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Breaking Away (1979)

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A small-town boy obsessed with the Italian cycling team vies for the affections of a college girl.


Peter Yates


Steve Tesich
4,796 ( 372)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dennis Christopher ... Dave
Dennis Quaid ... Mike
Daniel Stern ... Cyril
Jackie Earle Haley ... Moocher
Barbara Barrie ... Mom
Paul Dooley ... Dad
Robyn Douglass ... Katherine
Hart Bochner ... Rod
Amy Wright ... Nancy
Peter Maloney ... Doctor
John Ashton ... Mike's Brother
Lisa Shure Lisa Shure ... French Girl
Jennifer K. Mickel Jennifer K. Mickel ... Girl
P.J. Soles ... Suzy (as Pamela Jayne Soles)
David K. Blase David K. Blase ... 500 Race Announcer


Best friends Dave, Mike, Cyril and Moocher have just graduated from high school. Living in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, they are considered "cutters": the working class of the town so named since most of the middle aged generation, such as their parents, worked at the local limestone quarry, which is now a swimming hole. There is great animosity between the cutters and the generally wealthy Indiana University students, each group who have their own turf in town. The dichotomy is that the limestone was used to build the university, which is now seen as being too good for the locals who built it. Although each of the four is a totally different personality from the other three, they also have in common the fact of being unfocused and unmotivated in life. The one slight exception is Dave. Although he has no job and doesn't know what to do with his life, he is a champion bicycle racer. He idolizes the Italian cycling team so much he pretends to be Italian, much to the chagrin... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance | Sport


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Italian | French

Release Date:

20 July 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bambino See more »

Filming Locations:

Highway 37/Dixie Highway See more »


Box Office


$2,300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,702, 15 July 1979, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


At script level, the film originally existed in the form of two screenplays, one called "The Cutters" about the townie quarry workers, whilst the other, "The Eagle of Naptown", was about the Little 500 bike race. Both had been written by screenwriter Steve Tesich. The April 2000 edition of the magazine 'Indianapolis Monthly' says of this: "The screenplay that would eventually become Breaking Away (1979) was first titled The Eagle of Naptown. Director Peter Yates suggested combining it with another Tesich script, called The Cutters. He did, turning it into a script called Bambino". Reportedly, the "Bambino" title was then changed because it was felt that moviegoers would assume that the film was about Babe Ruth whose nick-name was "The Bambino". See more »


As the Cinzano truck is being pulled over, Dave passes the truck and can be seen crossing a bridge. In another shot, you can see the truck behind Dave, on the shoulder, but no bridge. See more »


Owner of Car Wash: [in a cranky tone of voice] You're a little late - but I guess you won't let *that* happen again.
Moocher: [meekly] Sorry.
Owner of Car Wash: Here's your sponge and here's your rag and there's your place...
Owner of Car Wash: [sarcastically] ... and don't forget to punch the clock, "Shorty."
Moocher: [Moocher goes over and punches and breaks the time clock with his fist, then walks off the job]
See more »

Crazy Credits


Robyn Douglass See more »


Featured in Modern Family: Fifteen Percent (2010) See more »


Symphony No. 4 in A major (Italian Symphony), Op. 90
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
See more »

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User Reviews

When the bitterness of disillusion gives victory its sweetest taste ...
11 December 2013 | by ElMaruecan82See all my reviews

If there was one film I've been dying to watch for many years, it is the fifth Best Picture nominee of 1979, the 8th most inspiring American movie from AFI's Top 100, the 8th sports movie from AFI's Top 10, the gem that has been impossible to find in my usual DVD stores: "Breaking Away". The first of the many satisfactions the film provided me was the magical moment where I finally found it… and God, I wasn't disappointed.

"Breaking Away" opens in a small town of Indiana, with four friends and as many personalities to identify with. Mike (Dennis Quaid) is a former athlete venting the bitterness of unfulfilled athletic dreams on local college' upper-class students. Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) is hung-up on his height, trying to repress his insecurity while enduring derogatory nicknames every day. Cyril (Daniel Stern) a tall and lanky former basket-ball player and guitar apprentice cares as much about his future as his own father cared about him. And surprisingly, Dave (Dennis Christopher), the central protagonist is the most upbeat of the bunch.

"Breaking Away" is one of these miracles that only the New Hollywood era could provide, something that cuts straight to your heart without you even noticing it. It carries the authentic realism of its Best Picture co-nominee "Norma Rae", with a more heart-warming effect: you smile, laugh and embrace the friendship between these boys who don't know what to do with their post-high-school future, and keep reinventing the world when they go swimming in the abandoned water-filled quarry. And there is something in Peter Yates' directing, that invites the viewer to seize the present with enthusiasm.

And the enthusiasm is embodied by one of the most engaging and lovable characters I've seen in a long time. Dave is so obsessed with the Italian cycling team he translated it in his own life. He talks and sings in Italian and in English with Italian accent, infuriating his Dad (Peter Dooley) who must endure food ending with '-ini-' all the time instead of something American like French Fries. The portrayal of Dave's parents is far from the stereotypical detachment, the mother (Oscar-nominated Barbara Barries) cares too much while the father believes a 19-year old shaving his legs, listening to opera must have some serious issues … While watching Dooley, I kept wondering what happened to his Oscar nomination, he's hilarious to a Walter Matthau-level.

The story goes on, Moocher gets a job but finally leaves it after one 'shorty' too many, Mike keeps clashing and competing with the rich college boys who call him 'cutter', a reference to the working-class that built the college and Cyril is the eternal victim of his helpful nature. Drama always works as a misleading safeguard. Many times, you expect an accident to happen, in the quarry, during a fight, but Dave's excitement to compete against the Italian team, in a local sporting event, makes us lower our guard. Amazingly, Dave isn't your typical bleak and disenchanted underdog hero, his cheerful attitude towers over his friends' struggles as we would all love to do with ours.

And in one of the film's most exhilarating sequences, he follows a semi-truck in a freeway with the perfect music in the background, "Barber of Seville'"s Overture. Dave grabs our heart like Opera our feelings, it's so genuine that many stereotypical situations work like serenading Katherine, the girl he loves, or courting her with an Italian accent, we believe "Catherina" would fall for it, because we would too. And while I loved watching Dave's adventure, I kept wondering what exactly made "Breaking Away" in the AFI's Top 100, let alone Top 10 most inspiring films … was Dave going to win over the Italians? Big deal! There had to be something.

And that something is the pivotal moment that made me realize there's much more intelligence in "Breaking Away" than your average Sports film, something I could relate to, and that made the ending so emotionally rewarding. Dave finally races with the Italians, he approaches them with an insolent ease, speak Italian with them, but they're obviously irked by that local clown, and finally, the very team he admired jams a tire pump under his wheel and make him crash… and at that moment, we witness with shock the collapse of Dave's dreams. The sparkle disappears with the Italian posters, he talks normally, again, asks his father for help and finds him, he embraces his friends' mood and feels like a loser… naturally, he tells the truth to his girlfriend.

As painful as the fall was, I felt a deliverance to see him act normally, to become himself again. It provides the necessary taste of disillusion and the discovery of cheat in grown-ups world as the obligatory coming-of-age. When he competes in the "Little 500" race against the college boys, he's got determination, self-confidence and three other 'Cutters' to take a few leaps, 'Cutters' stop being an insult, it's their identity. The final victory doesn't surprise us because the real victory is over our demons, it's not just winning but winning by being true to yourself. That's the kind of stuff great stories are made on, and it earned "Breaking Away" a well-deserved award for Best Original Screenplay.

As a screenwriter myself, I was fascinated by the film's narrative and the way it rode back and forth from comedy to poignant drama, as a screenwriter it reminded me how happy I was to work with an author, putting all my sweat and blood into a six-month promising project before he would dismiss me after receiving the first draft. I felt cheated exactly like Dave felt when he was kicked off his bike. But you know what they say about what doesn't kill you.

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