10 Flicks Starring Awesome Motorcycles
Throughout film history, motorcycles have taken a backseat to cars when it comes to playing the role of the motored protagonist. Like so many of their riders — when depicted in film and in real life — they’ve been cast aside from society because of their propensity for rebelliousness. A boisterous bike conveys badness like nothing else, which is why the following films are so memorable. While you may disagree with the order of the ranking, or even the quality of the films, you can’t disagree with the awesomeness of the motorcycles.
The freedom of biking is exemplified by Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), two non-conformists who embark on a journey across America, meeting an interesting cast of characters — good and bad — along the way. Ironically, their No. 1 sidekicks were former police bikes that were purchased at an auction for $500 and refurbished for on-screen use. Unfortunately, none of the four, as they were shown in the film, exist today. The Captain America, of course, was destroyed in the final scene, and the other three were stolen and scrapped.
Protective of their reputation as a company, Triumph objected to the use of its bike in Marlon Brando’s film because of the depiction of motorcycle gangs — it was even banned in England as a result. Johnny (Brando), the gang’s leather jacket-wearing leader, oversees an invasion of a motorcycle racing event and eventually a small town, where, naturally, they wreak havoc. One year later in real life, the Hells Angels were founded, advancing the negative perception of bikers by mimicking the styles and behaviors demonstrated in The Wild One.
A decade after attempting to eliminate Sarah Conner, The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) returns as a good guy aboard his Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Most famously, he maneuvers it inside of the LA River to save John Connor (Edward Furlong) from T-1000 (Robert Patrick), who’s commandeering an enormous tow truck. The high-powered bike has also been featured in Renegade, Bulworth, and Wild Hogs.
Leave it to the “King of Cool” to perform scintillating stunts aboard a cool bike like the Triumph TR6. A POW in World War II, Capt. Hilts (McQueen) escapes a secure German prison camp and evades his captors with a combination of sagaciousness and speed — it should come as no surprise that McQueen did most of the riding himself. The film is set in Germany, so his ride was disguised as a German BMW R75 motorcycle, a task that was undertaken by the artist Von Dutch in his Elkins’ shop.
In the chaos of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, only the strong survive. Mad Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) seeks revenge after a motorcycle gang murders his wife, son, and close friend Jim Goose, the latter of whom owns a Kawasaki KZ1000. The 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed transmission bike boasts 90 hp, making it one of the highest performing of its kind. For that reason, it was also prominently used in the televisions series ChiPs, in which officers Ponch (Erik Estrada) and Jon (Larry Wilcox) patrol California’s adventurous highways.
Leave it to Hollywood to depict motorcyclists as mentally unstable. “King” Billy (Ed Harris) heads a troupe of medieval performers who roll around on motorcycles, but becomes unraveled as he loses his grip on things — including reality. Unwilling to let go, he attempts to redeem himself and remain connected with those who left. Literally dressed as a knight, Billy drives a Honda CBX as if it were his horse. Known for its 6-cylinder engine, it produces a jolting 105 bhp, enough to fuel anyone’s speed trip.
After being transported into a computer world by software pirate Master Control, Kevin (Jeff Bridges) is faced with overcoming the unfortunate circumstances by finding a security program named TRON to destroy his nemesis. The one cool part about being stuck in such a place was the availability of the virtual bike called the Lightcycle, which travels at blazing speeds, enabling it to outmaneuver Recognizers and Light Tanks. Flynn is able to use them to his advantage, as he possesses detailed knowledge of the game. Sure, you can’t obtain a Lightcycle in real life, but don’t you wish you could?
Building a motorcycle facilitates the growth a friendship between Cliff (Chris Makepeace) and a bully Ricky (Adam Baldwin). When Melvin (Matt Dillion), the lead bully, torments Ricky and pushes his treasured bike, a Honda CB175, into a lake, Cliff and Ricky join forced to reveal Melvin’s underlying cowardice. As the movie indicates, underdogs can ride motorcycles too.
How could a man named Maverick not be a bike owner? A U.S. Naval Aviator, Maverick Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is a defiant risk taker who demonstrates impressive skills in the sky, earning him a coveted spot in Top Gun school. Amid the drama that accompanies his quest to graduate, he pursues Top Gun instructor Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) — sometimes on his Kawasaki GPz900R, proving that ladies do love a man on a motorcycle. Modern sports bikes have been patterned of it, as it’s capable of reaching speeds of 150 mph — the first of its kind to reach that benchmark.
If you watched the movie closely, you might’ve noticed that the tread on the tires of Trinity’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) Ducati 996 change from slick to treaded a couple of times as the shots change. Of course, that wasn’t intended to be shown as she dangerously navigates through and over traffic. The scene inspired many daredevils to purchase a Ducati because of its adrenaline-pumping top-end power and sleek design.