Rev up your imaginary hog and help us pick cinema’s best motorbike scenes…
This weekend sees the release of TT3D: Closer to the Edge, which examines the adrenaline-pumping, high-speed lives of those who take part in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy – believed to be the greatest motorcycle race in the world. Check out the TT3D trailer here.
In tribute, we thought we’d rev our imaginary hogs and look back at 10 of the most ‘bikonic’ moments in movie history…
*The Wild One (1953):
Marlon Brando was 28 and slap-bang in the middle of his Most Beautiful Man That Ever Livedä period when he played Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, and conflicted anti-hero for the ages. The biker jacket, the titled cap, the way he (dis)mounts that Thunderbird…excuse me, I gotta run to the bathroom.
*The Great Escape (1963):
Steve McQueen leads an escape by Allied POWs from a WWII German prison camp, in the course of which his character Hilts steals a motorcycle and famously jumps a barbed wire fence while being pursued by the Nazis. A perennial fixture in the Christmas TV schedules (along with its fowlrific homage Chicken Run), The Great Escape also gives bikers and manly men everywhere a rare excuse to blubber uncontrollably.
*Easy Rider (1969):
Hippies Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a young Jack Nicholson ride their choppers from LA to New Orleans, getting stoned and “finding America” along the way in a counterculture touchstone that was a nightmare to film for all concerned – largely due to the barking mad Hopper (read Peter Biskind’s peerless Easy Riders Raging Bulls for all the mind-melting details).
Drug-addled Mod Jimmy (Phil Daniels) escapes the drudgery of his dead-end existence by cruising around London with his scooter-riding buddies and taking in a fateful Mods vs Rockers Vespa contest on Brighton Beach, all to the backing tune of The Who’s Quadrophenia rock-opera. Check out a young Leslie Ash and Sting amongst the cast members. Bless.
*Mad Max (1979): Long before he was Mad Mel, The Artist Formerly Known as Mel Gibson gained his international breakthrough playing Max Rockatansky, a cop in a dystopian Australian future who is out for revenge against a vicious motorcycle gang that killed his wife and child. And Max means business; abusive, rambling, threatening voicemails won’t cut it here. Currently scheduled for the remake treatment with Tom Hardy in the lead role.
Come on, it’s Cher on a motorbike! What’s not to love? She also gives a shockingly good performance as the drug addict biker mother of a son with a skull deformity, bagging the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and then turning up at the following year’s Oscar ceremony dressed in a black two-piece showgirl outfit with a two-foot-tall headpiece made of rooster feathers in protest at being snubbed in the nominations for their lead actress prize.
*Top Gun (1986): Tom Cruise dons bomber jacket, shades, and tight jeans, and revs for 80s dreamboat glory on his massive penis-substitute chopper, giving Kelly McGillis, and at least some of his male naval aviator buddies the horn in what has to be one of the gayest mainstream movies Hollywood has ever produced.
*Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991):
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle”. It’s a line of dialogue up there with Brando’s ‘I coulda been a contender’ speech in On The Waterfront. The Governator rescues Edward Furlong’s John Connor from a shopping mall ambush by escaping on a Harley Davidson in a pulse-pounding action sequence that made pre-pubescent nerds everywhere (i.e. me) dream that one day they’d be cool enough to ride a hog like that. Any day now.
*The Motorcycle Diaries (2004):
Before he was a T-shirt print and the compulsory wall-decoration of politically confused students everywhere, Che Guevara was a medical student who undertook a journey, by motorcycle, around South America, having his revolutionary consciousness stirred along the way by the poverty and inequality he witnesses en route. Whatever way you come down on the man’s politics and later actions, there are few modern cinematic pleasures greater than watching the utterly dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal play Che in this 2004 movie. Let’s all take a moment…sigh.
*Ghost Rider (2007):
Oh Nicolas Cage. Truly the world would be a terrible, terrible place if you didn’t exist. This 2007 turkey is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, mainly because I fell asleep in the middle of it, waking up just in time to catch the last 20 minutes. Yep, that was one of the best naps I ever had. Anyway, Cage goes, ahem, hell-for-leather as Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist who morphs into the titular demon vigilante after making a deal with Prince of Darkness, Peter Fonda, who just looks sad to be there. Go easy on yourself Peter, we all have to pay the rent.
*Wild Hogs (2007):
John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and – my keyboard is struggling to even type this – William H Macy play a group of middle aged pals who escape their suburban lives for a mad weekend on their hogs. All manner of hilarity ensues. No, really. I’m cracking up just thinking about Travolta’s hair plugs. That’s just comedy gold!
Words – Declan Cashin
TT 3D – Closer To The Edge is at Irish cinemas from April 22nd