It should come as no surprise that we love films about our favorite sport—bicycling. As these things go, though, some of the bike movies out there are (much) better than others. So if you're looking for a good cycling flick, these are the ones most worth your while:
Directed by Peter Yates
Who doesn't love a classic love story, especially one that includes a bike racing plotline? Obsessed with Italian bike culture and enamored by a pretty college girl, recent high school graduate from the wrong side of the tracks Dave Stoller masquerades as an Italian exchange student to try and win his crush's affections. But when an Italian racing team comes to town and they use dirty tricks to win a race against Dave, he drops his fake identity to build a team to race against the Italians in the university's upcoming "Little 500" bicycle race. A largely word-of-mouth success at the box office, Breaking Away also went on to win several awards, including the Academy Award for "Best Screenplay."
Slaying the Badger
Directed by John Dower
Our most recent addition to this list, Slaying the Badger is the story of one of the greatest Tour de France races of all time. At the conclusion of the 1985 Tour de France, Bernard Hinault publicly said he would back Greg LeMond in the 1986 Tour. In reality, the lines get blurred and it's not clear who he is working for. Each cyclist tells a very narrative of the "Badger's" motivation during the race. It's a gripping tale and we're proud to move it to our top 10 list of all time best bicycling films.
The Triplets of Belleville
Directed by Silvain Chomet
When Madame Souza notices her young grandson, Champion, is sad and lonely after his parents' death, she at first buys him a puppy named Bruno. But he is soon melancholic again, so, taking note of Champion's interest in bike racing, she buys him a tricycle. Years later, he's entering the Tour de France with Souza as his coach. But during the race he is kidnapped by the French Mafia. So what does Souza do? She and Bruno set off on a journey to save Champion, of course, and they meet a cast of characters along the way. This is definitely one to watch even if animation isn't your thing.
Directed by John Badham
Written by Steve Tesich, who also wrote Breaking Away, American Flyers follows brothers Marcus and David as they train for and compete in a bike race across the Rocky Mountains called, "The Hell of the West." Making matters a little more complicated, one of the brothers may likely be afflicted by the tendency for a cerebral aneurysm, which is what killed their father. What's extra cool about this flick and makes it a must-see for cycling buffs is it includes actual footage from the old Coors International Bicycle Classic. Oh, and don't miss the quick Eddy Merckx cameo at the start of stage 1.
A Sunday in Hell
Directed by Jørgen Leth
This is a great one for history buffs. A Sunday in Hell captures the 1976 Paris-Roubaix from the viewpoints of the organizers, spectators and participants. What sets this apart from other race documentaries is that it really reveals the atmosphere and spirit of a professional race. Following contenders Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens and Francesco Moser from the start of the race all the way through the punctures and crashes in the muddied, slick, cobbled tracks to the finish, this film gives a realistic feel of how the races plays out. And when they're done, these badass cyclists, definitely look like they've spent the day in hell.
Stars and Watercarriers
Directed by Jørgen Leth
Another great documentary from Leth, Stars and Watercarriers is less about the story of the 1973 Giro d'Italia it covers, and more about the heroic—and downright intimidating—way Eddy Merckx handles a race. But it also reveals some of the often unspoken heroics of the watercarriers and workers behind the scenes. There's a particularly incredible scene where the glass bottles are opened with church keys and passed around.
The Bicycle Thief
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Nobody likes a bike thief. Set in post-WWII Rome, The Bicycle Thief follows Antonio Ricci and his son Bruno, as they search for Antonio's stolen bike, which is a necessity if he wants to keep his job and be able to support his family. The film itself is really well done and, only four years after its 1948 release, Sight and Sound magazine declared it the best film of all time.
The Flying Scotsman
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
Based on the life and career of Scottish amateur cyclist Graeme Obree, The Flying Scotsman captures Obree's attempts to become the world's fastest bike racer despite his debt, mental illness and the resentment he faces for having no real funding or backing. The script was adapted from Obree's autobiography of the same name. One of the cool things is that Obree actually stood in for Jonny Lee Miller, the actor who portrays him, in some of the cycling sequences.
The Greatest Show on Earth
Directed by Michael Pfleghar
Not to be confused with the 1952 movie about a circus, The Greatest Show on Earth does reveal the circus-like aspects of bike racing as it documents the 1974 Giro d'Italia, which is the perhaps the most insane of the Grand Tours. Oh, and the Pope makes an extra special appearance. This is a natural follow-up film to watch after Stars and Watercarriers, an overall great way to spend a couple of hours.
Directed by Steven Auerbach
Sleep deprivation, challenging terrain and bad weather—that's what riders in the 2005 Race Across America had to cope with (plus, you know, the part where they were racing across America). Bicycle Dreams sets out to capture the 3,000-mile race from start to finish, but when one of the riders, Bob Breedlove, a veteran racer and endurance cycling legend, is killed in a collision only days into the race, the other cyclists must figure out how to cope and whether or not they should keep going.
Honorable mentions include Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Ride the Divide, The Impossible Hour, 2 Seconds and Quicksilver.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.
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