Easy Rider [1969]

This box-office hit from 1969 is an important pioneer of the American independent cinema movement, and a generational touchstone to boot. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper play hippie motorcyclists crossing the Southwest and encountering a crazy quilt of good and bad people. Jack Nicholson turns up in a significant role as an attorney who joins their quest for awhile and articulates society's problem with freedom as Fonda's and Hopper's characters embody it. Hopper directed, essentially bringing the no-frills filmmaking methods of legendary, drive-in movie producer Roger Corman (The Little Shop of Horrors) to a serious feature for the mainstream. The film can't help but look a bit dated now (a psychedelic sequence toward the end particularly doesn't hold up well), but it retains its original power, sense of daring, and epochal impact. --Tom Keogh

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