Culture The Eight Most Badass Motorcyclists In FilmMotorcycles and movies go hand in hand. Here are some of the most badass riders ever to grace the silver screen.
- Words Owen Clarke
Motorcycles and movies have gone together like hamburgers and Fosters since the dawn of cinema, and a single badass motorcycle scene can redeem an otherwise worthless film. In 100+ years of movies, there’ve been too many riders to keep track of. But a few motorcyclists reign supreme.
Sure, it was impossible to fit every badass rider onto this list. I didn’t bother with Easy Rider, for one, just because Captain America and Billy already top almost every “badass biker” list. There’s no Ethan Hunt here, either (love or hate him, at least Tom does his own stunts). But I stand by these picks — so if you disagree, write me an email and let’s hash it out.
Whether for the authenticity of their stunts and skill or the sheer power of the director’s creative vision, these are the eight most badass motorcyclists in film. And yes, these are ranked in order of cool.
The freeway fight scene from The Matrix Reloaded is memorable for several reasons. It has two of the weirdest-looking villains in movie history, Morpheus flipping a speeding SUV using only a katana… and Trinity gunning a Ducati 996 up the wrong side of the freeway, an elderly Asian locksmith clinging to her back.
The series went downhill after the second film — the newest iteration is utter gobshite — and this scene is 99% CGI. So I’m not saying it’s perfect. But that doesn’t make Trinity’s riding any less badass. (I’m still not sure how she didn’t lock those brakes up, but hell, I guess they were in the Matrix.)
7. Stone — Stone (1974)
Stone, nearing its 50-year-anniversary, is a flick you’ll either love or hate. It’s more artistic statement than the actual movie. The most iconic scenes — the moto funeral procession chief among them — are either ultimate cool or ultimate cringe, depending on your style. But Stone is one of the OG authentic biker flicks, made with the cooperation of Sydney Hell’s Angels, and a worthy prelude to the awe-powerful Mad Max, with an unnerving soundtrack and inspired cinematography, if a somewhat hair-brained plot.
Eponymous undercover cop Stone joins up with a biker gang to find out who’s killing them off, becoming enamored with their lifestyle (à la Point Break) in the process. To the film’s benefit, the riding is rough and raw, there’s an interesting analysis of lay Satanism, and the whole picture feels more like an off-the-cuff documentary than an actual movie. If nothing else, it’s also notable for stuntman Peter Armstrong’s 80-foot motorcycle cliff dive, which set a world record at the time.
While it’s far from a perfect film, there’s a reason Ridley Scott’s edgy neo-noir Black Rain garnered a massive cult following decades after its release. Michael Douglas wasn’t a rider, which is why I’m not putting his hard-boiled Detective Conklin higher on this list of badass bikers. But there are plenty of gems in Black Rain, from the blood-pumping street race to the chaotic final scenes, when Conklin chases Sato through a vineyard. These stuntmen were ballsy, to say the least.
When multiple actors have played a single character, folks are often partial to the one they grew up with. I’m sure some of y’all will die on a hill for Keaton or Clooney, and Robert Pattison’s Batman is a worthy new addition. Christan Bale’s work, however, is the cream of the caped crusader crop.
Batman takes out his motorcycle several times in the Dark Knight trilogy, but the best sequence is in the third film. When Bane and his goons escape the stock exchange with hostages on bikes in The Dark Knight Rises — you’re thinking the cops are screwed. Then the lights begin to flicker out… you hear the whoosh of the Batcycle…
“You are in for a show tonight, son!” Cue goosebumps.
Main Force Patrol officer Jim Goose was always my favorite character in Mad Max. Sure, Goose doesn’t do much in the film besides mouth off and sleep with women. He goes down during the initial chase with the Nightrider, and he’s a vegetable before stuff kicks off with Toecutter and his gang.
But his KZ1000 (and his riding) is peerless, and most importantly, he’s stoked and pushing til the end. Whenever he goes down, he’s up in a flash. Even when his bike flies off the road and gets trashed after Johnny tampers with it, he’s humming a tune and hitching a ride. I like to think that even after Goose was blown up, he managed to recover and get back on two wheels. After all, “Nothing a year in the tropics can’t fix!”
Sure, it’s not the most original of choices, but if we’re talking badass movie motorcyclists, you can’t miss 007. No character has ridden so many different bikes in so many different chases on the silver screen.
From the Istanbul rooftop chase on a modified CFR250R (Skyfall) to Bond’s front-back BMW lockup with Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies to the rocket-firing gold BSA in Thunderball, there are too many badass two-wheeled moments to count. The mind-boggling bridge jump in the opening scene of No Time to Die may just take the cake, though.
When it comes to iconic motorcycle chases, no live-action fare can hold a candle to The Cooler King’s dash for the Swiss border, even in the 60-odd years since the film’s release. Hilts is a badass character, and so is his Triumph Trophy (painted to look like a BMW R75) but he ranks so highly on this list mostly because of who plays him.
Steve McQueen is probably the most famous of all celebrity motorcyclists. He owned over 200 bikes and was a hell of a rider and racer, on two wheels and four. Although the final jump in The Great Escape isn’t him, he did all of the other riding in the movie (at one point in the chase, McQueen was actually edited in as a German on another bike, chasing himself). His insistence was the reason motorcycles were featured in the film at all.
Shōtarō Kaneda, the dauntless leader of The Capsules in Akira, tops movie biker lists everywhere. His cherry-red superbike is probably the most famous bike in animation history. But if we’re talking about the most badass biker in the film, it’s the Clown who appears in Akira’s opening scene. No contest.
This guy charges the freeway on his deca-exhaust chopper, arms crossed, leading the Clowns against the Capsules. When an enemy rider jumps onto his front forks, he takes a lead pipe to the collarbone without flinching, headbutts the dude off the front of his bike — shattering the guy’s goggles in the process — and then runs him over. This is all with no hands on the handlebars, and without losing control. The Clown ultimately lowsides after a 100 mph game of chicken, but gets up without a hint of road rash, even though he’s only wearing a wife beater, and still manages to escape the cops.
Can anyone find a more badass rider?