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Breaking Away is a 1979 coming of age film that tells the story of four teenagers in Bloomington, Indianamarker who have graduated from high school and are not sure what they want to do with their lives, other than hang out and go swimming in an abandoned limestone quarry. It stars Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern (his first film role), Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley. The movie was written by Steve Tesich, an alumnus of Phi Kappa Psi at Indiana University, whose original working title for the screenplay was Bambino, and directed by Peter Yates.

It won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Steve Tesich, and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Barbara Barrie), Best Director, Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score and Best Picture.

The film is 8th on the List of America's 100 Most Inspiring Movies compiled by The American Film Institute in 2006. In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Breaking Away was acknowledged as the eighth best film in the sports genre.

A short-lived television series prequel, also titled Breaking Away, aired in 1980.


Dave (Dennis Christopher), Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern) and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) are adolescent working-class Americans living in an Indianamarker college town, who often clash with the more affluent college students. The four have just graduated from high school.

Dave is obsessed with bicycle racing. His down-to-earth, blue-collar father Ray (Paul Dooley) is puzzled and exasperated by his son's love of Italian music and culture, which the son associates with bicycling, and his precious Italian Masi road racing bicycle. However, his mother Evelyn (Barbara Barrie) is more understanding. Dave masquerades as an Italian exchange student to romance a university student (Robyn Douglass), even serenading her one evening outside her sorority house window.

When a professional Italian bicycling team comes to town for a race, Dave is thrilled to be competing with them. However, the Italians become irked when Dave is able to keep up with and even talk to them during the race. One of them jams a bike pump in Dave's wheel, causing him to crash. This leaves Dave disillusioned and depressed.

Dave's friends soon persuade him to form a cycling team for the annual Indiana Universitymarker Little 500 bicycle race. They race under the name "Cutters" (a euphemism for "stoners", the industrial stonecutters who worked the Indiana Limestone quarries of southern Indiana) against university intramural teams.Dave is so much better than the other competitors, he rides without a break and builds up a large lead, while the other teams have to switch cyclists every few laps. However, he is injured and has to stop. After some hesitation, Moocher, Cyril and Mike take turns pedaling, but soon their lead evaporates. Finally, Dave has himself taped into his bike and starts making up ground, winning on the last lap. Afterwards, his father shows Dave how proud he is of his son.


Dooley and Christopher also played father and son in the 1978 film A Wedding and in the 2003 Law & Order: Criminal Intent television episode "Cherry Red".

Barrie, Haley, and Ashton continued their roles in the prequel TV series.

Real-life inspiration

The Little 500 bicycle race that forms the centerpiece of the plot is an actual race held annually at Indiana University. A reenactment of the race was staged for the film in the "old" Memorial Stadium on the IU campus, which was demolished shortly after the filming of the movie.

The team is based on the 1962 Phi Kappa Psi Little 500 champions, which featured legendary rider and Italian enthusiast Dave Blase, who provided screenwriter and fellow Phi Kappa Psi team member Steve Tesich the inspiration for the main character in the movie. Blase, together with team manager Bob Stoller, provided the name of this character: Dave Stoller. In the 1962 race, Blase rode 139 out of 200 laps and was the victory rider crossing the finish line, much like the main character in the film. Blase himself appears in the movie as the race announcer.

Scenes shot in Bloomington

Many of the scenes in the movie were filmed on the Indiana University campus. The Italian restaurant in the film is now a Thai restaurant (Siam House at 430 E. 4th St). Dave Stoller's house in the film is located at the corner of Lincoln and Dodds. Other scenes were filmed outside the Delta Delta Delta sorority house (818 E. 3rd St) and along Jordan. The limestone quarry (swimming scene) is private property outside town.

Bollywood adaptation

The Bollywood movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar is greatly inspired by Breaking Away.


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