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
Peter Fonda's character is only referred to by his real name one time in the movie. Billy (Dennis Hopper) does not refer to Captain America as "Wyatt" until the final campfire scene toward the end. See more »
In the diner scene, a shadow on the wood panel between the booths. See more »
Over time, this rough diamond of a film has become a real gem in my collection. When I first saw it at the theater, I remember liking the anti-establishment attitude and the rock music soundtrack. Later, on T.V., I remember thinking what a great actor Jack Nicholson was...and how terribly low-budget the rest of the film appeared.
And now, over 30 years later....it's one of my favorite movies of all time. Peter Fonda tries to be Everyman....but he's really the most insecure individual of the group. His cathartic trip at the cemetary in New Orleans is embarrassingly honest to watch. His search is not for individual freedom...his search is for a family. And yet, he is always the outsider, the observer.
Dennis Hopper is the sidekick, the fool. And like a fool, he cannot hide his thoughts behind a socially acceptable demeanor. He constantly says exactly what he thinks. He has little patience for flower children, pretentious intellectuals, coy women, law officers, drunks in jail, or rednecks passing him on the road. Like a fool, he is doomed. Jack Nicholson is the core of the film. He does not appear until halfway through the bikers' odyssey, but the trip will not make sense until his face rises up from the jailhouse cot to peer bleary-eyed at his surroundings. He is the innocent man of this group....he is the AMERICAN. This movie is just another road picture, the way ON THE ROAD by Kerouac was just another travel book. This little counterculture movie is an American Classic.
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