If you live and breathe cycling, there’s a strong chance that when you’re not actually on the bike, you’re thinking about being on the bike, or watching someone else on the bike. We’ve picked some of the top feature length cycling films to fuel your passion, from fictional tales to fly on the wall documentaries from around the world.
The Armstrong Lie (2013)
So famous is Lance Armstrong, and so infamous his subsequent doping scandal, that a whole host of cycling films have been made about him and he almost merits an entire category to himself. The Armstrong Lie (2013) is hailed to be the best documentary on Lance Armstrong’s story, providing an up close and personal look at his phenomenal rise and fall. The film was initially meant to be just about Armstrong’s 2009 comeback but took a dramatic turn when the scandal broke and the director realised he’d been lied to throughout all the previous filming. Amazingly, Armstrong agreed to be interviewed and what follows is a revealing discussion about his confidence in how he truly believed he would never get caught.
For other films exploring his story, try fly on the wall documentary, Road to Paris (2001) and biographical drama, The Program (2015).
This beautiful film follows Wadjda, a young Saudi girl who sets her heart on winning enough money to buy herself a bicycle. The film is richly symbolic, exploring what life is like being female in such a totalitarian, patriarchal society. Although some Saudi critics have seen it as an exaggeration of life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia only permitted women to ride bikes in public in 2018 (before this in 2013 the law changed to allow cycling only in parks or on beaches, and only with a male guardian present) and they must still wear an abaya – loose fitted, full length robes – when doing so.
If you enjoyed The Armstrong Lie then Icarus should be next on your list. What starts as one man’s attempt to prove just how easy it is to cheat in professional cycling turns into an unexpected Pandora’s Box of “one of the most elaborate doping ploys in sporting history” – the state-funded doping of Russian athletes. Allegations and confessions fly, and even President Putin gets a name drop as supposedly being involved in the operation. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.
Tour de Pharmacy (2017)
“I did it with nothing but my own blood, sweat and tears – and extra blood.”
This star-studded mockumentary is a far fetched, fast paced, slapstick take on how professional cycling is plagued with drugs and doping. It centres fictionally around the 1982 Tour de France in which only five riders ended up competing due to the other 170 entrants being disqualified for drug misuse. Hollywood names like Orlando Bloom, Andy Samberg and John Cena play these remaining ‘Fab Five’ as they battle it out to win the Tour. The film is dripping with so much satire that there’s even a cheeky cameo from Lance Armstrong himself, just in case you hadn’t had enough of him already.
Belleville Rendezvous (2013)
As far as cycling films go, this will definitely leave an impression. Titled for an English-speaking audience as The Triplets of Belleville, this film is the only animation on our list. But don’t rule it out straight away, as it was nominated for 2 Oscars. A quirky, surreal escapist film, it follows old Madame Souza who enlists the help of the titular Belleville sisters to rescue her professional cyclist grandson when he is kidnapped during the Tour de France. Incomparable in nature to any other film out there, just take our word for it and give it a watch.
Eat. Race. Win (2018)
The newest choice on the list and also the only documentary series, Eat. Race. Win. follows Australian team Orica-Scott and their chef, Hannah Grant, whose job it is to fuel the riders throughout the Tour de France. Part high speed racing, part sourcing and cooking tasty local produce, make sure you’ve got some snacks to hand while you watch this one.
The Flying Scotsman (2006)
Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, aka The Flying Scotsman, is the classic underdog in this biopic which sees him succeed against the odds – and break the world hour record on a bike made from old washing machine parts.
Breaking Away (1979)
A traditional coming of age story set in small town Indiana, Breaking Away is the feel good choice. Following the age old rom-com concept of boy meets girl, boy pretends to be Italian exchange student cum cycling extraordinaire to impress girl, the film is a love letter to cycling as an escape from day to day life. It’s cheesy, predictable and perfectly endearing.
Have you watched any of these cycling films? We’d love to know what you thoughts.