The Wild One (1954)



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Johnny and his vicious biker gang invade a small, sleepy 1950s California town. The leather-jacketed young biker seems hell-bent for destruction until he falls for Kathie, a good girl whose father happens to be a cop. Unfortunately for Johnny, his one shot at redemption is threatened by a psychotic rival, Chino, plus the hostility and prejudice of the townspeople. All their smoldering passions explode in an electrifying climax!

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Critic Reviews for The Wild One

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (3)

Marlon Brando turns in a tremendously powerful performance as the inarticulate, frozen-faced, truculent outlaw who heads the gang of motorcycle hoodlums.

Jan 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Legions of Brando impersonators have turned his performance in this seminal 1954 motorcycle movie into self-parody, but it's still a sleazy good time.

Nov 7, 2007 | Full Review…

Brando's biker seems disarmingly tame by comparison with the wild angels he spawned. Yet the film isn't half bad.

Jan 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The first and best biker movie.

Nov 7, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The film is outdated and its message overly stated, but in 1953, Brando's rebel unwittingly became a new screen hero and heralded the arrival of the Beat Generation.

Jul 21, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Risible and outdated.

Aug 19, 2005 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Wild One

A young and angry Marlon Brando lights up the screen as an aimless biker gang leader rebelling against whatever he can find in this cult classic from the 50s. Johnny is the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, and he spends most of his time just cruising around and raising hell. Things start to change when he and his crew invade a small, sleepy California town and he meets a cute young lady who might just be what he needs to change his ways. That all changes when he finds out that her dad is the local cop. Not only that, but he's also got to deal with the intolerance of the townspeople, and a rival gang leader named Chino, played by the always cool Lee Marvin. I liked this one. I liked it maybe even more than Rebel Without A Cause. This is certainly not as overrated or heavy handed as that one. It's a nice existential drama, and for a B movie, it's shot and executed far better than it has a right to be. Yeah, it's not the deepest film, but it's not totally devoid of substance, either. The acting is pretty solid. Brando is course is uber cool as Johnny, oozing a quiet strength. Marvin is larger than life, and somewhat cartoony, but hey, it works. The other performers aren't as well known, but they do decently in their respective roles. All in all, this is a pretty good one.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Dated and a bit ridiculous now partially owing to the familiarity of some of the actors playing gang members who went on to careers as reliable supporting actors. How threatening can Jerry Helper from The Dick Van Dyke show really be now after years of watching him with Rob, Laura and devoted wife Millie? Aside from that all the actors are too old to be believable as a roving gang of purported teens.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This is one of my absolute favourite biker movies. Brando is perfect in the lead role. The story is good, and the movie is exciting.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

I'm probably going to make enemies throughout the cosmos for this, but...I'm not impressed with Marlon Brando. Never have been. I will admit that he has put in some great performances -- I'm not a moron -- and he did have a few moments here that I liked, but for the most part I find him mannered and pretentious, and his voice mannerisms and inflections are irritating. As a result, this film didn't really do anything for me. It was good but not great, for a number of reasons. First, I had the problem of being distracted by Brando. Next, the dialogue is incredibly dated. I'm a fan of older films and period pieces, and generally I can get into the rhythm of the time period with little problem, even films set in previous centuries. But for some reason, this "coolspeak" came across as really fake, as if it was written by older people who THOUGHT that's the way the kids talked, but didn't really understand it themselves. Finally, I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to take away from it. I thought the theme was going to be that when the townspeople decided to take justice into their own hands, their behavior was no better than the biker gang. But that wasn't really explored enough. Was I supposed to be angry at the bikers for being jerks to the townfolks? Angry with the town for not being tolerant of the bikers, who were just out to have some fun? Sympathetic to Johnny because he is just "misunderstood"? If some reason for his behavior had been given, such as a traumatic childhood, I might have bought it more. Whatever it was, it didn't do it for me. Maybe the relationship between Johnny and Kathie was the important theme. But no. That didn't really go anywhere either -- good or bad. She seems to want to escape from her boring little life, and Johnny seems to be the ticket out -- note her expression of bliss when she is riding on the back of Johnny's bike with him -- but there didn't seem to be any moment of revelation where she made a decision to go with him or not. One thing to the film's compliment -- Lee Marvin as Chino, the head of the rival biker gang. He put in the peformance that I was expecting out of Brando -- believable and real. Am I the only one who thinks this film is basically a retread of a Western? I can't place from where, but I know I've seen this story with horses. I probably would have enjoyed it better in that genre. Oh, and the "riding" scenes are obviously a film running in the background behind Johnny & Co.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

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