Outlaw motorcycle clubs have been around almost as long as the motorcycle itself. Their public profile is generally negative, but that gives them an air of danger that makes them intriguing to the layman. Movies about biker gangs have essentially formed a genre of their own, with some big names often ranked among the greatest films of all time.
A biker gang is often an object of parody in comedy films, or a mob of enemies to be mowed down in action films. Other films, on the other hand, put bikers in the lead role and make their culture and their vehicles the driving force behind the action.
The Wild Angels
The most important film in the biker subgenre is almost certainly the 1969 classic by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper Simple rider. It is the film that popularized the film concept and inspired the entire movement that would take shape in the decade that followed. However, Simple rider wasn’t the first movie to put Fonda behind the bars of a Harley. That honor goes to the 1965s The Wild Angels. Directed by popular low-budget film icon Roger Corman wild angels is a crucial part of biker movie history that far too few fans have seen. The ’60s counterculture was fueled by multiple sources, but this film’s contributions cannot be ignored. The Wild Angels was a slight critical and financial success, but has since fallen largely into obscurity. Fans of this unique subgenre should seek out this early example.
Hell’s Angels on wheels
Simple rider was not only the starting point for the entire biker film subculture, but also the first big break for legendary actor Jack Nicholson. However, just like Peter Fonda, Nicholson starred in a motorcycle movie before the one that made him a star. Hell’s Angels on wheels tells the story of Poet, a gas station attendant who gets into a fight with the eponymous biker gang. Poet shows more courage than brains when an angel damages his bicycle. Rather than destroy him, the gang takes a liking to Poet and welcomes him into the herd. The film is a violent journey into life with the angels. It explores their rules and traditions through the eyes of Poet, an outsider. It’s a rather sparse narrative, but how The Wild Angelslaid the foundation for the movement that followed. Hell’s Angels on wheels is a fun ride with a lot of power behind it.
The fastest Indian in the world
This 2005 sports drama isn’t really about bikers in the criminal sense. There’s not a lot of leather, there isn’t a lot of fighting, and the story is way more emotional than epic. But this is a film for people who love motorcycles and the culture that surrounds them. This lesser-known New Zealand production tells the true story of Burt Munro, who took a heavily modified 1920 Indian Scout and set several land speed records with it. Anthony Hopkins takes the lead and infuses Munro with a deeply human ambition in the face of aging. It’s a film about a man with a dream that he will risk everything to achieve. It’s an engaging and heartwarming story brought to life perfectly by Hopkins’ rich performance. While the film is not about the classic biker, every motorcycle fan should enjoy this film.
Fans of later films’ hilariously over-the-top portrayal of biker gangs must have seen Craig Baxley’s 1991 comedic action film. Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth starts his acting career with a bang in this over-the-top instant classic. The Boz portrays Joe Huff, an Alabama cop who feels like he’s made out of old Chuck Norris jokes and must infiltrate a biker gang to prevent a political assassination. The biker gang known as “The Brotherhood” borders on parody. They are loud, crass, hedonistic, violent and racist. It’s like a laundry list of everything people hate about the subculture. Lance Hendrickson appears as a villain leader, and his duel with Bosworth is funnier than epic. Freezing doesn’t portray the world of bikers in the best light, but like the film as a whole, it’s so bad that it’s amusing.
Beyond the Law
Charlie Sheen stars in this 1993 adaptation of the true story by Dan Saxton. It’s the story of a hardened cop struggling to infiltrate a gang of outlaws. Sheen as Saxton must face ever-increasing challenges to keep his cover, which gradually drives him into ever-darker criminal territory. In the role of “Blood” is the baddest biker in the crew kill Bill Stern, Michael Madsen. He’s a solid villain and the suspense never lets up when he’s on screen. Writer/director Larry Ferguson, also known for films such as highlanders and foreigner 3brings the story to the big screen with a perfect atmosphere and tonality. On the Law is a solid action film set in the darkest corners of the biker subculture.
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