Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Would’ve been so great if it was just those incredible shots of Fonda and Hopper cycling through the best landscapes America has to offer, with the occasional scene of the two of them waxing poor man’s philosophical around a campfire (of which this movie actually does have some – the one where Nicholson theorizes about aliens and UFOs is a particular highlight). But then the plot, and Hopper’s downright shockingly bleak worldview (seriously, this is the second of his directorial efforts I’ve seen after Out of the Blue, and both of them **MAJOR SPOILERS** end with the main character dying a horrific, violent, insanely over-the-top death due to the world and its grandmother being against that protagonist **END MAJOR SPOILERS**. What the fuck? ) had to come along
Overall, it’s a somewhat effective meditation on culture clash and the youthful generation’s feeling of isolation, desire for absolute freedom, and paranoia of being watched and judged by those who just don’t understand. Unfortunately, it just goes too far in trying to drive that point of generational differences home, with everything from a more-than-obvious symbolic comparison shot of Captain America and Bill fixing the bike while the old farmers hammer a shoe on a horse, to an abundance of shots of scary-looking rednecks looking at our heroes with either confusion or disgust or designs of evildoing, to the ending. Later road movies like “Two-Lane Blacktop” and “The Loveless” would perfect those ideas of youthful waywardness and isolation, and the allure of life on the road and its limitless freedom and lack of inhibition, and the differences between the rebellious youth and the more stand pat-ish older generation, but at least “Easy Rider” got the ball rolling with a new, adventurous and risk-taking form of cinema depicting a new, adventurous and risk-taking generation of human beings.