Is The Bikeriders based on a true story? Inspiration behind the film explored

A still from The Bikeriders
A still from The Bikeriders (via Focus Features)

The Bikeriders is an American crime drama directed by Jeff Nichols, that revolves around the story of a Chicago motorcycle gang called the Vandals MC. The film includes prominent actors like Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Jodie Corner, and Mike Faist in titular roles.

While the entire plotline of The Bikeriders might not be a true story, the film is inspired by real-life to a certain extent. The movie takes inspiration from a photography book by the same name, a compilation by filmmaker Danny Lyon who documented the personalities and experiences of many motorcycle gang members.

The official summary of the film reads:

"After a chance encounter, headstrong Kathy is drawn to Benny, member of Midwestern motorcycle club the Vandals. As the club transforms into a dangerous underworld of violence, Benny must choose between Kathy and his loyalty to the club."

What is the true story behind The Bikeriders? Explored

Austin Butler and Jodie Comer in The Bikeriders (via Focus Features)
Austin Butler and Jodie Comer in The Bikeriders (via Focus Features)

The film follows Johnny (Tom Hardy) as the leader of the Vandals MC, a motorcycle club that later devolves into gang-related activities. The story also explores the story of Johnny's apprentice Benny (Austin Butler) and how he starts becoming wary of the underhanded dealings of the club. The events of the movie are narrated through Benny's wife Kathy's (Jody Comer) perspective.

While the exact characters and storylines are not real, the film is based on true events and personalities. It has drawn inspiration from a book of the same name by Danny Lyon. A filmmaker and photographer, Lyon documented the lives of multiple Chicago Outlaws motorcycle gang members and used photographs and interviews to compile his book about their role in the 1960s Midwest.

The culture of bike riders and motorcycle clubs started in America in the 1950s, when many were seeking to escape social conformity and find a brotherhood of like-minded people. The bikers became symbols of both menace and rebellion. Danny Lyon sought to explore these archetypes and captured snapshots of this subculture for his book, which heavily influenced the film in turn.

The film's director Jeff Nichols elaborated on the importance of the book in his filmmaking process in an interview for Screen Rant:

"You have these photographs which are super romantic and compelling, but then you have these interviews that Danny [Lyon] did and that kind of strips the veneer away. They're less romantic, they're more realistic, and you start to see how people's brains were working, why they were attracted to a group like this and a lifestyle like this. It really had everything I needed to portray a subculture."

Where to watch The Bikeriders?

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The Bikeriders has been released in theatres on June 21, 2024, in the United States, United Kingdom, and India. The film was released in France and Italy on June 19, 2024, and in Brazil, Germany, and Mexico on June 20, 2024.

The movie initially premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2023 and was slated for public release in December of the same year. However, it was taken off the 2023 release schedule owing to the SAG-AFTRA strikes.


Who are the cast members of The Bikeriders?

Mike Faist as Danny Lyon in a still from the film (via 20th Century Studios)
Mike Faist as Danny Lyon in a still from the film (via 20th Century Studios)

The film is led by prominent actors including Austin Butler (Dune 2), Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), and Mike Faist (Challengers). The full list of the main cast is as follows:

  • Tom Hardy as Johnny
  • Austin Butler as Benny
  • Jodie Comer as Kathy
  • Mike Faist as Danny Lyon
  • Michael Shannon as Zipco
  • Norman Reedus as Funny Sonny
  • Boyd Holbrook as Cal
  • Damon Herriman as Brucie
  • Beau Knapp as Wahoo
  • Emory Cohen as Cockroach
  • Karl Glusman as Corky
  • Toby Wallace as The Kid
  • Happy Anderson as Big Jack

The Bikeriders has been released in theatres on June 21, 2024.

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Edited by Sreerupa Das
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