"Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way"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 Sixties counterculture film. Made by the guys that gave youHead.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.
—Steppenwolf,"Born to Be Wild"
This work features examples of:
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Averted. The two main characters are chopper-riding hippies who travel into the Deep South and run tragically afoul of violent Good Ol Boys.
- 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.
- Blade-of-Grass Cut: Many of the shots during musical sequences.
- The Cameo: Captain America and Billy sell their cocaine to none other 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.
- Cult Soundtrack: One of the first rock-based soundtracks, including songs by Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild", "The Pusher), The Band ("The Weight"), The Byrds ("Wasn't Born to Follow"), Jimi Hendrix ("If 6 Was 9"), and Roger McGuinn ("Ballad of Easy Rider").
- Deep South: Portrayed as xenophobic and violent.
- Diabolus ex Machina: 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.
- Downer Ending: The film ends with a textbook example of Diabolus ex Machina when Wyatt and Billy are killed by a group of rednecks just when they decide to leave the drug business behind and live a life of luxury.
- 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: The film deconstructs the biker genre. At best the bikers are just harmless drifters but the people of the towns they visit regard them as menaces. They are both killed in the end by a trucker, seemingly for kicks.
- Going to See the Elephant: Wyatt and Billy go on a quest to discover America, with New Orleans as the ultimate elephant.
- Good Ol' Boy: The southern locals don't take kindly to long-haired city boys riding through their communities.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: George is a male example.
- The Hero Dies: Both Wyatt and Billy at the end.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Wyatt and Billy. Reputedly an Odd Couple due to Real Life Writes the Plot, with Fonda as the Straight Man and Hopper as the Cloud Cuckoo Lander best friend.
- Hot Springs Episode: In the Southwest, Wyatt and Billy play around in one with some of the local female commune members.
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: See Road Trip Plot.Billy: We gotta get to Mardi Gras, man. We're going to Mardi Gras.Hippie: Your little heart is set on that, uh ?
- Jerkass: Billy. Then again, he was played by Dennis Hopper.
- Kill 'em All: By the end of the film, George, Billy, and Wyatt are 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 Trip Plot: 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?
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The film ends when Billy and Wyatt are blown off their bikes by two rednecks in a pickup, for fun. George Hanson meets a similarly pointless end in a redneck attack about halfway through the film. How was this missed, etc. It was during a scenery / music / driving montage, no less! And... Boom Up and out over the burning heap of motorcycle on the banks of the Mississippi to Roger McGuinn singin' about flowin' rivers and star-spangled deltas.
- Shout-Out: The very name of Captain America.
- Standard Movie Song: The iconic opening credit sequence is the very reason that "Born to Be Wild" has become one of these.
- Theme Naming: Given Peter Fonda thought the bikers were modern cowboys, their names are Wyatt (Earp) and Billy (the Kid).
- Unbuilt Trope: While the film wasn't the Ur-Example of the Badass Biker, it became the Trope Codifier, and an inspiration for biker culture since that year. While the main characters get rich from drug trafficking, and occasionally provoke and scare people along the road, they are mostly good-natured, in contrast to the intolerant, violent locals. While the bikers have their moments of joy on the journey, it does not turn out nearly as glamorous as they had hoped for, with a seemingly pointless Downer Ending.
- 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.