Every once in a while Hollywood puts out a big budget movie with an A-list actor that is centered around the world of motorcycling. It doesn't happen often, but in 2005, Anthony Hopkins brought the story of Burt Munro to the big screen with The World's Fastest Indian.
Written and directed by Roger Donaldson, The World's Fastest Indian was a big hit in the United States but it gained most of its accolades abroad. It was not only the highest grossing film in New Zealand in 2005, but it also won best picture, best actor, best screen play, and three other New Zealand Screen Awards.
Set in the 1960s, The World's Fastest Indian focuses on Burt Munro's desire to be one of the fastest men on earth. He's already set numerous speed records in New Zealand, but Munro dreams of more: to set a speed record at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Over the course of many years Munro transforms a 1920s Indian Motorcycle into one of the fastest (under 1000cc) motorcycles in the world.
The World's Fastest Indian is full of inspirational quotes and memorable scenes - and it's not just a matter of this being a feel-good Hollywood movie. By all accounts Burt Munro was indeed a genuinely warm-hearted, likable person with a very positive outlook on life. For example, when asked if he's afraid of crashing and dying, Munro says: "No. You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime."
The World's Fastest Indian is an incredible movie based on an even more incredible real story. Burt Munro was a real man who was already a folk hero in his native New Zealand while he was alive and who has since become a bit of a legend. He didn't have money or any professional training; all Munro had was a dream and an old motorcycle.
It's little wonder, then, that the movie was so well received by movie critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 82% rating from critics and an 88% rating from the audience. Roger Ebert writes: "The World's Fastest Indian is a movie about an old coot and his motorcycle, yes, but it is also about a kind of heroism that has gone out of style. Burt Munro was a real man... a folk hero. Bonneville has never seen anyone like him."