'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' is the best bicycling movie ever? What the...!?

best-bike-movieImage Credit: Everett Collection (2)I’ll be honest, I’ve never read a single issue of Bicycling magazine. And now I know why: The editors over there must be nuts. Sure, they may know all about the Tour de France and why our lycra-clad, two-wheeled Olympians wear those funny-looking aerodynamic helmets, but they clearly know squat about movies. In the upcoming issue of the magazine, they pick “The Best Cycling Movies of All Time” and the rankings are highly suspect at best. In fact, I’ll save you a few bucks and spill the Top 9 list right here…

9. Key Exchange; 8. 2 Seconds; 7. The Stars and the Watercarriers; 6. A Sunday in Hell; 5. The Bicycle Thief; 4. American Flyers; 3. The Triplets of Belleville; 2. Breaking Away; 1. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Okay, now I’ll admit that coming up with any ‘Best Of’ list is a highly subjective task — in case you hadn’t noticed we do a lot of ranking here at EW. But this list raises all sorts of head-scratching questions. First off, don’t make a list of the “9 Best” anything if there aren’t 9 great contenders to begin with (the fact that Kevin Costner’s American Flyers is way up at No. 4 tells you all you need to know on this point.). Second, calling The Bicycle Thief a movie about cycling is like calling Citizen Kane a movie about sledding. Third, where’s the love for Kevin Bacon’s Quicksilver and Nicole Kidman’s BMX Bandits? (I kid). Fourth, and this is the main point, how on earth is Pee-wee ahead of Breaking Away?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. I can quote it backwards, forwards, and sideways. And I get that it is a touching story about a boy (man?) and his love for his bike, which really must be like catnip to anyone who writes about spokes, forks, and handlebars for a living. But better than Breaking Away? Seriously? Breaking Away isn’t just the greatest movie about bicycling ever made, it’s one of the best movies about sports ever made. (The film, for those who haven’t been lucky enough to see it, follows a blue-collar cycling team called the “Cutters” — made up of Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern — that takes on the snobby college kids in the Little 500 race.) It’s funny, touching, and pound-for-pound more insightful about the obsession of going fast on two wheels than anything Paul Reubens and company have to offer. Maybe the good folks at Bicycling were looking to make a hip choice and stir up a little controversy with their No. 1 selection (and I guess because I’m writing this, mission accomplished). But if they’re serious, then all I can do is offer this bargain: If they refrain from ranking movies again, then we’ll agree to keep our opinions to ourselves when it comes to weighing in on the 2011 Schwinns.

Am I overreacting? What’s your favorite bicycling movie?

Comments (54 total) Add your comment
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  • Karate Pants

    The best part is that there aren’t even enough bicycling movies to come up with a ‘top ten’ list, so the whole thing is stupid anyway.
    Breaking Away is a good movie, but Pee Wee’s Big Adventure IS better. No contest.

    • Madd

      Totally agree. Just don’t tell the Dunphys, because apparently they love Breaking Away.

      • Karate Pants

        LOL, yes they do!

    • Ceballos

      No kidding.

      The fact that they only had a top 9 (with, really, about 3 or 4 viable candidates is pathetic).

      They should’ve just added “E.T.” and rounded the list up to 10.

      • Madd

        That was my first thought too…at least with ET they’d have ten.

    • Karate Pants

      Sure, why not? E.T. would be just as much of a bike movie as anything else.
      You know, I bet the writers at “Bicycling” magazine REALLY have a tough time finding anything entertaining to write about outside of the Tour.
      Bikes are boring. Nice try, though. heh

      • nodnarb

        Blasphemy! As a long-time subscriber to Bicycling magazine, I have to say it’s a great publication… there’s far more to bikes than the Tour and Lance. And the funny thing is that they often do 2 covers for the same issue: a Lance cover for the newsstands, and a non-Lance cover for subscribers. I know a certain entertainment magazine that ought to consider such an approach.

      • Karate Pants

        What?!? You’re subscribing to “Bicycling”?? What else is in there? Reviews of what seats crush your nuts the least? Bike clothes fashion?

      • Madd

        Karate Pants, I think you should write for Bicycling. It’s obviously your true calling.

      • Karate Pants

        Madd, I would…if I knew what the hell to write about. “Sooo…I went for ride on my bike today…um…” heh

      • Ceballos


        I’m also a bit surprised to learn you subscribe to “Bicycling” magazine. I’m even more shocked to find out that it’s apparently a gay porn publication. Who knew?


        Now, THOSE are articles I would read.

      • nodnarb

        Oh, it’s Bicylcing as a complete lifestyle. There are articles about health and weight loss, fashion, bike celebrities, reviews of bikes and parts, maintenance tips, events, etc etc etc. And that’s not even remotely ridiculous as the 3 different triathlon publications my SO gets each month.

      • nodnarb

        @Ceballos: mmmmmm, men in lycra.

      • Madd

        My cheerleading coach in high school made the team subscribe to “Cheerleader World”, and….if “Bicycling” is anything like it, you don’t even need to write coherent sentences.
        My husband subscribes to some running magazine, and 90% of the articles are random people describing a run they went on.

      • Karate Pants

        “fashion, bike celebrities” LOL
        Well, whatever floats your boat. But “Bicycling” magazine will remain in the realm of “Cat Fancy” as far as I’m concerned.
        And how is it that we’re both attracted to men but only one of us wants to see them in lycra?

      • Madd

        Really, Ambient? You don’t like men in lycra?

      • Madd

        KARATE PANTS. Sorry.

      • nodnarb

        LOL at Cat Fancy. It is not that bad!! We don’t knit teacup sweaters for our bikes… well, most of us don’t.

      • Ceballos


        An excerpt from an article I wrote describing a run I went on this past week:

        “This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, I hate this, this sucks, f— Florida, this sucks…”

      • Karate Pants

        Nope, Madd – lycra just weirds me out.
        My ideal man-semble is t-shirt and jeans. Unless he’s Don Draper, of course. ;)

      • Karate Pants

        Ceballos, you’re a writer? Man, it’s almost like I don’t know you at all. LOL

      • nodnarb

        Oh, come on! What’s so weird about bike shorts?

      • Madd

        I get it, Ceballos. My exact thoughts the last time I went running:
        “I hope we don’t run into to Kelly Bensimon running through traffic. Seriously though, who runs through traffic? The only reason I would ever do that is to realize my life long goal of saying “I’m walking here!” like Ratso Rizzo. I highly doubt Kelly has even heard of Midnight Cowboy though. What am I thinking about Kelly for again? I can’t believe I put Kelly in the same though as Midnight Cowboy. I’m going to kill Joe [my husband]. I totes will. Totes magotes.”

      • Madd

        I should probably add that the reason I thought of killing my husband was because he was making me run at 5 am. I don’t actually want to kill him.

    • marco pantini

      Perfectly idiotic… why didn’t you include the Mark Walberg compelling depiction of the bike riding fireman? How ’bout “40YOV”? Anything that appeals to SUV idiocracy seems to drive your pea-brain so they should suit.

  • kate

    I disagree. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is freaking brilliant visual fun. Burton had a blast making it, and it’s hilariously tongue in cheek (come on, the basement of the Alamo?). Different tastes. But really the true crime here… where’s Rad?

    • nodnarb

      No kidding!! How is “RAD” not on this list?! I worshiped that movie as a kid.

  • heej

    Just think, if they had picked Breaking Away as #1 EW wouldn’t have given them any press. Hmmmm.

  • Madd

    Yes, Breaking Away has a great cast and story, but…it’s Pee-Wee!


    Everyone has a big but, Simone. Let’s talk about your big but.

    • Don

      If you are going to comment, you may as well spell the damn word correctly. It’s BUTT, you Buthead!


        You’ve obviously never seen Pee Wee moron, or don’t under stand the PUN.

  • jules

    Well played, COMMENTATOR. Well played.

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    I can’t believe E.T. isn’t on that list! Most iconic bike scene ever!

    I double rainbowed the first time I saw that scene.

    • nodnarb

      Double rainbow is sooooo last week. This week it’s all about the cyber-police. CONSEQUENCES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        Cyber-Police? Say wha?

      • nodnarb

        Dude! Take a few minutes and google “jessi slaughter.” You will not be disappointed.

  • Emilee

    I’m gonna go with Bicycling Magazine on this one. “I’m a loner Dottie, a rebel.”

  • Cliff

    Much as I love “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” Chris has a point. (Of course, I also think “Jerry Maguire” shouldn’t count as a sports movie, despite all the lists that include it.)

    “Breaking Away” and “Pee-Wee” are very much apples in oranges in overall quality, but as a movie that centers on bicycling, “Breaking Away” absolutely should be #1.

  • Duderonomy


  • Scott

    I know you are, but what am I?

    • Francis Buxton

      I know YOU are, but what am I?

  • Stephanie T.

    In terms of humor, Pee Wee. But in terms of actually bicyciling:

    1. Breaking Away
    2. BMX Bandits
    3. Rad
    4. E.T.

    • nodnarb

      If you read the complete article, they explain that a man’s silly, incomprehensible, irrefutable love of his bike is why they chose Pee-Wee. As the spouse of a man who might just choose his Guru over me, I sorta get it.

  • Nick

    E.T. and “Forty Year Old Virgin” belong on this list. Haven’t seen Rad. I have no prob w American Flyers. But… yeah, Breaking Away is the best of them all.

  • DLJ

    All I know is the scene where Pee Wee dances to “Tequila” on the bar is a FRIGGIN’ CLASSIC!

  • KDL

    I think the other thing of note here is that Breaking Away is loosely based on a real story. The little 500 is a real (and quite enormous) event at Indiana University, and the Cutters team is a perennial favorite (though in real life they are students at the college, though mostly local born students). It gets way more props for actually being about a real event and actually shot in Bloomington Indiana on campus.

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