Rad (1986)—Braided headbands, high-waisted white jeans, synthesizer music, and feathered bangs. If that’s what you think the classic movie Rad is all about, you’re missing out on the best part. There is a lot of really good riding in this movie, with all the top pros of the era performing in front of the lens. Check out the evil twins, Rod and Rex, taking out Cru Jones’ buddy in the Helltrack qualifier with a sweet table-to-head tap. Of course, the iconic course-cutting backflip to win the big race at Helltrack is a move that will never be forgotten.
Breaking Away (1979)—While not quite as rad as Rad, Breaking Away is often touted as one of the best American sports films ever. There are no backflips or freestyle dance floor scenes, but our hero Dave hits 60 MPH while drafting a semi, and there is the classic pump-in-the-spokes race scene as well. While there are plots, conflicts, and resolution, they thankfully don’t detract too much from the classic cycling footage. Full of era-correct cycling fashion, and even including a dramatic interpretation of the famous Little 500 collegiate race, Breaking Away will satisfy your retro curiosity and your need for a good ol’, feel-good dramatic comedy.
The Triplets of Belleville (2003)— This abstract and hallucinatory animated film creates fervent devotees or confused critics. While a cyclist is centrally featured, this trip through 1940/50’s-era France involves music, style, fantasy, and themes of loss, redemption, and morality. Inexplicably losing out to Finding Nemo for the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, The Triplets of Belleville is not to be missed, and will enhance the lives of cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
The Flying Scotsman (2006)—Of the five movies presented here, The Flying Scotsman is at once the most “hardcore” cycling film and the best dramatic feature. Perhaps that is because its central character, legend Graeme Obree, makes such a fascinating study. The movie takes us on a compelling journey where Obree meets and overcomes challenges from childhood bullies to the UCI to his own psyche. As one of the greatest minds in cycling—whether because of or in spite of his bipolar condition is a debate for the psychologists among us—Obree’s story is a captivating personal tale of one of cycling’s biggest icons.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)—HA HA! Not only is this the first pairing of director Tim Burton and musician Danny Elfman, it is a stunning accumulation of classic cinematic vignettes and quotes not witnessed since the movie Caddyshack. Even though the central theme of P.W.’s Big A is the recovery of his cherished Schwinn, any cycling takes a back seat to Pee Wee’s schtick and the bizarre adventure he undertakes across America in the quest to get his baby back.