Let’s face it, Marlon Brando was the shit up until his last great film Apocalypse Now. The man had an amazing run in film and was praised by some of the greatest in the industry, including Martin Scorsese and Jack Nicholson, who once said: “When Marlon dies, everybody moves up one.” The classics he might most be respected for include A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and, the most memorable one, The Godfather.
Marlon Brando is also considered to be the first actor to star in a motorcycle gang movie. In 1953, The Wild One (which costarred Lee Marvin) started a string of low-budget and puerile films centering around motorcycles that still amass a cult following to this day. The outlaw biker film that really sparked the ignition in this genre, however, was The Wild Angels in 1966; it starred Peter Fonda and was the first film to affiliate him with Harley Davidson.
“We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride. And we want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man. And we want to get loaded. And we want to have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time. We’re gonna have a party!” – Peter Fonda, The Wild Angels
While the ’60s fueled the genre and saw its last cult classic, Easy Rider (1969), the ’70s started to stall in pace with filmmakers turning to horror hybrids like Satan’s Sadists (1969), Werewolves on Wheels (1971), Psychomania (1973), and Blood Freak (1972) to name a few. Another film with a slight change in movement that shouldn’t be avoided that has a motorcycle gang in it, but is also considered a blaxploitation, is The Black Six (1974). Undoubtedly these two decades are the grandfathers of outlaw biker films and still remain the bookmark eras on the map.
Although the ’80s reached its apex of interest in the genre with the Australian ozploitation classic Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), filmmakers continued to focus on sci-fi themes or films set in post-apocalyptic worlds. Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982) and Megaforce (1982) are great examples that display these concepts with minimal budget. In the late ’80s, biker films that were once too brutal for most mainstream movie goers with tons of controversy teaming along with them, turned into pure cheese and horror comedies like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989).
Quentin Tarantino and director Larry Bishop (who was an actor in the early biker films), along with Dennis Hopper (who starred in 1969’s Easy Rider), made a small comeback for the genre with Hell Ride in 2008. The film paid homage to outlaw biker films from the ’60s, but in general it received poor reviews.
In my late night trolling finds, I found a couple of biker film trailers that should be on your list of films to see, that is, if you think you can enjoy this genre. They’re wild, outrageous, and violent (our favorite part).
Check ’em out below and let us know your thoughts about them in the comment section.