Breaking Away (1979)


Breaking Away is a 1979 American film. A coming of age film, it follows a teenager in Bloomington, Indiana who has recently graduated from high school and is unsure what to do with his life. It stars Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern (in his first film role), Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley. The film was written by Steve Tesich (an alumnus of Indiana University) and directed by Peter Yates. Tesich would go on to script another bicycle film, American Flyers, starring Kevin Costner. It won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Tesich, and also received nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Barbara Barrie), Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Picture. The film also won the 1979 Golden Globe Award for Best Film (Comedy or Musical). The film is ranked eighth on the List of America's 100 Most Inspiring Movies compiled by the American Film Institute (AFI) in 2006. In June 2008, AFI announced its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Breaking Away was acknowledged as the eighth best film in the sports genre. A short-lived television series based on the film, also titled Breaking Away, aired in 1980.


Dave (Dennis Christopher), Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern) and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) are four working-class friends, living in a college town, who have recently graduated from high school and are not sure what to do next. They often clash with the more affluent Indiana University students in their hometown of Bloomington. Dave is obsessed with competitive bicycle racing. His down-to-earth, blue-collar father, Ray (Paul Dooley), is puzzled and exasperated by his son's love of Italian music and culture, which Dave associates with bicycling. However, his mother Evelyn (Barbara Barrie) is more understanding. Dave masquerades as an Italian exchange student to romance a university student (Robyn Douglass), even serenading her one evening outside her sorority house. When her boyfriend Rob (Hart Bochner) finds out, he and some of his fraternity brothers beat up Cyril, mistaking him for Dave (he had accompanied Dave on his guitar). Though Cyril wants no trouble, Mike insists on tracking Rob down and starting a brawl. When a professional Italian bicycling team comes to town for a race, Dave is thrilled to be competing with them. However, the Italians become irked when Dave is able to keep up with and even talk to them in Italian during the race. One of them jams a bike pump in Dave's wheel, causing him to crash, which leaves him disillusioned and depressed. Dave's friends persuade him to join them in forming a cycling team for the annual Indiana University Little 500 race. Dave's parents provide t-shirts with the name "Cutters" on them, a derogatory term used to describe the industrial stonecutters who worked the Indiana Limestone quarries of southern Indiana. Dave's father remarks how, when he was a young stonecutter, he was proud to help provide the material to construct the university, yet never felt comfortable being on campus. Dave is so much better than the other competitors, he rides without a break and builds up a large lead, while the other teams have to switch cyclists every few laps. However, he is injured and has to stop. After some hesitation, Moocher, Cyril and Mike take turns pedaling, but soon their lead evaporates. Finally, Dave has his feet taped to the bike pedals and starts making up lost ground; he overtakes Rob on the last lap and wins. Dave's father is immensely proud of his son's accomplishment, so much so that he takes to riding a bicycle himself. Dave later enrolls at the university, where he meets a pretty, newly arrived French student. Soon, he is extolling the superiority of French cyclists.