Film critics have pre-Oscars "serious cinema" on the brain and are clutching their screener copies of The Help and The Artist like rosaries right now, praying that the arrival of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in theaters isn't too much of an assault on their delicate sensibilities. The sequel, which wasn't screened for critics, has Nicolas Cage returning as Johnny Blaze—the cursed titular character with the flaming skull and matching motorcycle who is asked by a secret sect to save a boy from the Devil. With little competition in theaters and higher-than-expected tracking, the second Ghost Rider could easily blaze a trail of box-office dollars and stands to make more in its opening weekend than Best Picture shoo-in The Artist has made in its entire run.
Before the panned original Ghost Rider in 2007, Hollywood has had a long love affair with motorcycles on-screen. Marlon Brando plays the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club and rides a Triumph Thunderbird 6T in 1953's The Wild One, perhaps the first movie to associate rebellion with two wheels. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper take a ride through the South and Southwest and learn the value of freedom during the peak of the hippie movement in 1969's Easy Rider, in which the duo ride atop custom Harley Davidson Hydra-Glide bikes. Another motorcycle movie about rebelling against societal norms is 1979's Quadrophenia, which is loosely based on the rock opera of the same name by the Who and follows a young Mod who finds an outlet for his angst by riding his Lambretta Li150 with his lads.
Director George A. Romero took a break from making zombie movies in 1981 and gave us Knightriders, which stars a Honda CBX-riding Ed Harris as "king" of a traveling troupe of armor-clad knights that joust one another on their motorcycles. In Mad Max, Mel Gibson played a road warrior of another sort—a crazed cop mourning the murder of his wife and son who takes on some post-apocalyptic badasses atop killer Kawasaki motorcycles.
Some of the most memorable movie motorcycle moments have been in sci-fi films. Who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg atop a Harley Fatboy in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as he chased down a truck in hot pursuit of young John Connor on a motorbike? Then, in 2009's Terminator Salvation, the futuristic motorcycles had minds of their own and hunted an adult John Connor (Christian Bale) and any other human in their path. Although not one of the most beloved sequels in the annals of cinema history, The Matrix Reloaded at least featured an epic freeway chase scene that had Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) weaving in and out of traffic on a Ducati 996.
Is there anything cooler than a high-speed motorcycle that leaves a wall of neon-colored energy in its trail for your enemies to crash into? That is what the Light Cycles do on the Grid in 1982's TRON and even more impressively in 2010's TRON: Legacy during the game matches. Both movies are available on DVD and Blu-ray, but you need to check out the sequel's Light Cycle sequence on Blu-ray 3D to really immerse yourself in the sense of freedom only a ride on two wheels can give you.