The Cycleplan Blog

19 Cycling Movies You Need To Watch

Sometimes, articles and Instagram posts just aren’t enough to convey the beauty of cycling. Instead, you need to leave it to filmmakers to capture the sport’s finer details and turn it into an art form. Here are 19 movies that capture the freedom, drama and opportunities provided by cycling.

1. The Flying Scotsman (2006)

Available on: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, DVD

This movie is based on the remarkable true story of Graeme Obree.

Jonny Lee Miller plays Obree, a Scottish racing cyclist and bike shop owner attempting to break a world record while battling mental health issues. Obree built his bicycle from old bits of washing machines – and the results were extraordinary.

The Flying Scotsman has a bit of everything – extreme highs and lows, edge-of-your-seat drama and wonderfully humorous moments.

You can watch the full version of this movie on YouTube*. We don’t want to link to it in this article in case it gets taken down, but if it’s still live when you read this – enjoy!

*True at the time of writing.

2. A Sunday In Hell (1976)

Available on: YouTube, DVD

A Sunday In Hell chronicles the 1976 Paris–Roubaix bicycle race from the perspective of participants, organisers and spectators.

This Danish documentary film provides insider footage of the darker side of cycling – for instance, the narrow, dusty and hazardous cobbled roads which gave Paris-Roubaix the nickname The Hell of the North. With such a moniker, it’s little wonder this race has provoked so much excitement and split opinion throughout the years.

As with The Flying Scotsman, you can watch the full version of this film on YouTube*. It’s only an hour and a half long which is ideal if you’ve got a busy schedule.

*True at the time of writing.

3. Breaking Away (1979)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video, DVD

An all-time classic, this coming of age comedy-drama follows four working-class teenage friends who attempt to beat a group of Italian college students in an annual bike race in their town.

Set in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, Breaking Away stars Dennis Christopher and Dennis Quaid and paints an intriguing picture of class conflict and small-town chauvinism.

This heart-warming tale of togetherness not only won the hearts of viewers, it also went down a storm with the critics. Steve Tesich, who wrote Breaking Away, won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the film received nominations in four other categories, including Best Picture. Need we say more?

4. American Flyers (1985)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video, DVD

Another movie written by Tesich, American Flyers tells the story of two brothers who compete in the “Hell of the West” race in Colorado.

Marcus Sommers, played by Kevin Costner, fears that his estranged brother David, played by David Grant, may have a fatal brain disease that runs in their family. In an attempt to make peace with David, Marcus convinces him that they should train for a three-day bike race through the Rockies.

What follows is a series of dramatic showdowns that’ll keep you gripped until the end. Entertainment is guaranteed here!

5. Icarus (2017)

Available on: Netflix, DVD

This Oscar-winning documentary film gets right to the heart of doping in cycling.

Film director Brian Fogel, the mastermind behind this extraordinary exposé, initially set out to enter one of the toughest amateur races in road cycling – the Alpine edition of Haute Route – with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. Fogel’s aim was to demonstrate the benefits and effects of such drugs and how easy it is to obtain them. He reaches out to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, for help.

However, what he ends up uncovering becomes the subject of a massive international controversy. Suspicious deaths, steroid-tainted urine samples and an international doping operation are just some of the topics covered by this movie. It’s safe to say Icarus is a must-see.

6. Rising From Ashes (2012)

Available on: DVD

This documentary film’s title is a nod to Rwanda’s harrowing past and efforts to rebuild its future.

With the country still recovering from the horrific 1994 genocide which saw 800,000 people killed in three months, legendary American cyclist Jock Boyer moves to Rwanda to assemble its first-ever national cycling team. Boyer, the first American to compete in the Tour de France, attempts to create a team of cyclists to compete at the 2012 Olympics.

Narrated by Forest Whitaker, Rising From Ashes follows Team Rwanda’s cyclists over six years as they restore a sense of optimism and hope for their nation’s future.

7. Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

Available on: YouTube,Amazon Prime Video,DVD

In 1998, Italian road racing cyclist Marco Pantani had the world at his feet. He had won the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia and (at the time of writing) is the last rider to win these two championships in the same year.

However, in the years that followed, things went rapidly downhill. Pantani was expelled from the 1999 Giro d’Italia due to irregular blood values and faced several other doping allegations thereafter.

He was a cocaine addict for the final five years of his life and lost the desire to race. In a tragic turn of events, he died alone in a hotel room of acute cocaine poisoning aged 34.

You can watch this story of triumph and tragedy in full by searching for the title on YouTube*.

*True at the time of writing.

8. The Armstrong Lie (2015)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video,DVD

Talk about a twist in the plot.

In 2009, filmmaker and director Alex Gibney set out to document Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling – at first, this movie was called The Road Back. But whilst filming took place, Armstrong was banned from competitive cycling and stripped of his seven successive Tour de France titles after being found guilty of doping.

Although this movie was temporarily shelved, Armstrong then sat down with Gibney to set the record straight. Armstrong’s confessions in the aftermath of this news act contrast with his cocksure demeanour in the earlier footage captured by Gibney. It’s a fascinating tale of his downfall which you don’t want to miss.

9. Premium Rush (2012)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video,DVD

Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a disillusioned law school graduate turned bicycle messenger in New York City.

Gordon-Levitt’s character Wilee is given an envelope by a young woman at a Manhattan college and told he has 90 minutes to deliver it to an address in Chinatown. However, he is approached by Robert “Bobby” Monday, an undercover police officer, who demands to have the envelope.

Wilee refuses, which results in him being chased around New York by Monday. The movie is presented in a nonlinear way, with numerous flashbacks and flashforwards to build suspense. You can’t take your eyes off it for a second.

Affinity Cycles of New York provided the bike used in the movie – a fixie bike that cost $475. Long live the fixie!

10. All For One (2017)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video,DVD

Documentary film All For One tells the story of GreenEdge, Australia’s first professional cycling team to compete in the Tour de France.

GreenEdge has only existed since 2011 and this film follows the team during its first five years, showcasing the euphoric highs and dramatic lows it faced along the way. As explained in the movie’s trailer, GreenEdge nearly became the first team to be kicked out of the Tour de France for something other than doping!

All For One provides almost unprecedented access into professional cycling, featuring extensive behind-the-scenes footage and over 50 interviews. So, does GreenEdge succeed against all odds? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

11. Tour de Pharmacy (2017)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video,DVD

This is one of the more laugh-a-minute entries on our list. Tour de Pharmacy is a mockumentary about doping in cycling which stars Andy Samberg and Orlando Bloom. Here how it plays out…

It’s the (fictional) 1982 Tour de France and police find evidence of cyclists using narcotics. In fact, 170 riders are disqualified and only five are permitted to compete in the Tour.

“The Fab Five” includes Samberg’s character Marty Haas, an American schooled in Nigeria who is chosen to represent the continent. Another member of this exclusive group is Italian cyclist JuJu Peppi (played by Bloom), who causes a huge peloton crash in an early stage, resulting in a mass brawl. As you can imagine, there’s never a dull moment in this movie.

12. Outskirts: Route 66 (2018)

Available on: YouTube*

Fancy taking a virtual trip down the world’s most famous roads? Well, you can, by watching Outskirts: Route 66.

This movie follows four friends as they cycle over 2,400 miles along the iconic Route 66 highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. This highway was once labelled the High Street of America but has been somewhat left behind over the years. Broken though it may be, Route 66 still boasts fascinating roads and landscapes and tells a compelling story of social, political and economic divide.

Outskirts: Route 66 explores this at length, documenting these men’s adventures, the places they visit and the people they meet.

*True at the time of writing.

13. Inspired To Ride (2015)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video,DVD

Inspired To Ride sees 45 cyclists from around the world attempt to cover 4,233 miles as part of the infamous TransAmerica Trial.

These cyclists will cross 10 states and travel an average distance of 300 miles a day with very little sleep. They will face agonising climbs, driving winds and wicked downhills. They won’t be supported by follow vehicles, they won’t have support teams on hand to assist them and they won’t receive prize money.

But they will have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve completed one of cycling’s most gruelling races. And they might have a beer or two to celebrate.

14. Wadjda (2012)

Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, DVD

There aren’t many better feelings as a child than laying your eyes on your brand-new bike. But this is nothing but a pipe dream for 10-year-old Saudi Arabian girl Wadjda.

Her sights are set on a green bike, at a store that she passes every day on her way to school. She wants to buy it and race against her friend Abdullah, a boy from her neighbourhood. However, deep-rooted Saudi traditions stand in her way – women are discouraged from cycling and Wadjda’s mother won’t allow her to own a bike.

Desperate to buy the bike, Wadjda enters a Quran recital competition, with a handsome cash prize up for grabs. The competition isn’t going to be easy – but Wadjda is determined to realise her dreams.

15. Half The Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling (2013)

Available on: Vimeo, iTunes

This documentary film looks at the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on the oppression faced by female athletes who are competing in a male-dominated sport.

Although women’s professional cycling has existed since the 1970s, it has still not gained anywhere near the recognition it deserves. A survey undertaken by the Women’s Cycling Association in 2013 showed that 50% of female pro cyclists earned $3,000 or less per year. 

Half The Road gets to the bottom of this and the other issues which have plagued women’s cycling. Featuring interviews from Olympians, coaches, managers, doctors and more, this movie leaves no stone unturned in portraying a relentless fight for equality.

16. Roam (2006)

Available on: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

This is one for mountain biking enthusiasts. Roam was produced by a group of mountain bikers and filmmakers called The Collective and features the world’s best riders as they explore the most stunning and exhilarating locations around the globe.

Considered one of the best adventure sports films of all time, Roam takes us to the “Meccas” of mountain biking. It features daring stunts, picturesque scenery and some impressive cinematography.

It’s only 44 minutes long which is perfect if you want a quick watch. You can watch the full version on YouTube*.

*True at the time of writing.

17. Thereabouts (2014)

Available on: Vimeo

Thereabouts follows brothers and Australian road cyclists Lachlan and Angus (Gus) Moreton, as they ride 3,000km in 11 days.

They cycle from their childhood home in Port Macquarie in New South Wales to Uluru, in the heart of the country. As you’d expect, they tackle some of the harshest landscapes and feel a few aches and pains along the way.

The scenery is, of course, beautiful, but this movie is as much about the people these brothers meet as it is about the sights they encounter. At one point, they’re deep into the outback enjoying a beer with the locals, which reminds us why cycling is so great.

If you’re in the mood to go on a virtual tour of Australia, this is the movie for you.

18. Bicycle (2014)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

As we’ve only included one other British cycling movie in this article (The Flying Scotsman), we had to pick this masterpiece. Directed by BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker and cyclist Michael B. Clifford, Bicycle tells the story of cycling in the UK (if you didn’t know already, the modern bicycle was invented here).

As this movie reveals, the bicycle has transformed British society – but has declined and resurfaced over the years. Believe it or not, in the 1970s, the Government predicted that cycling would soon cease completely. Imagine that?

This movie spans the Victorian period right up to the present day and includes interviews with Sir Dave Brailsford, Sir Chris Hoy and Chris Boardman among others. It’s an inspiring watch which shows how much cycling means to us here in Britain.

19. My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes (2014)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video, DVD

This documentary film tells the remarkable true story of Italian road cyclist and two-time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali.

During World War II, Bartali risked his life to rescue innocent Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Italy. He did so by using his training rides to transport forged documents to the Jewish Resistance, working with Jewish leaders and high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church.

As a result, he helped save more than 800 lives. In fact, around 80% of Jewish people living in Italy survived the Holocaust. This was in no small part down to Bartali, who never sought praise or publicity for his incredible feat. My Italian Secret shows that cycling is more than just a sport – it can, quite literally, be a lifesaver.

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