Dennis Hopper

"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.

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