The title of this blog post also happens to be one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. Because it’s said by Alexandra Paul when she finds out that Kevin Costner has a cerebral aneurysm in the movie American Flyers. It’s always struck me as an odd and funny thing to say in such a situation. You might say “Why is Eric sharing this?” Well, because you see…I have a dirty little secret. I am a huge fan of bicycle racing.
I grew up in Fitchburg which annually held the Longsjo Classic Cycling Race – little known fact – it’s the second oldest bike race in the United States. Every year as a kid I remember getting excited to go see the racers fly at superhuman speed through the downtown of Fitchburg. I even saw Lance Armstrong ride and win the race pre-cancer in 1992. The speed, the crashes…I was hooked for life.
July brought the Tour de France – held annually where all the world’s most talented cyclists fall on France for a month long bicycle race. As a kid I didn’t have the internet or a million television channels (I know I sound like Statler from the Muppets) I would eagerly anticipate the Wide World of Sports coverage every Sunday for 1 hour recapping everything that happened over the course of the previous week. Now of course you can get LIVE coverage on the Versus Network everyday or can listen to any number of live feeds online.
So to curb my thirst for cycling, I would watch movies…and there have been some good ones…and I admit a few bad ones too. So here without further ado are my favorites of all time in alphabetical order:
- American Flyers (1985) ◊◊◊◊◊
Kevin Costner & David Grant play brothers estranged after their fathers death. Costner plays a bike racer that convinces Grant to compete with him in a cycling race called The Hell of the West to repair their relationship. Great bike racing footage & great quotes.
- Bicycle Thief (1948) ◊◊◊◊◊◊
Also known as Ladri di Biciclette – This was directed by Vittorio De Sica. It’s a touching story with a moving portrait of after-war life in Italy. A workman spends a whole day looking in vain in the streets of Rome for the bicycle someone has stolen from him. Truly a masterpiece.
- Breaking Away (1979) ◊◊◊◊◊
Coming of age film about 4 friends try to break away from their townie, reputation while fighting with nearby college snobs. Stars a young Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Dennis Christopher. If you have not seen this, rent it right now. Seriously. Jump on your bicycle and ride to the rental store or get it on your NetFlix list because it’s that good.
- Quicksilver (1986) ◊◊◊◊◊
Kevin Bacon plays a yuppie who loses his job and becomes a bike courier in San Francisco. Also stars “Larry” Fishburne (before he became Laurence Fishburne and Louie Anderson (who does NOT ride a bike…just thought I would point that out). Add this to your 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon repertoire.
- Sunday in Hell (1976) ◊◊◊◊◊
Also known as Forårsdag i Helvede, En – Documentary filmmaker Jorgen Leth delivers an amazing view of Paris-Roubaix the one day stage race over cobblestones commonly referred to as the Hell of the North (not to be confused with the fictional Hell of the West in American Flyers). A masterpiece of cycling cinematography in a study of the dramatic battle that ensues.
- The Triplets of Belleville (2003) ◊◊◊◊◊
This animated feature, directed by Sylvain Chomet concerns a cyclist named Champion who enters the Tour de France and is kidnapped during the race. The woman who raised him, Madame Souza and her faithful dog set out to rescue him. There isn’t one word of dialogue spoken in the entire film yet the story is compelling and truly draws you in.
There have been others – honorable mentions go to fantastic documentaries like the Road to Paris, The Tour Baby and The Hard Road. All definitely worth checking out but I could go on forever on this subject.
So the what is the moral to this story? These movies and documentaries all have great cinematography – but what makes them great is their story. Every year when watching the Tour de France there is a cyclist who comes out of nowhere to surprise everyone usually on a single day or stage. He probably won’t win the overall title but for ONE DAY he is watched by millions cheering him on hoping he can stay clear of the engulfing peleton – made up of hundreds of riders on different teams all working together to chase him down. Most are caught in the final kilometers before the finish but once in a while he succeeds in escaping. The classic underdog story we all enjoy cheering for. So check these movies out when you get a chance and vive le tour!