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The Motorcycle Diaries turns 15

Published: 27 August 2019

Updated: 27 August 2019

The Motorcycle Diaries was first shown in the UK 15 years ago today. The perfect excuse to rewatch?

This coming-of-age road movie documents the journey taken by 23-year-old medical student, Ernesto Guevara (who went on to be known as Che) across Latin America.

The film is based on the travel diary Ernesto kept during his 14,000km journey, from Argentina through Chile, Peru, and Colombia to Venezuela and documents some of the experiences which led him on the path towards his future as Marxist revolutionary.

More from MCN


More motorbike films on MCN...

On Any Sunday

Not only was it nominated for a 1972 Academy Award for best documentary, but On Any Sunday was also backed by Steve McQueen - the coolest man ever to have graced Planet Earth. 

Still considered the most important motorcycle documentary ever produced, the film’s impact popularised BMX biking across the world. Featuring old-school desires from Triumph, Husqvarna, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, this is compulsory viewing for any bike enthusiast.

Here are some other iconic motorbike films and moments two-wheelers have made it onto the silver screen.


Top Gun

Although Top Gun is principally about flying rather than riding, one very famous scene featuring a Kawasaki GPz900 left bikers around the world longing for a Ninja. Now, a new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick has been released, featuring a pair of Kawasaki Ninjas from either end of the 34 years since the original film was released.

Tom Cruise’s character pulling a cover off a Kawasaki GPz900R (called a Ninja in other markets) just like the one he rode over three decades ago, before a second shot shows him riding a modern Ninja H2.

We saw social posts back in 2018 that showed the Hollywood A-lister riding the H2 on set, but the new trailer confirms the bike’s inclusion in the film.

Cruise himself has a long history of riding motorbikes, famously riding a range of bikes including a Triumph Speed Triple and BMW R nineT Scrambler in various Mission: Impossible instalments and a Ducati Hypermotard in Knight and Day.

Top Gun: Maverick is set to arrive in cinemas in summer 2020.


Easy Rider

Not only is Easy Rider a great motorbike movie, it’s also a bona fide slice of Americana that explores the drug-taking, commune-residing hippy counterculture of the 1960s.

With a top-notch cast - Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson - and a moral message for us all to absorb, very few films can change your perception on life. However, this is one of them.


Restless Natives

If Easy Rider is a bit too obvious, why not try something a little less well-known from Scotland? For those (we assume, the majority of you) who haven’t yet enjoyed 1985’s Restless Natives, prepare yourself for some ‘Local Hero’ style charm.

Filmed in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands, this story follows two teenagers who make a living as modern highwaymen on their Suzuki GP125 - becoming local folk heroes and a tourist attraction along the way.

It sounds silly on paper, but stick with it - Restless Natives is well worth a watch, especially with a soundtrack by Big Country and cameos by Mel Smith, Ned Beatty and Bernard Hill.


The World’s Fastest Indian

Having already played Donald Campbell in the BBC film Across The Lake, it was only a matter of time before speed-junkie Anthony Hopkins brought legendary bike racer Burt Munro back to life for the silver screen. Not every aspect is historically accurate, but don’t let that stop you enjoying the incredible true story.  

Unlike Across The Lake, this feel-good heart warmer is easily obtainable through Amazon. And if you haven’t yet seen it, we would heartily recommend it.  


On Any Sunday - The Next Chapter

Four decades after the original documentary, On Any Sunday - The Next Chapter shows that the passion for riding motorcycles is as strong as it ever was. Directed by Dana Brown, this new film captures just what motorcycling means to people all over the globe.

The film is an exploration into the pursuit of excitement, passion and life in the world of motorcycle riding. If this doesn't scratch that two-wheeled itch over Christmas, we don't know what will.


Hitting the Apex

From Mark Neale, the director of Faster and Fastest, Hitting the Apex tells the inside story of six of the most talented motorcycle riders in the MotoGP paddock as they battle against each other for the ultimate prize.

Brad Pitt narrates the stories of each rider, as we follow them through the exhilarating highs of winning a MotoGP race, and the crushing lows that this sport can deliver.


TT - Closer to the Edge

If you’ve ever wondered what could possibly motivate a rider to take part in the Isle of Man TT, then Closer to the Edge is the film for you. Featuring behind-the-scenes access to some of the biggest names in road racing, including Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins and Ian Hutchinson.


Torque

Suspend belief for 84 minutes and forget about the laws of physics with this film from the producer of The Fast and the Furious which centres around underground motorcycle racers.

You will also find Torque in MCN’s list of movie mistakes: when the films get motorbikes wrong as it features a host of gravity-defying stunts and motorcycling impossibilities. It’s just a bit of fun though…

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