Easy Rider

AFI Rank: #88
Year Released:1969
Director: Dennis Hopper
Actors: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson

What an interesting movie. Apparently Easy Rider gets its primary kudos, and placement on the AFI top 100 list at spot 88, for being a fully independent movie. It was one of the first to really make inroads in the high-power movie system. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda pretty much made this movie on their own, funded it, and then filmed themselves riding motorcycles across the US.

The motorcycles are now iconic, although one has to wonder with their tiny gas tanks just how often the characters would have had to stop for gas on their cross-country trip through some fairly empty wastelands.

Much of the movie is full of the gorgeous scenery of the United States. Having driven many of these roads myself, I found myself remembering those trips fondly while watching the movie, and wishing I could go back and take those trips again. The beauty of Monument Valley and other locations is brought vividly to life. In many ways it's a celebration of the wild range of landscapes.

There are also a variety of cultures shown here, which is equally interesting. Yes, we get the hippie commune of "city-folk" men and women trying their best to live off the dry, dusty land. We see small-town deep south, where the teen girls are intrigued by the strangers and the men-folk are threatened. There are the prostitutes of New Orleans, the quiet farmer and his family, and more. Everyone has their own view on life and what it means to live.

This is definitely a "guy's film". Nearly all women who appear are nameless and are there to ogle or idolize the men. The only two women who seem to talk more than a word are two are the two prostitutes in New Orleans, who go on a long acid trip with the guys. Most of their "talk", though, is wild ramblings due to the drugs.

Some say that this is a 60s ode to the glory of drugs. I don't see that. If anything, it seems to show that their path of freedom didn't lead to joy. One of the characters sighs, near the end, that "we blew it." He praised the farmer who had a wife, a family, and a quiet homestead where he was able to live off the grid. That is praised as being of value. The commune is poked at for being unrealistic - they plant seed into dry sand. The LSD trip, far from being shown as fun and color-filled, is shown as scary and dangerous.

A great movie to see at least once, since there are so many other movies, TV shows, and novels that reference scenes in this and expect watchers to be familiar with what is going on. It's also a powerful glimpse into time, to see the forces that were at work in the US in the late 60s.

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