A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider on the big screen again for the 50-year anniversary. Now, when I watched Easy Rider for the first time back in 2010, I was not fond of it. But then I watched it again, a few months later, and started to come to realize why people appreciate Easy Rider and why they still do 50 years later. Easy Rider is a unique movie that challenges the problems in its plot with culture, drugs, and a long trip with two hippies on motorcycles. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper are both quite brilliant and so is Jack Nicholson. I found that I grew to enjoy Easy Rider more when I began to focus on some important elements in the movie. Those elements include important conversations, the moments of segregation, and the main characters always wondering what they are looking for on their long road trip.
The film is about Wyatt and Billy (Fonda and Hopper) and their trip heading from Los Angeles to New Orleans. They are on their way to a Mardi Gras celebration and try to be frugal with money along the way. However, on their trip they start to run into some challenging encounters with some other hippies, some gaps in culture that they are not very familiar with and a rather odd man who joins them named George Hanson (Nicholson). Wyatt and Billy have different attitudes on the trip. Wyatt is more positive and not that nervous, but Billy is testy and aggravated about what may happen due to the weird people they encounter. George is already strange as demonstrated by his conversations and mind-set.
Over the years, I have grown to respect the films of Dennis Hopper, mostly due him playing characters that are either psychotic or angry. Being angry in Easy Rider was something that worked well for Hopper given he also was the director. I read through trivia pages that Hopper was also negative on set while filming. According to reports, he would be in a drug-induced paranoia and would go ballistic on everyone associated with the movie. That eventually caused many people to quit working on Easy Rider. While Hopper was said to be insanely angry, his real-life anger fits the character he played and helps his audience realize how realistic the side effects of certain drugs are. I found that historical trivia to be an important insight into the cultural problems in Easy Rider. Wyatt and Billy believed they were free and could do all the drugs they wanted in unoccupied spaces.
Watching this movie for the 50-year screening was the best choice for me. The imagery is restored and re-captured. Viewers can understand more of the dialogue because it’s now more crystal clear. and they can also see more of the key moments that are hard to see in the original cut of Easy Rider. The film is a ride full of curiosity, searching, and tides that are hard to fall into. As Fonda said, he went looking 50 years ago for America and today he is still looking. Easy Rider is a film that every film fanatic needs to experience. If you only watch it once and do not enjoy it, it then demands a second viewing. It is simply one of those films that grows on you the more you watch it and therefore deserves four stars.
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