'Easy Rider' Movie Review

Updated on November 27, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

Easy Rider has been the subject of hundreds of analysis, reviews, and tributes, all with good reason. This is a film that, although it's a time capsule of a very specific moment in the cultural history of the United States, concerns the universal viewer.

The reason is simple: It’s undeniable that 60s American counterculture—as well as its government's imperial culture counterpart did in the geopolitical spectrum—molded large-scale patterns of consumption and global artistic narratives.

Easy Rider was conceived, produced and premiered between 1968 and 1969 in the post-Kennedy America, plunged in mourning after the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King's assassinations, suffering the Vietnam War and the Nixon era, where the Woodstock festival would be the last great cultural resort an idealistic generation.

Easy Rider is a cynical and ruthless tale about the pursuit of freedom and being an alternative to the establishment, musicalized by Steppenwolf, Jimmy Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

Easy Rider also opened a big door for independent films. The "New Hollywood" movement welcomed a whole new generation of talented, hungry filmmakers with compelling reasons to break technical standards to better convey messages that traditional cinema was unable to address.

Yes, the massification of the "New Hollywood" would largely be offset in the 80's by the Spielberg-like blockbusters, but its influence and legacy on the independent film movement around the world, until this day, is undeniable.

Conceived as a deconstruction of the western genre, two Americans "heroes" with motorcycles instead of horses, turn their back to the west, going eastward. Using money earned through drug trafficking (whose clients includes a Phil Spector's cameo), Wyatt "Captain America" ​​(Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), embarks on a road trip through the Southern United States.

Wyatt (Earp?) has the American flag on his helmet, leather jacket, and on his silver-chromed low-riding bike gas tank motorcycle engine. Billy (The Kid?) uses cowboy hat, long hair, mustache, fringed buckskin jacket and Indian necklace made of animals' fangs.

Both star in a stark diagnosis of American society. They encounter a hippie commune and after enjoying the sexy, trippy charms of the place, see the hard reality: The inexperience and the scarce work commitment of its members make the community's self-sustainability almost impossible.

Later, they befriend a kindhearted "square" alcoholic lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), with whom they share the best observations, including legendary phrase

It's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace (…) Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare ‘em.

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If the first 70 minutes of Easy Rider are The Beatles's "Revolution 1", the last 20 are "Revolution 9". The more intimate narrative is twisted, diffuse and paranoid as if finally, we were experiencing the protagonists' drugs effects.

After that surreal acid trip sequence in the cemetery with prostitutes, our heroes share one last campfire. Billy, idealistic, is happy with what they have accomplished with their life. Wyatt, on the other hand, is blunt: "We blew it”.

And with that unresolved debate, the freedom-seeker cowboys end up devoured by the traditional conservatism, rural ignorance, and the fear of change.

Movie Details

Title: Easy Rider

Release Year: 1969

Director(s): Dennis Hopper

Actors: Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, a.o.

4 stars for Easy Rider (1969)

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      I have a vague recollection of watching this many years ago. Your review brings it back to mind for me.

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