Top 10 bike racing feature films

No documentaries allowed…

GIVEN its all-action appeal you’d have thought that bike racing would be the perfect background to a movie but in reality they’re few and far between. 

Sure there are plenty of documentaries, whether it’s Faster, Closer to the Edge or On Any Sunday but while car racing has spawned a host of movies – either fictional (Days of Thunder, Grand Prix, Le Mans etc) or fact-based like the more recent Rush – there haven’t been so many revolving around motorcycles.

And even when an effort has been made to create a bike film, all too often the results are speeded-up footage of machines that seem to have 27-speed gearboxes (how come the hero always manages to overtake by changing gear and opening the throttle mid-straight? And why wasn’t the throttle wide open already?)

We’ve plumbed the depths to come up with the top 10 motorcycle racing movies, including some fairly obscure ones that might have passed you by. Their positions  in the list are decided by their ratings from viewers on IMDB.

As always, if we’ve left any good ones out, do tell us in the comments below. No documentaries or non-racing films, remember, so don’t tell us that we’ve missed Road or Easy Rider from the list.

10. Bolidi sull’asfalto a Tutta Birra (4.1/10 on IMDB)

Not a movie that you’re likely to find easily, this 1970 movile might rate higher for bike fans than its IMDB score suggests for one simple reason; its main protagonist, Mino Ambrosini, is played by a chap called Giacomo Agostini. Yes, it’s in Italian, and no, the plot isn’t terribly original (penniless but talented rider struggles until he finds rich benefactor and starts to win), but there are real period race scenes in there. Believe it or not, this is one of three films in Ago’s acting career – all released in 1970 – but in both the others he plays a racing driver rather than a motorcyclist.

Watch it here.

9. Space Riders (4.6/10 on IMDB)

Well if Ago had have a go at acting, why not Barry Sheene? In 1984’s Space Riders he plays a version of himself in a weird parallel universe where all the other riders, and all the bikes, are fictional creations. There’s a mixture of stock footage from real races and specially-filmed sequences. It’s one of those movies that’s you might watch once, out of intrigue, but you’re unlikely to keep going back to.

Watch a clip of it here.

8. Silver Dream Racer (5.3/10 on IMDB)

What more can be said about Silver Dream Racer that hasn’t been written before? It’s very much a movie of its era, but remains a must-see. People tend to either love it or hate it, but it’s arguably one of the more successful attempts at a motorcycle racing movie provided you can suspend your disbelief about the premise of the plot.

Watch it here.

7. Little Fauss and Big Halsy (5.9/10 on IMDB)

A Robert Redford vehicle set around motocross racing in the late 60s (the film came out in 1970), with a soundtrack including a Johnny Cash title tune and contributions from Bob Dylan. Of course the actual racing part is a background to the off-track melodrama rather than the focus of the film, but it’s an integral element of the film. Far more mainstream appeal than many of the movies on this list.

Watch a clip of it here.

6. Race For Glory (6.4/10 on IMDB)

This 1989 effort has much the same plot as every other racing movie: talented underdog, against-all-odds, homemade bike, blah-blah-blah. But it’s not bad, as reflected by its IMDB score, and the late-80s race action, from the heyday of the 500cc two-stroke GP era, was always going to be entertaining.

Watch the trailer here.

5. No Limit (6.5/10 on IMDB)

Yep, it’s George Formby at the TT back in 1935. If you’re a Formby fan you’ll love it, and footage of the TT from that era is still fascinating.

Watch a clip of it here.

4. Spetters (6.6/10 on IMDB)

Not one that you’re likely to find easily, this Dutch movie from 1980 is based against a background of motocross racing, and bikes are pretty integral to the whole film. The director, Paul Verhoeven, used it as his springboard into Hollywood, where he’d go on to huge success in the late 80s and 90s with blockbusters like RoboCop, Basic Instinct, Total Recall and Starship Troopers.

Watch the trailer here.

3. Full Throttle (6.7/10 on IMDB)

Another foreign entry on the list, this 1995 effort hails from Hong Kong and revolves around road racing and particularly Macau. Loads of two-strokes and melodrama, based on the premise of a talented rider who, for some reason, isn’t allowed to compete on the track so takes to beating more established riders in illegal road races. Plot elements include the crashes, injuries, deaths and re-evaluations of life choices that appear to be the building blocks of every racing movie.

Watch the trailer here.

2. Once a Jolly Swagman (7.0/10 on IMDB)

Can you imagine big stars saying ‘yes’ to a film about speedway racing these days? Back in 1948 they did, with Dirk Bogarde taking the lead role, along with other familiar names from British movies and TV (Thora Hird, Sid James and Bill Owen all feature). The speedway footage is surprisingly good, too.

Watch a clip of it here.

1. The World’s Fastest Indian (7.9/10 on IMDB)

Does record-breaking count as racing? For our purposes we’ll say it does, because this is among the best motorcycle movies of any ilk. You’ve probably seen it, so we won’t blather on here. If you haven’t, then do yourself a favour and pick up the DVD.

Watch the trailer here.

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