The top five cycling films of all time
Published 13 August 2013
What makes a great cycling movie? We asked our Facebook community to nominate the best films which capture the passion, grit, power and joy of cycling. This is the result. Here's an overview of the five that were the most popular...
American Flyers (1985)
Written by Steve Tesich, the creator of another cycling movie, 1979’s Breaking Away, American Flyers stars Kevin Costner and David Marshall Grant as estranged brothers, who decide to take on the ‘Hell of the West’, the most difficult bike race in the country. Set in the Colorado Rockies with mountain and prairie backdrops, the brothers compete against the world’s top cyclists on a gruelling course at neck-breaking speeds. Featuring actual footage taken from the famous Coors International Bicycle Classic, held in Colorado, there are some great views of the Rockies and an insight into the tactics of bike racing. American Flyers is a feelgood film with a great mix of action, romance, laughter and tears.
Interesting film facts: Five times Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx makes a brief appearance. The 7-Eleven team featured in the film was a real life team that competed in the Tour in the 1980s.
The Flying Scotsman (2006)
Jonny Lee Miller stars in this true story of the life and career of Scottish racing cyclist Graeme Obree, who broke the world one-hour record in 1993 and 1994, and was individual pursuit world champion
in 1993 and 1995. The film focuses on the period
of Obree’s life which saw him win, lose and then retake the world one-hour distance record. Surprised by Chris Boardman’s 1992 Olympic Gold win – as he’d beaten Boardman many times in the past – Obree is determined to take one last shot
in the world of cycling. With no financial backing,
he builds his own revolutionary bike from random parts (including old bits of washing machines), and begins the arduous journey of becoming the fastest cyclist in the history of the sport. The film is a heart-warming, emotional and inspirational story which tracks the hardship Obree faces in cracking the cycling world, his struggles with mental illness, and the hostility he received from the sports authorities towards his innovations.
Interesting film facts: The film was cancelled several times and looked set to fail. In 2002, the death of a key American investor caused The Flying Scotsman to collapse only days before shooting. It took three years for the project to get back on track. The film was shot largely in the United Kingdom in East Ayrshire and Glasgow.
Road to Roubaix (2008)
A gripping and insightful documentary about the most prestigious one-day cycling race in the world – the Paris-Roubaix, or, as some call it, ‘the Hell of the North’. The film captures and explains what it
is about this one-day classic that gets the cycling world on the edge of their seats. Featuring exclusive interviews with riders, fans and mechanics, the film tells the story of the gruelling contest which takes place over 160 miles of
narrow cobbled farm roads in the Picardie and Norde-Pas-de-Calais regions of France, with a finish in the historic Roubaix velodrome. The film includes both archived and present footage of cyclists caked in mud, blood, gripping their handlebars, teeth chattering as they ride over the infamous cobbles trying not to crash. This is a real behind-the-scenes film with scenes normally reserved for those involved in the race.
Interesting facts: Rarely-seen historic archival photographs are featured in the film. Exclusive commentary from the likes of two-time winner Tom Boonen and his countryman Peter Van Petegem, former Tour de France director Jean-Marie LeBlanc, as well as cycling writers and photographers make this documentary unique.
BMX Bandits (1983)
An 80s movie classic full of stunts, clichés, one-liners and impressive BMX riding, this film is perfect for anyone wanting a trip down memory lane. The plot involves three young BMX enthusiasts who stumble across a set of walkie-talkies which – unbeknown to them – belong to a gang of bank robbers. The youngsters take the walkie-talkies, but when the robbers find out they set out to recover them at any cost. As the hunt
for the walkie-talkies goes on there’s lots of
action-packed chases with the kids on their BMXs riding rings around the villains. This is a cheesy film, great for anyone who wants to imagine picking up a BMX bike and riding freely, while creating a bit of havoc along the way. Perfect Sunday afternoon viewing for all the family.
Interesting film fact: The film stars a 15-year-old Nicole Kidman in one of her very first major acting gigs.
Bicycle Dreams (2010)
Bicycle Dreams covers the 2005 Race Across America, described as ‘having more drama in eight days than an entire Tour de France’. Considered the most challenging sporting event in the world, Race Across America is an epic 3,000 mile bike race from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with top riders finishing in under ten days. Riders cycle over 300 miles per day and sleep only a few hours a night. This award-winning film follows several riders, capturing every emotional and physical breakdown, late-night strategy session and great moments of personal triumph as they overcome searing desert heat, agonising mountain climbs and endless stretches of open road, all while battling extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. What starts as an adventure of a lifetime is transformed when tragedy strikes the race. As the race unfolds it’s clear that sometimes it’s not all about the bike.
Interesting film facts: Bicycle Dreams has won over 15 major awards. A total of 18 cameras were used in the field, to uncover the inner workings of the race and document this massive event. Director Stephen Auerbach has said he endured stretches of 36 hours without sleep to document the race and to experience the same sleep deprivation as the riders.
Which is your favourite cycling film? Place your vote in our Facebook poll.
Also worth a read: