If classics like “Breaking Away” and “American Flyers” are as far as your you’ve dipped into cycling cinema, you’re in luck. These 11 under-the-radar cycling movies are must-sees for those of us who live for the sport.
Whether you’re looking for something to watch while logging those sometimes boring miles on the trainer or a good documentary to snuggle up to on the couch at night, these flicks will inspire you to get back in the saddle ASAP — or when the ice melts, whichever comes first.
“MY ITALIAN SECRET“
A documentary about the efforts of ordinary and prominent Italian citizens to save Jewish lives during World War II, this film focuses on Tour de France champion Gino Bartali as one of its main subjects. During the war, Bartali used his training rides as a cover to transport secret documents to members of the Jewish Resistance, risking his own life along the way.
“BIKES VS CARS“
Cycling awareness may be growing in the U.S., but there’s still a long way to go. Cycling activist and Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten explains the ongoing fight for space on the road and how the private transportation industry has their own reasons for wanting to win the battle in this insightful documentary.
“THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE“
Nominated for an Academy Award, this animated French film is about a Tour de France racer who is kidnapped by the French mafia and the subsequent rescue attempts by his elderly grandmother. The film features very little dialogue and relies heavily on music to communicate emotion. A definite must-see if you’re in the mood for an artistic film about cycling.
“30 FOR 30: SLAYING THE BADGER“
The ESPN documentary-style feature 30 for 30 released “Slaying the Badger” in 2014, and it recounts Greg LeMond’s historic victory in the 1986 Tour de France. It was LeMond’s and America’s first Tour win, and it came at the expense of teammate and rival Bernard Hinault — a Tour champion going for what would’ve been his record-breaking sixth victory. It is currently available on Netflix.
Professional cyclist Marco Pantani was known for his brash climbing style and courageous spirit, which won him victories in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. The documentary tells Pantani’s story from childhood up through the professional ranks, providing interesting insights into the rise and subsequent fall of one of Italy’s greatest champions.
“STOP AT NOTHING“
Yeah, there are a lot of Lance Armstrong documentaries out there, and you may not be up for watching yet another. If you haven’t had your fill of Armstrong-doping drama, this one is well-done and feels like a well-paced crime drama. The film concentrates mostly on Armstrong’s legal struggles and features interviews from his former teammates to give viewers a clear look at what exactly was going on behind the scenes.
“LINE OF SIGHT“
This action-packed film follows urban bike messengers as they compete in Alley Cat races, which take place in the heat of inner city traffic. Utilizing helmet-mounted cameras, the viewer gets a first person point of view of an extremely dangerous and adrenaline-filled style of riding that will make you uneasy in your seat. There isn’t a lot of talking here, and you definitely won’t be bored — whether you’re a fixed gear kind of guy/gal or not.
“A SUNDAY IN HELL“
Whether you’re a cycling historian or someone who just wants to learn more about the legends of the sport, “A Sunday in Hell” is an absolute classic that every cyclist should see at least once. Chronicling the 1976 Paris-Roubaix, this documentary follows the likes of Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck and others as they prepare for the biggest spring classic race in the world. If you weren’t around to witness what happened, this film is definitely the next best thing.
“RISING FROM THE ASHES“
This hopeful documentary tells the story of Jacques Boyer, a former professional cyclist who moved to Rwanda to form the country’s first national cycling team. The only problem is that most of the athletes are severely malnourished, illiterate and have no access to basic needs. How Boyer and his team overcome hardships and accomplish the unthinkable are what moves this heartwarming tale forward.
In an attempt to reconnect with what made them fall in love with cycling in the first place, brothers Gus and Lachlan Morton leave behind the professional peloton and begin a 2,500-kilometer ride from Port Macquarie to Uluru in Australia. What comes of this free-spirited journey is a good reminder to all of us that cycling is about much more than just watts and average speed.
You can watch part one of the documentary here. Part two (with Taylor Phinney) is also available, along with a Kickstarter project for part three.
“THE FLYING SCOTSMAN“
For those really tough days when another ride on the indoor trainer sounds a bit like torture, “The Flying Scotsman” is a personal go-to movie when I’m in need of inspiration. This drama tells the true story of Graeme Obree, a British cyclist obsessed with breaking the hour record, only to have his time controversially disqualified after he completing the feat. How Obree pushed back against all odds is sure to motivate you to pedal a few more miles the next time you’re on the bike.