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Film: Easy Rider

"Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way"
Steppenwolf,"Born to Be Wild"

A 1969 film directed and co-written by Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider starred Hopper, co-writer Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in his first Oscar-nominated role. Since its release, it's been identified as the counterculture film.

It follows the tale of two dope-dealing bikers, Wyatt aka "Captain America" (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), who decide to take their bikes across the country. They have no aim other than going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and pure freedom, which is not appreciated by the locals they encounter. Only one man, liberal lawyer George Hanson (Nicholson), shares their sense of freedom. As they ride along, they wonder what ever happened to America.


This work features examples of:

  • Badass Biker: Averted. The bikers are harmless hippies who just want to find the American dream. It's the Good Ol Boys who are the ruffians.
  • The Band: "Take a load off Fanny..."
  • The Cameo: Captain America and Billy sell their cocaine to no one less than Phil Spector.
  • Cool Bike: Captain America's bike especially.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: George Hanson, is fairly certain that aliens already live amongst us, and that they are not revealed by our government because of the general panic that would ensue.
  • Corrupt Hick: The sheriff in the cafe.
  • Deep South: Portrayed as xenophobic and violent.
  • Diabolus ex Machina/Downer Ending/Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A most triumphant example as our heroes are about to embark to Florida to start their life of luxury, and then, some hillbillies shoot them.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned
  • Foreshadowing: Around a campfire at night, George explains that people are scared by the heroes' sense of freedom, and that it makes them dangerous. He will die from it, that same night.
    George: [...] they see a free individual, it's gonna scare them.
    Billy: Well, it don't make them running scared.
    George: No, it makes them dangerous.
  • Genre Deconstruction - Being a biker sucks.
  • Good Ol' Boy: The southern locals don't take kindly to long-haired city boys riding through their communities.
  • Hard Drinking Party Boy: George
  • The Hero Dies: Both Wyatt and Billy themselves at the end.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Wyatt and Billy.
  • Hot Springs Episode: in the Southwest, Wyatt and Billy play around in one with some of the local female commune members.
  • Jerkass: Billy. Then again, he was played by Dennis Hopper.
  • Kill 'em All: By the end of the film, George, Billy and Wyatt himself were dead.
  • Mushroom Samba: After taking acid in the New Orleans graveyard.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: The commune in the southwest is full of them.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Billy is a hothead; Wyatt is contemplative and spiritual.
  • Road Movie: A quintessential example. The characters are on their way from Los Angeles to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
  • Scenery Porn: they're riding through the American Southwest, what do you expect?
  • Shout-Out: The very name of Captain America.
  • Theme Naming: Given Peter Fonda thought the bikers were modern cowboys, their names are Wyatt (Earp) and Billy (the Kid).
  • Walking the Earth
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Captain America carries multiple versions of the Star Spangled Banner around with him at all times (on his helmet, on his shirt and on his bike), and is one of the most iconic examples of this trope in recent popular culture.


TitanicAFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies ( 10 th Anniversary Edition)A Night at the Opera
Frankenstein (1931)AFI's 100 Years... 100 MoviesPatton
Dr. StrangeloveDanny Peary Cult Movies ListFaster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Dr. StrangeloveCreator/Columbia PicturesErin Brockovich
E.T. the ExtraterrestrialRoger Ebert Great Movies List8
Dr. StrangeloveCreator/The Criterion CollectionEating Raoul
Don't Drink The WaterFilms of the 1960sFangs Of The Living Dead
Gun CrazyNational Film RegistryThe Last Picture Show

alternative title(s): Easy Rider
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