Easy Rider is by far the most iconic film of all time to feature motorcycle rider protagonists. From its very opening the movie establishes the bikes as characters in themselves. The first sequence features the song “Born to be Wild” playing as the two bikers ride across country roads.
The 1969 classic tells the tale of two motorcycle riders played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. The duo also created the film behind the scenes. Fonda was behind the story creation whereas Hopper agreed to direct it. The two characters travel through America where they hope to find the “American dream.”
It has a counter culture message that establishes the bikes being ridden as symbols of freedom. In a way the movie is very similar to a western genre piece, except with bikes instead of horses. The work is very much of its time. When it was initially released it became very popular because it was able to capture the the cultural atmosphere of America at the time.
As well as motorcycles the film also focuses on a number of themes, including the clash between hippy lifestyles and more traditional society. The two bikers are constantly at odds with the “regular” people that they meet during their travels. It was made for a mere $400,000 and managed to gain a profit of $60 million. It was also well received critically due to the exceptional direction, acting and contemporary soundtrack.
The bikes used were both custom made Harley Davidson choppers. They were built from the frames of four decommissioned police motorcycles. After filming these bikes were either destroyed due to the nature of the final scenes or simply taken apart. Only decades later did their significance as cultural objects become fully realised. Captured on film they remain some of the most famous bikes in the history of cinema.