Legend of the Falls: Revisiting the Evel Kneivel Story

An engrossing doc captures America’s original daredevil, warts and all.


Amid the disillusionments of the ’70s—the Vietnam War, racial strife, Watergate, lines around the block for gasoline—America needed a hero. And many, especially us kids, found one in the motorcycle daredevil Robert “Evel” Knievel. Boy, did my brother and I get amped for his audacious stunts (and epic wipeouts!), from the record-breaking jump over 19 cars at Ontario Motor Speedway to the ludicrous scheme to leap the Snake River Canyon in a star-spangled rocket cycle. Only later did I learn how deeply flawed our fearless showman was.

In Being Evel, an engaging documentary, director Daniel Junge supplements a wealth of archival and press footage with recollections from spouses, kin, and business associates—including promoter Sheldon Saltman, whose 1977 memoir of touring with Knievel prompted the incensed stuntman to attack him with a baseball bat. The film gives Knievel his due, but also strips away the layers to reveal a checked-out father, a philandering husband, and a complex American icon whose identity was subsumed by his camera-ready persona.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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