Originally designed as a bicycle with electric motor the motorbike soon became its own type of vehicle. Its different types are so diverse that in return one can conclude many assumptions about its drivers.
The motorbike is a gift to filmmakers. The protagonist can sit on it and is not hidden inside some other vehicle. Also the motorbike itself already drafts a certain kind of character: independent, agile, unlikely to be a wimp. If small objects are to change location or just the protagonist with a companion the motorbike seems the obvious choice.
War movies frequently use it for its actual and real benefit, mainly functioning as courier. In motorcycle history many army veterans later took their machines for private use. Marlon Brando was the leader of a motorbike gang in “The Wild One” 1952. Its substitution for the horse is referred to subliminally or quite strikingly in many films. “Easy Rider” 1969 is a renewal of the western genre – the story of John Ford told with different means of transportation. It is also this movie which portrays riding the motorbike as a social spare time activity and it broke the dominance of the car caused by a booming economy.
A motorbike or moped in films also offers an expansion of the stage, as in “Swimming Pool” 2003 or “Mammuth” 2010, and amplifies the character’s self confidence. In “Rumble Fish” 1983 Mickey Rourke plays the notorious “The Motorcycle Boy”, who only finds true happiness once he abandons his motorbike. Furthermore it serves as a cheap mode of transportation, like the use of the sidecar in “Indiana Jones and the last Crusade” 1989 or it allows the protagonist to overcome certain obstacles, as in “Once upon a time in Mexico” 2003.
Equally it serves as a tool of law enforcement. As in “À bout de souffle” 1960, a film noir that modernised European cinema with its gestures, cars and from today’s viewpoint almost spartan police chase; or the adolescent Captain Kirk in “Star Trek” 2009, who on one of his joyrides is chased by a policeman driving a flying motorbike. These effects are also due to the apparent enlargement of the body. In “Tron” 1982 this principle is used to its full extend. But the merger of human and machine can be used in different ways, too, like androids having human features, by doing human-like activities, such as riding a motorbike, “Terminator” 1984.
A motorised two-wheeler demonstrates the real possibility of freedom. In the final scenes of “Kroko” 2003, the protagonist runs off with the least likely person – using a moped, yet free.