Car chases get all the attention when it comes to movies, but motorcycles have also provided a fair number of thrilling chases on the silver screen. While not as common as car chases, motorcycles still manage to pop-up in some pretty effective chases. In fact, one could make a credible argument that some of the best chases and stunts every performed in movies have involved motorcycles rather than cars. These aren’t necessarily biker films, but rather movies that feature one hell of a motorcycle chase scene in them. Here’s a list of the 10 best motorcycle chase scenes in a movie:
10. Skyfall (2012)
The opening action sequence in any James Bond movie is important. Not only does it set the tone for the movie, but it also provides a real thrill for audiences who are always eager to see how the producers of the iconic film series will outdo themselves and top previous opening scenes. The 2012 James Bond flick Skyfall, which marked the 50th anniversary of the franchise, does not disappoint. It features an exciting motorcycle chase scene across the rooftops of Istanbul, Turkey. In the scene, James Bond (Daniel Craig) jumps across roofs, drives through windows, races up staircases and eventually tries to out run a speeding train. The chase and the stunt work involved are top notch and earn it a spot on this list. This motorcycle chase certainly stands as the best opening sequence of the Daniel Craig era James Bond movies.
9. Black Rain (1989)
This underrated Michael Douglas film from the late 1980s (the actor’s first after Fatal Attraction) has been forgotten to a degree. That’s a shame because the film, directed by Ridley Scott, is a decent action movie and features not one but two really well executed motorcycle chase scenes. The first is at the start of the movie, and the other is at the end. The opening chase involves an illegal street race under the bridges of New York City, as Michael Douglas competes against another motorcyclist for a cash prize. The race is brief but exciting, and is important in shaping Douglas’ character for the rest of the film. The second motorcycle chase occurs at the end of the movie and takes place in Osaka, Japan. Michael Douglas races against the film’s main villain, Sato, in a thrilling dirt bike chase along the slopes of a vineyard. Both races are masterfully shot by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) and serve as the action focal point of the movie. Worth watching, for sure.
8. The Dark Knight (2008)
It’s not the longest motorcycle chase in movie history, but it is pretty thrilling when we see Batman take to a motorcycle in hot pursuit of the Joker in the 2008 movie The Dark Knight. The sequel to Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan features a brief but incredible motorcycle chase through the streets of Gotham City. First of all, the motorcycle that Batman uses, which many fans of the film refer to as a “Bat Pod” is an awesome looking machine. That it ejects from the front end of the Batmobile (known as a “Tumbler”) makes it that much cooler. Appearing as a heavily armed motorbike, the Bat Pod carries Batman swiftly through the city streets as he tries to catch the Joker who is shooting a bazooka at things from an armored car. Batman’s motorcycle uses a wheel-mounted cannon to blow obstacles out of the way, as well as a grappling hook to help the motorcycle turn corners. In the end, Batman ends up playing chicken with the Joker on the motorcycle. Awesome!
7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The third installment in the original Indiana Jones trilogy features a fantastic motorcycle chase scene complete with a vintage World War II era motorcycle, sidecar, and plenty of Nazi soldiers in hot pursuit. In the scene, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) must skillfully drive a motorcycle with his father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery), seated in a sidecar in order to escape a squadron of Nazi soldiers who are on their trail. The chase scene through the French countryside is both exciting and funny, and it features some spectacular stunt work. Interestingly, this was the first time that the Indiana Jones movies featured a true motorcycle chase scene, and the first time we saw Indy on a motorcycle. But it is worth the wait. Steven Spielberg directs the scene for maximum thrills and laughs, and he gets the most out of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as a bickering father and son. One of the best reasons to see this movie is the motorcycle chase.
6. Tron (1982)
The light cycles featured in Tron count as motorcycles, and we’re adding the chase scene from that iconic movie to this list. And yeah, we’re going original 1982 Tron here. Not 2010’s Tron Legacy, which was a wee bit overhyped for our liking. When audiences first saw the light cycle chase in Tron back in the early 1980s, it literally blew minds. (Ka-boom). People had never seen anything like it and it move movie special effects a quantum leap forward. Plus, seeing the light cycles speed toward each other only to make sharp hairpin turns and narrowly avoid hitting one another was super exciting. As digital motorcycles go, you could not do better than the chase scene in this movie. It remains a high water mark of movie motorcycle chases and continues to impress to this day, even if the special effects now look (slightly) dated.
5. Knight and Day (2010)
This action comedy film was somewhat vilified when released in 2010. Star Tom Cruise was still suffering negative publicity from his Oprah couch jumping incident, and that’s too bad because the movie features a really kick ass motorcycle chase scene through the streets of Spain. The chase is made more interesting by the sexy way in which co-star Cameron Diaz reverse straddles Tom Cruise and unloads a gun on the bad guys chasing them down in cars. The whole scene is filmed at maximum speed and contains a healthy sense of danger throughout. There is even a section of the chase that takes place during the running of the bulls, and has some impressive CGI work. The motorcycle chase serves as the center of this movie and is really the best reason to see it. The playful interaction between Cruise and Diaz helps too.
4. The Great Escape (1963)
Still one of the best motorcycle chases ever committed to celluloid is the one at the end of the 1963 movie The Great Escape. Actor Steve McQueen (in peak form) uses a motorcycle to escape the prisoner of war camp where he was being held and the outrun his Nazi captors. The chase over the hilly and rugged terrain of Europe is exciting. But the real thrill is when Steve McQueen jumps a barbed wire fence on the motorcycle at the end of the extended chase. That stunt left audience’s jaws on the floor of the movie theater back in 1963, and it is still an impressive stunt when seen today. Even more impressive are the reports that Steve McQueen did his own motorcycle riding and stunts in the scene – including jumping the fence. Wow!
3. Mission Impossible II (2000)
Directed by action auteur John Woo, the 2000 movie Mission Impossible II features one of the most unique and stylish motorcycle chases ever filmed. It shows the motorcycles moving in slow motion and passing each other with almost balletic precision. It is really interesting to watch. Swirling and twirling in dust and slow motion gives the motorcycle chase scene an otherworldly quality. Of course, it is still an action movie, so John Woo breaks out of the slow motion several times to show us the crazy speeds at which the bikes are traveling and give the audience butterflies in their stomachs. But it is the use of slow motion that really sets this motorcycle chase apart and makes it special. Definitely one of John Woos more inspired action sequences.
2. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Say what you want about the overall quality of the 2003 sequel The Matrix Reloaded, but this movie boasts some kick ass motorcycle scenes. The opening shot where Trinity (actress Carrie-Anne Moss) drives a motorcycle off a skyscraper is exciting enough. But the motorcycle chase along the highway in the middle of the movie is a real eye popper. Set to throbbing techno music, the chase along a crowded highway sees Trinity and the Key Master using a motorcycle to escape the Matrix — dodging and weaving through traffic at death defying speeds as they go. Add in some automatic weapons, a samurai sword and a flying Neo (Keanu Reeves) and you’ve got the makings of a classic motorcycle chase scene. Arguably the very best action sequence in the entire Matrix trilogy.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Can anyone forget the motorcycle chase from Terminator 2: Judgment Day? From the moment the transport truck crashes off the bridge to the ensuing chase through the Los Angeles aqueducts, the motorcycle scene in T2 is nothing short of spectacular. It features John Connor (Edward Furlong) on a small dirt bike and the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) on a huge Harley Davidson being chased through the narrow and solid concrete aqueducts by the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in a semi-truck. What makes this chase scene so effective is the camera work used in it, as well as the editing. The truck and motorcycles seem so close to one another that they almost touch at certain points. The dirt bike being ridden by John Connor falls underneath the truck’s wheels. It is exciting, scary and unforgettable. And it ranks number one on this list.