Of the scores of “chrome pony operas” made between 1954 and the present, the following dozen stand out as noteworthy in the eyes of bikers everywhere. Though most are B-movies to be sure, each offers a bit of that illusive spark in capturing the spirit of the road and the freedom of riding.
Depending on your point of view, these movies comprise the best, or worst, biker films of all time. Since many of you riders may still be in quarantine and are looking for something fun to watch, why not break out some of these two-wheeled, two-reel wonders.
It’ll get you primed and ready for the High Seas Rally in December. Enjoy!
- The Wild One – 1953
The movie that started all the ruckus and created a new genre of film is over 65 years old, yet still manages to convey the rebellious spirit of early motorcycle clubs. Though pretty tame today, The Wild One sure stirred things up when it debuted in the ‘50s. It was even banned in England. Trivia buffs might like to know the last name of Marlon Brando’s character of Johnny. It’s only mentioned once in the film… Johnny Stabler.
- The Wild Angels – 1966
“Their credo is violence — their god is hate!” The Wild Angels is the definitive ’60s biker flick. Peter Fonda as Heavenly Blues and Bruce Dern as the Loser lead the ill-fated “Angels” from San Pedro on a series of rumbles and road trips. Tragedy strikes when a rumble gets broken up by the cops and Dern is shot while making his escape on a stolen cop bike. The gang busts him out of the hospital and, of course, he croaks, leading to the most insane drug-soaked funeral orgy of all time.
Made in 1966 by genius filmmaker Roger Corman, this is really the flick that launched the biker movie craze. Lots of real bitchin’ bikes and riding scenes in this one, and you get to drool over a nubile Nancy Sinatra.
- Hells Angels on Wheels – 1967
The opening sequence in this movie remains one of the most powerful visions of the biker world. Jack Nicholson plays “Poet,” a drifting loner who tangles with, joins and then quits the Hells Angels. The action that ensues is some of the greasiest fun you could ever see. They fight, they love and they ride like friggin’ maniacs.
- Rebel Rousers – 1967
Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern and Harry Dean Stanton lead their gang into a little desert town for some sociopathic good times. Cameron Mitchell and Diane Ladd are a couple of squares who stumble onto the gang’s psycho beach party (this ain’t Frankie and Annette) and are taken as prisoners. Nicholson is great as “Bunny,” the demented loose cannon with the coolest pants in town.
- Savages From Hell – 1968
“Their motors are flaming, their mamas are on fire…they’re dogs on the loose!” Bikers, beach parties, body painting, death by dune buggy, lust, and a good old-fashioned cat fight all gleefully collide in this bit of cycle celluloid. Once called “theBen Hur of biker flicks,” this one pits the outlaw bikers against migrant farm workers, with a good looking babe caught in the middle.
- Easy Rider – 1969
The ad campaign for Easy Rider proclaimed, “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.” But the movie that became the anthem for the Woodstock generation wasn’t just about a couple of drug dealers turned hippy bikers who get blown away by southern rednecks. Easy Rider was about getting the easy ride and selling out. The term “easy rider” is southern slang for the boyfriend or husband of a hooker because he gets the easy ride. Throughout the film, Peter Fonda as Captain America and Dennis Hopper as Billy are given chances to settle down and be about something. By the end of the film, Fonda has figured out that they are on a road to nowhere and tells Hopper that, “We blew it.”
Beautiful riding shots by cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, featuring gleaming choppers set to great rock music, inspired a whole generation to go out, buy a motorcycle and ride to get a little taste of freedom.
- CC and Company – 1969
Football legend Joe Namath teams with Ann Margaret in this tale of a smooth-talking drifter CC Ryder (Namath) who rides with a gang called the Heads. When the gang attacks a New York Fashion writer (Margaret), Namath breaks ranks and goes on the lam with Ann from his former gang. Yeah, like you wouldn’t! Danger, passion and suspense build with each narrow escape until the final race to settle the score.
- The Black Angels – 1971
An epic exercise in bad acting, the flick centers around an ongoing gang war between two cycle mobs, the Choppers and Satan’s Serpents. Best of all, the Black Angels contains one of the best lines in cinema history: “I’m gonna kill you, you no-good egg-suckin’, finger-lickin’, snot-pickin’, scuzzy-faced rat!” Gotta love it.
- Hells Angels 69 – 1969
Starring the real Oakland Hells Angels, this casino heist caper is just weird from beginning to end. Jeremy Slate (who wrote the screenplay) and Tom Stern play a couple of bored jet-setters who concoct a truly stupid plan to rob a Las Vegas casino by posing as members of a fake motorcycle gang (the Witches from Salem, Mass.). They hook up with the Angels for a few weeks of riding and scheming. What’s cool is the Angels not really acting but being themselves. And Terry the Tramp RULES. The final chase scene, well, let me just say…PATCH HOLDERS ON DIRT BIKES.
- Angel Unchained – 1970
Bikers versus townies in defense of hippies. Don Stroud plays “Angel,” a wandering biker who rides into a small town looking to leave his past behind. He finds compassion from a young Tyne Daly who lives at a hippie commune just outside of town. The townies, of course, hate the hippies and tear them up relentlessly. Angel recruits the help of his old gang, who then ride in like a freak cavalry to save the day.
- Born Losers – 1967
The movie that introduced the character of Billy Jack to the world. Tom Laughlin plays the aforementioned Billy, who single-handedly kicks the living shit out of a bike gang as they plot their reign of terror on small-town America. The gang leader, played by Jeremy Slate, has the goofiest big white sunglasses you ever did see.
- Stone Cold – 1991
This action-packed flick brings the vibe of old biker films into the modern age. Football dude Brian Bosworth plays John Stone, an undercover cop assigned to infiltrate a notorious bike gang led by “Chains” (Lance Henriksen). Henriksen gives a badass performance, as does William Forsyth as his second in command, “Ice.” The plot thickens as we learn the gang’s plan to rescue a member on trial with a full military assault on the state capital. Check it out. There was a similar movie that came out at about the same time called Beyond the Law with Charlie Sheen but this one is way better.
There are lots of other two-wheeled treats that almost made this Biker Movie List. The Wild Rebels, She-Devils on Wheels, Run Angel Run, Chrome and Hot Leather, Werewolves on Wheels, and The Loveless are all worth a viewing.