Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
Two young "hippie" bikers, Wyatt and Billy sell some dope in Southern California, stash their money away in their gas-tank and set off for a trip across America, on their own personal odyssey looking for a way to lead their lives. On the journey they encounter bigotry and hatred from small-town communities who despise and fear their non-conformism. However Wyatt and Billy also discover people attempting 'alternative lifestyles' who are resisting this narrow-mindedness, there is always a question mark over the future survival of these drop-out groups. The gentle hippie community who thank God for 'a place to stand' are living their own unreal dream. The rancher they encounter and his Mexican wife are hard-pushed to make ends meet. Even LSD turns sour when the trip is a bad one. Death comes to seem the only freedom. When they arrive at a diner in a small town, they are insulted by the local rednecks as weirdo degenerates. They are arrested on some minor pretext by the local sheriff and ... Written by
The rednecks in the Louisiana coffee shop who taunt the boys, and the two in the pickup truck at the end of the movie, were all local residents recruited by the filmmakers. In the case of the coffee shop denizens, the filmmakers were preparing to audition a group of local theater people when Dennis Hopper saw Buddy Causey Jr., Duffy Lafont and several others watching them and making wisecracks and decided to use them instead. See more »
In the diner scene, a shadow on the wood panel between the booths. See more »
[after being flaked off by a motel manager]
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Too often this film is relegated to retro documentaries and cheap nostalgia for an era too often reduced to its superficial artifacts (flower power, popular music).
I was born in 1972, three years after this film was made, but the themes in it are still relevant and important to me. Maybe I'm the last of a certain kind of American; someone wondering about what's still possible in the USA, and searching for the realized potential of the American Dream. Perhaps what has changed since this film was released is that freedom - that is, real freedom, just doesn't matter as much to people as it once did. Self-enslavement is a popular past-time for today's numb middle class; a group of people who, I am convinced, do not dream when they sleep.
This movie defined the road film genre, even though it was not the first of its kind. I owe a debt of gratitude to Fonda, Nicholson, and Hopper for pointing out a very real truth about America and its often twisted approach to "freedom." By any standard, this is a film which should not be missed. It is a film I wish I had written myself.
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