Movie Review: Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider

Note: This is #50 in my 52 Classic Movies in 52 Weeks challenge for 2009.

Easy Rider stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as Wyatt and Bill, who while flush with cash from a drug deal strike out for New Orleans in search of freedom on the open road. Along the way they smoke a lot of pot, meet a groovy hitchhiker who takes them to an experimental hippy commune, and pick up a drunkard of a ACLU lawyer played by Jack Nicholson. Wyatt and Bill are pretty rough around the edges, and this provokes the deadly ire of the rednecks they encounter on their way to Louisiana and eventually Florida. In the end, we’re expected to believe that the duo failed in their search for freedom in America, and anyone who dares to embrace the counter culture is doomed to disaster and harsh vibes, man. And by “harsh vibes” I mean a hillbilly with a shotgun.

I suspect that Easy Rider is one of those films whose real significance eludes me mostly because I didn’t live through its debut and didn’t experience the new but irrefutable ideas that it embodied. Marijuana and cocaine, while absent from my own personal life, seem ordinary staples of the television and film I see. Hippy communes seem quaint, and two dudes riding motorcycles across the country hardly strikes me as “WOW!” material. And the finale where Wyatt and Billy drop acid with a couple of prostitutes in a graveyard just left me cold and annoyed. So mostly at the end of this movie I was left with a “What the hell?” kind of feeling and not all that impressed. I can see how it could be seen as a landmark in film making and a cultural touchstone, but alas I still didn’t enjoy it.

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