Easy Rider is a 1969 American road movie written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda and directed by Hopper. It tells the story of two bikers (played by Fonda and Hopper) who travel through the American Southwest and South with the aim of achieving freedom. The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood phase of filmmaking during the late sixties. The film was added to the Library of Congress National Registry in 1998.
A landmark counterculture film, and a "touchstone for a generation" that "captured the national imagination", Easy Rider explores the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s, such as the rise and fall of the hippie movement, drug use, and communal lifestyle. Easy Rider is famous for its use of real drugs in its portrayal of marijuana and other substances.
A box office hit with a $19 million intake, along with Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, Easy Rider helped kick-start the New Hollywood phase during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The major studios realised that money could be made from low-budget films made by avant-garde directors. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, the films of the so-called "post-classical Hollywood" came to represent a counterculture generation increasingly disillusioned with its government and the world, the Establishment. Although Jack Nicholson appears only as a supporting actor and in the last half of the film, the standout performance signaled his arrival as a movie star, along with his subsequent film Five Easy Pieces in which he had the lead role.
The film's success, and the new era of Hollywood that it helped usher in, led to Hopper getting the chance to direct again, making whatever film he wanted with complete artistic control. This turned out to be 1971's The Last Movie, which was a notable box office and critical failure, effectively ending Hopper's directorial career for well over a decade.
The movie's "groundbreaking" soundtrack featured The Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf. Editor Donn Cambern used various music from his own record collection to make watching hours of bike footage more interesting during editing. Most of Cambern's music was used, with licensing costs of $1 million, more than the budget of the film. When CSN viewed a rough cut of the film, they assured Hopper that they could not do any better than he already had.
Bob Dylan was asked to contribute music, but was reluctant to use his own recording of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", so a version performed by Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn was used instead. Also, instead of writing an entirely new song for the film, Dylan simply wrote out the first verse of “Ballad of Easy Rider” and told the filmmakers, “Give this to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it.” McGuinn completed the song and performed it in the film. - Wikipedia