Easy Rider

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Easy Rider Movie Poster Image
Iconic 1969 road-trip movie with violence, drugs, sex.
  • R
  • 1969
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Complex attitudes and points of view are organically integrated into the story, the characters, and the mood of the film. Set in 1969 at the height of some of the most chaotic social changes in America, the basic idealism and goodness of Americans are shown to be at risk, as is the concept of "freedom." A repressive establishment is portrayed as wreaking havoc in its attempts to protect the status quo. On the other hand, members of the counterculture exhibit their own brand of lawlessness and emptiness, fortified by drug use. No easy answers here. 

Positive role models & representations

The film's protagonists are searching the American landscape for freedom, acceptance, and peaceful coexistence with a troubled society. Though compassionate, relatively harmless, and peace-loving, these heroes fund their odyssey with drug deals. Then they flaunt their differences, use sex, marijuana, alcohol, and some hard drugs to heighten their passions, and, at the same, numb themselves to life's harsh realities. They're not exactly positive role models, but they challenge the audience to think about what they represent, and they pay dearly for their excesses. 

Violence

Only a few violent scenes, but they're horrific, including a brutal beating, explosions, shotgun murders, and the bloody aftermath of these events.

Sex

Four people swim naked in a pond; shadowy body images are visible, with suggested sexual play. A scene in which the characters are in a hallucinogen-induced state shows two men and two women engaged in sexual activity (not intercourse), with embracing, undressing, and some nudity. Set in 1969, a time when "free love" was at its height, characters are portrayed as having few inhibitions and as attempting to celebrate their sexuality.

Language

By modern standards, relatively mild language for an R-rated film: "goddamn," "whorehouse," "a--hole," "hell," "Yankee queers." There's a wide shot of three men urinating in a rural roadside setting. A character makes an obscene hand gesture to a troublemaker. In addition, there is lots of bullying, insulting, and name-calling directed at the counterculture characters who are the film's heroes. 

Consumerism

Gasoline stations include 76, Esso, and Enco. Beverages include Coca-Cola and Jim Beam. A character wears a hat with the Cat Diesel Power logo.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Pervasive marijuana smoking; leading characters are stoned throughout the movie -- a veritable celebration of sharing joints and living "high." Cocaine is tested, snorted, and sold in early scenes. A lengthy (more than four minutes) sequence shows the effects of a hallucinogenic drug on four young people; it's harsh, sexual, and frightening and includes disturbing religious images. Alcohol is consumed throughout; one character is a confirmed alcoholic who has given up on sobriety.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the release of Easy Rider in 1969 marked a significant change in American filmmaking. Never before had a low-budget, offbeat movie made such an impact on young audiences. Reflecting a chaotic time in a country that was deeply divided in its values, the film's frank treatment of alternative lifestyles, sexual "freedom," and drug and alcohol use (pervasive marijuana smoking, consumption of cocaine and hallucinogens, heavy drinking and drunkenness) struck a deep nerve. The film and its music are still considered classic and unequaled. Mild, infrequent swearing ("a--hole," "Yankee queers," "goddamn") is included. Sexuality and some nudity (no intercourse) are seen in both idyllic settings and in a frenzied acid trip. The few violent scenes are extreme, shocking, and bloody. (Spoiler alert: Important characters are killed by gunfire and a brutal beating).   

User Reviews

Adult Written byjmo97 April 4, 2017

Bleak and weird, but well made. Absolutely not for kids.

I am not entirely sure what I thought of this film. I think the cinematography, acting, and scenery in the movie were absolutely well done. There are also some... Continue reading
Adult Written byPure H. July 3, 2017

Easy Rider

Easy Rider is an odd film, and very few will likely have interest in it. The film is about the end of the 60s era, however the film is told in a very strange ma... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byHALO13 July 2, 2014

The Story Of A Man Who Went Looking For America, And Couldn't Find It Anywhere.

Easy Rider is a classic 1969 biker film about two bikers, Wyatt aka Captain America played by Peter Fonda and Billy played by Dennis Hopper, who after selling d... Continue reading

What's the story?

Riding motorcycles ("chopper"-style) emblazoned with insignia that announce their "freedom" and wearing the in-your-face attire of the 1960s hippie culture, Wyatt, aka Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) set off in EASY RIDER to cross the U.S., taking the southern route from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Financing their pleasure-seeking and identify-giving odyssey with money they received from a cocaine deal, they feel rich and invulnerable. The two men encounter both friends and foes along the way: a Mexican family trying to make a home in the desert, a budding commune filled with idealistic counterculture youth, mean good ol' boys (brutally representing the bigotry of the southern states), and a slick and funny alcoholic lawyer named George (an astonishing, Oscar-nominated performance by Jack Nicholson). Marijuana and alcohol fuel their journey as profoundly as the gasoline with which they fill their tanks. After one gigantic misstep resulting in tragedy, they reach New Orleans at Mardi Gras and, accompanied by two women from an infamous brothel, live out their grandest fantasies. But is the country ready for such unapologetic, "radical" behavior? In the words of one of the protagonists, "They may talk about individual freedom, but if they see a free individual, it makes them scared...it makes them dangerous." His words prove to be prophetic.

Is it any good?

At the time Easy Rider was made, it was revolutionary -- a personal film less interested in plot and subplots than images, individual moments, music, and a mostly new way of looking at 1969 America. Jack Nicholson's performance launched a career that would be going strong nearly half a century later. For some, it was hard to see past the antiestablishment messages, its take on sexual "liberation," and the brazen celebration of being "high." At the box office, it was a commanding success. It also was a cautionary tale, never flinching from the consequences of such unorthodox behavior. Looking back, from a 21st-century perspective, there's still much to be admired, including not only the film's place in the history of moviemaking but also the extraordinary blending of film and music (classic Steppenwolf, the Band, and the Byrds), the wonderful performances, the headiness of its concepts, and its desire to push the limits in presenting a distinctive point of view. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Easy Rider as an outstanding example of the artistic blending of film and music. How did the music affect your understanding and enjoyment of the story? How did the music affect your visual experience of the road trip?

  • What do you think Wyatt (Captain America) means when he says, "We blew it," near the end of the movie?

  • Discuss the term "game changer" when it comes to describing a movie. Find out why this movie was considered a game changer and broke new ground in filmmaking when it was released in 1969. 

Movie details

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