Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Theatrical Release Date: 1969
This box-office hit from 1969 is an important pioneer of the American independent cinema movement, and a generational touchstone to boot. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper play hippie motorcyclists crossing the Southwest and encountering a crazy quilt of good and bad people. Jack Nicholson turns up in a significant role as an attorney who joins their quest for awhile and articulates society's problem with freedom as Fonda's and Hopper's characters embody it. Hopper directed, essentially bringing the no-frills filmmaking methods of legendary, drive-in movie producer Roger Corman (The Little Shop of Horrors) to a serious feature for the mainstream. The film can't help but look a bit dated now (a psychedelic sequence toward the end particularly doesn't hold up well), but it retains its original power, sense of daring, and epochal impact.
This low-budget film of alienated youth nearly ruined Hollywood when every studio tried to duplicate its success. Tale of two cyclists chucking it all and searching for ``the real America,'' while inevitably dated, remains quite worthwhile, highlighted by fine Laszlo Kovacs photography, great rock soundtrack, and Nicholson's star-making performance as boozy lawyer who tags along. Written by Fonda, Hopper, and Terry Southern.
The ultimate paean to 1960's countercultural life, featuring a rock score that includes The Byrds, The Band, Steppenwolf and Jimi Hendrix. Two dropouts, hoping to understand the meaning of freedom and the land that is America, hit the road on their motorcycles and head to New Orleans. Their freewheeling journey, filled with psychedelic drugs and encounters with a variety of outcasts, teaches them tragically more about the United States than they'd ever expected to learn...
Directed by Dennis Hopper at the age of 31 for a mere $340,000, this film went on to make multiple millions and change the pop culture landscape. Two motorcyclists embark on a coast-to-coast odyssey in search of real America, encountering along the way the many faces of its big cities and small towns, a hippie commune, drugs, and sex in a New Orleans bawdy house. This often-imitated but never-duplicated movie defined a generation and has a great soundtrack (featuring The Byrds, The Band, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Electric Prunes, and more). Record producer Phil Spector is also featured in the film, and late novelist Terry Southern ("The Magic Christian") collaborated with Hopper and Fonda on the script.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Supporting Actor--Jack Nicholson, Best (Original) Story and Screenplay.
"Easy Rider" was Dennis Hopper's directorial debut. The laserdisc (#10866) includes an audio track with commentary by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Paul Lewis. The film cost $340,000 to make; it grossed $19 million in the US alone.
A bit of uncanny trivia--Lord of the Flies and Easy Rider use the same Kyrie Eleison song (the song Jack's choir sang) as theme music.
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