Four high-school pals – Dave (Christopher), ex-football player Mike (Quaid), joker Cyril (Daniel Stern) and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) – live in the Indiana college town of Bloomington, where they are doomed to be looked down upon as ‘cutters’ (a derogatory term for the working-class locals) by the university-attending rich kids. Dave becomes enraptured with cycling, and Italian racing in particular, much to the consternation of his dad (‘I’m not “papa”, I’m your goddamn father’), while Mike secretly wants to play ball in college, and the other teens share their dreams too.
Breaking Away is a look at small-town America as much as it is a movie about teens not knowing what the future holds, with an edge-of-the-seat climax (the Little 500 bike race) and winning performances throughout. It’s surprising that Christopher never became a star following his performance here (he’s mainly done stage and TV work in the past couple of decades), while the other Dennis, Mr Quaid, shines so much here that it’s obvious he was a talent to watch.
Is Breaking Away suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...