Our Favorite Motorcycle Films and Documentaries
One of the best parts of motorcycle culture is all of the great art that is inspired by the bikes we love. There are so many great films that focus on motorcycle racing, the freedom of the open road, and of course, the outlaw and biker gangs. No matter how big a gear head you are though, there are always those things that slip under the radar. So for our veteran riders, we’ve got some great new films. And for the younger crowd, we’ve got some of the classics, too. So break out the popcorn and get comfortable! Check out our list for the 10 best motorcycle movies.
10. The Born Losers (1969)
The Born Losers is the tale of Vietnam veteran Billy Jack (played by Tom Laughlin) who seeks to escape society by moving to a quiet beach town in California. However, he is unable to escape trouble as he saves a person from a violent altercation with a biker gang, The Born Losers. Unfortunately for Billy Jack, he is the one who ends up getting arrested for firing his rifle to stop the fight.
The gang terrorizes the local town, committing all sorts of terrible crimes and threatening anyone who would dare testify against them. Billy Jack is eventually released only to be taken hostage, along with a woman named Vicky Barrington (played by co-scriptwriter Elizabeth James). Billy Jack escapes and tries to get the police to help him, but they refuse, so he has to take matters into his own hands. Does Billy Jack have what it takes to rescue the damsel in distress all by himself?
9. Every Which Way but Loose (1978)
Coming after the success of Clint Eastwood’s many Westerns including Dirty Harry, he really took the world by surprise with his comedic role in Every Which Way but Loose. It was not well-reviewed by critics upon release, but slowly grew to be a huge success, and one of Eastwood’s highest-grossing films. Definitely worthy of being labeled as one of the best motorcycle movies!
Eastwood plays truck driver, Philo Beddoe, who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his brother Orville, and his pet orangutan, Clyde. Philo meets a country singer that he falls in love with Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke). Everything is going well until she mysteriously disappears. Philo travels to her hometown in Colorado to confess his love for her, but not without angering a biker gang called the Black Widows along the way. Now when we would expect this to turn into Dirty Harry, it plays out a lot more like The Three Stooges. If you’re looking for a hilarious, action-packed film, this is a good choice.
8. Hells Angels on Wheels (1967)
Hells Angels on Wheels is the story of a gas-station attendant named Poet (played by Jack Nicholson) and his introduction to a notorious biker gang, the Hells Angels. Poet meets the Angels when he is involved in a motorcycle accident with them. Poet, who is a bit thick-headed, demands the Angels pay him back. While he would normally be treated to a gang-wide beating, the leader, Buddy (Adam Rourke), says they will compensate Poet. He just needs to help them a little bit.
Little does Poet know that “a little help” sometimes involves murder. Poet becomes an official prospect after he proves himself worthy of the Angels, but gets himself into trouble when he meets Buddy’s girlfriend and falls for her. In the end, the two go head-to-head, but only one will survive.
7. The Wild One (1953)
The Wild One is considered to be one of the first films looking at the American biker outlaw. And, in our eyes, one of the best motorcycle movies! Of course, it stars Marlon Brando in one of his most iconic performances as Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. Johnny and his gang of rebels are the resident “tough guys” in town until a rival gang, the Beetles, come to challenge them.
Brando simultaneously falls for a young woman who just so happens to be a local police officer’s daughter. Watch as Johnny and his gang balance the on-going love story in between bouts of gang violence and general mayhem.
6. The Wild Angels (1966)
The Wild Angels is a landmark film for biker culture because it was the first to put actor Peter Fonda on a Harley Davidson. Fonda plays Hells Angels chapter president, “Heavenly Blues”, opposite Nancy Sinatra as his girlfriend, Mike.
After a scuffle with a local Mexican gang, Blues and his gang attempt to evade police, but one of their own, “The Loser”, is shot and taken to a hospital. Blues and the Angels devise a way to break him out of the hospital and get back on the road, but things don’t go according to plan.
5. The World’s Fasted Indian (2005)
The World’s Fastest Indian is a New Zealand biopic following the life of infamous speed bike racer Burt Munro, played by Anthony Hopkins. The movie follows Munro’s story from small-town motorcycle hero to his introduction to America.
Munro saves up enough money as a young man to board a cargo ship headed for Los Angeles to achieve his dream at the Bonneville Speedway. But things don’t go quite as smoothly as he would have hoped. Accompany Munro on his journey through the trials and tribulations of an uncertain entry to a new world, and his eventual rise to the top.
4. TT 3D: Closer to the Edge (2011)
TT 3D: Closer to the Edge is a British documentary showing the exploits of TT riders Ian Hutchinson and Guy Martin. More specifically, it showcases the dedication and commitment needed for riders to participate in the Isle of Man’s TT race every year.
The film is narrated by Jared Leto. It’s shown in 3D, following races as they prepare and participate in the TT race. It also features Bridget Dobbs, a widow of one of the riders who died during the race that year. It is an emotional look at the dedication and love these riders have for their sport.
3. Riding Solo to the Top of The World (2006)
Riding Solo to the Top of the World is a documentary. It is filmed by and stars Gaurav Jani as he journeys on the Chang Pas in India. This trail is one of the most treacherous motorcycle trails in the world. And Jani travels it alone on his Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle.
Watch as Jani tests his endurance and his sanity against himself and the world in this solo adventure. This film is a true testament to what riding a motorcycle can teach you about the world and about yourself.
2. Easy Rider (1969)
Easy Rider has got to be one of the most iconic films of all time. And certainly one of the most iconic motorcycle films. It is the story of Wyatt and Billy; two drug smugglers who have just sold off a load of cocaine in California. Played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, respectfully, who also wrote and directed the film. They’re headed to New Orleans to have some fun at Mardi Gras… when they get arrested. And then they meet George Hanson (played by Jack Nicholson).
The three go on some adventures and do some hard-partying before their outlaw ways finally catch up with them. This film was an integral part of the counter-culture movie scene in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And it was also a huge success, grossing over 60 million dollars from a budget less than $50,000.
1. On Any Sunday (1971)
On Any Sunday is a documentary directed by Bruce Brown. It features the intense skills and determination needed to participate in motorcycle racing. The film shows the different approaches and mentalities towards the world of racing. It was partially funded by Steve McQueen, popularly known as “The King of Cool”, who was an actor and motorcycle enthusiast.
It features professional and famous riders like Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith. It’s very widely regarded as perhaps the most important film about motorcycles. It is also credited for popularizing BMX riding across America. Because it was the first major film to show it on screen, as featured in the opening sequence.
The Best of the Best Motorcycle Movies
What do you think of our list of the best motorcycle movies? There are so many amazing motorcycle films, we, unfortunately, don’t have the time to list them all. But we definitely think we hit some of the best motorcycle movies! Let us know if there were any that you think should have been on the list.
Also, make sure to watch these with all the motorcycle lovers in your life! We’d hate to think that there was a whole generation of riders who had never seen a classic like Easy Rider or The Wild Angels! And, assuming you love your bikes… be sure to look at our list of these awesome custom paint jobs!