In art, as in life, the bicycle occupies a unique place: more than a prop, but not quite a full character. If you’ve ever loved one of your bikes enough to name it, you understand. We know there are plenty of movies where the bicycle plays a starring role: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Quicksilver, Breaking Away, American Flyers, Rad, Premium Rush, et cetera — almost all of which were referenced in our Favorite Adventure Movie Heroes list. Bike Cameos are different — the bike stole the scene, but maybe not the whole show. Spots where a movie just wouldn’t quite be the same without a bicycle in it.
1. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy + beautiful and charming Katharine Ross (who is not his girlfriend) + classic western movie + “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” + this line as Butch pulls up to the front porch on a bicycle: “Meet the future.”
2. Napoleon Dynamite
The awkwardness of being an uncool teenager is captured brilliantly in the dialogue and action of this scene, in which Napoleon and Pedro start to get to know each other, and take turns riding Pedro’s Sledgehammer. “You ever take it off any sweet jumps?” And, of course, most men can relate to smashing their special parts on a bike stem at one time or another during childhood or early adolescence.
3. The Great Muppet Caper
If Kermit + Miss Piggy + musical duet isn’t enough, how about all the Muppets on bikes at the end of this scene?
In the endearing chase scene in this movie based on Steven Spielberg’s imaginary childhood friend, Elliott and E.T. are on the run from the authorities and trying to get E.T. to the spaceship that will take him home. Facing a dead end in the forest, E.T. uses telekinesis to lift up Elliott’s bicycle and the two fly through the air, E.T. in the front basket and Elliott pedaling, in front of a full moon. One of the most iconic Hollywood bike cameos ever.
5. The Goonies
Near the beginning of this 1985 mega-classic, this scene firmly establishes Troy as a jerk and Brand as the underdog whose family is about to lose their house to developers of the expanding Astoria Country Club, who want to build a golf course on the property. Troy, in an Astoria Country Club visor and letter jacket, cruelly pulls Brand along next to his fancy convertible as Brand tries to keep up on a little girl’s bicycle and the training wheels rip off. We’re frightened for Brand, scared of Troy, and want Brand and the Goonies to find the pirate treasure to save their house from Troy’s father and the developers.
6. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Andy Stitzler (Steve Carrell) is a virgin, has never learned to drive, does not have a drivers’ license, and does not own a car. When he gets on the phone with Trish (Catherine Keener) to discuss their first date, it goes like this:
Trish: “Okay, what time do you want to pick me up?”
Andy: “Um, uh, let’s see. Um, that’s actually kind of a problem because I ride a bike.”
Trish: “That’s cool. Are you kidding me? I love getting on the back of a motorcycle. MY boyfriend in college drove a motorcycle. So, I mean, I’m cool.”
Andy: “Yeah. Yeah, I bet that was cool. I ride a bike — bikes — bikecycle — bicycle.”
7. The Sandlot
The kids from the sandlot are a classic gang of misfits, all of whom remind young men of their pre-teen years in one way or another. When their rival neighborhood baseball team shows up to the field to talk smack and challenge the sandlot kids (“a bunch of rejects”) to a game, they arrive in clean letter jackets, bright caps, and on bicycles. Of course the sandlot kids, the underdogs, easily dispatch them the next day.
8. I Heart Huckabees
Mark Wahlberg steals the show in this flick as Tommy Corn, a firefighter who’s obsessed with our dependence on fossil fuels and other metaphysical and existential matters. So obsessed that he refuses to ride in the fire truck on his way to a fire and instead pedals his bicycle.
9. Wizard of Oz
Mean Miss Almira Gulch shows up via bicycle at the beginning of the movie, ready to have Toto put down for biting her. We later see her bicycling through the air in the middle of the tornado when she passes by Dorothy’s window.
In an early scene in Friday, the bicycle is used to convey the ruthless cruelty of Deebo, the bully of the South Central neighborhood where the movie takes place. Red comes over to ask for his bike back, and the two men carry on a conversation more typical of 12-year-olds than adults:
Red: “Man, Pop’s trippin. He wants me to ask for my bike back, You know I wouldn’t trip.”
Debo: “What bike?”
Red: “The beach cruiser, the one I let you borrow three weeks ago.”
Debo: “Oh yeah, it’s right here, homie. I didn’t know you wanted it back.
*sucker-punches Red in the face*
“That’s my bike now, punk!”
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is Rushmore Academy’s most extracurricular student — he participates in so many activities at his private school that he needs a bike to commute more efficiently to get to them all. When he discovers that industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray) has secretly started dating his crush, teacher Rosemary Cross, things get a little heated, and eventually an angry Blume clips the lock on Fischer’s bike and runs it over with his car.