What could be better on a cold winter’s evening than chilling out on the sofa, munching on popcorn and watching a film? This selection of our favourite cycling films will educate, entertain and motivate you to keep turning the pedals, even on the coldest, darkest and wettest of winter days.
1) American Flyers – 1985
One of Kevin Costner’s finest works (if you are a cycling fan)! Sports physician Marcus (Costner) persuades his live-wire brother David to come with him and train for a cycle race across the Rocky Mountains. Marcus doesn’t tell David that he has a brain aneurysm which could render him paralyzed or dead at any moment. Somehow, total novice David finds himself in a position to win, while the actual professional cyclist Marcus has to gracefully accept that racing is now beyond him.
This is very much a film of its time, so bear with the stereotypes. All the Russian cyclists are massive with big hairy beards and determined to cheat, while the Americans are clean cut, true and honest. You need to suspend disbelief at some of the plot line, but this film was clearly worked on by passionate cyclists as some of the jargon and scenarios read very true to cycling life.
2) Icarus – 2017
This outstanding documentary starts out as one thing and ends up as another. Initially, director Bryan Fogel wants to find out more about drugs and how they could help to improve performance in amateur races, but in setting out to uncover the truth about doping, he has a chance meeting with a Russian scientist. From here on, the story takes a darker turn as his personal experiment becomes nothing short of a spy thriller exposing the biggest scandal in sports history. A sordid tale unravels to reveal endemic cheating, unexplained deaths and political cover ups. It is eye opening and sometimes painful viewing for the dedicated sports fan, but has huge insight, as well as being a gripping story in its own right.
3) The Triples of Belleville – 2003
A beautiful animation that everyone in the family will enjoy, regardless of their interest in cycling. Madame Souza is an indomitable French grandmother training her grandson to become a professional cyclist, partly through passion and partly to earn enough money to support them both and their giant dog. When her grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pet Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters – an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire – to rescue him.
Filled with gentle humour, it bears watching more than once to catch the many minute details. It will raise a knowing smile from cycling fans but is instantly accessible to all viewers.
4) Breaking Away – 1979
Another great classic film. A typical coming-of-age family drama, but in this one, the teenage boy uses cycling as his form of self-expression and escape from the oppression of his family home. His first great step to independence is shaving his legs, resulting in a barrage of abuse from his father. His dream is realised when a pro-team comes to town and for the first time ever, he can compare how his vision of turning professional matches up to the reality.
5) A Sunday in Hell – 1976
A Sunday in Hell is a 1976 Danish documentary film directed by Jørgen Leth about the classic race Paris-Roubaix, which still runs today. It takes viewers behind the scenes with the organisers, the racers, the managers and the spectators. It’s dirty, it’s dangerous and highly competitive as the riders battle not just each other, but themselves, the brutal terrain and the sometimes insufferable weather. This will make your wet and cold club run look like a child’s ride in the park! If you need a good dose of toughening up to survive the winter’s riding, you will certainly find it here!