Iconic motorcycle stunts make films legendary. From maneuvering impossible paths to leaping over crazy chasms, here are some of the best.
‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’
In 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy (Harrison Ford) and his father (Sean Connery) execute a daring motorcycle escape from the Nazis. They race away on a motorcycle and sidecar, with five pursuing Nazi bikers close behind. Throughout the white knuckle chase, they skillfully navigate checkpoints. This being a crusade to find the Holy Grail, Indy even gets to play as a knight in the sequence. Using a flag pole as a lance, he faces off against a Nazi motorcyclist in a round of joust. It ends in one of the biggest motorcycle crashes in cinema history. The kicker is Ford’s childlike joy over winning the jousting match, only to have Connery shoot daggers of disgust at him.
‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’
In 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger clad in leather and wearing sunglasses while riding a Fat Boy Harley alone is iconic. However, seeing the Fat Boy jump into the LA river is one of cinema history’s most memorable motorcycle stunts. The bike’s 10-foot jump is particularly impressive considering that stunt double Peter Kent is riding the 600-pound Harley.
Director James Cameron orchestrated a complex wire track, securely fastened to the stuntperson’s back. This setup allowed him to propel his Harley-Davidson off a treacherous jump, smoothly riding away unscathed amidst a spectacular shower of sparks. John Conner’s dirt bike skills (portrayed by Edward Furlong), leading up to the big moment are also impressive.
Hong Kong action hero, Jackie Chan is an icon known for his martial arts choreography and outrageous stunts, so it should be no surprise that he pops up on this list of iconic motorcycle stunts. In the 1991 film Operation Condor, Jackie Chan fearlessly speeds through the streets of Madrid in a winding motorcycle chase. This martial arts action film was nominated for Best Action Choreography at the 1992 Hong Kong Film Awards, and this sequence alone should have earned Chan the trophy. Pursued by black saloon cars, Jackie hops a dirt bike to evade capture, leading the chase through narrow alleyways, bustling market stalls, and a box factory. One of the stunts involves Chan leaping from a motorcycle speeding off a pier, only saving himself by grabbing a fisherman’s net. Chan even manages to save a baby at one point!
The Most Dangerous Iconic Motorcycle Stunts… ‘The Road Warrior’
George Miller’s Mad Max series is iconic for its daring car and motorcycle stunt work. However, 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior showcases the perfect synergy of a director with a big budget and an era when stunt performers were less concerned with safety. In one chase scene, Max (played by Mel Gibson) seizes control of an oil tanker. However, he is relentlessly pursued by a nomadic gang of marauders in a fleet of trucks, dune buggies, and motorcycles. This high-octane sequence showcases the talents of fearless stunt performers, who leap from motorcycles onto the moving tanker, sporting only football pads for protection. One stuntman broke his legs performing a motorcycle stunt, and director Miller included it in the Final Cut.
‘The Great Escape’
Of course, Steve McQueen is going to be on this list. If you haven’t seen 1963’s The Great Escape, do yourself a favor and track this one down. To discuss the epic motorcycle stunt, there has to be a spoiler for the ending of this classic film.
In The Great Escape, McQueen plays a WWII POW who escapes from Nazi agents on a stolen motorcycle, a TT Special 650 Triumph. As he races towards the German-Swiss border, McQueen’s character encounters a thrilling moment when he jumps over a barbed wire fence to pursue freedom, only to become entangled in a second fence.
It’s one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinema history. Fans find themselves rewatching it, hoping McQueen lands the jump and zips off to freedom. Because of insurance purposes, McQueen didn’t perform the jump. That key moment was performed by legendary stuntman Bud Ekins. However, he did execute many other stunts in the film. Interestingly, McQueen played a German soldier chasing his own character on a separate motorcycle.
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