CYCLE SAVAGES: 10 Classic Biker Gang Films

The Biker gang genre is easily one of the most furious of all the types in cinema that’ve been created throughout the years. The main reason these films were so much fun was because of their anti-authoritative themes and freewheeling approach to storytelling. They were in effect modern Westerns with the biker gangs replacing the traditional outlaws and riding choppers instead of horses. When these groups of cycle savages pulled into town or roared down the highways you knew things were going to get exciting fast. For our latest list we’ve chosen 10 our favorites from the 1950’s right up to the 2000’s. Whenever you need a break from the more artistic side of cinema you can’t go wrong with this collection of wild low budget gems that will rev up your adrenaline and give you that much needed jolt of motorcycle movie madness!

The Wild One (1953, Dir: Laszlo Benedek) – This Black and White classic which starred the late great Marlon Brando is the film which set up the concept of the biker gang genre that would emerge a decade or so later. In the film Brando plays Johnny Strabler, the silent but deadly leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. Johnny and his band of nomadic motorized punks stop in the small quiet town of Wrightsville where they turn the place upside down and practically take it over. It is simply a 20th century version of the band of outlaws riding into a Wild West town. While there he meets a local girl named Kathie (Mary Murphy) who works in a diner and the two have a stormy but brief love affair. Look for fun cameos from future stars Lee Marvin and Timothy Carey. This is the movie that made Brando a pop culture star and you could see the influence he had on the many rebels that would follow such as James Dean and Elvis.

The Wild Angels (1966, Dir: Roger Corman) – If The Wild One was the film that gave birth to the biker gang genre, this 1966 production was the spark that ignited the fire to the massive wave of biker films that would come out in the late 60s and 70s. Peter Fonda plays Heavenly Blues, the head of the Venice California chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Blues, his best friend The Loser (Bruce Dern) and the other members confront a group of Mexicans for stealing one of their bikes. The two factions get in a rumble after which the cops chase The Loser (who takes off on one of their bikes) and end up shooting him. This leads Blues, his faithful girlfriend Mike (Nancy Sinatra) and The Losers’ old lady Gaysh (Diane Ladd) to set up a plan to bust Loser out of the hospital before he’s thrown in jail by the pigs. This film was particularly groundbreaking in its depiction of the Vietnam era anti-establishment attitudes of the day. It also featured a supercool fuzzed out rock and roll score by Davie Allan and the Arrows. FULL REVIEW

The Peace Killers (1971, Dir: Douglas Schwartz) – This is one of the best examples of the peace and love generation coming up against the anarchic Manson-esque start of the 70s. An ex biker mama Kristy (Jess Walton) is kidnapped by her old boyfriend Rebel (Clint Ritchie), a sadistic brute who runs the Death Row cycle gang. Luckily she is rescued by a rival biker gang led by a crazy eyed woman called “The Black Widow” (Lavelle Roby) and brought back to her current lover Alex who is a complete Jesus wannabe. When Rebel discovers Kristy is hiding out at a commune in the country, an all out biker-hippie war begins with Kristy her brother and Alex’s followers/Black Widow’s group on one side and Rebel’s gang on the other. It’s a highly explosive, unique B-movie classic that packs a punch! FULL REVIEW

Satan’s Sadists (1969, Dir: Al Adamson) – The idea behind most biker gang movies is to show a disdain for authority and for anarchy to reign, well this Al Adamson film is one of the prime examples of that concept. Russ Tamblyn stars as “Anchor” the head of the “Satans” biker club that roams the Southwest USA. He and his fellow sadists cause problems for anyone that get in their way. The film begins with the gang killing a couple then stopping at a diner in a small town where Anchor shoots a cop and his wife point blank after delivering a memorable monologue about his hate for police. Things just get crazier from that point on and the gang begins to self destruct because of him. Tamblyn gives an outstanding performance as the wreckless leader with no moral conscience.

Stone (1974, Dir: Sandy Harbutt) – This 1974 gem is essentially the only one of its kind. The story focuses on a gang who are being assassinated one by one. Enter an undercover cop named Stone (Ken Shorter) who is sent to find out who is behind the killings. Stone undergoes a life changing experience as he spends time with the gang and gets closer with the members. A main aspect that set this movie apart from the American movies is the actual bikes the gang ride, instead of Harley choppers, they’ve got Kawasaki 900s. The film is particularly special because it was able to capture a certain period in Aussie biker culture that was never seen again. It remains a loved cult classic along with other Ozploitation films of its era like Mad Max. FULL REVIEW

Hell’s Angels ’69 (1969, Dir: Lee Madden) – Two wealthy playboys (and half brothers) Chuck (Tom Stern) and Wes (Jeremy Slate) plan to rob a casino in Las Vegas and disguise themselves as biker gang members to do it. The only thing they have to accomplish beforehand is to join up with the infamous Hell’s Angels, and gain the trust of their leader Sonny Barger as a cover. After some wild confrontations the two are able to become friends with Sonny’s gang and even hook up with one of their mamas in the process. Their big caper seems to go off without a hitch but when Sonny and the gang later discover they’ve been duped by their new friends, a roaring rampage of revenge begins! FULL REVIEW

Werewolves on Wheels (1971, Dir: Michel Levesque) – Biker films often crossed over into different subgenres. This film’s story brought a supernatural-horror aspect into the standard raucous road movie storyline. A gang called The Devil’s Advocates come across a strange cult led by the mysterious “One” (Severn Darden). During a secret sacrificial ceremony, the gang’s leader Adam (Stephen Oliver) and the others are unknowingly cursed with lycanthropy. After escaping One’s initial attack they hit the open road but one by one they transform into werewolves and leave a bloody trail of terror behind! FULL REVIEW

Beyond The Law (1992, Dir: Larry Ferguson) – Based on a true story, Charlie “Winning” Sheen plays Dan Saxon, a police officer that goes undercover into a biker gang to bust up a drug smuggling/gun running operation. While playing the role of a crazy outlaw biker under the fake name Sid, Saxon begins to lose his grip on who he really is. The gang’s deadly leader Blood (Michael Madsen) also puts him through several dangerous tests to make sure he is the real deal. While he’s caught up in the gang lifestyle, he manages to find love with a kindhearted photographer (Linda Fiorentino) and her son. Saxon succeeds in getting the evidence he needs to bring down the gang but his own personal demons stemming from a troubled childhood begin to consume him making his situation even more dire.

Stone Cold (1991, Dir: Craig Baxley) – NFL star turned actor Brian Bosworth plays Joe Huff a rebellious Alabama police officer who is blackmailed into going undercover to infiltrate a white supremecist biker gang known as “The Brotherhood”. The group have been making plans to assassinate the popular Governor and then free one of their members from jail. Huff takes on the persona of the mysterious “John Stone” and is put through the probationary measures that the psychotic leader Chains (Lance Henriksen) sets up for him. Huff also has to contend with “Ice” (William Forstyhe) Chains’ equally maniacal second in command, taking on every challenge to prove he’s not a fake. This is a perfect late night, ‘beer and pizza’ type movie that you can enjoy anytime. FULL REVIEW

Hell Ride (2008, Dir: Larry Bishop) – This mad as hell modern B-movie was written/directed by and starring Larry Bishop, a veteran of classic biker films such as The Savage Seven and Angel Unchained. The story follows “Pistolero” (Bishop) leader of the Victors, a Southern California outlaw gang as he faces a new battle with a long time rival, “The Deuce” (David Carradine) who had killed his girlfriend many years earlier. Pistolero’s fellow bikers/loyal pals “The Gent” (Michael Madsen) and “Comanche” (Eric Balfour) stick by his side through all the turmoil that comes along including betrayal from inside their own faction. It’s one “whopper of a chopper opera” that longtime fans of the genre will get a big kick out of. Writer-Director Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) served as Executive Producer. While it flopped at the box office, and suffers from probably another 20 minutes of missing footage to give some of the characters and stories more depth, it delivers the goods: hot chicks, booze, bikes, guns and cool lines. It is also one of Dennis Hopper’s last appearances as an actor.

To learn more about classic biker films check out GCDB

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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2 Responses

  1. Jack Deth says:

    It’s nice to see some early Roger Corman getting the attention he and his films deserve.

  2. Billypaul says:

    Born Losers – Billy Jack

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