Biker Movie Reviews

"Easy Rider" Movie Review: Biker Freedom on the Open Road?

Can anyone really be free of the constraints of society? Iconic motorcycle riders Wyatt and Billy sure give it a try in the 1969 film “Easy Rider”. Coming out of, or perhaps as backlash against, the bikesploitation films of the ‘60s, “Easy Rider” isn’t a biker gang movie so much as it is a tribute to the outsider, to one who searches for a new path through life. We follow the journey of Wyatt (played by Peter Fonda) and Billy (played by Dennis Hopper) as they travel from California towards Florida where they plan to retire after a final, very lucrative cocaine deal. Let the hazy, hippie adventures ensue.

 Easy Rider Movie Poster

The film is a perennial fixture on lists of the top biker movies, but younger audiences are likely to be more confused than inspired by the main characters’ beat generation sensibilities. I mean, are Wyatt and Billy really so okay watching a crowd of rednecks punch and kick their friend to death that they don’t even seem upset the next day while dropping acid and having orgies? It’s one thing to be laid back, but come on.

Let me rewind a little first. The movie opens outside of La Contenta Bar where the protagonists pick up and test out a new shipment of cocaine. They then deliver it to the distributor for a large wad of cash and hide the money in Wyatt’s star-spangled gas tank. Whether you love or hate this movie, you’ve got to appreciate the scene where they take off across the desert as “Born to Be Wild” is playing, letting the audience taste the thrill of a cross-country motorcycle trip.

“The Wild One” Movie Review: Rebellion, Freedom and Jive Talkin’

I’ve learned if you’re into motorcycles at all, the name of this movie, “The Wild One”, will come up again and again, though if you’re looking for an edgy biker film, this quaint ‘50s tale isn’t likely to hold up against the current idea of an outlaw biker gang depicted in shows like “Sons of Anarchy”. That said, it was a controversial film when it premiered in 1953 and was actually banned in England for a number of years. The mystique of the outlaw biker and the iconic black motorcycle jacket are just two of the ways the movie is still influencing motorcycle culture. Since the flick first came out, the image of the rebel biker, epitomized by Marlon Brando’s character Johnny Strabler, has been imitated, parodied, and homaged in everything from Nickelodeon cartoons to the latest installment of the Indiana Jones franchise. With so many references and people talking about this movie, it was time to Netflix it and see what all the hoopla was for.

Despite the racy title, to modern movie audiences the main character, Johnny, will probably come off as less than wild, unless, of course, you’re referring to his talent for riding a motorcycle at highway speeds without losing his signature floppy cap. My theory is he wasn’t so rebellious, just cranky from his hat being on too tight.

The plot, loosely based on an actual incident of motorcycle enthusiasts invading the town of Hollister, Calif. in 1947, takes place in the fictional town of Wrightsville, a sleepy community that looks like the set of a wild west movie. Johnny’s motorcycle gang of around 40 members, The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, rides into town after causing trouble and stealing the second place trophy at a motorcycle track race the next town over.

Marlon Brando sporting his oft copied biker jacket and cap from "The Wild One".
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