Quintessential 60's movie starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.

Basically a 60's redo of 'On the Road' with hippies on motorcycles, a load of cocaine, a big trip from the west coast to Mardi Gras, and some hicks blasting the protagonists off their bikes at the end. Very cool, episodic, and highly influential.

I rented this movie just last night. Partly because I wanted to see what New Orleans looked like years before I was even born. I’d heard how important a film it was, a cornerstone tribute to the evolution of movies that mark American history, like Gone With The Wind. I expected a lot of drugs, pork chop sideburns and outdated language. Aside from a lot of repetitive desert scenes and side sweeps of the two main characters on their hogs, there really wasn’t much to this movie. The characters made most of whatever statements they were going to make with their choice of clothing. I mean, if being free means fueling a cross country trip with a big drug deal just to go to Mardi Gras, drop acid with two prostitutes who run around naked in a cemetery in New Orleans, only to get unrealistically blown away by two rednecks in a pick up truck, I’d rather retain my boring existence. The only thing Dennis Hopper, one actor I respect dearly, seems to say is man, dude, and no way. Peter Fonda is indeed a hottie, but even his silent pauses in the movie aren’t saying much.

I’m all for road trips taken for all kinds of reasons. I support the human need to find a place where he belongs. I think the 60’s and 70’s were so saturated with overindulgence that I don’t think people often found anything they were looking for but instead found a way to escape it. When I mean people, I mean the masses of young people who took freedom beyond the place of empowerment into the place of self-incarceration, where they became slaves to their appetites instead of their dreams. I have no choice but to hope and believe that not everyone in America was stoned out of their minds throughout the era in which this movie was made. Some of us had to get shit done.

What commentary did this movie make, aside from the futility with which these two men found their end? What did Easy Rider say for other enlightened people who rode against the tides of conformity and didn’t necessarily have to go so far down on the line of hopelessness before pulling themselves back into reality? Not all movies have to have a point to be good; sometimes they can simply be what they are. But for me, this movie didn’t have much in itself, and I am far from tempted to search for substance in such a vacuous attempt to speak for any part of a whole generation. It’s just not there.

Just an additive piece about the movie Easy Rider.

It should be noted that Easy Rider gave Jack Nicolson his breakthrough role.

In addition to cocaine, marijuana and lsd were also featured in the film, possibly a few others.

Something that stands out in my mind from this movie is Jack Nicolson's character using marijuana for the first time, seeing Jack's character stand there ranting while half of his joint burns away.

I like the movie personally, especially because of the untimely demise of the two bikers is such a shocker. You see flashes of it in forshadowing visions, but I didn't connect the visions with the events until they actually happened on the screen. This is atypical from most American movies. The fact that they're killed by two stereotypical rednecks (compelete with gun racks in their pickup truck) in such a senseless way burns it into your mind very effectively.

"Oh yeah, that's right, that's what it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. 'Course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em."

I've seen this movie with a lot of people over the past twenty years. One comment from many that stands out is that the story of our characters does not seem to lead anywhere. I believe that is the point.

Peter Fonda's Wyatt (aka Captain America), and Dennis Hopper's Billy are in search of freedom. Wyatt is introspective, looking for something to bring him in contact with the America he believes is out there somewhere. Billy is satisfied to just enjoy every moment of every passing day. He doesn't want to be brought down by the burdens of responsibility. Billy just wants to have a party and the trip to New Orleans is his obsession, even as Wyatt often gives thought to staying in places along the way.

"You know, Billy. We blew it."

The final dialogue between the two primary characters paints a picture that foreshadows their end. Billy is pleased with the big money they made from a major drug deal at the beginning of the movie and the whirlwind adventure the money financed. Wyatt realizes the trip was the wrong road. They were never free.

Wyatt's self-discovery takes him from empty wondering to places where blanks are filled in. He isn't sure what he wants out of life, but along the way he comes into contact with people and places that stimulate his imagination and give him ideas.

"You've got a nice place. It's not every man that can live off the land, you know. You do your own thing in your own time. You should be proud."

That is Wyatt's dream, and as he meets the horse rancher and his family, he talks of how much he appreciates "their spread" and how this man can sustain himself and his family with just the land they live on. We can see how much Wyatt wants to be a part of this, but Billy is always urging him forward. All Billy wants is to get to New Orleans and Mardi Gras. He wants to do drugs, drink and be merry. We can imagine Wyatt and Billy as the representation of Sixties ideals that came into constant conflict.

The rancher lives off his land, works hard and supports a rather large family (this fellow is not using birth control at all). On their next stop they find a commune where a group of young hippies are trying to turn a piece of horrible, dry land into their own piece of paradise. Many of the kids have wandered off, finding the work too hard and the conditions too difficult. Not long after arriving, Billy wants to leave as well. Wyatt would like to stay. You can read it in his eyes. He feels in tune with the atmosphere at the commune and develops affection for one of the women there. This is where he might find the freedom and the America he is looking for. Once again, Billy pushes him to move on, for they must reach New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.

The conflict should be fairly obvious. Freedom and independence take hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Too few are willing to dedicate themselves in that way.

"When you get to the right place, with the right people, quarter this. You know, this could be the right place. The time's running out."

The tab of acid handed to Wyatt by the stranger from the commune and the message that accompanies it are very telling about the nature of Wyatt's inner battle. He seems to realize he is in the right place, but that he must move on. His first loyalty is to Billy and the quest to New Orleans. It is after he drops the acid with Billy and the two prostitutes in New Orleans that he realizes they blew their opportunities. Once the quest is complete and they leave New Orleans, what is left?

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Much is made of the stereotypical "rednecks" they encounter in their travels, even those who attack them in the middle of the night and kill George Hanson (Jack Nicholson). Whether or not these are representative slices of human beings is irrelevant. They are simply the spectre of everything Wyatt and Billy are not accepted by and do not want to be a part of.

Jack Nicholson's character, in many ways the most memorable performance from the movie, is the drunken lawyer who often spends the night in jail "drying out." He isn't part of "the system" any more than Wyatt or Billy are. If you pay close attention, his story of how status has afforded him his decadent lifestyle reflects on Wyatt and Billy... who are financing their adventures with drug money.

George joins them but never makes it to New Orleans, and along with Wyatt's visions this should be the clearest sign that they are on the wrong road. They travel it and reach their destination. Once the mission is complete, what is left? Emptiness.

"We blew it. Good night, man."

Quotes borrowed from the script
The rest written from memory...
...or what is left of it.

Easy Rider is originally a Southern term for a prostitute's live-in boyfriend, who doesn't have to pay for her professional quality sexual favors. He's got an easy ride, get it?

Co-writer Terry Southern came up with the title, but Peter Fonda took it a step further in a 1969 interview:

'Easy Rider' is a southern term for a whore's old man, not a pimp, but the dude who lives with a chick. Because he's got the easy ride. Well, that's what's happened to America, man. Liberty's become a whore, and we're all taking an easy ride.

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