The Bikeriders is Another Movie Based on the Work of a Photographer

A person with a tattoo on their upper arm is crouched down on grass, focusing on a camera. They have a cigarette in their mouth, sunglasses on their head, and are wearing a sleeveless denim jacket. Trees can be seen in the blurred background.
Photographer Danny Lyon as played by Mike Faist in The Bikeriders. | Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

In what is becoming something of a theme in 2024, another photography-based movie is about to hit the theaters in the form of The Bikeriders.

We’ve already had Civil War and then there is Lee which will be hitting theaters a bit later this year. But what makes The Bikeriders unique is that it is based on a photo book of the same name.

Released in 1968, Lyon embedded himself with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club capturing high-octane black-and-white photographs of a countercultural lifestyle on two wheels.

“It is kind of incredible just how much Danny got these people to talk and unburden themselves with their stories,” the director of the movie Jeff Nichols tells the LA Times who was 25 years old when he first saw a copy of The Bikeriders photo book.

“Their stories start to get complicated. They’re pretty unvarnished, sometimes cruel, sometimes hilarious.”

Nichols pays homage to Lyon’s work by recreating some of the photographs in the movie. Lyon himself is played by actor Mike Faist who stars alongside Tom Hardy, Jodie Comer, and Austin Butler. Faist went to meet Lyon so the actor could understand the photographer’s life and career better while also learning how to use Lyon’s Nikon F SLR camera.

The Photographer That Inspired The Bikeriders Movie

The Bikeriders photo book is considered one of the most authentic and comprehensive portrayals of the motorcycle club subculture in America during the 1960s.

Lyon spent four years with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club that were based in North Chicago and the photographer even wore the colors and was a fully-fledged member.

It was a style of journalism that was new at the time, one that the writer Hunter S. Thompson had popularized. Lyon sought Thompson’s advice because he had spent a year with the Hell’s Angels.

“He advised me not to join the Outlaws and to wear a helmet. I joined the club and seldom wore a helmet,” Lyon told the Chicago Reader in 2014.

Lyon was enamored with the biker lifestyle calling them “blue-collar guys who loved motorcycles and loved each other, and there were amazing people among them.”

However, in an interview with The Guardian Lyon said that by the end of his experience he was “horrified” after one of the members brought a Nazi flag to a picnic.

“By then I had realized that some of these guys were not so romantic after all,” he told the newspaper.

The Bikeriders is in theaters tomorrow (June 21).