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 bridge seen in the opening credits, the Old Trails Arch Bridge in Topcock, AZ, is the same bridge Peter Fonda's father, Henry Fonda, playing Tom Joad, crossed with the Joad family when entering California in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). See more »
When Billy and Wyatt are with George outside the police station, as Billy hands over the bottle of liquor and drinks it, the boom mic is reflected in his sun glasses. See more »
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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