Breaking Away

Breaking Away

A story needn’t be complex to succeed. Some are simple in premise but leave us both entertained and inspired. Such was the case with the 1979 coming-of-age film, Breaking Away. Directed by Peter Yates (Bullit, Krull), this story of a young cyclist and his three friends remains beloved by a generation of fans for its uplifting story of triumph over adversity.

The days of high school are over for four young friends – Dave (Dennis Christopher), Cyril (Daniel Stern in his film debut), Mike (Dennis Quaid) and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) – lifelong best buddies trying to figure out what, if anything, the future holds for them in their boring blue-collar town.

If any of them has a lofty dream, it is Mike. An aficionado of all things Italian, his main passion in life is bicycle racing, perched atop his not-surprisingly Italian-made cycle and harboring dreams of someday racing his Italian cycling adversaries.

While his father is somewhat surprised and disapproving of his less than practical pursuits, he is undaunted. He even uses his cultural knowledge to pursuit a local college girl named Katherine by impersonating an Italian exchange student. Meanwhile, his less ambitious friends find themselves in a never-ending battle with the snobby college students.

Mike finally gets a chance to prove himself when the Italian cycling team comes to town, only to enrage his international counterparts with his peddling prowess. Showing a decided lack of sportsmanship, they deliberately cause him to crash during a race, which also brings his dreams crashing down.

That’s where his childhood buddies step in to help, convincing him to create their own competitive cycling team called the “Cutters” And what they lack in skills, he makes up for in sheer determination. But will it be enough to prove that he can be a winner?

Breaking Away was inspired by the true story of the 1962 Phi Kappa Psi Little 500 Champions, whose leader Dave Blasé accomplished an amazing cycling feat. But far from being a mere sports film, Breaking Away was also a touching tale of friendship and of the difficulties escaping the grasp of a small town.

For its efforts, the film received seven Academy Award nominations and won for Best Original Screenplay. It also inspired a prequel television series starring Shaun Cassidy, with Jackie Earl Haley reprising his film role as Moocher.

Although the show only lasted for seven episodes, its film predecessor remains a beloved feel-good movie from the era. It may not be as well-remembered as other offerings from 1979 such as another feel-good film called Rocky II, or even lighter fare such as The Muppet Movie and The Jerk – but like those films, this cinematic gem also deserves to be passed down a few more generations.

If you were a fan of the film Breaking Away or even the TV show, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts and memories with us in our comments section below.

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