Easy Rider Film Review

By: Brianna Studer



Easy Rider is by far the best biker movie I have seen to date.  Dennis Hopper directs 95 minutes of the perfect mixture of freedom on the roads and drama that makes it impossible to pull your eyes away.  Hopper chose a relatively unknown cast and did magic with his small budget. This film is revolutionary in that it involves pre-recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds, and many others. These artists fit perfectly into the aesthetic of this freedom seeking America.  This music also incorporates meaning to different stages of this biker exploitation.  After doing a drug deal in Mexico, Wyatt and Billy start on a trip across the southern United States with their money rolled up in Wyatt’s gas tank.  Dennis Hopper plays Billy, a stoned hippie who looks like a fur trader dressed in all leather. I interpreted Billy as the ugly extreme of free America with his loud, aggressive, and sexual sense of being.  Peter Fonda plays Wyatt, normally referred to as Captain America in the film, representing the opposite side of the hippie realm.  He wears a Captain America leather jacket accompanied by a red, white and blue painted motorcycle.  I interpret Captain America as the conscience of the group, being the hippie ideal of a calm and collected flower child just drifting through life.

The free-minded aesthetic is put in the audience’s face at the beginning of the film with three big events. The first is when the song “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf, plays as Captain America and Billy load up their drug money and start on their cross-country trip.  Later, Captain America is seen throwing his watch in the middle of the desert, which represents his disregard for time, and just getting to his destination when they get there, with no rush.  Hopper plays “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf soon after this, which really just gets the audience excited and ready for their adventure.  Captain America and Billy are obviously born to be wild, and were the combined hippie ideal of free souls following the open road.  This foresees the rest of the film by making the audience expect drugs, free living, and fun with and without intoxicants.

Captain America and Billy encounter rednecks, hippies, hard working farmers, hitchhikers, prostitutes, and cops on their journey to Mardi Gras.  Eventually Billy and Captain America find themselves in jail for disrupting a local parade and meet an alcoholic lawyer named George Hanson, played by Jack Nicholson.  They befriend George, who suggests a whorehouse he knows about in New Orleans, so the cyclists decided to bring him along.  They face trouble out in the country from some hicks, and only Captain America and Billy make it to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.  George’s presence makes the film more relatable by bringing the regular blue-collar character into the film.

The scenes during Mardi Gras feature Billy and Captain America wandering around the city tripping on LSD with two prostitutes.  The footage is very grainy and out-of-focus at times which I loved because it showed the audience more of what a person would experience if they were tripping on such a drug.   However, I don’t think Hopper was promoting LSD because during their trip experience the group is in a cemetery and it seems pretty scary.

This is by far my favorite film of the year.  The combination of the free souls, grass, and the open road is perfectly accompanied by Hopper’s music selections.  The youth of the era, specifically high school and college kids, are the perfect audience for this film.  The flower power vibes that are put off by these actors really brings you into the hippie spirit, which is where I’d love to stay.