Easy Rider (1969)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Written by: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern

Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson

Continuing my BBS marathon is one of the most American films ever made, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider. This film is a perfect definition of America during the huge Woodstock hippie counterculture of the late 1960’s. Packed full of drugs and sex and plenty of rockin’ tunes to put you in the mind of a rebellious teen in an age of misunderstanding. With an amazing performance by Jack Nicholson, an acid trip that dips into very dark territories, and an ending that ends the film with a bang.

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Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt “Captain America” (Peter Fonda) travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans on their bikes to find somewhere they can enjoy themselves. Along the way they meet some warm welcomes and some very cold scolds from traditional Americans. They also come across a Texan lawyer (Jack Nicholson) that has always wanted to travel outside his home state to experience the world who joins along with them after getting them out of jail.

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“What you represent to them is freedom…. 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.” Jack Nicholson spouts out this wonderful set of quotes by a campfire while conversing with Dennis Hopper’s character, Billy. Nicholson brings a ton of heart into this film and without his presence, Easy Rider would not be as amazing as it ends up being. One can conjure up much joy from seeing Jack Nicholson’s wide grin and goofy dance when he brings out his old football helmet to go out on the road with some hippies.

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Most of this film is taken up with the protagonist’s riding their bikes out on the road while great 60’s music plays. There is an insane Mardi Gras acid trip in which Peter Fonda gets very personal with a statue that Dennis Hopper supposedly told him to talk to like his mother who had committed suicide while he was very young. There also are some hints towards rape and out of body experiences as the LSD takes hold of these characters we’ve come to love. There are also a couple big climaxes that will make your stomach flip and take every bit of comfort you have and strip you of it.

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Easy Rider is an ingenious fresh vision of American society that was well deserving of the acclaim it attracted and the awards it received from Cannes. The raw depiction of the generation of elderly vs. youth is enough to earn a watch for this incredible film of a very controversial time in American history. Definitely give Easy Rider a watch if you can get your hands on it!

Grade: A


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