In this article, we share our pick of the best cycling movies ever made.
From the 1948 classic cycle movie, Bicycle Thieves, to modern day cinema, these are our picks for a dose of escapism.
You might notice a lack of documentaries in the list. That’s because there are so many out there, we had to create a separate round up! Check out our pick of the best cycling documentaries here.
Read on - and let us know your favourites in the comments at the bottom of the article.
Notes: Our list is ordered from the most recent to the oldest. Most of the more famous cycling films are older, so you may need to scroll down if there's a particular film you're looking for!
We've included details of where you can watch the films (as at the time of writing), as well as a link to a website that compares the cost on different streaming services (if the film is listed on the website - it doesn't list them all).
1. Wadjda (2012)
Wadjda is a ten-year-old girl living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race against her neighbour, Abdullah. Her mother won’t allow it, harshly telling her ‘you won’t be able to have children if you ride a bike’. So, Wadjda sets her heart on raising the money to buy a bicycle all by herself.
Wadjda is ground-breaking in that it was the first film to ever be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, a country without cinemas. It was also the first feature-length movie to be made by a female Saudi director.
But it deserves a place on our list of the best cycling movies in the world because it’s also full of incredible realism, drama and it has a beautifully moving ending. We also love the insights into life in Saudi Arabia, the fact you get to see what Riyadh is like and the fascinating commentary on women's position and status within Saudi culture.
The film has won numerous awards and, despite having subtitles, we think it’s a must-watch.
2. The Kid with a Bike (2011)
The Kid with a Bike is the heart-wrenching story of a 12-year-old boy, Cyril, who is abandoned by his father and left in a children’s home. Cyril absconds on his bike and makes friends with a local hairdresser who kindly agrees to look after him at weekends. After a search, Cyril tracks down his father who rejects him once more. This results in Cyril falling into the company of a local gang leader who leads him down the wrong path.
This critically-acclaimed film has outstanding reviews, with a score of 96% on movie review site RottenTomatoes.com. Be aware that cycling is not the dominant story in this movie – also it’s in French with English subtitles, although you barely notice them as the tale is so gripping and emotional.
The Kid with a Bike is similar to Wadjda in many ways, as both children defy adversity to seek happiness, aided by their beloved bicycles.
3. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
The Triplets of Belville is a French animated cycling film with much of the narrative conveyed through song. This crazy, funny and somewhat emotional cartoon movie tells the tale of a champion Tour de France cyclist who is kidnapped by the French Mafia. His elderly grandmother comes to the rescue, along with her loyal dog Bruno and a trio of singers from the 1930s who are known as The Triplets of Belleville.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the concept of this movie sounds bonkers, because it is! This film is completely different to anything else ever created, which is one of the reasons why it’s so brilliant. The Triplets of Belville is packed with humour, emotion and is sure to put a huge grin in your face. Plus, with a fantastic 94% on RottenTomatoes.com, the reviews are excellent.
Give it a watch, you’ll probably surprise yourself.
4. American Flyers (1985)
One of the best bike racing movies of all time, American Flyers stars Kevin Costner as sports physician Marcus Sommers who persuades his younger brother to train with him for a three-day bike race across the Rocky Mountains; the “Hell of the West”. The plot revolves around the suspicion that one of the two bothers may have a hereditary brain condition which could cause them to become paralysed at any time.
As well as a good dollop of 80s cheesiness, bad moustaches, awkward sex scenes and nasty crashes, this movie has some great bike racing footage. There’s also fantastic aerial cinematography of the stunning red rock landscape – and a surprising cameo by Eddie Merckx! If you like movies about cycling, there’s plenty to enjoy in this classic film.
5. Breaking away (1979)
Breaking Away is a coming of age comedy-drama about four teenage misfits in Bloomington, Indiana, one of the largest college towns in America. It’s a heart-warming tale about young men finding their way in a place where they feel like they don’t fit in amongst the rich, snobby college kids.
The film centres around a young cyclist, Dave Stohler, and his passion for Italian road cycling after he wins a Masi bike. The film culminates in the friends forming a cycling team for the University's Little 500 - they are the only "townie" team against the College kids.
This critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning, iconic cycling film is easily one of the top cycling movies of all time and one that we'd watch many times as the film explores lots of themes on top of the cycling backdrop including the transition from aimless childhood to adult responsibility, class difference, parental expectation, the importance of family and life in small town America.
6. Jour de Fete (1949)
Meaning ‘The Big Day’ in French, Jour de Fete is a French comedy film which was written by, directed by and stars comic actor Jacques Tati. The movie follows a bumbling postman as becomes distracted, drinks too much wine and then goes to hilarious lengths to deliver the post as quickly as possible on his bicycle.
Although this film is in French with English subtitles, the captions are barely needed as much of the comedy is visual in the style of silent movies from earlier in history.
Unusually for a film from the 1940s, Jour de Fete has been skilfully produced in colour, giving a beautiful visualisation of life in post-war rural France.
7. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
One of the greatest cycling films of all time, Bicycle Thieves is a powerful and emotional work of art. Set in post-war Rome, it tells the simple tale of Antonio, an unemployed man who at last secures a job hanging posters. The only requirement for the role is that he must have his own bicycle. When Antonio’s bicycle is stolen, he trudges the streets with his young son in desperate search of it.
This incredible Oscar-winning film has had an impact on worldwide cinema right up to the present day and has a place in countless ‘best movies’ lists. It features some wonderful shots of 1940s Rome and has an incredibly moving story.
What’s your favourite cycling film?
Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in our pick of the best cycling documentaries, you can find those here, and our round up of the best cycling books here.
(that every road cyclist should watch)