Who doesn’t like an evening or afternoon at the movies? A couple of hours or more of great entertainment, some popcorn to munch on, and more often than not these days, some action including a motorcycle.
Many films that are considered historical classics have motorcycles in them, sometimes as the main plot device or a theme. Easy Rider, The Wild One, The Girl On The Motorcycle… all great movies.
But what about movies of the past 20 years? Sometimes you will see a scene in a movie with a motorcycle chase, some action on a motorcycle, or even a motorcycle used as a set piece but not promoted majorly. We’ve put together a list of 8 motorcycles that have featured as a centerpiece of the movie or has featured majorly in a character’s arc, up to and including movies currently in theaters.
The Huntress’ Triumph Street Triple RS, “Birds Of Prey: Harley Quinn” (2020)
Probably the newest bike to show up on this list, in the recently released “Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn” movie, one of the major female leads, The Huntress, is almost always seen near or astride her favorite bike. It even features in a spectacular chase scene near the end of the movie.
The bike in question is a pre-market 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS, a fast and aggressive streetfighter that perfectly suits the Huntress. The Street Triple RS is notable because it uses a Moto2 racing derived 765cc inline triple to make 121 HP and 58 lbs-ft of torque.
Of course, being a movie bike, there were customizations done to it to make it not street legal, the most glaring of which is removing the license plate holder. However, as a movie bike, it’s pretty badass to see it ridden hard and fast throughout the movie, and definitely makes it a hero bike in our eyes.
Also, in an interesting note, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays the Huntress, holds a motorcycle license and did most of the riding not requiring stunt riders in the movie.
Ben’s Norton Commando 850, “One Week” (2008)
An arthouse movie for sure, but one that is deeply rooted in the freedom and adventure that motorcycling riding is all about. The main character, Ben, is diagnosed with stage IV cancer and is given a 10 percent chance of survival. He comes across an old man selling his bike, and decides to come back and buy it after some thinking. The “One Week” of the title is his journey West, from Toronto, Ontario to Tofino, British Columbia.
The starring bike is an amazing 1973 Norton Commando 850 that has obviously been well cared for in its life. The bike itself belongs or belonged to, at the time the movie was shot, to the production designer, and the movie’s star, Joshua Jackson, is a well known Canadian actor and motorcycle enthusiast.
To say that the bike shares a co-starring role is not an outlandish statement, although the movie is more about finding purpose and freedom, and features more drama and character development over any action. Still, the movie showcases the long roads and amazing scenery of Canada, and having a Norton Commando 850 running through it just feels right.
Dredd’s Lawmaster, “Dredd” (2012)
Despite only being on screen for maybe a grand total of 7 minutes, the Lawmaster from 2012’s “Dredd” definitely makes an impression. Its first appearance is near the start of the movie as Dredd chases a drug trafficking van and eventually stops it. The second major scene, with a lingering shot, is when Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson mount up and ride off from the Halls of Justice.
The bikes for the movie were stretched Suzuki GSX-R750’s with custom framing built up over the front to support the cowling. The exhaust was remodeled and lengthened, and the sound of the bike in the movie is captured from the same exhaust, which has the Japanese sound of a high revving inline-four, but with a throatier, deeper note.
Karl Urban, who plays Dredd, did all his own riding in the movie, while Olivia Thirlby, who plays Anderson, did not know how to ride and was either stunt doubled or on a dolly for close-ups.
The Lightcycle, “TRON: Legacy” (2010)
It’s not realistic. It’s not even based on a real motorcycle. But if we didn’t include this bike in the list, it would be missing out on one of the best movie designs of the century. Featuring a few times throughout the movie, various versions of the Lightcycle are present, but never more so during the exciting grid battle scene.
Inspiration for the Legacy Lightcycles came from both the original Lightcycles from the first TRON movie in the early 1980’s, as well as the riding styles of motorcycle racers, tucked and tight to the bike. By adapting the two together, the new Lightcycle design was created, although it had to go through a few test reels first, such as the “leaked” TR2N trailer from Disney that was “accidentally” let out on the internet after San Diego ComicCon in 2009.
Burt Munro’s 1920 Indian Scout (Modified), “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2005)
“The World’s Fastest Indian” is a semi-biographical bike movie that centers around the affable but blunt New Zealander Burt Munro and his quest to make a speed run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Set in 1967, the movie follows the trials and hurdles that Munro had to leap over, or sometimes through, to get to the salt flats and do his runs.
The bike in question is a 1920 Indian Scout, heavily modified and streamlined so that Munro was literally lying down on his chest on the fuel tank, with his feet extending nearly past the back of the rear wheel. The real genius of the bike was that Munro took the 600cc Scout and increased its displacement to 950cc, as well as rebuilt the frame, using only the tools available to him in his workshop in Invercargill, New Zealand.
Norton International 500, “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
“The Motorcycle Diaries,” for at least the first half of the film, does center around a Norton International, and the planned trip of Alberto Granado and Ernesto Guevara across South America. Their destination is a leper colony in Peru, where they plan to volunteer and help treat the leprosy. Along the way, the Norton International they are riding breaks down, and during the remainder of their trip on foot, Guevara begins to see societal divides that lead him to take up a revolutionary stance.
The Norton International 500 for the movie is a Model 30, a 500cc that was famous for winning many Isle of Man TT races as well as being used by military police during World War II as a fast reactionary patrol and escort vehicle. For the movie, many actual Norton Internationals were restored, with stunt bikes being stripped down and reframed Suzuki GSX-R750’s. It was noted by the props manager that the Norton’s were actually more reliable on set than the Suzuki’s.
Roy Miller’s Ducati Hypermotard, “Knight and Day” (2010)
“Knight and Day” did not do all that well at the box office, mostly in part as this was around the time that Tom Cruise did the famous, or infamous, Oprah’s couch jump. However, the movie itself is a pretty standard action comedy, except for the part where Cruise’s character, Roy Miller, has to rescue Cameron Diaz’s character, June Havens, and escape from pursuing bad guys on a motorcycle.
The bike is a 2010 Ducati Hypermotard, although a lot of the stunt bikes were disguised Aprilia SVX’s. The big part about the motorcycle chase is that for most of the close up work, the bike was on a dolly being pulled by a camera truck, but for the medium and long distance shots, Tom Cruise was actually riding at speed through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, with a stuntwoman on the back.
Owen Grady’s Triumph Scrambler 900, “Jurassic World” (2015)
“Jurassic World” is the movie that redeemed the Jurassic Park series from a couple of lackluster movies before it. At one point in the film, Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, needs to chase after a transgenic dinosaur using Velociraptors as tracking hounds, in what is now famously called the Velociraptor Ride.
The bike used is a 2014 Triumph Scrambler 900, slightly modified to be able to perform minor stunts with the “hero” bike, and some donor frames and engines for stunt bikes that were meant to be crashed without causing extra costs to the movie. The Scrambler 900 does make a good showing, and is often in scenes with Pratt, either with him working on it, or riding it to do his hero stuff.