Many well-known filmmakers have incorporated cycling in their films over the years, including excellent documentaries about the Tour, Such as 1955’s ‘Pour un Maillot Jaune’ from Claude Lelouch, along with others from the likes of Jørgen Leth and Louis Malle. Cycling has also inspired a number of Hollywood films, such as 1979’s ‘Breaking Away’ from Peter Yates, which won an Oscar for screenwriter Steve Tesich. Tesich was obviously inspired by bicycles as he later penned ‘American Flyers’ starring a then relatively unknown Kevin Costner. It didn’t repeat the success that came with ‘Breaking Away’ but it still belongs in the history of cycling films. We’ve previously looked at some of the greatest bicycle scenes in cinema and now it’s time for those films where bicycles have played a big part throughout. The following list features a mix of nationalities, just like a modern pro-team. Not every film includes a professional cyclist as we’ve searched farther and wider to offer you some classic gems.
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica) 1948
It would be sacrilege to leave this movie out of a list of films about bicycles. This Italian neorealism masterpiece from Vittorio De Sica, set in post-war Rome, tells age story of unlucky Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) and son Bruno. Over a single day, they go in search of Antonio’s stolen bike, which he needs in order to work and fund his family. ‘Bicycle Thieves’ ranked No. 1 in Sight and Sound’s greatest movies poll in 1952 and remains a darling among both audiences and critics.
Jour de fête (Jacques Tati) 1949
The debut feature from director Jacques Tati follows the mishaps of Francois (Tati himself), a French rural postman.After drinking too much wine and after having watched a film about the U.S. postal service’s modern methods at the village fair, he decided to adopt some extreme measures in a bid to deliver the post faster. From that we see some slapstick-style hilarity, with one scene, in particular, seeing our protagonist having a hard time riding his bike while drunk, and another where he finds himself in a bike race and ended up in the river. Shot with Thomsoncolour, a pioneering colour process at the time, it was released in black and white. However, it has since been restored. A satire and comedy about our reliance on technology, a theme that the filmmaker would go on to explore again in his films ‘Mon oncle’ and ‘Playtime’.
Cyclists Special (1955)
A film about how British Railway can cater for cyclists, which can be found on a British Transport Films compilations DVD. Possibly among the first films to reference the cycling ‘bonk’ when a rider hasn’t consumed a sufficient amount of food this short film offers a guide to British bicycle touring. While GPS has rendered a map in the jersey pocket almost obsolete, the film manages to retain a degree of relevancy, especially for those who’ve taken their bike with them on a train in a bid to uncover the wonderful British countryside.