Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as a bicycle can leave such a mark when it comes to movies. Okay, so maybe I’m stretching things a bit but you get where I’m going. It’s actually good filmmakers who make these things stick with us. Today we are looking at five instances where filmmakers have used bicycles in ways movie fans should appreciate. With so many bicycle scenes I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five bicycle scenes are certainly phenomenal.
#5 – “Napoleon Dynamite”
Some of you may be tempted to immediately discredit this list as hogwash after seeing this choice. Well, it probably is, but I still stand by the hilarious bicycle scene in the 2004 comedy “Napoleon Dynamite”. You know the one. Pedro shows off his Sledgehammer (complete with pegs and shocks) by taking it off a “sweet jump”. Of course Napoleon has to try. For those who haven’t seen it, let’s just say it’s not the most graceful thing. But it sure is funny.
#4 – “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
Here’s a scene that should instantly come to many minds. Paul Newman riding around with Katharine Ross sitting on the front of his bike while B.J. Thomas sings “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. It’s really quite lovely despite being whimsical and a little corny. But that’s really Newman riding through an apple orchard, weaving through cows, and doing bike tricks around a barn (well, not the final trick). It’s such an odd but charming sequence.
#3 – “A Thousand Clowns”
This bicycle scene comes from a seemingly forgotten 1965 Oscar-nominated movie starring Jason Robards. “A Thousand Clowns” and its story of a purposeless nonconformist isn’t the most cuddly film but there is a wonderful bicycle scene featuring Robards and Barbara Harris. The two bike through different New York City locations while the music strangely shifts between “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby”. It’s a beautifully shot sequence.
#2 – “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”
Let’s be serious, how can it not be on the list, right? The bicycle getaway is one of my favorite scenes from “E.T.” and easily one of the best bike scenes ever shot. With E.T. in his basket, Elliott and friends head for the forest with police and federal agents hot on the heels. They race through a housing development and just as they’re about to be nabbed, off they fly into the sunset. It features one of the most iconic movie shots from the 80s. The effects may not hold up that well but it’s still just as thrilling as when I first saw it in 1982.
#1 – “Bicycle Thieves”
This pick isn’t as flashy. It isn’t action-packed. It’s effect is based completely on the genuine emotional punch it delivers. In De Sica’s classic a man struggling to provide for his family has his bicycle stolen (a requirement for his new job). He sets out with his young son to find it. No bike, no job. SPOILER! The film ends with a heart-crushing scene. After failing to find his bicycle and with little hope, the father and son stand outside a crowded sports arena – bicycles everywhere. I’ll just say the internal conflict is excruciating and the decision he eventually makes cuts deep.
So those are my choices for the best bicycle scenes. Agree or disagree with my picks? What would have made your list? Please let me know in the comments section below.