Motorcycles in the Movies

January 25 2013 by Jason Fogelson

motorcycle movie.jpgMotorcycles have always been the symbol of coolness in the movies and on television. Anyone who has seen Marlon Brando on his Triumph Thunderbird in "The Wild One" (1953) can attest to that. Even when Fonzie was jumping the shark on his Triumph Trophy TR5 in television's "Happy Days," he was still the coolest dude on the screen. Actually, there's some debate about which motorcycle Arthur Fonzarelli rode during the series. Apparently, he switched off from a Harley-Davidson Sportster to a Triumph or maybe even a BSA later in the series. Some claim that he rode a Knucklehead, and not a Sportster. What is true is that Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie, was not a motorcyclist. When filming early scenes, Winkler had to be hounded by the crew when he performed low speed parking lot maneuvers. "Feet on the pegs! Feet on the pegs!" Perhaps they read my blog...

2012 was a pretty good year for motorcycles in the movies. Two great scenes stood out for me:

In the pre-credit sequence to "Skyfall," the latest installment in the James Bond series, Bond (played by Daniel Craig) hops on a dual sport motorcycle for a high speed chase through the streets of Istanbul. The chase eventually leads to the tiled roof of the Grand Bazaar, culminating in some of the most spectacular practical riding footage ever filmed. Bond and his nemesis ride specially prepared Honda CRF250R motocross bikes in the sequence, in case you're tempted to recreate the scene in your hometown.

Jeremy Renner played the lead role of "Aaron Cross" in last summer's "The Bourne Legacy," and boasted in interviews that he did all of his own stunts for the film. Riding a similar debadged motocross bike, probably a Honda CRF250R like the "Skyfall" bike, Renner raced through the crowded streets of Manila in the Philippines with Rachel Weisz hanging on his back, executing spectacular feats of grace and skill in the process. In one amazing sequence, Renner grinds his bike on the skidplate all the way down a stairway railing, avoiding a crowd of innocent bystanders and averting capture by the bad guys. Even if Renner didn't execute this stunt himself, it's still awesome.

Television continued to display motorcycles, most prominently on FX's "Sons of Anarchy." The motorcycle soap opera set in the world of the one-percenters in the little town of Charming, California hit new highs and lows this season. The gang members look more and more comfortable on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles with each passing year, and the riding scenes are getting more natural and fun to watch. Bikers saddle up, start their bikes and roll away with nary a wobble, and execute elegant maneuvers that display a real affinity for the bikes. Plenty of blood is shed in the violent portions of the show, but the only time I really cringe is when they wreck one of those gorgeous bikes. The violence is pretend; but the bikes are genuinely ruined!

What were your favorite motorcycle media moments in 2012? What are you looking forward to this year?

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