Breaking Away (1979)

breaking away movie 1979 poster
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Weird coming together of story, location, cast

Sometimes unbalanced

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Breaking Away

Studio: Movie Studio

Genre(s): Movie Genre

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: Movie Rating

breaking away cutters quarry jackie earle haley daniel stern dennis quaid dennis christopher

Just laying out in a quarry in the Indiana sun

Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) has a dream.  He’s Italian and lives far from his Bloomington, Indiana home.  Unfortunately for Dave, he’s a “Cutter”.  His father (Paul Dooley) and the fathers of his friends Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern), and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) made their living as a stonecutters in the limestone quarries surrounding Bloomington, and the students at Indiana University look down on the townie “Cutters”.  Dave loves to ride bicycles and wishes to ride like the Italians he emulates much to the distain of his father but the amusement of his mother (Barbara Barrie).  When Dave and his friends get the opportunity to compete in I.U.’s Little 500…and the chance for the Cutters to prove themselves is close.

Directed by Peter Yates, Breaking Away is a comedy-drama set based around the Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and became a cult classic.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Barrie), and Best Original Score.

Growing up in Indiana, it feels weird watching Breaking Away.  Shot entirely in Bloomington, the town (despite the years passing) still looks relatively like it did in the movie.  It is a weird success story and the setting is part of the heart of the movie.

breaking away italians bicycle race dennis christopher

It’s the Italians!!!

The story for Breaking Away is kind of all over the place.  It is a coming of age story (of teens becoming adults), a comedy, a sports movie, and a drama.  The genres don’t always play well and sometimes it seems like it is lighter than it should be and other times it feels like it is too heavy for a light comedy.  It is actually this strange dichotomy which makes the movie kind of unusual and interesting.

The cast was also young and growing when the film was made.  All of the “Cutters” have continued to work.  Despite being the “star” and strong in this movie, Dennis Christopher is probably the least recognizable of the Cutters (though he does have a steady stream of acting roles).  The other Cutters all are quite developed in the relatively short movie.  Dennis Quaid is the hothead, Daniel Stern is the one who hopes to get out, and Jackie Earle Haley is the “little guy” who is happy with his life in the city.  The movie’s real dynamic is between Christopher and his father played by Paul Dooley who doesn’t know how to deal with his son.  It is the subtle contrast of Barbara Barrie as the mother that helps her performance rise however.  Other appearances include John Ashton, P.J. Soles, and Hart Bochner.

breaking away ending cutters win little 500 dennis christopher

Unleash the Cutter inside!

The movie’s real star (especially for me) is Bloomington.  Breaking Away does a great job with the racing and bike riding sequences, but it also captures the Indiana town.  It is an ode to the city and the countryside of the Midwest.

Breaking Away was kind of a strange success.  The little movie has a lot of Rocky in it and the whole plot, characters, and location leads up to the underdog story with a lot of feeling and great ending.  Growing up and going to school in a community where there was a lot of different social groups being forced together, I can also see the struggle of Breaking Away…and the Cutters will always rule!

Related Links:

The 52nd Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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