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I was utterly surprised by this film. I was expecting nothing more than
some short scenes of our now-infamous actors smoking marijuana followed
by trippy Willy Wonka scenes . Oddly, this did occur, but this film was
much more than that. This film should be shown in every American
History class in the United States. It not only showed the beauty of
the country of which we reside, but it also spoke about the people that
reside in it. You know the old saying, 'Guns don't kill people, people
kill people', well after watching this film, it is a very true
statement. We are afraid of what is different. We are a culture that is
afraid of change, yet seek it so badly. We are a society of hypocrites,
androids, and ignorants. We thrive on the fact that we are the best
country in the world, yet somebody shows any disassociation of routine,
we are the first to question and get angry. I would dare say that we
have moved so far from the 60s that I cannot see why our parents do not
cry everyday. Their generations was a free-spirited, mind challenging
culture that explored all possibilities no matter the cost. The
experience was all they needed as a reward. Now, we are more concerned
about money and the family-plan that we sometimes place ourselves on
the backburner to life. Wake, eat, and pay the bills. What a sad daily
structure that we have. When was the last time you considered the
possibility of just jumping on your bike and riding until you hit
water? Probably not for a long time
why? It is called 'bills' and
'responsibilities'. These are the choices that we chose to make, and
for anyone to say that they cannot do it, I would have to challenge.
You CAN do anything, it is whether you chose to do it is another
question. I wonder what it will be like in another 30 years. Where will
we be, and will the idea of individualism be lost? I can't wait to see
Outside of the deeply rooted themes of this film, I felt that Hopper (who also directed) knew exactly what he was doing behind the camera. He kept the talking short, the music loud and symbolic, and allowed the background to do the explaining. I loved the fact that we really knew nothing about Fonda or Hopper's characters. It allowed us to relate to them. You could easily add your story into their characters and have the life that you lead and wish to escape. Hopper was able to transform this film from a drug movie to a film about humanity. Fonda, who also helped write the film with Hopper, did a superb job of adding Nicholson's character into the mix.
Nicholson represented us, the American public and our love of liquor, football, and lies. I viewed Nicholson as the average American. He drank too much, was the product of a wealthy upbringing, but did not know much about the world. He was sheltered. He never smoked weed (in fact didn't even know what it was when presented to him), never left the state line, and never lived life. He constantly used the expression, 'I have always wanted to '. How many times do you hear this a day from either a family member or a co-worker? If you always wanted to do it, why haven't you? So, here we have Hanson, dreaming a dream but never following through, who is traveling with two guys that live the ultimate life and live by their own rules. They are complete opposites, but Hanson's words seemed to remain in my mind for a long time. He reminded me of one of my wife's students today that spoke about freedom. He knew exactly what it was, but never practiced it. Hopper and Fonda were walking (driving most of the time) representations of the word 'freedom'. It is tragic what happens to Harmon, because he (unfortunately) experienced the negative side of freedom hatred and fear of the unknown.
There was one scene that just jumped out at me. It occurs in the diner before the incident later that night where our travelers experience hatred in the country they admire so much. They go from peace and love to fear and hate. It is as if they witnessed night and day. It was frightening to hear the words coming from people in that restaurant. It was not only scary to wonder what was going to happen to our narrators, but mainly that people were speaking that way to fellow citizens. I know that it still occurs today, and it is surprising to me. We bomb a country because they do not follow the same principles that we do, but we need to start asking ourselves this question do we need another United States?
Grade: ***** out of *****
I cannot overstate the importance of this movie in my personal
In 1969 I was eighteen and a freshman at Cambridge University. I was also a near-fundamentalist and a member of the Christian Union. Its officials decreed that Easy Rider was unsuitable for Christian viewing; I'd seen some enthusiastic reviews which made me curious. Moral and spiritual dilemma followed. To view or not to view? I prayed about it - look, this is a long time ago, right - and decided that if it had been OK for the Christian Union's leaders to see it, if only to realise it was morally dubious, then it was OK for me. They hadn't been corrupted, presumably; the Lord would see that I wasn't either.
So I went and it blew me away. I thought then and think now, that this is a magnificently perceptive commentary on hippie culture and one that only the medium of film can deliver. Naive idealism is weighed against the squalid reality of drugs (and indeed alcohol). Freedom is portrayed as often aimless, self-indulgent and downright boring. The underlying morality could be seen as puritanical: a celebration of the free-lovin' drop-out Sixties it ain't, more a weary end-of-decade critique thereof. I would have thought there was much to commend it to the Christian Union moralisers, yet as ever they couldn't see past the surface - drug abuse, loose women. Yet it has its high moments, in more ways than one, and is always a treat for the eyes.
My decision to defy the Christian Union by seeing the film was an early step out of my fundamentalist prison and I haven't stopped walking yet. No-one's ever going to tell me what I can and can't watch again: nor will I censor anyone else's viewing. I'm still a believer, but not of the kind that the Christian Union would have thought will ever go to heaven. Guess I'll have to live with that.
Not many films have documented an era of American culture the way it
must have really been. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES captured the reality
of the post-war 1940's. TAXI DRIVER is a masterpiece of social
distortion and paranoia exemplary of the 1970's. No film other than
EASY RIDER captures the late 1960's as seen by the American
counter-culture. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's story of two men who
go in search of America and 'freedom' is a bona fide sign of the times.
I may not have been around at the time, but it is great to see a film
portraying the long-haired, hippie attitude towards an America in
turmoil in the form of a biker flick, circa 1969.
EASY RIDER is an exploration of vast and desolate parts of the country. Of course, the stop at Mardi Gras is a necessity, but what Fonda and director Hopper are trying to tell us is that there was no 'freedom' as they saw it. The sprawling journey shows filmgoers the multiple frictions and shattered idealism of a generation in the midst of cultural change. Sex, drugs, and music were exploding socially and 1960's ideology may have come to an end in 1969, literally and figuratively speaking - much like it shockingly does in this film.
Peter Fonda plays cool "Captain America", otherwise known as Wyatt, while Hopper is a paranoid prophet of the hippies as "Billy the Kid". The stunning DVD version of the film notes the importance of Laszlo Kovacs, the director of photography. Much of the film consists of Kovacs' simple shooting of the riders as they travel spiraling highways and bigoted backroads. It is some beautiful footage and essential to the trip. A major deal is made, much grass is smoked, and the film takes off from there. Their ultimate goal is never clearly defined, but Fonda's final comment to Hopper may sum it up for viewers. Did they find what America was supposed to be about? I guess not according to Fonda.
There is a surreal experience at a commune the Kid and Wyatt stop at. These scenes are out of a Fellini film. One significant shot paints the commune with a 360 degree pan across the faces of the live-in hippies. The expressions on the faces all seem different, some grinning, others just zoned out. Kovac's amazing camera work (especially on the road with the bikes) along with a virtual who's who in rock music of the late 60's makes for a sometimes visceral filmgoing experience. The immortal 'Born to be Wild' blares over the opening title sequence and everyone from Hendrix to The Byrds are heard throughout.
EASY RIDER also contains one of Jack Nicholson's 2 or 3 most memorable performances, even to this day. As drunken lawyer "George Hanson", he creates an amazingly funny and perfect counterpoint to Hopper and Fonda. He realizes what the general public can think of the "long-hairs" and puts himself in danger just by traveling with them. A bizarre notion of alien presence in the U.S. government is part of a hilarious conversation Nicholson and Hopper have over Whiskey and smoke. His scenes on Fonda's chopper with the golden football helmet are absolute, cinematic classics.
Credit must be given to Fonda, Hopper, Nicholson, Kovacs, and Terry Southern for giving a new face to movie-making. They captured the era in a raw, jump cutting fashion. Maybe the hippies were not entirely right by trying to live off the land, or smoking dope all the time, but they may have been onto something.
Too often this film is relegated to retro documentaries and cheap nostalgia
for an era too often reduced to its superficial artifacts (flower power,
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.
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.
Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider is often cited as being an all time classic,
and while I don't think this is a great film in terms of technical
brilliance, it sums up the era it was made and the tongue in cheek,
cynical take on the 'American dream' is both potent and well done. This
film is very much a product of the sixties and, like many things from
the decade, will always be fondly remembered. Dennis Hopper and Peter
Fonda, men of substance and substance abuse, wrote the film together
and Hopper directed it. These two were obviously in the thick of what
was cool in the sixties, and that gives the film an element of
authenticity as we feel like what we're seeing isn't too far away from
the things really going on at that time. The plot is simple and more
just a base for the film to deliver it's real sting than anything else.
It follows two motorbike riders on their way from Los Angeles to the
Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We follow their exploits as they travel the
country meeting various people including, most notably, George Hanson;
an offbeat lawyer, played by the great Jack Nicholson.
The American Dream has always been about freedom. But like George Hanson says; it's one thing to talk about being free, but something else entirely to actually be it. That's the theme of the entire movie, and the way that it plays out, and the ending especially, aptly portray the difference between saying something and actually doing it. The acting performances are a big part of the movie, and the two leads; Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper stick out the most. The two actors brilliantly get into their characters, and after a while you forget that you're watching actors and start to think that these people really are these characters. Jack Nicholson turns up halfway through and steals the show. It's not hard to see why this actor went on to become one of the best of all time. Even here, he shows his charisma and ability to steal the show and that is what he would go on to become famous for doing later in his career. Last but not least, another great thing about Easy Rider is the music. Music was, of course, a big thing in the sixties; and it's a big thing about this movie. Classic rock accompanies the pictures of the two men rider their bikes, and it's very cool indeed. On the whole, this film is an out and out classic.
To me, a flawed masterpiece is a film that is not perfect but by the
end achieves something so great it overcomes its' flaws. The two films
I can honestly say that about are Lars Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark
and Easy Rider. Easy Rider perfectly defines it.
The flaws: Well, the first half although entertaining it pointless. They basically just ride around and pick up hippies and go to a commune. Peter Fonda although he looks the part but for some reason something seemed missing from his character. Also, in the beginning there is a pretty annoying editing technique which they luckily soon abandon.
The film really gets astounding in the second half. The whole film is shot very well by DP Laszlo Kovacs and the music might be one of the best soundtracks ever in film. I might even buy it. The film is filled with genuinely poetic ideas. Jack Nicholson gives a star making performance and Dennis Hopper is once again and forever THE MAN. This film is filled with many biblical metaphors which never came off as pretentious but very powerful. The film is filled with very strong visuals. No wonder Dennis Hopper once wanted to work with Alejandro Jodorwsky. The ending is might be the best part of the movie. It is almost the ultimate "what the f*ck?' moment in history, but for such a chaotic film it fits perfectly. The ending is also powerful. It represented to me the end of a generation.
Well okay. This movie I know will definitely not please everybody but for those who are open minded and into visually driven films, this film will certainly live up to its' title as one of the most influential films in American history.
In this counterculture film, we have a spaced-out trio of Peter Fonda,
Dennis Hopper, and a funny Jack Nicholson tooling down the "high"way,
on motorcycles and "stuff", en route from L.A. to Mardi Gras. As
artistic expression during an angry era of war and social change, the
film communicates a powerful philosophy, in lieu of a complex plot.
Most scenes take place outdoors, in the American South and Southwest. Laszlo Kovacs' adroit cinematography, combined with an expansive soundtrack, hippie lingo, and "cool" clothes, convey the film's underlying message of individual freedom and nonconformity. The film is significant in that it was one of several successful 60's films made by individuals outside the traditional Hollywood studio structure. As such, "Easy Rider" broke new ground in film-making.
'Easy Rider' is much more than a 60s relic - it's still a great movie even today. I find it fascinating that Hopper and Fonda took Roger Corman material and gave it an arthouse approach influenced by Godard and the French New Wave. Combined with breathtaking visuals, a well chosen rock soundtrack and some classic, stoned, improvised dialogue this is still an impressive movie all these years later. Fonda had recently made 'The Wild Angels', Hopper the less remembered 'The Glory Stompers', and Jack Nicholson 'Hells Angels On Wheels', but 'Easy Rider' reinvented the biker movie, and things were never quite the same in Hollywood for the rest of the Seventies. The supporting cast is interesting and includes a great role for the fantastically underrated Luke Askew as the "Stranger on Highway", and cameos from the stars buddies Luana Anders ('Dementia 13') and Sabrina Scharf (Nicholson's love interest in 'Hells Angels On Wheels'), as well Karen Black and Toni Basil's New Orleans hookers, Phil Spector's coke snorting bit part, and a fleeting glimpse of a young Grizzly Adams. You either love this movie or you don't, and I'm most definitely in the former camp. A 1960s generation-defining counter-culture classic!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow, I just watched this movie for the first time in 30 years. The first
time I saw it, I thought it was just a jumble of drug-induced fantasies made
by some spoiled rich kids. Now that I've seen it again after all those
years of historical perspective, I now see that it was truly a work of
It isn't just a social commentary on the bigotry and hypocricy of the 1960's toward the "long hairs." Underneath all the "groovy, man" hippie dialog and constant drug use, you can see the real purpose of the film: It is a simple but powerful statement of the futility of going down the wrong path in search of the American dream.
It starts out with our two "righteous" heroes scoring some big cash by smuggling drugs out of Mexico. Their dream is to go to Mardi Gras for a big party and then "retire" in Florida with their ill-gotten money. In spite of their crime, they are portrayed as innocent and gentle young men in search of personal freedom. In the course of their journey, they experience several different lifestyles, none of which truly satisfies them. They spend time at a hippie commune; which they find to be full of weird people who, instead of being truly free, are struggling for their very survival. They go on an lsd-enhanced romp with some prostitutes in a New Orleans cemetery, which turns out to be a real downer for them. They get exposed to verbal abuse and even violence by the rednecks in several towns along the way. They connect with a drunk, but very insightful, lawyer who is unsure of his own place in the world. When it seems that he will start making a difference in the lives of our heroes, he is brutally beaten to death by some rednecks from the town they had all stopped in earlier that day.
The only positive experience they have is when they stop to fix a flat tire at the farm of a God-fearing man and his family in the rural southwest. While sharing a meal with them, Peter Fonda's character compliments the man about how he has his life all together, even though they are generations apart in lifestyle.
So why are our heroes going through all of this? They are searching for their own version of the American Dream. Although they may be motorcycle riding hippies of the counterculture of the 1960's, their goal was to make some quick money so that they could retire from the worries of life. It is very symbolic that they kept their drug-earned money hidded in one bike's gasoline tank that is painted with an American flag. Rather than conforming to the world of the time by getting haircuts and finding jobs, they pursue their dream by getting some quick money and seeking the freedom to enjoy themselves for the rest of their lives. The dream is the same, the motives are the same, but the methods are different.
At the end they realize that they are really no different from the culture they sought to escape from. Peter Fonda's character sums it all up with the simple line, "We blew it" toward the end of the movie. Shortly after that is the famous scene of them getting blown away with a shotgun by some ignorant rednecks in a pickup truck on some southern backcountry road. They start their noble quest in secret with a drug deal, and their quest and very lives are ended in secret on an obscure country road. But their terrible end doesn't happen they find out that the freedom they sought wasn't at all what they expected it would be.
I think this film still has a strong message even today. Many of the social ills of our culture have their roots in the misguided ideals of the 1960's counterculture. Those who think they can become truly free by rejecting the hard-learned principles that served previous generations tend to find that life has a way of enslaving them in other ways.
As to the film, the acting is simple, straightforward and powerful. The dialog is very understated, and leaves a lot to the imagination. The scenery is fantastic, and the music fits the story perfectly. Those who weren't alive during the 1960's may not understand it, but it is still worth watching. Highly recommended!
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