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10 Top Movie Motorcycles

Although movies have been in love with cars–and car chases–since the Silent Era, nothing quite beats a motorcycle for establishing a character as a rebel, a free spirit or just a plain old tough guy.

Here are 10 of the most memorable motorbikes from motion picture history–and the films that helped make them famous.

Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” (United Artists)1) Triumph TR6 from The Great Escape (1963). No actor in Hollywood history embodied the essence of “cool” quite like Steve McQueen. And none of his action scenes are quite as memorable as his barbed wire fence-hopping at the climax of this classic WWII thriller. Although McQueen performed most of the movie’s motorcycle stunts himself, that final leap was actually done by his stunt double, Bud Elkins.

Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider” (Columbia Pictures)2) Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide from Easy Rider (1969). When Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and (eventually) Jack Nicholson took to the open road to “find America,” they inspired a sense of wanderlust in millions of frustrated middle-class Baby Boomers that lingers to this day. (See Wild Hogs, below.) Two of the three former police bikes were actually stolen before the film was completed!

Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (Carolco Pictures)3) Harley-Davidson Fat Boy from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Before he took to politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger was either trying to destroy the future or save it as the unstoppable T-800 cyborg. His high-speed rescue of young John Connor while steering his Harley with one hand and doing one-handed shotgun pumps with the other was the ultimate in movie macho.

Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones” (Columbia Pictures)4) Triumph Thunderbird 6T from The Wild Ones (1953). Back in the early 1950s, America was just discovering actor Marlon Brando and the horror of “juvenile delinquency.” Put them together atop a herd of thundering motorbikes and you’ve got the stuff of which a generation of suburban nightmares was made.

Wild Hogs (Touchstone Pictures)5) Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster, H-D FXSTS Springer Softail, H-D Fatboy and H-D Screaming Eagle Fatboy from Wild Hogs (2007). More than five decades after The Wild Ones, juvenile delinquents had morphed into pudgy, pathetic middle-aged corporate drones who resembled William H. Macy, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen. Well, at least the Harleys still looked cool.

Carrie-Anne Moss in “The Matrix Reloaded” (Warner Bros.)6) Ducati 996 from The Matrix Reloaded (2003). This first of two disappointing Matrix sequels would have been a total waste of time if not for the deleriously over-the-top freeway chase at the movie’s midpoint. The 10-minute-long sequence is climaxed with Carrie-Anne Moss weaving her Ducati against traffic using maneuvers that would make even Steve McQueen hurl.

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (Paramount Pictures)7) Kawasaki GPz900R from Top Gun (1986). In the mid-80s, our “need for speed” was met in the air by the F-14 Tomcat and on the ground by Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis entwined on this classic Kawasaki. Don’t miss Charlie Sheen parodying Cruise’s motorbike antics in the 1991 comedy Hot Shots!
Tomorrow Never Dies (MGM/United Artists)8) BMW R1200 from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – As macho as James Bond is supposed to be, it’s surprising that he usually prefers four wheels to two. However, this tradition was broken when Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh (handcuffed and riding backwards!) had to outrun villains both within and above a bustling Hong Kong market on this stolen example of perfect product placement.

Anthony Hopkins in “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2929 Productions)9) 1920 Indian Scout from The World’s Fastest Indian (2005). Sir Anthony Hopkins may have gotten top billing, but the real star of this film was this vintage American motorcycle that actually set a number of land speed records between 1962 and 1967 . (There’s no truth to the rumor that Hopkins’ character celebrated with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.)

Tron (Walt Disney Pictures)10) The Lightcycles from Tron (1982). Okay, they may have only been virtual motorcycles, but they moved like lightning! And their success ushered in a whole new world of CGI super-vehicles. (Transformers, anyone?)

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