The ultimate Sixties road movie sees Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper hitting the road on their motorbikes and riding into cinema history.
A lot of this influential, counter-culture road movie has dated – it’s difficult not to laugh at the number of times dishevelled hippy Hopper uses the phrase ‘Hey man’ and Fonda’s pompous character now seems equally laughable – but much of it still works.
The movie’s feel for the wide open spaces of the American landscape holds up well and so, too, does Jack Nicholson as a disillusioned lawyer who ends up riding pillion while wearing an old football helmet. This was Nicholson’s breakthrough role, but he only got the part after both Rip Torn and Bruce Dern had turned it down. His druggy ‘This used to be a hell of a country!’ speech is the standout sequence – though he later admitted to being well under the influence of marijuana for real during its filming.
Made on a small budget – many of the supporting characters were real cops and townsfolk playing themselves – the film went on to make a fortune, striking a chord with young audiences and tuning in Hollywood to the money-making possibilities of the youth market.