With rare exceptions for the Smart Car, the tandem bike and whatever those contraptions are in the Dr. Seuss books, the human evolutionary process basically stopped when mankind progressed from two legs to two wheels. If you need proof of the superiority of the cycle, look no further than film, where bikes appear in some of the coolest and most nostalgic moments in modern cinema, thanks to great riders like Pee Wee Herman, the Fab Four and a little-known alien who really, really just wanted to make a house call already.
In honor of the Bicycle Film Festival, which makes its way to Denver April 17-19, we pulled together this list of the best scenes ever to highlight the power of the bicycle. Don't try some of these moves at home.
The real drama ofKarate Kid
isn't the karate as much as it is the bullshit assertion that motorcycles are better than bicycles. As we all know, though, in the end Ralph Macchio will deliver a badass swan kick to the face of Cobra Kai on behalf of bicyclists everywhere.19. Transporter 3
Let's ignore the concept of "reality" here -- after all, the producers of this film already did -- and focus instead on how awesome this scene is. Jay Stay takes this unnecessary three-quel of a strangelySpeed
-esque action concept to new levels of awe and incredulity when he manages not only to keep up with a speeding car but to pass it up and kick all the asses involved. It rules.18. BMX Bandits
Turns out Nicole Kidman is pretty tough, if for no other reason than she started her career with the Aussie classic (what else do they have that's classic, besidesMad Max
, the second-best '80s hack-job-functioning-as-an-excuse-to-show-a-bunch-of-awesome-bike-tricks ever put to film (see also: item #3). It features a BMX ride down a water-slide. That, and teenage Nicole Kidman, are pretty much the only reasons to see this film. And they're enough.17. Now and Then
Nostalgia is a beautiful thing -- and this movie is all about that shit. The female '90s version ofStand By Me
, it functioned as a saccharine escape fromSpice World
for preteens who found it believable that Christina Ricci's character could grow up to be Rosie O'Donnell. It was about truth-or-dare and sundresses, summer sing-a-longs and painted nails, ice cream and bicycles. In that last category, these girls had glorious ones (As queen bee, Thora Birch's is probably the most glorious), which they put to good use and even greater cultural reflection in the long-running Lifetime channel repeat.16. Jumanji
If this scene played out in real life today, in a world where teens drive SUVs and do their bullying on cyberspace, it would be not only ridiculous but a total failure. But we've also never played a magical board game that sent our entire local zoo after us, so I guess we're even. Notably, it is only after these little jerks steal Alan's bicycle that he notices the drum beats, starts a game of Jumanji and loses thirty years of his life only to emerge a hairy beast man (Robin Williams). So the moral of this story is ... beats us.15. The Muppets
It wasn't until we rewatched this clip that we realized how much Miss Piggy reminds us of a sassier, less talented Barbra Streisand. That said, the real focus in this scene should be on the pure mechanics of making two massively oversized puppets ride matching and adorable bicycles (Piggy's even has a basket) while crooning in earnest about their longtime love - with no visible strings attached. No matter how improbable the relationship is (Kermit fits in said basket), and no matter what those grumpy old men say, this is true romance.14. 127 hours
The greatest irony of127 Hours
is that James Franco totally could have saved himself the trouble of sawing his own arm off if he had just stuck to riding his bike, which, let's face it, is obviously way more fun than climbing dumb rocks like a sucker. And, as we can see here, the injuries are far less painful.13. Rushmore
Brilliant, eccentric and megomaniacal fifteen-year-old Max Fischer maintains a list of extracurriculars longer than most adults' life-time resumes -- and he steers himself to all of them on two wheels. The Wes Anderson protagonist falls somewhere between hero and anti-hero, but his love life is always a loser: When he and his older millionaire companion (the ever-present Bill Murray) fall for the same first-grade teacher, sparks fly. (And Max's bike dies.)12. Un Chien Andalou
These days, the Luis Buñuel surrealist classicUn Chien Andalou
is probably best known for having a classic Pixies song written in tribute to it and also the scene where eyeballs are getting sliced, which is fucking crazy. But there's some other crazy stuff in there, too, such as this scene in which Pierre Batcheff rides a bicycle in a nun's habit. And then ants crawl out of a hole in his hand. So... yeah, pretty weird.11. Project A
Honestly, in close quarters like these, it seems like running would probably be a more effective method of chase/escape than the bicycles -- Jackie Chan's sodomization with a seat-post could have been avoided that way, at any rate. On the other hand, Jackie Chan manages to use the bike pretty effectively as a weapon. Probably Ralph Macchio should have watched this shit.10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Don't try this at home -- unless, of course, Paul Newman is driving. In this endearing and whimsical scene from the forever babe's turn as a Wild West bandit, Butch (ahem) Cassidy breaks away from his partner in crime and their very man-on-manly action to seduce a lovely lady (Katharine Ross). In between adorable apple-snacking, two-wheeled tomfoolery and some scandalous leg action, the couple is serenaded by the unlikeliest of lusty lyrics with "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head." (But spoiler alert: They don't.)9. Quicksilver
Despite the fact thatQuicksilver
received some of the worst reviews of any movie ever released and even Kevin Bacon called it "the absolute lowest point of my career" -- which, for Kevin Bacon, is really saying something -- it's still notable for its shocking accuracy as a hipster prophecy. Not only was it made long before fixies were even a thing -- it even predicted what the people who ride them wouldlook
like. Astounding.8. Napoleon Dynamite
Although we fully blameNapoleon Dynamite
for giving us "the shading on your upper lip," a phrase we can never scrape from our minds, there's no denying that Pedro's bike is pretty... sweet. Plus it's got shocksand
pegs. That thing is pretty much made for sweet jumps.7. The Sound of Music
A few decades before,Gone With the Wind
already did the whole clothes-made-out-of-curtains thing, so thankfully Rodgers & Hammerstein had approximately twelve one-ups under their sleeves. In order to get the best of all possible worlds, they took Mary Poppins, added seven vaguely Germanic but distinctly Aryan children and placed them all on old-school bicycles while belting out a song about singing. If you can't get this out of your head, it could be worse: "The Lonely Goatherd."6. The Wizard of Oz
There's a reason Miss Gulch appeared later in the film as the Wicked Witch of the West: She really, really sucked. There's only one basket for this film's heroine and her "little dog, too," and it wasn't the one strapped to the back of Gulch's cruiser. For Toto, too, there was no place like home, but his just happened to be a bit smaller: the wicker basket strapped to the front of his pig-tailed, picnic-table-cloth-dressed, goodie-two (ruby) shoes, Dorothy.5. Help!
The Fab Four's second feature film comes with a plot like a small, deeply accented circus, but its scenes play like music videos - or at the very least, Monty Python clips. It turns out the guys are better musical masterminds than they are bike riders, but they ride with a vengeance. Literally. Here, the Beatles give up on their fear of being disemboweled by an evil cult and steer themselves back to bravery, opting instead to "smash them" at their temple. In the end, they must come together, with a little help from their friends, to keep from being sacrificed.4. Goonies
In the 1980s, according to movies, every kid lived in an adorable coastal town with tons of hills to accommodate awesome BMX-bike montages. Less often shown is the rag-tag posse of crime-solving tykes panting and sweating backup
said hills. For real, Chunk: How do you stay fat in this town?3. Rad
The first-best '80s hack-job-functioning-as-an-excuse-to-show-a-bunch-of-awesome-bike-tricks ever put to film. Also,Rad
fun fact: Even though "Send Me an Angel" came out some years beforeRad
did, the Australian band Real Life later admitted that the specific angel they were requesting was, in fact, Aunt Becky doing some sweet-ass freestyle.2. Pee Wee's Big Adventure
As we learned fromRad
, the '80s were a badass time for bikes, and of that decade there was no bike badasser than Pee Wee's awe-inspiring cruiser -- to the extent that the whole goal of the big adventure ofPee Wee's Big Adventure
was to track it down. Obviously, any one of us would have done the same.1. E.T.
The bike scene from
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probably the most iconic scene of all movie history -- like, literally, Steven Spielberg made it the icon of his production company -- and without question the most famous one involving a bicycle. Not that it doesn't raise some questions: for example, when the bikes are flying, why are they still pedaling? And why is that police car a station wagon? In the end, though, who cares? Disregarding logic is the magic of the movies.