I’m Hip about Easy Rider

It’s Me-Me Monday and time to share something I like.  How about Easy Rider (1969)?

The tagline is

A man went looking for America.  And couldn’t find it anywhere.


Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper starred in the movie.  Their characters were named Wyatt and Billy, ostensibly after Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid.  Wyatt (Fonda) is the idealistic dreamer, appreciative of help and always willing to help others.  Billy (Hopper) is more cynical, often paranoid, and obviously out for himself.

The plot is simple enough.

Wyatt and Billy (Fonda and Hopper) smuggle cocaine from Mexico to California, where they sell the cocaine for a big bunch of money.  They plan to meander east and arrive in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  After that, they’ll retire to Florida and live like kings for the rest of their lives.  Below is the trailer:

   

The best laid plans don’t always work out.  The social tensions of the late 1960s impede the protagonist’s journey to a perfect America.  Each destination–the hippie commune, the farm, the jailhouse, Mardi Gras–presents contrasting views of ideals.

The open landscapes and the heroes riding their iron horses makes Easy Rider feel like a western.  It’s more than that, though.  It’s a biker movie.  It’s a road movie.  It’s a statement.

The statement is well represented by a scene early in the movie in which Wyatt (Fonda) takes off his watch and throws it on the ground.  It’s like he’s shedding all convention, all expectations, and is headed wherever the road may take him.

The time theme runs throughout the movie.  Even though Wyatt (Fonda) has thrown down his watch and all its constraints, he learns he’s still expected to keep a schedule.  At one point he says, “I’m hip about time.”  Wyatt seems to question if he’s really left anything behind.

Jack Nicholson plays George Hanson, an alcoholic ACLU lawyer.  His character adds some comic moments to to the movie:

   

For an independent film of the day, Easy Rider grossed huge money and is considered groundbreaking.  Its mix of drug use, hippie communes, and bikers repeatedly question where one finds freedom and individuality.

The film was added to the Library of Congress National Registry in 1998.

Easy Rider’s soundtrack featured music by Steppenwolf, The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Band.  Bob Dylan wrote the first verse of “The Ballad of Easy Rider.”  Roger McGuinn of the Byrds completed the song and performed it in the movie.

Since it’s Me-Me Monday, I’ll share my favorite song from Easy Rider:

  

Trivia:  The motorcycles used in Easy Rider were stolen before the significance of the film was known.  It is believed they were stripped down and sold for parts.  Many replicas of Captain America’s chopper exist today.

Easy Rider appeals to me because I love the idea of riding an endless road on an iron horse.  The idea of no longer being hip about time seems an impossible dream.

I imagine the wind stinging my face and the sunlight burning down on my skin.  The smells of oil and asphalt and exhaust are heady perfume as the yellow stripes flash by.  The engine’s roar and the whine of the tires on the road become a whole rhythm unto themselves.

I’m always lost in the romance and simplicity of it.  That is, until it rains.

Thank you for your interest in this article. I often receive requests for further information on these articles. Please understand my knowledge of this topic is limited to what you’ve read in this article. I have no plans to update or expand these articles. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing or researching for non-fiction articles. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

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39 thoughts on “I’m Hip about Easy Rider

  1. My husband loves this movie. I’ve never seen it. I know, I know! Terrible. Every time he talked about it, it just didn’t appeal to me. Your description is definitely more appealing.

    What movie defines a part of who I am? I can’t think of one specific movie. I think of all the ones I watched as a kid that made me love entertainment: The Goonies, ET, Stand by Me, Star Wars. There’s a ton more I can’t think of, but every one affected me in some way. Made me want to be an explorer, see space, have a dream. Stand by Me made me think about my life in general and everyone I surrounded myself with.

    Great post:)

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed it. You need to watch Easy Rider. Honestly, I didn’t get it until we got a Harley and started riding a lot. It’s definitely a state of mind, and you wouldn’t believe the people you meet.

      Dude, I loved Stand by Me. I had already read The Body by Stephen King when the movie came out, but the movie added a whole new dimension to the story. It’s one of my faves.

  2. on ,
    Dusty said:

    Like Stacy, I’ve never seen this movie, but now maybe I’ll look for it on NetFlix. I had only thought of it as a downer, due to others’ opinions of it. Loved the music and the scenes–and the scenery! Was that US66 across the Colorado and up through Flagstaff?

    I kept wondering–did their fringe get tangled up in the wind? But yeah, it does look like freedom, to be on the road with a bag full of money. Thanks for bringing that American movie to my attention. You know how to turn on my lights, Catie!

    • Dusty, here is a link to the filming locations. Some of it was shot on US 66, but I don’t know enough to know if this is the same area you’re talking about.

      I do hope you watch Easy Rider. It’s one of those where you take the good with the bad. The first time I saw it, I found it depressing. In the last decade, I’ve learned to appreciate it for what it is–a great movie that stands the test of time. Besides, I love the music. LOL

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. on ,
    EllieAnn said:

    Do you have a motorcycle? They look like such fun. I’ve only ridden dirt bikes.
    Great review/commentary on the movie!

    • We do have a motorcycle and have taken a few overnight trips on it. It’s a whole subculture I never knew existed before I got on the back of that bike and the wind started hitting my face.

  4. What an excellent commentary on this film, Catie. You’ve brought it to life. I’ve known about this movie for ages but have never been interested in seeing it – until now.

    How sad the motorcycles were stolen for parts – PARTS! Incredible. I’m not sure there’s a movie that defines part of who I am. Maybe Romancing the Stone because I am much like Joan Wilder was at the beginning of the book – nervous, introverted, shy. I would so love to have the chutzpah to pick up and go where I was needed, overcome odds, fall in love – lose that love – and still be able to carry on with my life because of my new-found confidence. Yeah. Romancing the Stone. That defines part of who I am. :-)

    Another winner post, Catie!

    • I love the idea of Romancing the Stone defining you. Joan Wilder, even today, makes me want to be a romance writer. Her wonderful acting portrayed the part in such an unforgettable way. And I think that’s kind of what a writer is. We think of these outlandish adventures and commit them to paper in entertaining ways. When real life hits, though, we’re like Joan Wilder was on that bus in Columbia. LOL

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. You definitely piqued my interest in seeing the movie, Catie…I’ve never seen it either!

    Your last paragraph, about the open road, is just beautiful. I sure hope you put a scene like that in one of your books. :-)

    • Hi, Jenny! Good to see you here.

      I do have scenes about riding motorcycles in my book. It’s like nothing else. Thanks for saying the way I wrote it is beautiful. :D

      • But, of course! (Cuz it was :-))

        I’m glad you’ve got the bike scenes in your book – your love of it will come through.

  6. Hi Catie! I saw Easy Rider so long ago that I don’t remember any of it! I didn’t even recall Jack Nicholson being in the movie. I bought my husband a Harley in 1990 for his birthday and we still have it and it’s still in great condition. We haven’t ridden it in awhile and this makes me want to go for another ride. There IS definitely something about being on the back of a bike, isn’t there? Some sort of freedom…
    Patti

    • It wasn’t until I saw the movie pretty recently that I realized who all the actors were and how cool it was for them to be in Easy Rider.

      Man, being on the back of a bike is tops. My husband has offered to buy me one to ride by myself. He even offered a Captain America replica with a Texas flag theme. I like riding on the back, though, and having no responsibilities other than to enjoy the wind and the sights.

      • Hi again, Catie! I think you just nailed it – “having no responsibilities other than to enjoy the wind and the sights”. That’s it for me. I’ve actually ridden his Harley with him on the back a few times (he’s 40 pounds heavier now though!) and it’s just too much for me to handle since he weighs 250 and I weight 123!
        Patti

  7. It would be cool to cruise the highways, back before the days of congestion, breeze whipping through my hair (it used to be long, but that is another story). Your posts always take us to pleasant places and thoughts. Thanks :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the trip, Gene. We travel a lot of backroads on the bike. It’s downright scary for freeway travel. When the big trucks go by, the bike gets caught up in their tailwind. Backroads, though, man…you can’t beat it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. on ,
    Alica said:

    I’ve never seen this movie- now I’ll have to check it out. A movie that defines me- I think Labyrinth is a big one- her strength and finding her way and day dreams I really get that.

    • David Bowie, huh? I liked Labyrinth. The music and dancing were cool at the time. The costumes and make up were very flashy and well done. I need to watch that again. I’m so glad you brought it up.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. on ,
    Marcia said:

    Love, love, love that movie. I grew up in the ’60s and I rode on the back of a Harley chopper. The best time of my life, in a alot of ways. Riding is freedom, it’s sensual…feeling the wind in your hair and watching the scenery fly past…there’s nothing like it! I recently met Roger McGuinn of The Byrds after a concert he played with Jon Sebastian of The Lovin Spoonfull. He played all the old tunes. The music score in this film speaks of the era and it’s personal for me having listened to them over and over. I’m told I look and act like a typical mom and Grandma, but inside I’m still the biker chick with hair down to my waist, tight jeans and boots swaying to the sound of the road! Thanks, Catie..obciously I enjoyed your post!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. How cool that you have actual memories of this time. I was born in 1973. I often theorize that I was reincarnated from someone who died in his or her prime in the late, late 60s or early, early 70s. I so identify with the era. I’d have totally gone to Woodstock.

      Thanks for stopping by. :D

      • on ,
        Marcia said:

        About an hour from where I live is the Woodstock museum at Bethel Woods. I’ve been several times and just love it! There’s a map outside showing where the big stage was and there is an amphitheater now on the grounds where they have concerts all summer. You should definitely visit sometime. I was only 16 when Woodstock took place…no way the parents would have allowed it.

  10. Hi Catie,

    I haven’t seen Easy Rider but after reading your post I think I should. It’s a shame the bikes were stolen. They would have been worth a lot.

    • I think you should see Easy Rider. It’s the voice of a generation, sort of. Don’t you know the bikes would have been worth a king’s ransom?

      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. I remember seeing this movie with my best friend in college. We were enthralled, especially in that the film represented its time so well. I’m not a motorcycle gal myself and have only ridden on one once – on the way to the beach. As for a movie that defines you, yikes! tough one. One that stands out to me, though, is A Room with a View. I loved how Helena Bonham-Carter’s character has a unflappable spirit and tries to break out of the mold set for her by others, and when she does, she finds her passion for life. Great post again, Catie!

    • Julie, I have never seen A Room with a View. I’ve studied the E.M. Forster book (and didn’t much like it). I might have to try the movie and see if I enjoy that more. Sometimes a movie can breathe fresh life into classic literature.

  12. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the movie the whole way through – and I have a Harley! And you’re so right – “until it rains” LOL!

    • The rain is the worst! It feels like like needles hitting you. It’s worse than getting a tattoo!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  13. I laughed at the “until it rains” part. At 16, my older first boyfriend had a Harley. He loved to go 80 in the rain. Who needs acupuncture? But to this day, I have sweet memories of cool rides on beautiful desert spring mornings. Once my kids are grown, I want to get one, I think.

    Movie that defines part of who I am? Perhaps The Thirteenth Warrior. Going to a strange land with strange people and doing things I never thought I could.

    Thanks for the blog, Catie. :)

    • Who needs acupuncture is right. The first time I was on that bike and it started raining, I was shocked at how bad that hurt. We eventually bought rain suits, which made it bearable. Like you, I have a lot of great memories of riding. On winter mornings, the ice in the grass looks like diamond in the morning sun.

      I’ve seen the Thirteenth Warrior, but I’m going to have to do some googling to remember the plot.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. :D

  14. I enjoyed reading your article very much and I laughed too at the “until it rains” :D. I love bikes, although I’m not allowed to ride one.

    I’ve attempted 18 years ago to drive an enduro bike on the mountain. I didn’t reach the ground with my feet, but my then boyfriend was sitting in the back, keeping the bike standing.
    It went like this: about 10 feet, him shouting “accelerate, accelerate”, me afraid because the bike was powerful and kicking, engine off, him starting the engine again – 10 feet, engine off, him starting it again…after 4 attempts and about 40 feet of track, I said “enough is enough”, got off and went to sunbathe on a rock, hearing him and about 20 others running on the tracks around me. Show-offs :D.

    When reading the article, a movie came to my mind “Legends of the Fall”. I can’t say why, I don’t really identify with the movie, but I thought of it.

    Very nice post :)

    • Your riding story had me in stitches. I’m also too short for my feet to touch the ground–at least on my husband’s motorcycle.

      Maybe it was all the long-hairs in the pictures and videos that had you thinking of Legends of the Fall. Can’t figure it out otherwise if you don’t identify with it–though I do think it’s neat movie. Love the last scene.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  15. what a great movie.. I love this film. Dennis Hopper is phenomenal and Peter Fonda amazing. I love riding my motorcycle! I don’t have a Harley (though I am contemplating getting an 883) but I do own a Ninja. My boyfriend talked me into getting my motorcycle license 4 years ago and I am so glad he did.
    And it is so true what you said about the smells and the stinging sun! When I am on the bike, I smell so much (some good, some not so good) and it is almost meditative. This past Sunday I rode without my jacket for about 30 miles and got a nice little sunburn on my shoulders and arms.
    Thanks so much for sharing this post, Catie. I enjoyed it much and am now adding Easy Rider to my NetFlix Queue! :) YOU ROCK!

    • Good to hear from a fellow biker chick. Easy Rider is my favorite Peter Fonda movie. I love that part where he says, “I’m hip about time.” When I’m on the bike, time seems to fade away. It doesn’t matter anymore. Like you say, it’s meditative. And the smells! The worst is when you pass ripe roadkill. Man!

      You rock, too! I’m so glad you stopped by.

    • What movies define who I am?
      Annie, I thought I was little orphan Annie. I wore a red dress and I sang all of the songs – all of the time.
      Goonies – maybe my first mystery/treasure hunt that had me hoping one day I’d be searching for One-Eyed Willie (that wasn’t supposed to sound nasty).
      Clueless, Cher was my best friend in high school. I was “rollin with my homies” “as if” we had nothing better to do, “whatever.”
      Dazed & Confused….I watched this so many times in high school and college. Heck, what am I saying? Even since.
      I’m toying between Clueless and Dazed for my ’90s edition of Friday FabOoolous this week.

      • You story about Annie had me in stitches. I’m still giggling. To this day, my favorite part of the Goonies was when they were in that abandoned restaurant and the one kid needed the restroom and the other kids were making fun of him.

        Now, I *love* Dazed and Confused and Clueless. I don’t know which one I hope you do. LOL

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