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Easy Rider (1969) - Plot Summary Poster

(1969)

Plot

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Summaries

  • 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 thrown in jail where they meet George Hanson, a liberal alcoholic lawyer. He gets them out and decides to join them on their trip to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.

  • The partners and friends Wyatt and Billy buy drugs in Mexico and sell them I n Los Angeles, raising money to travel to the Mardi Grass in New Orleans on their chopper style bikes. They cross the country on a musical ride through spectacular landscapes and encounter counterculture groups and also experience small town intolerance for their looks and lifestyle.

  • Through the open country and desert lands, two bikers head from L.A to New Orleans, and along the way, meet a man who bridges a counter-culture gap they are unaware of.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The protagonists are two freewheeling hippies: Wyatt, nicknamed "Captain America" (Peter Fonda), and Billy (Dennis Hopper). Their names are a reference to Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. Wyatt dresses in American flag-adorned leather, while Billy dresses in Native American-style buckskin pants and shirts and a bush hat. Wyatt is appreciative of the help they receive and of others along the way while the Billy is often hostile, unappreciative and paranoid. After smuggling drugs from Mexico to Los Angeles, Wyatt and Billy sell their drugs to "Connection," a man (Phil Spector) in a Rolls Royce. With the money from the sale stuffed into a plastic tube hidden inside the Stars & Stripes-adorned fuel tank of Wyatt's California-style chopper, they ride eastward in an attempt to reach New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras. At nights, they are forced to camp out in the fields, as no motel will lodge them due to their hippie and biker appearance. During their trip, Wyatt and Billy meet and have a meal with a rancher, whom Wyatt admires for his simple, traditional farming lifestyle. Later, the duo pick up a hitchhiker (Luke Askew) and agree to take him to his commune, where they stay for a day. Life in the commune appears hard, with naive city hippies finding it difficult to grow their own crops in a dry climate with poor soil. (One of the children in the commune is played by Fonda's four-year-old daughter, Bridget.) At one point, the bikers witness a prayer for blessing of the new crop, as put by one of the members: A chance "to make a stand," and to plant "simple food, for our simple taste." The commune also contains a traveling theater group that "sings for its supper" (performs for food). Free love is practiced and two women turn their attention to Wyatt and Billy. As the bikers leave, the hitchhiker (known only as "stranger on highway" in the credits) gives Wyatt some LSD for him to share with "the right people".

    While jokingly riding along with a parade in a small town, the pair are arrested by the local authorities for "parading without a permit" and thrown in jail, where they befriend ACLU lawyer and local drunk George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), who helps them get out of jail and decides to go with them to New Orleans for Marti Gras. George has a card for a whorehouse in New Orleans but states he has attempted to go in the past but never made it past the county line. As they camp that night, Wyatt and Billy introduce George to marijuana. As an alcoholic and a "square", George is reluctant to try it ("It leads to harder stuff", and "I don't want to get hooked"), but finally relents.

    While attempting to eat in a rural Louisiana restaurant, the trio's hippie appearance attracts the attention of the redneck locals: While a group of teenage girls are interested in the strangers and their appearance and want to meet and get a ride, the local men including the sheriff make mocking, racist, and homophobic remarks. One of them menacingly states, "I don't believe they'll make the parish line." Wyatt, Billy, and George leave without eating and make camp outside of town. The events of the day cause George to comment, "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." He observes that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it. In the middle of the night, the local rednecks attack and brutally beat the trio with baseball bats while they're sleeping. Billy manages to scare the attackers off by pulling a switchblade on them. Wyatt and Billy suffer minor injuries, but George is killed. Wyatt and Billy wrap George's body up in his sleeping bag, gather his belongings, and vow to return the items to his parents. They continue on and finally arrive in New Orleans and find the brothel George had intended to visit. Taking prostitutes Karen (Karen Black) and Mary (Toni Basil) with them, Wyatt and Billy go outdoors and wander the parade-filled street of the Mardi Gras celebration. They end up in a cemetery, where all four ingest LSD. They experience a psychedelic bad trip infused with Catholic prayer, represented through quick edits, sound effects, and over-exposed film.

    Making camp afterward, Billy thinks they have made it and will retire rich in Florida but Wyatt declares, "We blew it." Billy doesn't know what he is talking about.

    The next morning, the two continue on their trip. While on a quiet local road two rednecks in a pickup spot them riding along and decide to "scare the hell out of them" with their shotgun. As they pull up alongside Billy who is behind Wyatt, one of them lazily aims the shotgun at him and taunts him, asking, "Want me to blow your brains out?" and "Why don't you get a haircut?" When Billy gives them the finger, the hillbilly fires the gun at Billy, who immediately crashes and is seriously wounded. As the truck roars off down the road past Wyatt, he races back to his fatally injured friend, who's covered in blood, and covers him with his flag adorned jacket before riding off for help. But the pickup truck has turned around and closes in on Wyatt. The redneck fires at Wyatt as they pass him, the bike breaks apart and the bike's gas tank erupts into a fiery explosion. Wyatt is thrown off his bike and lands by the side of the road. As the murderous country boys drive away, the film ends with a shot of the flaming bike and the body on the deserted road, as the camera ascends to the sky. The duo's journey has ended.

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