Motorcycles fans, this post is for you! If you are looking for inspirations to buy your next vehicle, why not finding it in the most iconic motorcycles in movies? Check out our list!
Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glides in Easy Rider
A landmark in American film history, Easy Rider captured the restless and angry energy of a youth culture that turned to alternative lifestyles as a means of escape, while at the same time exposing the discord and hatred that separated generations. Cast as outlaws in a modern landscape, Wyatt, aka “Captain America,” and Billy — imagined by the screenwriters as incarnations of Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid — ride their piston-powered steeds across the South, hoping to reach New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.
Four used cop bikes — Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glides — were turned into “choppers” by Cliff Vaughns and Ben Hardy: two were built as emergency-replacement bikes.
SEE ALSO: THE BEST MOVIE CARS OF ALL TIME
Triumph TR-6 Trophy 650CC in The Great Escape
The Great Escape’s most celebrated scene — in which Steve McQueen, playing a WWII POW, eludes his German pursuers by jumping a section of barbed-wire fence on a motorcycle — was, of course, a Hollywood contrivance, added to secure the participation of Steve McQueen, whom the producers knew was a speed-junkie and gear head. The studio, for obvious reasons, would not allow the young star to do the actual stunt; the jump was made by stuntman Bud Ekins, who would later double for McQueen behind the wheel of the Mustang GT in Bullitt.
The modern (for the time) motorcycles were modified to look like German-made BMWs.
650cc Triumph Thunderbird in The Wild One
It’s hard to believe that this film sparked so much controversy (it was officially banned in the U.K. for fourteen years) on its release: the outlaw bikers that invade a small California town exhibit a level of criminal behavior that now seems almost quaint. What’s much easier to understand is how a leather-clad young Marlon Brando and his motorcycle — a sexually charged image of youthful restlessness rebellion — became an enduring part of film history. Seriously, has any other American film actor shown so much out-of-the-gate brilliance as Marlon Brando? Having turned in electrifying performances in A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, and Julius Caesar, Brando give his biker-gang leader Johnny Strabler a soulful menace that radiates off the screen.
1990 Harley-Davidson FLSTF “Fat Boy” in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
“I need your clothes, your boots and your mote-ah-cycle.” Having thusly procured said items from a naturally incredulous biker (“You forgot to say please”), the Terminator — for some reason, programmed with an Austrian accent not dissimilar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s — commences his search for the teenage John Connor. What soon follows is an all-time great chase scene, involving the Terminator’s Harley, a dirt bike (ridden by the boy), and a big-rig tow truck (driven by the T-1000, an advanced killing machine, who, in pursuit of his prey, is all to willing to ignore the fundamental rules of highway safety.)
Norton International in The Motorcycle Diaries
In 1952, an idealistic medical-student named Ernesto Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado embarked on a months-long trip across South America: their means of conveyance — at least, until its untimely breakdown — is a beat-up motorcycle they call La Poderosa (“the Beast”). That trip is the subject of Walter Salles’ lyrical film, in which the spiritual and political awakening of the revolutionary who would soon take the name “Che” is almost secondary to the story of two friends on an adventure of a lifetime. In a 2004 NPR interview, screenwriter José Rivera said: “Every generation needs a journey story; every generation needs a story about what it is to be transformed by geography, what it is to be transformed by encounters with cultures and people that are alien from yourself, and you know that age group 15 to 25, that’s the perfect generation to get on a motorcycle, to hit the road, to put on your backpack and just go out.”
Restored Nortons were used in the film, along with a few modern bikes made by Suzuki (to be used in stunt scenes). Director Salles claimed the older British bikes were much more reliable.
The Bat-Pod by Nathan Crowley in The Dark Knight
One of the worries facing director Christopher Nolan when he set out to make the sequel to his blockbuster Batman Begins: How to top the “wow” factor of the Tumbler — the armored SUV developed by Wayne Industries. His solution: the Bat-Pod, a two-wheeled vehicle that detaches from the Tumbler and sports an array of weapons, including machine guns and rapid-fire cannons. It might not have the best mileage, but it’s exactly the kind of ride you want when fighting bad guys in lower Gotham City.
The Bat-Pod began as a plastic-and-foam model, created by Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley. A working, full-scale version was made, pretty much from scratch, featuring 20-inch wide wheels, an exhaust system built into the frame, and a high-performance single-cylinder engine. The Bat-Pod proved so difficult to master that the stuntman assigned to the vehicle would not ride conventional bikes during the shoot lest he unlearn the vehicle’s unique handling characteristics.
Indian Scout and Ducati in The World’s Fastest Indian
Not, as one might fairly guess, a biopic about legendary athlete Jim Thorpe, The World’s Fastest Indian tells the true story of Burt Monro, a New Zealand racer who, at the age of 68, set several speed records at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats — one of which, more than four decades later, remains unbroken. (The movie is a real gem, with a stellar performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins; his Burt is quirky, guileless, and generous, the diametric opposite of Hannibal Lecter.) Riding an Indian Scout, to which he added a streamlined body and a greatly more powerful engine, Munro recorded an (unofficial) speed of 201 miles per hour.
Two bikes were used in the film: two replicas of the 1920 Indian Scout used in most scenes, and two modified Italian-made Ducatis for the speed scenes.
Computer Creation by Syd Mead Tron in Tron
Just as Ben-Hur once thrilled movie-goers with its marvelous chariot race (filmed on an 18-acre set with 40,000 tons of white sand and 8,000 extras), Tron captivated viewers with its fantastic light cycle scene (for which three actors were only minimally involved, as the movie was arguably the first major production to make extensive use of CGI). The movie was a modest hit, but, according to director Steven Lisberger, did not get a Oscar nomination for its special effects, as “The Academy thought we cheated by using computers.” The computer-generated creations were designed by famed concept artist Syd Mead, who once remarked that science fiction, was merely “reality ahead of schedule. Honda CBX in Knightriders
Directed by George A. Romero, the revered director of the groundbreaking Living Dead movies, Knightriders is an unexpectedly good-natured, and even poignant, movie. A mash-up of Arthurian legend and biker culture, it tells the story of a traveling company of motorcycle jousters — yes, you read that correctly — led by the good and noble-hearted Billy (a youthful Ed Harris). Facing the same problems that tore Camelot apart, Billy is forced to realize some terrible truths. The movie’s ending can move even the gnarliest biker to tears.
Harley-Davidson in Electra Glide in Blue
A neglected cult-classic that could have only come from (or have been made in) the early ‘70s. Rookie highway cop John Wintergreen — a tough little fireplug played by Robert Blake — wants to work in Homicide. He gets his wish, but disillusioned with the conduct of fellow officers and falling victim to squad-room politics, he is demoted and made a traffic cop. It’s a quirky but unforgettable movie — part character study, part examination of an emerging youth culture — featuring some outstanding camerawork from future Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall.