#330 So, what is a motorcycle film?

Toronto Motorcycle Film Fest raises questions.

The inaugural Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival is taking submissions for the 2017 event, which will be held September 29-30. The festival aims to bring together motorcycle docs and fictional films from around the world with criteria to submit being that the film either features motorcycles or motorcycle culture. Several awards will presented including Best Short Film, Best Feature and People’s Choice—the equivalent show ‘n’ shine voting. 

The definition of a “motorcycle film” seems quite broad and invites speculation. Arguably the most famous motorcycle scene of all time, Steve McQueen’s iconic jump to freedom in The Great Escape takes place in what is most certainly not a motorcycle movie yet is forever linked to motorcycling. 

Steve McQueen’s other effort, On Any Given Sunday is, for many riders, the quintessential motorcycle movie yet falls much lower in popular awareness. Then there are classics like Easyrider that people just know. 

But what about others like Electra Glide in Blue, The Wild One or the recent documentary Why We Ride? Absolutely motorcycle movies. 

While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Fat Boy hijinks in Terminator2 arguably did more for motorcycle sales in the past 20 years than any form of marketing, it’s still not a motorcycle movie. 

With Long Way Round Ewan McGregor popularized the current adventure-touring segment—and it absolutely is a motorcycle film. 

The Canadian drama One Week is absolutely a motorcycle movie. But can we consider not-so-classic efforts with far more popular awareness such as Ghostrider and Wild Hogs to be motorcycle films? And where do all those B-grade flicks from the 1960s fall? What about Harley-Davidson and the Marlboro Man? 

I enjoy a motorcycle turning up in a movie because it just doesn’t happen all that often. And I have to stand by the assertion that the current actor who has done more for motorcycles in movies without making a motorcycle movie is Tom Cruise because he has consistently ridden motorcycles in many of his films, including the iconic scene of a helmetless Cruise in Ray Bans chasing a jet fighter in Top Gun or the Triumph-mounted Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible II. There were also motorcycles in MI5, Oblivion, Knight and Day and Edge of Tomorrow and these are just the more recent ones. Keep it up Tom; it is good to see a motorcycle in a movie—except perhaps Daddy’s Home because the scene with the Indian motorcycle defied all common sense—and physics. As noted in ‘Circuit’ this issue, Honda’s NM4 appears in this spring’s Ghost in the Shell although it won’t be the main attraction in the film—that would be Scarlett Johansson.

Typically a motorcycle involves an action sequence so perhaps you need to watch the right kind of movie. Jason Bourne escapes assassins (a couple of times) on motorcycles, the Ninja Turtles evade the bad guys riding motorcycles, and Matrix characters jump aboard a Ducati. However, I have the feeling they won’t be the fare at the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival as it would be difficult to classify any of them as motorcycle movies. 

But there are films like The Motorcycle Diaries and The World’s Fastest Indian that delve deeply into the world of two wheels and Why We Ride that tries its best to explain. 

If you have your Super 8 handy and a few months to spare start filming your own motorcycle movie as submissions for the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival close June 30. You can decide what make a motorcycle movie. 

Lights, camera, rolling.