- Two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner breaks down 10 motorcycle scenes in movies for realism.
- Stoner rates the accuracy of motorcycle stunts in “Skyfall” and “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.”
- He talks about riding techniques in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “The Matrix Reloaded.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
[Black Widow rides a motorcycle underneath a semi-trailer truck]
Casey Stoner: To go that fast with that much lean angle, that’s basically an immediate crash.
Hi, my name’s Casey Stoner. I’m a former MotoGP world champion. In my career, I managed to win two MotoGP world championships.
Today, we’re looking at motorcycle scenes from movies and judging how real they are.
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019)
[John Wick rides a motorcycle with one hand while swinging a samurai sword with his other]
Motorcycle with one hand isn’t difficult at all, but with your opposite hand, it is very difficult. As soon as you look around or look back, quite often you veer offline. And there’s people that can ride and do wheel stands and stoppies while riding backwards and sidesaddle and all that sort of other thing, but it takes a heck of a lot of practice, and it’s not at those speeds while trying to sword fight.
[A motorcycle flips backwards after someone’s hand gets stuck in the rear tire]
Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of realism in that one. Trying to get something through a wheel when it’s spinning that fast is nearly impossible. If anything happens to the back wheel, it certainly doesn’t cause the front to come up and go. Now, if something gets lodged in the front wheel, that will happen. The back will come up and go over the front.
[John Wick crashes his motorcycle]
It was quite realistic. Wet white lines, the way we explain it in racing, it’s like ice. As soon as you come across a white line that’s not painted with a special grip, it’s literally just, as soon as you touch it, you’re pretty much gone. If you know you’re going to crash or you know you’re going to hit something, a lot of the time, the best way is either just to lay the bike down, because a low side or a front-end lose, there’s going to be a lot less complications. When you have a high side, which is when you lose the rear end and then it creates grip again and it flicks you over the high and basically sends you up in the air. So when you go, what goes up must come down, and it’s a lot more painful, and I definitely had a little more experience than I’d like.
I would say probably a 2.
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015)
[Ethan Hunt rides a motorcycle on the highway wearing sunglasses but without a helmet]
Eyes would be watering, that’s for sure. The no-helmet thing would be probably the most difficult aspect. Any little bits of dust, of rock flicking up off a car, off the bike in front, almost impossible, a lot of the stuff he does.
[While riding his motorcycle, Ethan Hunt touches his knee to the pavement on a sharp turn]
We do that basically to get a feeling of where the ground is. It gives us an understanding of where our lean angles are and things like that. Now, without a knee slider, it’s doing very little, other than to take a bit of skin off.
[A motorcycle explodes after hitting a barrier]
I’ve seen bikes explode. As these are the kind of standard road bikes, the temperatures are so high, especially around the head of the exhaust, that it really can ignite quite a lot.
[Ethan Hunt shifts gears on his motorcycle]
So, the shifting is something to be brought up a little. You don’t need to do a clutch. That’s a very, very old system to basically ease the bike in a little bit easier and a little bit smoother into gear. Unless you’re going back gears going into a corner, you don’t need to use the clutch. On modern bikes these days, we have something called a quickshifter now. So it cuts the power to the engine for a second, allows the bike to reduce a little bit of torque so that the gear can select and then they can keep going.
[Ethan Hunt crashes his motorcycle]
The crash was pretty fine. You know, losing the front end in that situation, I guarantee he would have a little bit of meat missing down the side of his body. As soon as you touch tarmac, it likes to rip apart whatever you’ve got, even with leathers on. But overall, because he slid onto the gravel as well, it would have been a little softer than sliding the whole way on tarmac.
I’d probably rate this scene around an 8.
[James Bond jumps on a motorcycle and starts the engine]
Of course. There’s always a key in the bike. You know, they go and get on and just start it, and off it goes.
[James Bond rides his motorcycle up a stairwell]
I mean, going up stairs on a bike realistically isn’t very hard at all. Even for myself, who’s not a technical rider like this. They actually have that as part of a race, going up them and down them, and they’re actually racing through the streets.
[James Bond rides across a rooftop]
Riding across the top of that small gap would have been the most difficult part of that whole scene. As easy as it seems, when you’re going at that speed, one little mistake can be quite catastrophic. So getting those gaps would have been definitely a little bit tricky at those speeds. You know, they were doing a very, very good job on that scene.
[James Bond rides is motorcycle off a ledge]
It’s not that hard to do those sort of drops. Actually, the faster you go, the better it is. The slower you go, the more straight down you sort of go. But you come down and you land flat from too high of a point, you can break your wrists, break your ankles. If you hit the seat as well, people have broken their backs and things, so it can be quite tricky. You know, those drops were realistic, you can do that, but, yeah, it starts getting bigger than that, then some injuries start to happen.
It would probably be a 9. Pretty incredible what people can do on bikes, especially these days. They just keep pushing the limits.
“The Matrix Reloaded” (2003)
[Trinity starts a motorcycle]
They actually had a key this time! They got it right with that. They needed a key to start the bike.
[Trinity jumps her motorcycle off a jump]
Jumping off the truck might’ve been possible with a motocross bike or an off-road bike, but with a road bike with two people on it, as soon as they landed, it just would have bounced them and high sided or something. That basically is nearly impossible for that to happen.
[Trinity performs a burnout while turning her motorcycle around]
The burnout, turning around, yes, that’s possible the way they were just sitting there and doing it. Especially with two people on board, you’ve got a lot of weight over the rear tire. That’s quite hard to then get it to spin around. A lot of the whole burnouts and then taking off from there basically being like a boost, that’s not the case. It’s a negative for us. If you’ve ever seen somebody do burnouts and you have a look at that tire afterwards, there’s a big flat part of the tire, because you’ve basically just melted the rubber off it. And we don’t want it flat. We need to keep a round surface. With cars, you kind of do need to do a burnout sometimes to try and heat the tire through.
[A police car catches up to Trinity riding her motorcycle]
A lot of movies get this wrong, but this one in particular, is the fact that cars can just catch them so quickly. There’s very few supercars that can go as quick as what bikes can. Especially a Ducati. You know, that’s top of the line at the time. Bikes have acceleration that’s incredible. You know, it’s basically a 160-, 180-kilo bike for 200-plus horsepower. The ratio is extreme. And when they’ve got cars that can just zoom right up to them, that’s probably the most unrealistic part.
[Trinity swerves through traffic]
The ride into the traffic and everything at the beginning wasn’t too bad. I think with two people on it’s unrealistic. You can’t change direction that quickly. Road bikes, the faster you go, the harder it is to change direction. If they’re going at the speeds that are implied, those maneuvers just aren’t possible. The stunt riders, they’ve got to have cars coming along with them, so they’re restricted to what speed they can do. And when they’re going slower, it’s actually quite hard to have good form as if you were doing those fast scenes. So it’s a very tricky thing to do. And that’s why I was impressed with the “Mission: Impossible,” because you’re actually able to see they’ve got quite good form all through that scene. They’ve got quite good styles and everything like that.
So I would rate this a 3 or a 4 again. The fact that they had a key, I really liked that aspect.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
[The Terminator maneuvers his Harley through the street]
Harleys in general are a little difficult to ride. Everything’s so low-slung, and it’s quite actually hard to get them to corner at the best of times. Harleys actually can have quite a lot of horsepower. I mean, they’re incredible machines. As soon as you go down through any kind of dip or curve, it’s not going to like it.
[A motorcycle lands a big jump]
There’s no way a big bike like that wouldn’t just land and go into a ton of pieces. And if it was real, I mean, I don’t think they’d have much of a back left, so. That’s quite hard for me to see actually happening. A big, heavy bike like that landing from that sort of drop, only a dirt bike could make that drop, and it’s still going to hurt a bit.
I would say 3, 4 again. There’s parts of it that were realistic enough.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)
[Black Widow rides a motorcycle underneath a semi-trailer truck]
Drifting on a motorcycle, on a road bike’s definitely possible. To go that fast with that much lean angle, that’s basically an immediate crash at those sort of speeds. And, for me, at that angle was just sort of not possible. There’s going to be no more grip, and the bike will go away from underneath you. There’s lots of elements. Again, we’re talking about on the street as well. So if it was on a racetrack, you got consistent grip levels, et cetera, et cetera. But this is the first time seeing it on a street. There’s oil spills, all that. It’s going to be very difficult to manage and judge those situations. So I would say that’s nearly impossible.
[Black Widow performs a stoppie]
That’s not a problem to do that and create a stoppie. The distance that she did it in, though, was probably unrealistic, because to do a stoppie actually makes you stop slower. If you’ve got the rear wheel, let’s say, a foot off the ground, that’s not too bad. That’s at about your breaking limit, because there’s a certain force and angle and everything. As soon as you start going too far, then that force is carrying you over the top. For someone to stop that quick with a stoppie, it’s not realistic.
[Black Widow changes gear]
It’s electric bike, so they don’t have clutches. Just use the throttle with an electric bike. Which, again, would probably make the burnout that she did quite difficult as well.
I would say, again, 3, 4 mark.
“Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)
[James Bond rides a motorcycle with Wai Lin]
Casey Stoner: Riding with two people doing something different is nearly impossible. It’d be easier to ride one-handed than it would be to ride with two people like that. For two people to just jump on and one use the clutch and the left handlebar and one use the throttle and brake on the right, unless you’ve practiced day in, day out with someone, to do something like that’s, you know, that’s impossible.
[bike engine buzzes]
The noise of this bike, there’s no way a big bike like that’s going to be that quiet. It sounded very much like a scooter. So many scenes you’ll see of two-strokes that sound like a four-stroke. They just, you know, they haven’t quite got it right. And this one almost sounds like a scooter that’s taking off. You know, it certainly doesn’t sound like a Harley or that big bike that they’re actually riding.
[James Bond does a wheelie on his motorcycle]
Casey Stoner: Doing a wheelie like that on that bike is, it’s not impossible. Big, heavy bike like that, you’re going to struggle to really get the power. It’s long, and the balance point’s very, very, it’s quite bad on those sort of bikes. You know, they’re made to stay on the ground. They’re not made to get the front wheel in the air. So. I’ve seen people that can wheelie just about anything, but, yeah, I would say, again, that’s a very, very low probability to be able to do that. Wheelies do not help you go faster. The amount of times I see them drop back a couple of gears and [makes revving noise] and then chuck a wheelie and all of a sudden they’re flying along. It’s not faster. All of your weight then is going up. It’s the same with the stoppie scene. If you’ve got your weight going down, it’s wanting to overtake you. But with a wheelie up here, you can’t accelerate. You can’t get going, because basically the bike wants to keep going the other way. So wheelies, especially in racing, is our enemy. Occasionally, you can come up and control it, but it has to be no more than 6, 8 inches (20cm) off the ground. And that’s where you find that sort of balance point. You get any further than that, it wants to start overtaking you, and then you have to start backing off, so. Unless you’re throwing a wheelie, I guess, to stop some bullets hitting you, as we’ve seen in quite a few, yeah, there’s no way wheelies are helping you out.
[James Bond jumps a motorcycle over a helicopter]
Of course the jump is impossible, and just going through a roof and surviving it and not breaking your backs on just the impact.
That one was very, very difficult to see the realism in. And I’d probably go a 1 or a 2.
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
[Jason Bourne rides a motorcycle up a wall]
I know the rider who actually did that and ridden with him personally and know that everything’s possible that’s in that movie. So, you know, there’s nothing unrealistic for me there. The jump that he made up the wall is definitely possible. He had, you know, small amount of ramp there from the curb.
The key to getting up heights like that, it’s all loading the body, loading the bike, loading the tires and suspension all at the right moment. So they use that little pop, that ramp for the front end to get that up, and to get over a wall like that, you can’t just clean jump it, so basically they’re using their rear tire. Jumping up as far as they can, keep the front tire over the top of it, and then they use their rear to ride up the last bit. And then that helps the front clear, and then they use their momentum to get over, so.
Everything that he did was 100% real, so 10 out of 10. They kept themselves in a realistic state there, so I like that one.
“The Great Escape” (1963)
[Hilts jumps a motorcycle over a fence]
Steve McQueen’s an absolute legend and I think did most of his own stunts ever on a bike and things like that. He was just incredible, you know, there was no special effects or anything like that. That was a clean, honest jump and everything. Grass isn’t too bad if you’ve got off-road tires, knobbies. If they’re fresh and have sharp edges, grass really isn’t too bad to ride on. It gives you a fair bit of grip. But on the type of bike he was on, with those tires, there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of grip. It was nice to see a couple little slide-outs there, things like that, because it was, you know, lush, green grass. It ends up being very, very slippery. But to be honest, quite a lot of fun.
The jump, definitely possible. Everything plausible. So, yeah, I’d have to give it a 10.
“Biker Boyz” (2003)
[A motorcycle rider creates sparks by dragging his boots on the pavement]
The sparking boots is something that they would have made or designed. It could just be a few screws that they put around the edge of the boots. We started to do a night race in Qatar, and during the night race, when I was racing Ducati, we had quite low foot pegs the way our bike was designed and everything. So during the daytime you couldn’t see it sparking, but at nighttime, because I was touching the foot pegs on one of the corners on the track, it would spark quite a lot. It’s not too difficult to get some sparks happening at nighttime.
The wheelies were all possible. The stoppies were possible. It’s all more than plausible. It’s all stuff I can do myself, so if I can do it, definitely there’s some people out there that can do a heck of a lot more than that. The one thing that I probably couldn’t do was when he did the handstand, they only used the clutch when they were going back gears. They weren’t going too fast. Doing everything in every maneuver they did was plausible.
Everything’s realistic there. I’d have to say, yeah, 10 out of 10.