A great set of wheels is impossible to resist. It doesn’t matter what it is—whether you’re watching Marty McFly go back in time in his epic DeLorean or James Bond deliver big-screen magic in one of his many Aston Martins, you know you’re witnessing something unforgettable. While the four-wheelers tend to get most of the glory, we’d be remiss not to mention the incredible scenes featuring sleek motorcycles.
The Hollywood bike is decidedly cooler than the real-world version—if only because the riders are usually Incredibly Suave or handle the vehicle with such incredible finesse that you could only dream of emulating them. If you’re looking for some stylistic inspiration, take a peek at 15 of the most iconic movie motorcycles to ever appear on the big screen.
1. Top Gun
Whether or not you were around in the 1980s, you can recognize the many virtues of Top Gun. It’s the film that catapulted Tom Cruise to superstardom, and while, yes, it was primarily about fighter jets, there’s something to be said for that amazing Kawasaki Ninja GPZ900R, too. An H2 model of the bike is even making an appearance in the upcoming 2020 sequel.
Any opening Bond scene is a good scene. But when you spot that incredible Honda CRF250R speeding on the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, you know that Skyfall is going to be amazing. And it was, what with Daniel Craig sleekly taking the streets like he’s done it all his life. The fact that he somersaulted the bike and ended up on a train—in motion, natch—should be no surprise at all.
3. Mission Impossible II
Another Cruise appearance? Yes…because this man knows a thing or two about a great bike. Not only did he perform all of his own stunts in Mission Impossible II, but he also rode a fabulous Triumph Speed Triple. It contributed to some of the most exhilarating film sequences of all time, so what can we really do but celebrate the power of Cruise?
4. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
When you envision Kill Bill: Vol. 1, odds are the visual involves Uma Thurman in mustard yellow racing around on her Kawasaki ZZ-R250—also yellow, obviously, and about the coolest street bike imaginable for the task at hand, which involves vengefully gliding around Tokyo stalking the dude who recently tried to off you. Who can blame her?
5. The Dark Knight
Who needs a Batmobile when you’ve got a Batpod? (Okay, fine, everyone should have a Batmobile.) But Christian Bale definitely makes good use of his bike in The Dark Knight, easily one of the most beloved superhero films of a generation. It’s not quite the type of bike you might spot on the street—and that’s precisely what makes this big-wheeled wonder so special.
6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Speeding around town like he owns the place (and, let’s face it, he kind of does), Arnold Schwarzenegger took his Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy on a wild ride in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, occasionally with Edward Furlong’s John Connor along for the fun after he saves the kid from certain demise. It’s not the kind of scene you want to recreate at home, not least because the Terminator made those epic moves with a shotgun in his grasp.
7. Easy Rider
There’s no way to mention historical movie motorcycles without showing some love for Easy Rider. Among the most beloved motorbike flicks ever, this Peter Fonda classic is renowned for the incredible Captain America chopper by Harley-Davidson. It’s as much of a film icon as anything you could possibly imagine, and to say this bike is a legend is an understatement: it eventually sold for $1.35 million at an auction.
8. The Wild One
Old-school Marlon Brando is everything—especially if you love a good biker dude. There’s nothing like the authenticity displayed in The Wild One, in which the actor sports a pout, a leather jacket, and a motorbike. The Triumph Thunderbird 6T turned heads thanks to its dual-cylinder 650cc engine, and today the brand lauds the bike as the one that helped them earn their standing in bike history.
9. The Great Escape
Steve McQueen on a motorcycle. Is there anything else that really needs to be said? In The Great Escape, the actor rides a Triumph TR6 that’s painted to resemble what bikes looked like in Nazi Germany. The film is highlighted by a motorcycle chase, which is the only stunt that McQueen himself didn’t perform—possibly because it involved jumping over a barbed wire fence over six feet tall. Even with the stunt double, the scene was mesmerizing.
10. Ghost Rider
It may not be a classic, per se, but you’ve got to give it up for Ghost Rider purely from the perspective of a motorbike enthusiast. The CG-laden film starring Nicholas Cage features a Panhead chopper that was, unsurprisingly, influenced by the Captain America in Easy Rider. Eventually that sweet and unassuming chopper becomes a fiery, chain-laden, angry bike with a skull headlight. Still impressive for the graphics.
11. First Blood
Action scenes come requisite in the Rambo series, which means it’s no surprise that First Blood earns accolades for its breathtaking scenes featuring a Yamaha XT 250. Sylvester Stallone’s iconic lead character winds his way all over the place by leaping over train tracks, zooming down slopes, and negotiating sidewalks crowded with pedestrians. Is it any wonder this is the film that launched a franchise?
12. The Matrix Reloaded
The Ducati 996 that Trinity road in The Matrix Reloaded undoubtedly deserved its own place in the credits. Carrie-Anne Moss rode the attention-grabbing bike throughout the film, and rightfully so given that it was designed especially as part of a limited-edition collection of motorcycles for the flick. Its most unforgettable moment: that thriller of a chase scene that found Trinity darting between cars on the highway.
The futuristic Ultraviolet, a science-fiction movie starring Milla Jovovich, is a must for action lovers. The star of many of those scenes is Jovovich’s character Violet’s BMW R1150 R, a stunning silver beauty that nods to the idea of what a motorcycle might be like late in the 21st century. It accompanies Violet on her journey against evil in Shanghai—and it’s so sleek and polished you can’t help but hope it emerges unscathed.
14. Mad Max
Mad Max is one of those movies you probably don’t realize you’ll love for life until you watch it in its entirety. By the end, you’re marveling at Steve Bisley’s Jim Goose and wishing you owned one of those incredible motorcycles. Among the most popular to star in the film is a customized Kawasaki KZ1000. It was the ultimate racer bike, and the brand even modified 13 more KZ1000s for use in the film.
Two fun pieces of trivia about Salt: It was conceived for a male protagonist, who was initially meant to be portrayed by Tom Cruise, and it was ultimately led by Angelina Jolie, who performed all of her own stunts. That includes the phenomenal, if slightly brief, scenes involving her Triumph Street Triple R, which she weaves through hardcore traffic like she’s been doing it for decades.