Harley and the Davidsons

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Harley and the Davidsons Movie Poster Image
Entertaining docudrama about America's famous motorcycle.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 246 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hard work, entrepreneurship, creativity, risk taking can lead to success (but isn’t always guaranteed). 

Positive Role Models & Representations

William Harley and the Davidson brothers are loyal to each other. 

Violence

Threats, lots of face punches, and bloody motorcycle accidents. 

Sex

Mild sexual innuendo; flirting, burlesque dancing.  

Language

"G--damn," "hell," "bastard."

Consumerism

Harley-Davidson, Indian Motorcycles, etc. shown in historical context. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer, hard liquor visible; cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Harley And The Davidsons, a docudrama based on the real-life stories of the founders of the Harley Davidson motorcycle, contains some violent moments, including fist fights, face punches, and bloody bike accidents. There's some mild sexual innuendo, and words like "g--damn" and "bastard" are occasionally heard. Historically contextual drinking and cigarette smoking. Brands like Indian Motorcycles and, of course, Harley Davidson, are discussed.

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What's the story?

Inspired by actual events, HARLEY AND THE DAVIDSONS is a docudrama about the creation of the Harley-Davidson empire. In 1901, Wisconsin draftsman and engineering student Bill Harley (Robert Aramayo), along with childhood friends Walter and Arthur Davidson (Michiel Huisman and Bug Hall, respectively), develops a motorized bicycle designed to be ridden by the average citizen. From then on they must risk their money, reputations, and even their lives to build a successful company. From impressing potential investors with their bike's speed during dangerous bike races, to supplying troops with fast transportation during the Great War, they used talent, hard work, street smarts, and ingenuity to build what is now America's most iconic motorcycle. 

Is it any good?

This miniseries offers an entertaining account of the beginnings of American motorcycle culture. It successfully weaves the history of the Harley Davidson bike and the company, with partly imagined personal stories of three of its co-founders. But the life of the fourth co-founder, older brother William Davidson (played by Daniel Coonan), isn't fully fleshed out, leaving a gap in the narrative. 

Nonetheless, history buffs will appreciate how HARLEY AND THE DAVIDSONS articulates the way modern invention and global events contribute to the practical and cultural role Harley Davidson has played in the U.S. for more than a century. Motorcycle lovers will enjoy the chronicling of the bike's original enhancements, including the V-Twin engine, a chain drive, and the step starter. But regardless of why you tune in, what you'll find is a story that celebrates the spirit of American entrepreneurship. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about different inventions that have had a major impact on our lives, like in Harley And The Davidsons. Do you think inventors like William Harley and the Davidson brothers could really foresee the potential ways their creations would change the United States when they started to build them? 

  • Many TV series and films change some of the facts or events surrounding historical figures or events to make the narratives more entertaining for audiences. Is this appropriate? When does the story goes from being historical to fictional? 

Movie details

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