There are a lot of motorcycle movies out there and a few of them are actually good. Hollywood tends to get stuck on stereotypes, and while some of those cheesy flicks are on this list, they serve as a reminder of how bikers were viewed back then. Watching every film on this list shows how biker culture has changed over the years, and honestly, some are just really great flicks.
#10 – The Wild One, 1953
While The Wild One started the annoying biker gang stereotype, it’s entertaining and a great look at bikers back in the day. Marlon Brando offers a great performance and his 1950 Triumph is sweet. Plus this movie offers the famous exchange: “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” “Whaddaya got?”
#9 – The Girl on a Motorcycle, 1968
Alright, so as a movie, this one stinks. But Girl is on this list as it is an amazing visual motorcycle experience. Forget the plot, just know that this movie stars one of the best looking women in the world blasting around the French countryside on her classic H-D while wearing nothing but a leather cat suit. Watch it on mute.
#8 – The Wild Angels, 1966
Peter Fonda on a Harley, three years before Easy Rider. This is not the classic Rider would become, but is still worth watching for the biker bang and police motorcycle chases through southern California. The scenery and myriad bikes steal the show over the weak, violent plot.
#7 – Hell’s Angels on Wheels, 1967
Although called “the shattering true story of the Hell’s Angels” (it’s not), this lamely titled movie is actually entertaining and features a ton of classic iron. Adam Roarke and Jack Nicholson star in this action flick that subtly started the turnaround of biker portrayals, from lawless thugs, to misunderstood freedom seekers.
#6 – Choppertown: the Sinners, 2005
Choppertown is a gorgeously shot, award winning documentary about a working class guy building his own custom chopper. Rather than the Hollywood route, Choppertown captures the real-life aspects of biker culture. Think of it as a blue collar version of American Chopper without the stupidity.
#5 – On Any Sunday, 1971
After the financial and critical success of Easy Rider, Hollywood took a long and realistic look at motorcycles and their riders in this ’71 documentary. Steve McQueen and several bike racers offer their tike on why motorcycles are awesome, and the footage is even better than their no-nonsense narration. This is arguably the most important film on this list.
#4 – The World’s Fastest Indian
Anthony Hopkins played real-life racer Burt Munro in this somewhat biographical depiction of Munro’s quest to beak a motorcycle speed record at Bonneville. Hopkins nails the role, and his 1920 Indian Scout looks amazing. Other bikes include mid-century Triumphs and BSAs. While it’s not entirely accurate, it is entertaining.
#3 – Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man, 1991
An aging Mikey Rourke and Don Johnson star as the typical Hollywood bikers in this action shoot-em-up. While it was a box office failure, it became a cult classic for the nutty action and great one-liners. The awesome “Black Death” bike is actually a custom 1989 Harley-Davidson FXR, and it’s fairly easy to customize your own.
#2 – TT3D: Closer to the Edge, 2011
You’re going to need a shower after this adrenaline soaked blast through the Isle of Man. TT3D follows racers Guy Martin and Ian Hutchinson at the 2010 race, and all the high speed action was filmed in 3D. Documentaries, and even sport bikes, might not be your thing, but this movie is so beautifully done, even people that don’t care about motorcycles are simply blown away.
#1 – Easy Rider, 1969
Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson star in the landmark motorcycle film. The “Captain America” chopper defined a generation of custom choppers, and the film raised the bar for what a motorcycle film could be. Easy Rider perfectly captures the late ‘60s, not just for bikers, but as a time capsule of America. Over 40 years later, it’s still startling.