top 10: motorbikes in movies
#motorbikes #motorcycles #bikethrottle #top10
This list isn't necessarily the best motorcycle movies per se, it's more a list of honourable mentions of some cool machines playing some cameo roles. Besides, actual motorcycle movies generally turn out to be properly, embarrassingly naff.
Speaking of which...
we'll get the crap out of the way first...
OK, so I said this list wouldn't include actual movies, but Biker Boyz was such a stain on the history of motorcycles in cinema, it's impossible not to give it a dishonourable mention. The bikes were just 2003 era run-of-the-mill sportsbike fare with wank paintjobs - it's the acting that really makes this film stand out. I implore you to find a copy and watch it again, preferably whilst drunk to soften the blow. It's easy to forget how much of a stinker this one was. "Burn rubber not your soul!"...
So without further ado...
10. harley-davidson fxr super glide - pulp fiction
I'm aware this page has a strict 'No Harleys' policy so I'll make sure only the one slips through into this list, which means you won't be seeing Schwarzenegger's Fat Boy here (sorry).
Tarantino is arguably the finest writer and director of his generation and he likes to throw a bike into his flicks. This '86 customised FXR is nothing special on its own, but the build up, the 'GRACE' on the tank and the key with 'Zed' on it all add to the aura of the whole scene.
Whose motorcycle is this?
It's a chopper baby.
Whose chopper is this?
Zed's dead baby,
9. dumb & dumber mini bike (unknown origin) - 1994
There were two of these built for the '94 original and one recently came up on eBay (the other is on display at The Hard Rock Cafe). There's not much technical info on the engine, which sounds like a four-stroke 50cc from a mower, and the chassis is obviously something home-brewed. It represents far more than the sum of its parts though. Harry and Lloyd rode the thing to Aspen after Lloyd swapped it for the Muttz Cutz van.
"Traded the van for it straight up… I can get 70 miles to the gallon on this hog"
Incidentally the bike failed to sell on eBay, the $7,500 asking price clearly on the high side. It may be worth contacting the seller for a slice of cinematic history.
8. Yamaha XT 250 - rambo - 1982
John Rambo just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately (for them) Sherrif Teasle and the police force of Hope, Washington were intent on giving him a hard time. He utilised a Yamaha XT 250 for a thrilling three-minute chase sequence. Stallone is famous for doing most of his own stunts but it was a double who pulled off the trickiest rock climbs and jumps on the capable little Yamaha.
7. suzuki gsx-r 750 M - Cool as ice - 1991
Back in 1991, Vanilla Ice was hot property, which is the only explanation of how this film ever got the go-ahead. He really likes bikes, so wanted to make a film where he rides bikes - that's pretty much the whole plot. There's also invaluable tips on how to impress women by jumping your banana yellow GSX-R 750 over a fence and knocking said woman off her horse. Classy. Also famous for the line "Drop that zero and get with the hero".
6. triumph speed triple / daytona 955i - mission impossible ii
Tom Cruise is a massive bike nut so it probably didn't take much persuading to add a cracking bike chase scene into the 'Mission Impossible' sequel. Triumph pulled a blinder by using the film to promote their updated Speed Triple and Daytona 955i models and it proved a real hit for sales. There's the odd continuity issue - a flipped frame giving the bike a left-hand throttle for instance. And who can forget the tyres and suspension switching automatically from road setup to extended forks and knobbly tyres.
5. kawasaki gpz 500 - true lies - 1994
True Lies has to be one of my favourite action films of all time, largely due to that chase between Art Malik's menacing terrorist character on his hijacked GPZ 500 with Arnold giving chase on his...horse.
The stunts and chase through the streets and into the hotel appeared legit, down to the tyre marks left on the marble floor. They stayed true to the Kawasaki's parallel-twin rasp too, without dubbing something else over the top. The final scene where he makes a suicidal leap across two buildings into a swimming pool is far-fetched but breathtaking. An honourable mention goes to the ZXR 750 at the beginning ridden by Dana's boyfriend, it sounded lovely.
4. ducati 996 - matrix reloaded
Though it was a 996 that starred in the film, Ducati was already selling the 998 by the time the film was released and the company had decided to create a limited edition of bikes to tie-in with the movie. The exact number built is unclear, though I’ve seen a few rumours that 150 Matrix Editions were created, making them pretty rare. Changes were purely cosmetic – you got a dark green paint job to match the movie bike, and some decals that don’t match the movie bike.
3. kawasaki kz 1000 - mad max - 1979
Jim Goose was Max's best mate and colleague in the MFP (main force patrol)
The future-retro fairings of his 1977 KZ 1000 were made by La Parisienne, a Melbourne based company that unfortunately went out of business a few years after the film was released. La Parisienne also modified 13 other KZ 1000s for the film’s antagonist group, the Toecutter’s gang, which were played by members of a local Victoria-based motorcycle club, the Vigilanties.
Goose’s KZ 1000 had a cafe racer appeal and aesthetic, which is probably why its popularity hasn’t waned even after so many years, with fans creating replicas to this day and a Whitehouse, a Japanese company, was creating movie accurate replicas as recently as 2002.
2. Triumph tr6 (disguised as a bmw r75) - the great escape - 1963
In the words of Steve McQueen himself:
"We had four bikes for this film. I was running a TT Special 650 Triumph. We painted it olive drab and put on a luggage rack and an old seat to make it look like a wartime BMW. We couldn't use a real BMW, not at the speeds we were running, since those old babies were rigid-frame jobs, and couldn't take the punishment"
McQueen's good friend and racing team mate was responsible for prepping the bikes and was also the one responsible for the stunt riding in that iconic thirty foot leap over the fence.
1. kawasaki gpz900R - top gun - 1986
Men wanted to be him, women wanted to f*ck him - I just wanted his motorcycle.
Back in 1986 you couldn't get much cooler than Tom Cruise, a pair of aviators and a GPZ900R. Angry, lonely men, deep in the recesses of the geekiest message boards might tell you the engine note was actually from a GPZ750, dubbed over the top. Nobody really cared, everyone bought one to live out their fantasies of being Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell. I even did the same, riding it past airports, gesturing at jets and looking for my very own Kelly McGillis.
What a film. What a bike.