Motorcycle movies have been on the scene for over half a century. They range from films about biker gangs full of hardened and violent criminals to films about 1960s counterculture and Americana.
If you can’t be on your motorcycle all of the time, why not take in a classic motorcycle movie. We’ve compiled a list of the top 13 motorcycle movies of all time to help you jump-start your biker film education.
13. Wild Hogs (2007)
“Wild Hogs” is a relatively recent entry into the biker movie genre. It stars Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as a group of middle-aged friends who are tired of their day-to-day routines and want to cross their dream of traveling across the country on their bikes off their bucket list.
Hilarity ensues when the four men, who are better at making permanent dents on the couch than riding their motorcycles, set out on their journey and encounter unexpected challenges and surprises.
“Wild Hogs” is probably the least critically acclaimed movie on this list. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a measly 14% score. Regardless, it gets a spot here for its light-hearted humor and for the nostalgia that so many feel for youthful days spent out riding the open road.
12. Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
Named after the iconic Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle ridden by motorcycle cops across the country, this film is a 70’s classic. It stars controversial actor Robert Blake and Billy “Green” Bush as motorcycle cops John Wintergreen and his partner Zipper in sunny Arizona.
Wintergreen is gunning to transition to homicide and finds his chance with the apparent suicide of an old man. Wintergreen teams up with seasoned homicide detective Harvey Poole (Mitchell Ryan) to investigate but quickly finds that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Blake received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. The film also features music from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
11. Hells Angels on Wheels (1967)
Richard Rush’s 1967 entry into the biker film genre stars Adam Roarke, Jack Nicolson, and Sabrina Scharf. “Hells Angels on Wheels” is an exploitation film that tracks the rise and fall of a gas station attendant’s friendship with his local gang of Hells Angels.
Lauded for the quality of its photography, “Hells Angels on Wheels” features beautiful landscapes and shots of Hells Angels riding down long winding highways. It even features actual Hells Angels members as extras.
10. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Based on the memoir of the same name by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, “The Motorcycle Diaries” is a Spanish language film starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara. The film tracks medical student Guevara’s travels across South America with his friend Alberto Granado which began on an old 1939 Norton 500 they named “The Mighty One.”
Following the breakdown of their bike halfway through their trip, the pair is forced out of isolation and begin meeting and learning more about the hardships and economic despair the locals face in the areas through which they are traveling. These relationships were the catalyst for Guevara’s revolutionary actions later in life.
“The Motorcycle Diaries” features stunning cinematography of South American landscapes. It was critically acclaimed, and the recipient of many awards including an Oscar for Jorge Drexler’s original song “Al otro lado del rio.”
9. The Wild Angels (1966)
Everyone knows Peter Fonda for his legendary role in Easy Rider, but Fonda honed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle riding skills in Roger Corman’s “The Wild Angels.”
In the film, Fonda plays the role of Heavenly Blues, the president of the San Pedro faction of the Hells Angels. The film also features Nancy Sinatra as Blues’ girlfriend Mike, and Bruce Dern as Loser.
The film follows the San Pedro Hells Angels disastrous attempt to retrieve Loser’s stolen motorcycle from another gang. Blues and Loser’s actions result in multiple instances of outlaw violence that typified the Hells Angels stereotypes at the time of filming.
“The Wild Angels” cast real members of the Hells Angels and Coffin Cheaters as extras in the film. Trashy for sure, but a worthwhile watch for any motorcycle aficionado.
8. The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
Great Britain’s “The Girl on a Motorcycle” is this list’s only biker movie with a female lead. This 1960s psychedelic film features Marianne Faithfull as Rebecca, and Alain Delon as her lover, Daniel.
Anxious to escape the confines of her newly married life, Rebecca takes off one night while her husband is sleeping to meet her lover, a university professor. Decked out in a full body leather suit, Rebecca makes the journey to Daniel on her Harley Davidson motorcycle — clearly not a beginner’s motorcycle.
The film doesn’t contain much dialogue but has plenty of psychedelic special effects that ought to please any psychedelic film fan.
7. Stone (1974)
Before Mad Max there was the Australian film, “Stone”. “Stone” features Ken Shorter as Stone, an undercover policeman who is tasked with running around with Kawasaki Z1 900 riding satanic outlaw biker gang, the Gravediggers. As if joining a satanic biker gang isn’t dangerous enough, it turns out that members of the gang are being picked off one by one, and Stone must discover who is killing the members before he becomes a victim himself.
“Stone” may be a low budget film, but its spectacular stunt work made the film a huge hit when it opened in Australia. Several of its actors went on to star in 1979’s Mad Max.
6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
“Come with me if you want to live.” Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, Robert Patrick as T-1000, and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a massive blockbuster hit that no motorcycle movie list is complete without. Schwarzenegger is iconic in his leather jacket and sunglasses atop a Harley Davidson Fatboy.
“Terminator 2” follows up 1984’s “Terminator” and recasts Schwarzenegger as a cyborg tasked with protecting, instead of killing, Sarah Connor, who is now being hunted by a more powerful cyborg, T-1000. If for no other reason, “Terminator 2” features gratuitous white-knuckle motorcycle chase scenes that make it a worthwhile watch.
5. Mad Max (1979)
This dystopian Australian film features a heroic police officer who has lost his mind and is out for stone cold revenge following the murders of his partner, wife, and baby at the hands of an evil motorcycle gang. Starring a then-unknown Mel Gibson as Max, “Mad Max” portrays the madness of a man set on stopping the motorcycle gang from harming anyone else, no matter the consequence. The result is a film filled with all the car and bike chases you could possibly want.
4. The Born Losers (1967)
The first in a series of four films starring Tom Laughlin as Billy Jack, a half-Indian, former Green Beret who has tasked himself with protecting the California counterculture. The film is inspired by the arrest of members of the Hells Angels in 1964 for allegedly raping two teenage girls in Monterey, California.
Trouble ensues when a biker gang launches a series of attacks on the residents of a California town and retaliates against victims who cooperate with police. Billy Jack is sucked into the conflict when he inadvertently begins protecting Vicky (Elizabeth James) from the gang.
The film features members of the San Fernando motorcycle club The Devil’s Disciples as extras.
3. The Wild One (1953)
“The Wild One” is required on every list of motorcycle movies for one main reason: it’s the original outlaw biker movie. Starring Marlon Brando as the iconic Johnny Strabler, “The Wild One” is a critically acclaimed film about the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, led by Strabler, and their conflicts with a rival gang as they terrorize small California towns.
The film starred real bikers, and dialogue from real life conversations with the bikers was incorporated into the script. Marlon Brando drives a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird in the movie, which has subsequently become an incredibly valuable piece of movie memorabilia.
2. On Any Sunday (1971)
Not all big-time motorcycle movies need rival biker gangs to make an impact on the collective conscience of motorcycle aficionados. Academy Award-nominated documentary film “On Any Sunday” puts motorcycle racers and enthusiasts under the microscope. “On Any Sunday” is narrated by motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen, who also appears throughout the film.
The end result is a film that brings to light the spirit of motorcycling so that even outsiders could understand biking’s magnetic attraction. The film features motorcycles from Triumph, Montesa, Husqvarna, Harley Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BSA, Bultaco, and Hodaka. It is lauded as the most important motorcycle documentary ever made.
1. Easy Rider (1969)
Unsurprisingly, “Easy Rider” is at the top of the list. The 1969 Dennis Hopper film is the most iconic motorcycle movie of all time. The film stars Dennis Hopper as Billy, and Peter Fonda as Wyatt, two bikers who set out to bike from Los Angeles to New Orleans on their second-hand Harley Davidson.
The film is rich in Americana and sees the pair of bikers experience everything from small towns, to dirt roads and farmers, and eventually a liberal alcoholic lawyer played by Jack Nicholson, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This film is synonymous with everything motorcycle, Americana, and Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.”
What’s your favorite motorcycle movie? Was it listed above? Let us know in the comments.