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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend