Two-Wheeled Film Stars

In no particular order, DRD takes a look back at your favourite and not-so-favourite movies that feature motorcycles in lead and supporting roles…

The Wild One (1953)
1950 Triumph 6T Thunderbird

Banned in the UK for well over a decade, thanks in part to its – at the time, anyway – controversial topic, The Wild One did a lot of damage to the reputation of motorcyclists. In the years following its release, if you rode a motorcycle, then John Q. Public assumed you were a hooligan who wore leather and terrorised small towns. Despite the controversy, the film would go on to distinguish itself as a classic, with Brando’s performance and image becoming one of the most iconic in popular culture.

Tron: Legacy (2010)
Light Cycle

The original Light Cycle, designed by famed futurist Syd Mead, was updated in 2010 for the long-awaited sequel to the Disney classic and quickly became a fan favourite. Being quick off the mark and able to turn on a dime, the real question is, what else would you want in a motorcycle?

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
1990 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy FLSTF

“I want your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle…”

But especially your motorcycle!

At the beginning of the digital revolution, filmmaker James Cameron still had a stuntman ride a Harley-Davidson off a 20-foot drop into an aqueduct – albeit, with the safety wires digitally removed – and into the minds of moviegoers the world over with one of the most memorable motorcycle stunts in the history of cinema.

Top Gun (1986)
1985 Kawasaki GPZ900R A2 Ninja 

As proven by The Wild One, cinema can have a huge influence on the public and its perception of motorcycling – but, sometimes, it can be a positive thing. Along with bomber jackets and Ray-Ban Aviators, sales of the Ninja went through the roof when Top Gun was released in 1986.

The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
1920 Indian Scout

Burt Munro was the epitome of the Kiwi ‘Number 8 Wire’ mindset, tinkering in his garage until he was happy with his machines, if ever. Originally 600cc, Burt’s Indian Scout was transformed into the 950cc motorcycle known as the “Munro Special”, which took him around the world to set multiple world records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, two of which stand to this day.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Brough Superior SS 100

This motorcycle played an integral part in T.E. Lawrence’s life, both on and off the screen, as it happened to be the bike that killed him. But thanks to Lawrence’s larger-than-life exploits, along with the fact the SS 100 was already known as the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles” and the records it held, these machines are remembered for everything but that.

The Great Escape (1963)
1960 Triumph T110

Essentially an excuse for Steve McQueen to go riding in the hills of Germany while shooting the movie, the motorcycle chase in The Great Escape soon became synonymous with the “King of Cool”, even though it wasn’t Steve who jumped the bike. Actually, depending on who you ask, that honour belongs to either Bud Ekins or Tim Gibbes. The identity of what bike was used also has a chequered past: originally thought to have been 1962 Triumph TR6 650 Trophy, the bike that made the jump was actually a 1960 Triumph T110.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
2001 Ducati 996

The 996 stole the show in the first sequel to The Matrix, thanks to the movie’s heroine, Trinity, carving in and out of traffic, in one of the most memorable chase scenes since Bullitt (1968). By doing so, it went on to be one of the most sought-after motorcycles in the world, proving to be so popular that the Italian marque offered a Special Edition in 2004. Although, due to Ducati ceasing production of the 996 in 2002, the bike released in “Matrix Green” was the 998.

On Any Sunday (1971)
1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross

After a decade of bad press from Brando’s on-screen rebellion and the “bikesploitation” films that followed, On Any Sunday showed that people who rode motorcycles were not all that bad. Also, having a superstar like Steve McQueen riding one of the most iconic off-road bikes sure helped, too.