REVIEW: The Bikeriders (2024)

I didn’t know anything about The Bikeriders going into it. I’d seen some buzz and a poster, but I wasn’t actively following it. This actually didn’t hurt my experience because the movie tells you exactly what it is very early on. The Bikeriders is based on a book by Danny Lyon containing photos and stories about the motorcycle club called the Chicago Vandals. Let’s jump in. 

The Bikeriders follows rebellious Benny (Austin Butler), his eventual wife Kathy (Jodie Comer), and Johnny (Tom Hardy), the leader of the Vandals bike club. Set in the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, this film shows the Vandals at their peak, expansion, and inevitable downfall. When newcomers bring violence to the group, Benny is forced to choose between his loyalty to Kathy and his loyalty to Johnny and the boys. 

I don’t know what I expected, but I enjoyed this movie. It has strong Goodfellas vibes, especially at the beginning, with the costumes and Kathy’s narration. Although the club is harmless socialization for misfits at first, it quickly becomes something akin to a mob. Crime runs rampant as out-of-towners who join are willing to murder, rape, and do whatever it takes to get what they want. There’s a line I find interesting where Brucie (Damon Herriman, Justified, Mindhunter) remarks on the negative reputation of bikers. He insinuates that the boys don’t deserve this infamy, but we soon see that they do a lot of horrible things to people.

The Bikeriders

In some cases, the violence is brought on by others, but it’s usually a considerable overreaction. Even before people start rushing in from other states, Johnny and his closest followers burn down a bar because customers roughed Benny up. Even the Vandals’ treatment of their own members is less than charitable. The brotherhood is everything, but protecting your brother doesn’t always take the form one might expect. 

The acting in The Bikeriders is a highlight and the main reason I recommend the movie. Jodie Comer’s Kathy is our point-of-view character and does much of the heavy lifting. She’s delightful and compelling, the most outwardly emotional character. I’m from the South, but her Midwestern accent sounded good to me. Tom Hardy is fantastic as Johnny, a leader with a moral compass that sometimes gets a little off course. He cares about his guys more than anything, even his wife and daughters. But as I alluded to earlier, sometimes his handling of club business isn’t squeaky clean. Once he allows guys from out of town to join, things get chaotic fast, and he loses control of the club. Austin Butler is good as Benny. I don’t have any problem with his performance, but his character is not as nuanced as Johnny and Kathy. It’s his job not to be emotional most of the time, which works well for what it is. 

The Bikeriders

I love the costumes and set design in this movie. I love the mid-century modern aesthetic and the big hair, the jackets and furniture, and the big neon signs. I don’t know a lot about this aesthetic, but I just really like how it looks. The movie’s soundtrack transports you back in time as well, with songs like Mickey Murray’s “Lonely Room” and “Talkin’ Bout You” by The Animals. I wasn’t alive in the 60s and 70s, but I find the ambiance and setting delightful and escapist. My husband was born in the mid-60s, and he says it is a convincing recreation of the time period. 

The Bikeriders

This movie is also gorgeous to look at in terms of shot composition. I’m sorry to even bring this up, but I feel like all I’ve been watching and thinking about is The Acolyte. There are other much better shows running right now, but this one is consuming my brain. After all the boring, monotonous, medium frame shots in that show, The Bikeriders reminded me of how cinematography can make you feel. This movie’s visual language is dramatic, dynamic, and powerful. The city streets are as beautiful as they are dangerous, the riders as heroic as they are unpredictable. I haven’t read the book The Bikeriders, but you can feel the influence of those photos throughout the film. Writer/director Jeff Nichols had a vision for the look of this movie, which is more than can be said for some. 

What makes or breaks a story for me is its characters and their relationships. Benny is torn between the things he loves most: his wife and his friends. But these friends are more like a big, noisy family that will kill someone if they look at you wrong. I went back and forth on what I thought Benny would choose to do, and I was still very surprised in the end. Meanwhile, Kathy seems normal at first. She’s unimpressed by the guys when she first encounters them at a bar, but it all goes out the window when she sees Benny. Kathy explains later that dating one of these guys changes you and makes you like one of them. Even if she wanted to leave Benny, which she doesn’t really, where would she go? Johnny is probably the most complex of the characters, an aging leader seeking a suitable replacement. 

The Bikeriders

I loved The Bikeriders. It surprised me from start to finish, from the compelling opening monologue to the ending, which wasn’t what I expected. It feels like a strange comparison to make, but if you like Mafia movies, The Bikeriders is probably a good fit for you because it deals with many of the same issues. Does your allegiance lie with the organization that took you in or the family you formed? If you’re protecting your people from outside abuse, how far is too far? Is there a limit to what you’ll do to defend your friends? Once a group becomes polluted with outside influences and ideas, is it even the group you joined anymore? Is the brotherhood dead? There’s a lot I can’t get into, or you won’t be as surprised as I was. But I highly recommend this movie for its superb performances, gorgeous sets and costumes, and a surprising true story. 

The Bikeriders (2024)

Plot - 10
Acting - 10
Music/Sound - 10
Direction/Editing - 10
Drama - 10



I don't love to give our 10/10s, though I have done it before. But The Bikeriders simply contains nothing that disappoints, nothing that I think could have been done better. This is a great movie.

Comments (1)

June 24, 2024 at 12:39 pm

Kind of like a Mid-Western version of modern day Mad Max. All the gear-heads and greasers. It makes sense, too. Just to see a movement like that.
Just a few generations ago, and things are much, much different in this country, but the Bikers are still out there. It’s humbling just how dangerous those packs can be.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the new updates!