With a plethora of movies about cycling, both documentaries and Hollywood blockbusters, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. So with so many to choose from, here are our favorite feature-length movies about roadies.
Breaking Away is the iconic cycling film. David (the characters in the movie only have first names) is unsure what do with his life after graduating from high school and becomes infatuated with bike racing and Italian culture after winning a Massi bike, which infuriates his father Ray, a used car salesman.
So, when an Italian pro racing team comes to town you know David is going to be in the race. Annoyed at David’s strength and gusto one of the Italian riders pulls a dodgy move and leaves him battered and broken physically and emotionally. After a brawl over a girl and some mistaken identity, David and his motley crew of friends are invited to participate in the Indiana University Little 500 race.
30 for 30: Slaying the Badger
As part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series of documentaries, Slaying The Badger is the story of American cyclist Greg LeMond and his rivalry with Bernard Hinault.
Based on Richard Moore’s book of the same name, the film looks back at the 1986 Tour de France, the first year it was televised live, where Hinault promised to help LeMond to his first Tour win in return for his support in the previous year’s Tour.
However, things didn’t quite go according to plan and an epic battle ensued — and remember, they’re riding for the same team.
Cycling films as a whole are pretty grim, it’s all about pain, suffering, a bit of triumph and lots of tragedy, which is why Tim Burton’s cult classic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure snags a spot on our list.
Pee-wee Herman, a young-at-heart man-child goes on his first big adventure when his beloved bicycle is stolen after his arch nemesis Francis Buxton pays for it to be knicked and destroyed. After a psychic tells Pee-wee his bike is at the Alamo, he embarks on an epic cross-country adventure in search of his beloved bicycle.
The Flying Scotsman
The Flying Scotsman trailer
The Flying Scotsman is a British drama depicting Graeme Obree and his love/hate affair with the hour record.
The film covers the period in which Obree takes, loses and then retakes the record, and portrays his struggle with depression as well as the impact he had on track cycling, not only as a rider but also on equipment rules.
A few years back Lachlan and Angus (Gus) Moreton set a massive challenge for themselves to ride from their childhood home in Port Macquarie to Uluru (Ayers Rock), and at the time Lachlan was riding for Garmin-Sharp and Gus had only been riding for a month following a long hiatus.
The journey saw them ride nearly 2,500km in 12 days to one of the most remote parts of Australia and is as much about the people they met along the way as it is about the bike.
Not to be confused with the AMC TV show about the construction of the transcontinental railroad, Hell On Wheels is a documentary that profiles the Tour de France’s 100th anniversary in 2003 from the perspective of Erik Zabel and Team Telekom.
The doco follows the team through the major ups and extreme lows that riders experience during the race, as well as what happens when the riders aren’t racing.
This is a heavy one and it’s got subtitles too so don’t go in expecting an upbeat, easy viewing film. But it’s definitely worth a watch.
Road to Roubaix
Road to Roubaix trailer
For this writer, Paris Roubaix is the highlight of the cycling season. The chaos, the dirt, the panache and luck it takes just to survive the race makes for sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
Road To Roubaix is an exciting documentary that tells the stories of the riders, fans and mechanics from the one-day epic every year. Told in their own words, the film features the 2007 race combined with behind the scenes footage and a mix of archival and rare historic footage.
Because we love Roubaix so much it shouldn’t be a surprise to see another film about the race make our list of favorites.
While Road to Roubaix covers the contemporary race, A Sunday in Helltakes us back to the 1976 edition, which featured the likes of Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens and Francesco Moser.
The film tells the story of the race through the eyes of team directors, spectators, mechanics and even a group of protesters who managed to stop the race for a short period of time.
American Flyers trailer
In this Kevin Costner classic, sports physician Marcus Sommers (Costner) persuades his younger brother David Grant to train with him for a three-day bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains, known as “The Hell of the West” — a real bike race in Colorado now under the moniker the Superior Morgul Classic.
Marcus doesn’t tell David that he has a brain aneurysm, which could render him paralyzed or dead at any given moment, and convinces David to join him on a cross-country trip to Colorado for the race. Marcus’s secret inevitably catches up with him leaving David with a moral dilemma.
The Armstrong Lie
The Armstrong Lie trailer
When director Alex Gibney set out to make The Road Back, a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s comeback after four years of retirement, he had no idea what he was getting into.
After abandoning the film in 2012 following Armstrong’s doping investigation and lifetime ban, Gibney reworked and revived the project, opening the film with the American’s appearance on Oprah.
The Armstrong Lie offers a surprisingly balanced portrayal of one of cycling’s biggest scandals and chronicles Armstrong’s rise and fall from grace.
Rising from Ashes
Rising from Ashes trailer
In 1994, Rwanda experienced a heinous genocide, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 innocent lives were lost and millions of children were left orphaned. Jump to 2006 and former pro Jacques Boyer moves to Rwanda to help a group of genocide survivors work to form a national cycling team.
The team is made up of orphaned children, left traumatised by the genocide a decade earlier, and over the course of the story both Boyer and the team “rise from the ashes” of their pasts with the help of their new achievements.
Belleville Rendez-Vous (The Triplets of Belleville)
Belleville Rendez-Vous (The Triplets of Belleville) trailer
From a young age, Madame Souza instils a love of cycling on to her grandson named Champion, and as a young man becomes a road racer with his grandmother acting as coach.
During a mountain stage in the Tour de France, Champion and two of his competitors are kidnapped by a group who want to use the threesome’s unique skills for nefarious purposes. With Champion’s overweight and loyal dog Bruno in tow, Madame Souza sets out to find Champion.
Their mission takes them overseas to the town of Belleville where Madame Souza and Bruno meet three elderly women, formerly the famous singing group The Triplets of Belleville, who help Madame Souza find her grandson. This animated French film is genuinely like nothing you’ve ever seen but is sure to put a smile on your face.
Tour de Pharmacy
Tour de Pharmacy trailer
Okay, it’s a stupid movie but I still enjoyed it. From the mind that brought you The Lonely Island and Hot Rod, Tour De Pharmacy lampoons cycling’s doping scandals and tells the story of the 1982 Tour de France — not the real one of course.
In the movie, the 1982 edition of the race is so rife with doping that all but five riders were disqualified. The remaining racers Marty Hass (Adam Samberg) Juju Peppi (Orlando Bloom), Slim Robinson (Daveed Diggs), Gistav Ditters (John Cena), and Adrian Baton (Freddie Highmore) battle it out.
There is a star studded cast with cameos from Mike Tyson, J.J. Abrams, Dolph Lundgren, Joe Buck, Maya Rudolf, Jeff Goldblum, and even Lance Armstrong of all people.
Don’t go in expecting high brow comedy, Tour de Pharmacy is packed full of wiener jokes, odd ball characters and a bit of full frontal male nudity, but if you can handle the shock factor it’s well worth you time.
What happens when a playwright embarks on a human guinea pig experiment to expose the the ineffectiveness of the anti-doping establishment used to test athletes? Well for Bryan Fogel it meant blowing the lid off a state sponsored doping program and one of the biggest scandals in sporting history.
Initially, Fogel set out to game the system by using PEDs to prep for the Haute Route under the guise, “I could get away with it, that would mean pretty much any athlete could do it and get away with it.”
Following an introduction to former doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Moscow’s anti-doping centre, he guides Fogel through its doping program and ends up exposing the Russian sponsored doping effort after he’s implicated by a 2015 report from WADA.
What starts as a personal experiment turns into an international controversy involving unexplained death, dirty urine and one of the biggest doping operations in history.
Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert
Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert trailer
Born on the same day as Eddy Merckx, Belgian cyclist Ghislain Lambert always wanted to be a champion, but doesn’t quite have the legs for it.
Set in the 1970s, the producers have nailed the Merckx era (the film was made in 2001) with classic bikes, team cars and wool jerseys.
The film follows Lambert though his time on the Magicreme Maurice Focodel team. With dreams of glory, Lambert ends up as the ‘water carrier’, but with the help of his team mate Riccardo, he experiments with doping and ends up using the incorrect dose.
After falling out of favour with the team, sometime later Lambert is selected for the Tour de France where he becomes the darling of the public as the Lanterne Rouge.
Chock full of cultural references and some cringy doping jokes, the film can feel a bit slapstick with plenty of riders flying over the bars into ditches.
The movie is only available in French, but an English subtitled version is readily available.
All for One
All for One trailer
This documentary film follows the GreenEdge team, Australia’s first ProTour cycling team, from the first training camps through to its extraordinary success in 2016.
Highlights include the best of the ‘Back Stage Pass’ behind the scenes episodes (also produced by Dan Jones), showing off the Aussie ‘larrikin’ spirit for which the team is built around.
All For One also delves into the stories of individual riders on the team, through the highs and lows in their careers, and hones in on a few key riders and their relationships.
The film doesn’t ask the confrontational questions and the gaps are apparent, but All For One makes a nice change by portraying cycling in a positive light — a sharp contrast from many of the dark and controversial corners of professional cycling.