Marlon Brando as the leader of the Black Rebels in The Wild One (1953)
Biker movies occupy their own sub-genre in Hollywood. Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and even Joe Namath have all appeared in biker films.
Here are ten classic motorcycle movies from the Golden Age of biker films spanning the 1950s to the 1970s. Start your engines, mama, because we’re in for a hell of a ride…
The Wild One (Columbia, 1953)
Marlon Brando stars as Johnny Strabler in what many consider to be the granddaddy of outlaw biker movies. The sulking, hard-riding Johnny heads the Black Rebels motorcycle gang while rival Chino (Lee Marvin) is point man for the Beatles. Both gangs descend on the small town of Wrightsville, California, where the local yokels are caught in the middle of the ensuing biker war. Both Brando and Marvin are slovenly decked out in biker regalia for their bad boy roles. Brando and the Black Rebels ride British Triumphs while Marvin and the Beatles opt for American Harley Davidsons.
- Director: Laslo Benedek
- On DVD: The Wild One (Columbia Tristar, 1998)
Easy Rider (Columbia, 1969)
Disaffected free spirits Wyatt a.k.a. Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) chopper down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras after scoring a drug deal in L.A. Along the way they pick up alcoholic lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), who is beaten to death by a virulent tribe of southern rednecks. Customized motorcycles, drugs, prostitution, rock music, hippies and sex form a psychedelic partnership in this classic biker flick, whose tagline announced, “A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere…”
- Director: Dennis Hopper
- On DVD: Easy Rider Special Edition (Columbia Tristar, 2002)
Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda “itchin’ for the runnin’” in Easy Rider (1969)
The Wild Angels (American International, 1966)
Peter Fonda plays Heavenly Blues, the leader of a Hell’s Angels chapter operating out of Venice, California. Also along for the ride are biker girl Mike a.k.a. Monkey (Nancy Sinatra), best buddy Joe Kearns a.k.a. Loser (Bruce Dern) and motorcycle mama Gavish (Diane Ladd). There’s plenty of rough biker action in this flick, with several real-life Hell’s Angels used as extras. Bruce Dern was actually cold-cocked by two Hell’s Angels during the funeral scene, who weren’t buying his explanation that he was acting in a movie.
- Director: Roger Corman
- On DVD: The Wild Angels (MGM/UA, 2001)
The Born Losers (American International, 1967)
Tom Laughlin stars as Billy Jack, an ex-Green Beret Vietnam War vet who uses his martial arts skills to battle a violent biker gang in a small California town. Elizabeth James plays Vicky Barrington with Jeremy Slate as Danny Carmody, the leader of the Born Losers motorcycle club whose other members include Child (William Wellman Jr.), Cueball (Robert Tessier) and Gangrene (Jeff Cooper). The Born Losers introduced Laughlin as the high-kicking, loner Vietnam vet who would later shoot to fame in the 1971 sleeper hit Billy Jack.
- Director: Tom Laughlin (as T.C. Frank)
- On DVD: The Born Losers (Ventura Distribution, 2000)
The Born Losers (1967) one sheet poster
The Hard Ride (American International, 1971)
Robert Fuller stars as Phil, who returns home from the Vietnam War and fulfills his promise to a dying friend to take care of his buddy’s chopper “Baby.” Phil also meets up with his friend’s girl Sheryl (Sherry Bain) and a virulent biker gang, with the violent climax taking place in the remote desert. Tony Russel and William Bonner play biker Big Red and Grady, respectively, with Bill Medley, Junction, the Arrows, Paul Wibier, Bob Moline and Thelma Comacho contributing their talents to the hip soundtrack.
- Director: Burt Topper
- On DVD: Not commercially available
Hell’s Angels on Wheels (U.S. Films, 1967)
Adam Roarke stars as Buddy, an outlaw biker who heads a chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Jack Nicholson plays Poet, a bored gas station attendant who aspires to be one of the gang and who later develops a “thing” for biker babe Shill (Sabrina Scharf). There’s plenty of motorcycle mayhem in this picturing, including wild partying and the Angels’ continuing battle with square society. Jack Nicholson makes due with the skimpy material afforded him in one of his early film roles.
- Director: Richard Rush
- On DVD: Hell’s Angels on Wheels (Image, 2003)
C.C. and Company (AVCO Embassy, 1970)
Super Bowl III hero and fabled New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath stars as C.C. Ryder, an ex-grease monkey who hooks up with the Heads motorcycle gang. Joe rescues fashion journalist Ann McCalley (Ann-Margret) from biker ruffians and locks horns with Heads gang leader Moon (William Smith) following a motocross. Check out the colorful mama/gang member monikers in this flick: Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley), Rabbit (Mike Battle), Lizard (Greg Mullavey), Pig (Teda Bracci), Crow (Sid Haig), Captain Midnight (Bruce Glover) and Zit-Zit (Jacquie Rohr). Mitch Ryder performs the movie’s title song, “C.C. Rider.” Ann-Margret’s husband Roger Smith wrote the screenplay.
- Director: Seymour Robbie
- On DVD: C.C. and Company (Cheezy Flicks, 2006)
C.C. and Company (1970) one sheet poster featuring Broadway Joe Namath
The Mini-Skirt Mob (American International, 1968)
Diane McBain stars as Shayne, the leader of a leggy, all-female outlaw biker gang known as the Mini-Skirt Mob. The girls prefer lightweight Hondas as their means of transportation, raising unrelenting hell when Shayne enlists their support along with biker Lon (Jeremy Slate) in her campaign against ex-beau Ross Hagen (Jeff Logan) and his new bride Connie (Sherry Jackson). This movie is a real gas, with the girls running around in micro-mini skirts and go-go boots. “Nothing is more vicious than a scorned, guilt-ridden blonde,” the movie trailer announces. Talk about your cat fight!
- Director: Maury Dexter
- On DVD: The Mini-Skirt Mob/Chrome and Hot Leather (MGM, 2005)
Werewolves on Wheels (Fanfare Corporation, 1971)
Horror and hell-raising come together in this wild biker film starring Steve Oliver as Adam and D.J. Anderson as Helen. When the outlaw biker gang The Devil’s Advocates seek greater understanding at a monastery they get more than they reckoned for from a band of black-robed, devil-worshipping monks. Loaded to the gills with free wine, the drunken gang members trash the monastery and beat up its owners, only to have a curse placed on one of their mamas who is transformed into a werewolf. Look for Billy Gray (Bud Anderson of TV’s Father Knows Best) and singer Barry McGuire (”The Eve of Destruction”), who play Phil and Scarf, respectively. Far out!
- Director: Michel Levesque
- On DVD: Werewolves on Wheels (Dark Sky/MPI, 2006)
Werewolves on Wheels (1971) lobby card
The Glory Stompers (American International, 1968)
Dennis Hopper plays tough guy Chino, the leader of the Black Souls motorcycle gang. Chino and his grubby clan capture rival Glory Stompers gang leader Darryl (Jody McCrea) along with his girlfriend Chris (Chris Noel). Leaving Darryl for dead in the woods following a vicious stomping, the Black Souls head to the Mexican border where they plan to sell Chris to white slave traders. A vengeful Darryl and former Glory Stomper Smiley (Jock Mahoney) track down Chino and his boys where a biker battle royal ensues. The Glory Stompers is a favorite of director Quentin Tarantino.
- Director: Anthony M. Lanza
- On DVD: Not commercially available
Ten More Golden Age Biker Movie Favorites
- Hell’s Angels ‘69 (1969)
- Motorcycle Gang (1957)
- Chrome and Hot Leather (1971)
- Naked Angels (1969)
- Cycle Savages (1970)
- The Hellcats (1967)
- Hell’s Belles (1970)
- The Rebel Rousers (1970)
- Nam’s Angels a.k.a. The Losers (1970)
- The Black Six (1974)