Boy and Bicycle (1965)
The first film from acclaimed filmmaker Ridley Scott featured his younger brother, the late Top Gun director, Tony Scott. Tony was a schoolboy playing truant so that he could cycle around Hartlepool. Through a stream of consciousness, he reveals his daily inner frustrations and thoughts of a teenage schoolboy. Ridley was studying photography at the Royal College of Art just and shot on a 16mm cine-camera. He also managed to secure John Barry to work on the score, as the composer was impressed with Ridley’s work.
Breaking Away (1979)
As cycling increased in popularity in the U.S., Hollywood was always going to produce a major film based around the sport. So along came Breaking Away, a coming-of-age story from Peter Yates about a group of friends in Bloomington, Indiana. One of the group is an Italophile and amateur cyclist Dave Stoller who has a passion for Italian cycling and even renamed the family dog Fellini. Students from Indiana University refer to the group of friends as ‘cutters’ due to the stonecutting history in Bloomington, and there are several heated encounters between the fiends and students, which culminates in a cycling showdown at the Little 500 race.
Belleville Rendez-vous (2003)
A vintage cabaret show by the Belleville triplets (some countries know them as the ‘Triplets of Belleville’) sets the tone for this animated French film from director Sylvain Chomet. The film tells the story of Champion, a boy who lives with his grandmother and who begins to realise his potential after being given a bicycle as a gift. A few years later, he has become something of a decent bike racer. His grandmother trains him, which includes a less-then-traditional leg message using egg whisks. When Champion is kidnapped by gangsters on his maiden tour, his grandmother and their Dif Bruni set off on a mission to rescue him. Chomet established a fantasy world with a unique animation style that pays tribute to Studio Ghibli’s anime films. The film also features also a nod to Jacques Tati (later brought to life by Chomet in the Illusionist).
The Flying Scotsman (2006)
In this British biopic, Jonny Lee Miller portrays Graeme Obree, the Scottish cyclist who was twice named World Champion in the 400m pursuit in the 1990s and is also a double holder of the World Hour Record. The film focuses on the cyclist’s fight with the establishment, which is represented in the film by a fictional cycling body called the World Cycling Federation (WCF). The heart of the fight was Obree’s desire to use ‘Old Faithful’: his innovative bike composed of washing machine parts. Like many of the great athletes, Obree is forced to confront his inner demons in the form of depression and mental illness, although the film doesn’t focus on this too much. Steven Berkoff plays the funny yet sinister Ernst Hagemann, head of the WCF. Brian Cox and Billy Boyd provide memorable supporting work.