014.
The Wild One
Marlon Brando’s breakout role in 1953’s “The Wild One” was based on the events surrounding the infamous 1947 Gypsy Tour Motorcycle Rally at Hollister, California. The event resulted in riots and general lawlessness that overran the small town.
Brando plays the role of Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Johnny rides into town on his 1950 6T Triumph Thunderbird with his crew in tow and things get out of hand. This motorcycle movie is credited with first introducing outlaw biker culture to the rest of the world.
When you’re riding and you swallow a bug, but your friends are with you and you need to be cool
The Great Escape
“The Great Escape” was an epic WW II war based on Australian pilot Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account of a massive escape from a German POW camp.
Steve McQueen stars as Air Force Captain Virgil Hilts. Hilts attempts to escape many times. In one such attempt he manages to steal a motorcycle and leads the Germans over the bounding landscape.
“I could have sworn there was a Starbucks around here”
McQueen rides a Triumph TR6 Trophy that is dressed up to look like a BMW R75. McQueen, an experienced motorcyclist in his own right, provides some classic action moments that compliments director John Sturges’ classic war film.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
After the first successful film in the Terminator franchise, Arnold was back with a sequel that puts his T1 character on a motorcycle. The T1 is chased by his nemeses the T-1000 through a car park, and then through the streets and drainage canals of Santa Monica, California. The high-flying stunts and intense chase scenes make for a movie with great adrenaline-pumping action.
In one scene, Arnold as the T1 jumps his 1990 Harley Davidson Fatboy into the storm drain. The film crew actually used cables to support the 650 pound vehicle so that bike and rider only weighed 175 pounds at the landing.
Arnold’s now famous Fatboy sits in the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Stuck in California traffic? No problem if you wear shiny vinyl and have a Ducati 996.
The second installment of the Wacowski’s immensely popular trilogy finds Trinity (Keri Ann Moss) being chased by shape-shifting agents along a stretch of California freeway.
Only this scene wasn’t actually filmed on any California freeway. The studio filmed the chase scene on a decommissioned airstrip on the Alameda Naval Air Station.
This is what happens when you take the last doughnut from the local Krispy Kreme
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
International locales, hot women and motorcycles—does it sound like dream come true? It is if you’re super agent Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. The popular franchise is known for great stunts and Tom Cruise’s motorcycle chase scene is no exception.
Hunt races along a two lane road that snakes along the perilous Atlas Mountains.
What’s even more impressive is that Cruise insisted on doing all of his own stunts on this movie, including the break-neck chase scene through the mountain pass.
Ethan Hunt’s bike of choice when chasing bad guys—a BMW S 1000 RR
The Dark Knight
Take one grief-ridden, vengeful superhero and place him on a superbike and what do you get? A whole lot of havoc and mayhem on the streets of Gotham.
Christopher Nolan’s dark, brooding entry into the Batman franchise introduced the writer-director’s spin on the classic Batcycle.
Known as the “Batpod” the custom bike used 20 inch tires, a single cylinder engine geared for quick acceleration, and dropped the exhaust pipes. Builders routed the exhaust through the metal tubing of the frame instead.
Six Batpods were created for the Dark Knight
Ghost Rider is a stunt motorcyclist named Johnny Blaze (played by Nicholas Cage) who trades his soul to the devil in exchange for his father to be cured of cancer. After he is cured, Blaze’s father dies in an accident the day after the demonic pact. Blaze blames the lord of the underworld for killing his father and vows revenge.
Although a bit mythical and unrealistic, the story includes a lot of motorcycle fun that is hard to resist. The main protagonist in this movie is always on his bike, letting movie fans know that motorcycles are made to fight evil in movies like this one.
Johnny Blaze rides a panhead chopper that was actually modeled after Peter Fonda’s “Captain America” bike in Easy Rider. Interesting factoid: Peter Fonda plays the devil in Ghost Rider.
“Is this bike overheating or is it just me?”
One of the first films to use computer generated imaging (CGI) in movie making, the story was written by animator Steven Lisberger. Lisberger found inspiration to use computer imaging when he saw the game “Pong” in 1976. He produced an early character prototype of Tron to promote his studio and some local rock stations.
Tron tells the story of software engineer Kevin Flynn who gets digitized and then trapped inside a mainframe computer at his former company, ENCOM. Once inside, he realizes that computer programs take on the identities of the users that created them and are run by an all-powerful program called the Master Control Program or MCP.
Flynn joins the title character Tron in an epic battle on light cycles as MCP forces any programs to compete or die unless they vow that there are no users on the outside world.
The original film, released in 1982, used computer generated imaging to create the futuristic duel between bikers. The producers also used digital matte painting, superimposing static images on the film to give Tron its futuristic look.
Creators superimposed digital images against the film to give Tron it’s “futuristic” landscapes
We saved the weirdest for the last. With Ed Harris as the king of a group of riders called ‘Knightriders’ this 1981 movie is a story of a group of riders who perform jousts on motorcycles.
Harris’ character Billy or “King Billy” leads the traveling troupe but is haunted with dreams of a black bird and faces an uprising amongst the group. Injured and harassed by local law enforcement, Billy has to fight against members of his troupe for control. Eventually defeated, Billy resigns his crown and weak from blood loss, loses his life on the road.
Film legend George Romero stepped out of his normal role as a director of horror, to both write and direct the Knightriders.
Jousting on motorcycles made perfect sense in the Eighties
A Final Word
Amazing chase scenes, stunts and cool motorcycles amps up the adrenaline factor for any motorcycle and movie fan. And if you want to experience it truly and fully, watching any of these action movies is a must.
Which one of these legendary motorcycle movie moments do you like most? Share your thoughts or other movie recommendations with us in the comments section!