Free-spirited motorcycle riders Wyatt and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) have just completed the drug deal of a lifetime and set out on a journey across the country to reach New Orleans. Along the way, the pair encounter hippie communes, small-town bigots, and one particular ACLU lawyer by the name of George Hanson (Jack Nicholson). What starts as a road trip to find freedom in the promised land of liberty eventually turns into a drug addled race just to survive.
Easy Rider is the film that taught Hollywood studios to love the low-budget counterculture flick. What started out as a way for Peter Fonda to fulfill his contractual obligation to provide one last schlocky, biker-exploitation film for the B-film studio AIP, ended up as a piece of cinema that combined big Hollywood resources with the French New Wave influences of an emerging generation of young, auteur filmmakers. Fonda and Hopper convincingly play their roles as they carve their way across beautiful American vistas to the pounding rhythms of period icons like Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf. If that was all Easy Rider had to offer, it would still be worthwhile, but the performances and themes are similarly captivating. Especially excellent is Jack Nicholson as American everyman George Hanson. Nicholson’s energy is infectious and his musings on the nature of freedom flesh out the themes of the film from an intriguing perspective. As Billy and Wyatt continue their difficult journey, a blueprint of the freedom promised by the hippy generation emerges, and it’s ultimate failure seems despairingly visible. A definite recommendation.