Easy rider

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German title Easy rider
Original title Easy rider
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1969
length 95 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Dennis Hopper
script Dennis Hopper,
Peter Fonda ,
Terry Southern
production Peter Fonda,
William Hayward ,
Bert Schneider
music Steppenwolf ,
and others
camera László Kovács
cut Donn Cambern

Easy Rider is an American feature film from 1969 , which describes the lifestyle of the bikers of the late 1960s as a cult film and road movie . On May 8, 1969, Easy Rider was the United States' official contribution to the Cannes Film Festival . It premiered on July 14, 1969 in the United States, and on December 19, 1969, the film was released in West Germany.


After Wyatt and Billy bought cocaine and smuggled it from Mexico into the United States in the batteries of their scrambler motorcycles , they sold the drug to a liaison officer. Wyatt hides the dollar bills curled up in a hose in the fuel tank of his newly acquired chopper , which is painted with the flag of the United States . The two travel to Arizona on their converted Harley Davidson motorcycles from the 1950s . In the evening they are turned away by a motel owner and have to camp by the campfire.

You continue east to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras Carnival. Wyatt hitchhikes a hippie who Billy fears he might find the money in the tank while he refueled. Instead, the stranger provides a free tank of fuel, and the trip to a hippie community, including an excursion to an idyllic hot spring bath.

When the two leave the hippie commune, they encounter a parade, which they drive after. Therefore, the two of them are arrested by the police on the way for "unauthorized participation in a parade" and put in prison. There the alcoholic young lawyer George Hanson sleeps off his intoxication. Thanks to his connections, Hanson can get her out of jail, whereupon they take him away.

As they drive on, Wyatt, Billy and Hanson reach a rural town in Louisiana where they want to eat in a restaurant. The local girls flirt with the trio. But the male residents and even the sheriff defame the three, suggesting that the three will not reach the community boundary. Therefore, they leave the restaurant without having been served and camp out in nature. When they sleep in sleeping bags, they are attacked by the villagers and beaten with baseball bats. George Hanson dies in the process.

The next morning, Wyatt and Billy, slightly injured, drive to New Orleans to a Hanson-recommended brothel . There, Wyatt has a premonition of death in view of a motto, during which the film's final scene, the violent death of the two Easy Riders , is faded in. They take two prostitutes to a cemetery where taking LSD leads to a psychedelic trip . On the way back, Wyatt says resignedly at the campfire that they are "duds", which Billy does not understand. The next day, the two of them continue on a country road, where they are overtaken by two " rednecks " in a pickup . The passenger threatens Billy with a gun and asks the "long-haired hippie" to have his hair cut. Billy responds with an outstretched middle finger . The passenger then shoots, and Billy falls hit on the ground. Wyatt slows down and returns to Billy. He covers it with his leather jacket and drives off to get help. The pickup has now turned and is heading for Wyatt. He was also shot at, the motorcycle fell and then exploded on the side of the road. The camera turns away and spins towards the sky.


The idea for Easy Rider came Fonda and Hopper after their joint work in the trip by Roger Corman . Corman originally even paved the way for Easy Rider to hit the big screen, but was kicked out by the producing studio. Filming began on Fonda's 28th birthday, February 23, 1968.

The two main actors as well as Jack Nicholson and other actors had previously worked in various "motorcycle rocker" films and wanted to use the popularity of the simple action films for a different, more personal work. With “Easy Rider” a film was created with relatively few dialogues , with a lot of background music from contemporary rock music and, in the broader sense, a pictorial play of scenes from non-verbal attempts at communication .

Hardly any facts or background are provided, much remains speculation. The first names of the two main characters are only mentioned in passing, in the middle or at the end of the film. An originally planned introduction of the protagonists as sensational actors at fairs, who perform tricks with the motorcycles in costumes of the western legend Billy the Kid and the cartoon character Captain America , was omitted according to interview statements including the helicopter chase with the border police because they seemed too conventional.

The message of the film is deliberately kept open. Only the motto "A man was looking for America, but he could not find it anywhere" is given to the viewer on the film poster. Even in English-speaking countries, the meanings of the southern slang expression Easy Rider are not generally known - a “relaxed motorcyclist” can be seen in the film; Easy Rider , however, also describes someone who leads an immoral lifestyle, taking advantage of a prostitute, without paying for her services. Thus the United States and freedom are portrayed as a whore who is exploited by all.

Replica of the "Captain America" ​​( German Two-Wheeler and NSU Museum )

At the start of shooting, only the part that had been filmed on blurred 16mm film for demo purposes for the funding film studio was available during the New Orleans Carnival . Thereupon the necessary budget was approved, but with a new team, since the previous one gave up unnerved. The plot and the script were only created during the shooting. a. by renowned screenwriter Terry Southern , who couldn't get on with drug paranoid Dennis Hopper. The role of Jack Nicholson differs significantly from the almost speechless others, through his family stories and lengthy monologues .

Local amateur actors were hired for supporting roles in order to make the film more authentic through their play. So should the hippie in the film initially members of the Commune of Taos participate. However, these did not allow the planned recordings, so that the sequence was ultimately recreated near Hollywood.

The four Panheads from 1950 to 1952, which were converted for the film, were used police vehicles that Peter Fonda had previously bought at auction. Previously, Harley-Davidson was not ready to provide vehicles upon request. Cliff Vaughs and Benjamin F. Hardy converted two of the bikes each into a Billy Bike and a Captain America .

Three operational machines were stolen before the end of the shooting and are considered lost. The fourth had been dismantled for the final scene. It was later restored by Dan Haggerty , who looked after the bikes during the filming, and exhibited at the National Motorcycle Museum in Iowa . In the fall of 2014, the Captain America was auctioned in Hollywood. An anonymous bidder for 1.35 million US dollars was awarded the contract. The last scene at the campfire , in which Wyatt resigns, was filmed at the very end, when the motorcycles were already stolen so that they cannot be seen in the background.

After Easy Rider was shot in the summer of 1968, completion was delayed until 1969, as Hopper experimented with several hour versions in the style of 2001: A Space Odyssey , of which the manual experiments such as the flickering intercuts and the poetic ones staged by cameraman László Kovács Landscapes testify. In the end, the studio arranged for a draft cut, also took over the somewhat bizarre scenes to loosen up and cut the film to match Fonda's pieces of music, so that a rather incoherent work with hard jumps emerged, which, however, anticipated the aesthetic effect of the later music videos. This version, produced by many people involved, was then approved and published. Easy Rider ousted the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service from first place on its theatrical release .


Easy Rider had an ambiguous effect. Many viewers could identify with it, but even more were and are irritated or even reacted aggressively. On the one hand, the film held up a mirror to American society that it could not like: The USA is not a country of infinite possibilities, tolerance and free society. Even away from the big cities, the country is no longer the untouched paradise that the hippies thought it was back then. The further south you go in the USA, the more you get to feel the hatred of those who, although constantly talking about freedom , reacted aggressively to everyone who took it. In the opinion of many viewers, despite the unforgiving social criticism, Easy Rider is ultimately a road movie that upholds the belief in freedom and adventure.

At the same time, Easy Rider once again evoked the freedom of the individual and the pioneering spirit of people who want to find their own life independently of society, with independent agriculture or drugs, rock music and individually designed motorcycles. However, this is exposed as an aimless attempt to escape. This pioneering spirit spanning generations can be seen in one scene in particular: while the host farmer is shod his horse in the background, Billy repairs the punctured tire on his motorcycle.

All in all, Easy Rider is considered to be an authentic image of America apart from the then prevailing lifestyles as well as a representation of the waning hippie movement, which has already turned into violence and drug excesses, together with their lost hopes and life goals.

Easy Rider was an epoch-making and style-defining film. An experimental writer film of this kind had not made comparable profits in the USA to date (production costs: $ 325,000; income: over $ 16 million). Established Hollywood, which at the time was mostly still producing outdated film concepts without any reference to reality, was shaken up by the success of Easy Rider. Now young filmmakers like Martin Scorsese , Steven Spielberg , George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola got their chance there too , the so-called New Hollywood .

Thanks to Easy Rider, the motorcycle company Harley-Davidson was indirectly saved from ruin, although the film only showed 15–20 year old, radically rebuilt, discontinued models and the company hesitated to begin with models inspired by conversions only years later To offer work. In the following years, some motorcycle manufacturers had a chopper or cruiser inspired by Easy Rider in their product range.


Easy Rider is one of the first films to use contemporary rock songs as background music instead of a soundtrack composed especially for the film (which was to be supplied by Crosby, Stills & Nash ) . In the rough version, Peter Fonda used his favorite songs at the time, the effect of which made other subsequent setting appear superfluous.

The pieces were published on record in a partially modified form . In contrast to the original record from 1969, film sounds could also be heard on later editions, in particular the sound of the accelerating motorcycles before “ Born to Be Wild ”. Another example is “Kyrie Eleison / Mardi Gras”, in which the voice of Peter Fonda and the music of Mardi Gras can be heard at the end. The title "Wasn't Born to Follow" is played twice in the film.

The song "The Weight", which in the original and in the film comes from The Band , could not be used for the LP for licensing reasons. Therefore, the very similar sounding cover version by Smith was used. Also missing from a jukebox is “Let's Turkey Trot” by Little Eva and “Flash Bam Pow” by The Electric Flag .

Title in the credits

(In the film the credits are in capitals .)

Artist title composer
Steppenwolf The pusher Hoyt Axton
Steppenwolf Born to Be Wild Mars Bonfire
The Byrds I Wasn't Born to Follow Gerry Goffin & Carole King
The band The Weight Robbie Robertson
The Holy Modal Rounders If you want to be a bird Antonia Duren
Fraternity of Man Don't Bogart Me Elliott Ingber & Larry Wagner
The Jimi Hendrix Experience If Six Was Nine Jimi Hendrix
Little Eva Let's Turkey Trot Gerry Goffin & Jack Keller
The Electric Prunes Kyrie Eleison David Axelrod
The Electric Flag An American Music Band Flash, Bam, Pow Mike Bloomfield
Roger McGuinn It's Alright Ma
(I'm Only Bleeding)
Bob Dylan
Roger McGuinn Ballad of Easy Rider Roger McGuinn

Music title on the LP

  • The Pusher (Steppenwolf)
  • Born to Be wild (Steppenwolf)
  • The Weight (Smith)
  • Wasn't Born to Follow (The Byrds)
  • If You Wanna Be a Bird (If You Want to Be a Bird, Wild Blue Yonder) (Holy Modal Rounders)
  • Don't Bogart Me or Don't Bogart That Joint (The Fraternity of Man)
  • If 6 Was 9 (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
  • Kyrie Eleison / Mardi Gras (When the Saints) (The Electric Prunes)
  • It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Roger McGuinn)
  • Ballad of Easy Rider (Roger McGuinn)

The titles were arranged on the LP in the order in which they were first recorded in the film.

→ see also: Easy Rider (Soundtrack)


“A road movie produced with limited resources, but extremely popular , in which the endangered dreams and the rebellious attitude towards life of the rock generation at the end of the 1960s are exemplarily articulated. In addition to the images and movements of the film - which are always visionary figureheads and soul movements of the heroes - the music joins as an equal carrier of communication and meaning. "

“A film that is fascinatingly beautiful in representation, photography and music, which contrasts the legalized terror of our society with a sincerely perceived but romantically transfigured image of simple life in simple natural surroundings. Worth seeing and particularly suitable for discussion from 16 years of age. "

- Protestant film observer (review No. 14/1970)

“The film is about two hash-smoking motorcyclists who, as a kind of belated 'pioneers', are driving in the wrong direction through the United States, from west to east, in search of a spiritual El Dorado. Not for the first time the film made use of the hippies and the drug cult, but despite a few painful derailments, 'Easy Rider' is the first believable film on the subject. "

- Stanley Kauffmann : The time of September 5, 1969


At its premiere on May 8, 1969 at the Cannes Film Festival , Easy Rider was nominated for the Palme d'Or for best film in competition, but had to admit defeat to Lindsay Anderson's drama If… . Nevertheless, he, or Dennis Hopper , received the Prix ​​de la première oeuvre as the best first work.

Furthermore, especially the performance of supporting actor Jack Nicholson was honored, who had to give way at the Oscars 1970 Gig Young ( only horses are given the grace shot ) .

Nominations and awards in detail:

New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1969

  • Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)

Cannes International Film Festival 1969

  • Best first work
  • Nominated for the Palme d'Or for best film

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1969

  • Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)

Oscar 1970

  • Nominated in the categories
    • Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)
    • Best original script

British Film Awards 1970

  • Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)

Golden Globe Award 1970

  • Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)

Directors Guild of America 1970

  • Nominated in the best director category

Étoile de Cristal 1970

  • Best Foreign Actor (Dennis Hopper)

Laurel Awards 1970

  • Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)
  • 2nd place in the categories Best Cinematography and Best Young Actor (Peter Fonda)
  • 5th place in the categories of Best Film Drama and Best Young Actor (Dennis Hopper)

National Society of Film Critics Awards 1970

  • Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson)
  • Special price (Dennis Hopper)

Writers Guild of America 1970

  • Nominated in the Best Original Film Drama category

Kinema Junpo Awards 1971

  • Best foreign film

In 1998 the film was entered into the National Film Registry .

Easy Rider is featured in both editions of the American Film Institute 's ranking lists of the “100 best American films of all time” : in the 1998 edition at position 88 and in the 2007 edition at position 84.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. buxtebrawler: UFOs, Sex and Monsters - Roger Corman's wild cinema (2011) . In: online film database . March 27, 2012.
  2. Peter Fonda in conversation with Thomas Gottschalk in Gottschalk's big '68 show on ZDF on October 6, 2018
  3. Easy Rider film locations ( Memento of the original from September 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . On: movie-locations.com . (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.movie-locations.com
  4. ^ History of the Chopper - Benny Hardy Segment . On: youtube.com
  5. Jacob Roth: The Choppers ( Memento of the original from June 29, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. On: home.earthlink.net @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / home.earthlink.net
  6. MOTORRAD, No. 24 of November 7, 2014
  7. EMI Columbia 1 C 062-90661
  8. The album for the film on Allmusic.com
  9. Easy Rider. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed October 11, 2016 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  10. ^ Stanley Kauffmann: America's cinema is rejuvenating . In: The time . 5th September 1969.