Home > News

A look at some of the best cycling-related movies, documentaries of the 2010s

Tonight, the entertainment world gathers to recognize the top movies of the last year, as the 88th Academy Awards get underway. So we decided to recognize some of our favourite bike movies.

A still from the 2010 documentary "Ride the Divide."
A still from the 2010 documentary “Ride the Divide.”

Tonight, the entertainment world gathers to recognize the top movies of the last year, as the 88th Academy Awards get underway in Los Angeles, California. Films from Mad Max to Bridge of Spies to The Martian are in contention for the gilded honour of Best Picture, while some of the world’s most talented editors, directors, costume designers and makeup artists will also be in attendance, hoping for the same in their respective fields.

It’s a big day, for sure. But as is a usual refrain among people whose passions are so deep and all-consuming as cyclists, to the point that those passions inform entertainment choices, the same question always comes circling back:

Where are all the bike movies?

In 2016, of course, that question won’t be as pressing for some as it’s been before. This spring, The Program, a biopic on the life and career of Lance Armstrong that starts with his first World Tours and continues through to his notorious doping scandal, will be released for general audiences. Judging from the trailer, the sweeping, breathtaking shots of Armstrong and his squad climbing and descending the mountains of Europe might put the movie in the running for a nomination or two.

There are, however, many more films about cycling that have been on everything from the silver screen to Netflix recently. They just aren’t often the focus of the Academy Awards. Here’s a look at a few titles you may recognize from the past few years:

Ride the Divide (2010)

If you simply can’t wait for the trails in your community to be perfect for cross country riding—assuming they aren’t already—this might be a cruel film to offer, but we will anyway. Ride the Divide is the chronicle of a group of riders who undertake what, in the mountain bike world, is one of the toughest journeys of them all: a 2,700-kilometre haul along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. As a documentary, the film is no-holds-barred in portraying the hurdles—physical, personal and psychological—involved in achieving such a feat. As a viewing experience, meanwhile, it might inspire you to try it yourself.

Allez, Eddy (2012)

Released in 2012, this Belgian film, set in the 1970s, tells the story of Freddy Demul. A talented and enthusiastic road racer, his efforts to get deeper into his chosen sport are forbidden by his parents, who hold him back due to some, uh, rather unpleasant health circumstances. Even winning a trip to Roubaix to see the great Eddy Merckx compete is thwarted, but from humble circumstances, a series of events finds the rider’s talent increasingly recognized. Where he ends up, despite those health issues, makes this a pretty inspiring story for riders.

Wadjda (2012)

When it comes to films that celebrate cycling’s capacity for liberating the human spirit—arguably its best quality—it’s hard to beat Wadjda, a 2012 Saudi Arabian and German film. The movie tells the story of a young girl living in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, who dreams of owning a particular bike she passes each morning on the way to school. In a place where, for girls, cycling is frowned upon, how she pursues that dream makes the Wadjda‘s narrative nothing short of inspiring. Definitely a must-see.

Premium Rush (2012)

Also a film from 2012, Premium Rush is a film you may have seen—or at least heard of—while you scanned Netflix at one time or another. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a law student-turned-bike messenger who, as always seems to happen in New York City, finds himself on the wrong end of the law. Or, more specifically, the wrong end of one particular cop’s temper. Cycling is sometimes relegated to the back burner of this story, but it’s still a heart-stopper for any urban who’s entertained the city’s worst of worst-case scenarios.

A Winter of Cyclists (2013)

Considering the time of year, this film, independently shot by filmmaker Mike Pendergrast, follows a squad of Colorado riders as they attempt to meet a 52 bike commuting challenge in the icy, forbidding dead of winter. From October to March, they brave the undertaking, known as “The Icy Bike Winter Commuting Challenge,” during worst months of the year for a place already known for its harsh winters. In celebrating the winter cycling community and characterizing the diverse, inspiring ways people stay in the saddle with the weather working against them, this is a great one.

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

For much of the cycling world, the death of Marco “Il Pirata” Pantani, despite being nearly twelve years ago, is still a very fresh memory. The disputed controversy that haunted the end of his career aside, when he was expelled from the 1999 Giro d’Italia, Pantani is remembered for an aggressive, powerful style that saw the Italian rider celebrated as one of the world’s best climbers. Rather than focusing on the darkness of Pantani’s last years, this film, released in 2014, recalls much of the glory that made him an icon of his era in pro cycling. A sad movie, ultimately, but a stirring portrait of a legend.