Total Recall: Bicycle Movies

With Premium Rush hitting theaters this week, we run down some noteworthy films featuring pedal-powered protagonists.

Bikes

Like the Pink Floyd song says, "I've got a bike/You can ride it if you like." With Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who was the subject of his very own Total Recall recently) pedaling like crazy for this weekend's Premium Rush, we decided now would be the perfect time to peer into the cinematic past and find some other pedal-powered films. It's probably no surprise that bicycles aren't exactly the greatest source of screenwriting inspiration, but that doesn't mean there haven't been a few noteworthy entries in the genre -- and besides, it's hard to complain when a list gives us the opportunity to write about Rad. Grab your helmet -- it's time for Total Recall!

American Flyers

63%

Six years after penning Breaking Away, screenwriter Steve Tesich returned to cinematic bicycling -- albeit with a slightly more action-centric bent -- with American Flyers. Directed by John Badham (then riding a WarGames-fueled hot streak) and starring Kevin Costner in one of his earliest major roles, Flyers traces the turmoil surrounding a pair of brothers (played by Costner and David Marshall Grant) as they begin training for a race across the Rockies under the shadow of potentially life-threatening illness. Though it didn't do much at the box office and most reviews were rather lukewarm, Flyers resonated with critics like About.com's Fred Topel, who called it a "classic '80s sports movie" and lauded its "surprising twist, and thrilling bike scenes."

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Bicycle Thieves

98%

Long before Pee-Wee Herman dashed off across the country on a madcap search for his stolen bike, Vittorio De Seca used the theft of a bicycle to help tell a far more dramatic tale. Considered a classic of Italian neorealist cinema -- not to mention one of the best all-around films of all time -- 1948's Bicycle Thieves follows the grim struggles of a desperate family man (Lamberto Maggiorani) whose efforts to provide for his wife and children are dealt a severe blow when the bicycle he needs for work is stolen. As it wends its way to its brave, thoughtful conclusion, argues Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, Thieves "manages to appeal to the better angels of our nature in a way that only deepens as we grow older along with the film."

Beijing Bicycle

63%

Adapting the loose framework of The Bicycle Thief for a story about modern Communist China, Beijing Bicycle follows a rural Chinese teen (Cui Lin) on his journey to the city in search of work. It's a journey that becomes complicated when his bike is stolen, prompting a difficult search, some turnabout thievery, and the potentially violent complications that ensue. Part of a series of films from young Chinese directors highlighting the social issues affecting modern citizens, Beijing Bicycle gave viewers what Peter Howell of the Toronto Star described as "a picturesque morality tale that slyly depicts the hopelessness of communism while pointing up the essential similarities between people of all classes."

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BMX Bandits

67%

The poster promised "a high flying ride to adventure," and while this family-friendly Australian action flick from director Brian Trenchard-Smith might not quite achieve flight, it manages to add a fun twist to the old kids-sticking-it-to-the-Man formula -- and it also boasts a (very) early screen appearance by Nicole Kidman, who stars here as one of a gang of young bikers who steal a box of walkie talkies without realizing they belong to a crew of bank robbers. Hijinks ensue, of course, including an extended chase that serves as a tourist brochure for various Sydney landmarks; it all adds up to an enduring cult classic that's earned the admiration of critics like Brian Orndorf, who applauded, "Just hand Trenchard-Smith explosives, an anamorphic lens, and a game cast, and he'll whip up something appealing, preferably with a saucy Aussie wink."

Breaking Away

94%

A sensitive evocation of small-town life, the awkward restlessness of life after high school, and class struggle -- not to mention a darn good biking movie -- Breaking Away offered a solid early career break for stars Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley while racking up $20 million at the box office and earning a slew of awards (including the Golden Globe for Best Film and the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) along the way. Starring Christopher as a bicycle racing-obsessed Indiana teen (patterned after real-life rider Dave Blase) whose working-class roots put him and his blue-collar friends at odds with the wealthy college kids in town, Breaking culminated in a rousing dramatization of Indiana University's venerable Little 500 race. The action proved memorable, but for most critics, the movie's true value lay in what Richard Schickel called the film's "many moments of shrewd insight into the lives of amusingly shaded but very recognizable human beings."

Comments

Patrick Snyder

Patrick Snyder

where the hell is E.T.?!

Aug 22 - 04:58 PM

AJ A.

AJ Adams

The presence of a bike in a movie does not make it a bike movie. By your standard, E.T. was also a halloween movie.

Aug 22 - 05:11 PM

ap sirius

karl anderson

I disagree...Although E. T. is not specifically a bike movie..bicicles are used more times than most people first realize, not only as a tool to move the story forward but as a kind of touchstone representing childhood. You can definately feel the importance and love Spielberg felt for probably his own bike when he was a child. And its also the focal point of the most pivotal scene in the entire film.

Aug 22 - 05:59 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

I agree with you. E.T., at the very least, deserved an honorable mention for its iconic bike scenes. Karate Kid, from 1984, also could have received an honorable mention.

Aug 23 - 12:36 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Was there a 'memorable' bicycle scene in Karate Kid?

Aug 23 - 04:25 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

Yes, Dave, there were a couple. Now sounds like a good time for you to watch it again. :)

Aug 24 - 12:00 PM

Adam Young

Adam Young

very smart response

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

Alexandra B.

Alexandra Bahtishi

Dude, whenever I ride my bike while listenning to the E.T. theme song I feel like I could possibly fly away.

Pretty intense bike scenes in that movie. :)

Aug 23 - 01:13 PM

Jack Schrute

Jack Schrute

Yeah but the bicycling scene is so famous that I also find it odd that it wasn't at least mentioned.

Aug 23 - 04:59 PM

Leo Monteiro

Leo Monteiro

My God your a moron lol

Aug 22 - 05:55 PM

Joe Albanese

Joe Albanese

If you are going to call someone a moron, please don't use the wrong your/you're.. thank you.

Aug 22 - 07:25 PM

Alec Low

Alec Low

well said

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

Chris Card

Chris Card

Agreed. The first bicycle flight scene is very iconic, and the trademark image of Elliot and E.T. on the bike silohuetted against the full moon has become one of the most famous images in cinema history. Heck, Spielberg uses it as the logo for his company, Amblin.

Aug 22 - 06:15 PM

Michael Braden

Michael Braden

Et was also a documentry about reptiles because in one scene their is a frog

Aug 22 - 09:42 PM

D.

Delon Lier

Face palm!: Frogs are amphibians! But yes It did have lots of bikes but it's not a bike movie.

Aug 23 - 09:19 AM

69BUCK

JIM GRONEFELD

Not only that [frogs are amphibians], but you used the wrong word. It's "There" not "their."

Aug 23 - 09:28 AM

Zane B

Chum Chum

no ones laughing at your joke just your stupidity

Aug 23 - 01:38 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Sometimes sarcasm works!

Aug 23 - 04:00 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Speaking of frogs on bikes, who can forget Kermit in the original Muppet Movie? Gone with the Schwinn indeed...

Aug 24 - 08:15 AM

Alec Low

Alec Low

Not quite a bike movie but I agree that it should still be mentioned.

Aug 22 - 10:26 PM

AJ A.

AJ Adams

The presence of a bike in a movie does not make it a bike movie. By your standard, E.T. was also a halloween movie.

Aug 22 - 05:11 PM

ap sirius

karl anderson

I disagree...Although E. T. is not specifically a bike movie..bicicles are used more times than most people first realize, not only as a tool to move the story forward but as a kind of touchstone representing childhood. You can definately feel the importance and love Spielberg felt for probably his own bike when he was a child. And its also the focal point of the most pivotal scene in the entire film.

Aug 22 - 05:59 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

I agree with you. E.T., at the very least, deserved an honorable mention for its iconic bike scenes. Karate Kid, from 1984, also could have received an honorable mention.

Aug 23 - 12:36 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Was there a 'memorable' bicycle scene in Karate Kid?

Aug 23 - 04:25 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

Yes, Dave, there were a couple. Now sounds like a good time for you to watch it again. :)

Aug 24 - 12:00 PM

Adam Young

Adam Young

very smart response

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

Alexandra B.

Alexandra Bahtishi

Dude, whenever I ride my bike while listenning to the E.T. theme song I feel like I could possibly fly away.

Pretty intense bike scenes in that movie. :)

Aug 23 - 01:13 PM

Jack Schrute

Jack Schrute

Yeah but the bicycling scene is so famous that I also find it odd that it wasn't at least mentioned.

Aug 23 - 04:59 PM

Leo Monteiro

Leo Monteiro

My God your a moron lol

Aug 22 - 05:55 PM

Joe Albanese

Joe Albanese

If you are going to call someone a moron, please don't use the wrong your/you're.. thank you.

Aug 22 - 07:25 PM

Alec Low

Alec Low

well said

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

ap sirius

karl anderson

I disagree...Although E. T. is not specifically a bike movie..bicicles are used more times than most people first realize, not only as a tool to move the story forward but as a kind of touchstone representing childhood. You can definately feel the importance and love Spielberg felt for probably his own bike when he was a child. And its also the focal point of the most pivotal scene in the entire film.

Aug 22 - 05:59 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

I agree with you. E.T., at the very least, deserved an honorable mention for its iconic bike scenes. Karate Kid, from 1984, also could have received an honorable mention.

Aug 23 - 12:36 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Was there a 'memorable' bicycle scene in Karate Kid?

Aug 23 - 04:25 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

Yes, Dave, there were a couple. Now sounds like a good time for you to watch it again. :)

Aug 24 - 12:00 PM

Toni Ojeda

Toni Ojeda

where's "the flying scotsman"? :/

Aug 22 - 06:00 PM

Chris Card

Chris Card

Agreed. The first bicycle flight scene is very iconic, and the trademark image of Elliot and E.T. on the bike silohuetted against the full moon has become one of the most famous images in cinema history. Heck, Spielberg uses it as the logo for his company, Amblin.

Aug 22 - 06:15 PM

Amanda Hrabowski

Amanda Hrabowski

Damn, eleven movies listed and only one of them features a female biker protagonist (and this in a rom-com)? I feel like I'm in the Victorian Era when proper ladies found biking unbecoming...

Aug 22 - 07:02 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Name a famous female cyclist, someone who someone who doesn't follow female cycling would know. I know I can't think of one. You'd get the same if you listed a football or basketball movie too because men dominate the sports in terms of popularity.

Aug 22 - 08:08 PM

Noah Guillen

Noah Guillen

Let's take it one step at a time here. I mean, really, BIKES aren't even popular. The fact that a cyclist movie was EVER made is a miracle in and of it's self. Nothing but hate for the poor little guys. That's like saying "A movie about manufacturing shoelaces?! When are they going to make a movie about manufacturing shoelaces and the plastic piece on the end?..."

Aug 25 - 09:52 AM

Joe Albanese

Joe Albanese

If you are going to call someone a moron, please don't use the wrong your/you're.. thank you.

Aug 22 - 07:25 PM

Alec Low

Alec Low

well said

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Name a famous female cyclist, someone who someone who doesn't follow female cycling would know. I know I can't think of one. You'd get the same if you listed a football or basketball movie too because men dominate the sports in terms of popularity.

Aug 22 - 08:08 PM

Michael Braden

Michael Braden

Et was also a documentry about reptiles because in one scene their is a frog

Aug 22 - 09:42 PM

D.

Delon Lier

Face palm!: Frogs are amphibians! But yes It did have lots of bikes but it's not a bike movie.

Aug 23 - 09:19 AM

69BUCK

JIM GRONEFELD

Not only that [frogs are amphibians], but you used the wrong word. It's "There" not "their."

Aug 23 - 09:28 AM

Zane B

Chum Chum

no ones laughing at your joke just your stupidity

Aug 23 - 01:38 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Sometimes sarcasm works!

Aug 23 - 04:00 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Speaking of frogs on bikes, who can forget Kermit in the original Muppet Movie? Gone with the Schwinn indeed...

Aug 24 - 08:15 AM

Alec Low

Alec Low

Not quite a bike movie but I agree that it should still be mentioned.

Aug 22 - 10:26 PM

Adam Young

Adam Young

very smart response

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

Alec Low

Alec Low

well said

Aug 22 - 10:27 PM

InsomniaAlternativa De Cine

InsomniaAlternativa De Cine

What about "THE KID WITH A BIKE" by Dardenne Brothers? Why always keeping the eyes on american movies? Films like Quicksilver doesn't even deserve to be mention. But the belgian film is really amazing. A masterpiece, and no post about it.

Aug 22 - 10:29 PM

Filmjoy

Filmjoy *

Decent enough list to arouse interest in 'Premium Rush'. The premise, the cast and the action scenes all look great, but will it be enough to take a place in the pantheon of great bicycle themed film? I wish all bicycle messengers took their jobs as seriously as Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Aug 23 - 03:18 AM

Shrunks Sangco

Shrunks Sangco

what about Cyclo?

Aug 23 - 05:33 AM

detroit666

Dawn HAvard

I Loved the Triplets of Belleville. Brilliantly funny. (The dog was my personal favorite.)

Aug 23 - 06:04 AM

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