I could easily imagine Easy Rider being one person’s favorite movie of all time, and another person’s least favorite. For me, it falls somewhere in the middle: An impressionistic, artistic picture with avant-garde editing style, a killer soundtrack, and characters whose unexplored depths keep the audience at arm’s length.
More than anything else, it’s a time capsule of the southwestern and southern US in the late 60s, and a snapshot of three young actors on the verge of fame — Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson. As a movie, though, it doesn’t really cohere for me, which is a shame. In my head, I compare it to a pre-modern sculpture: I appreciate its historical significance, but I’d rather spend my time admiring a Michelangelo.
I imagine that, in 1969, the sweeping shots of the beautiful deserts and mountains were a revelation for many Americans, but I’d sooner watch a documentary about the land than take this easy ride again. That said, there’s enough I liked here that I’d cautiously recommend the movie for students of film history and/or folks looking for a movie that’s truly different. ★★★