On This Day: ‘Easy Rider’ Premiered in Theaters in 1969 Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson

by Joe Rutland

One of the 1960s most iconic motion pictures, “Easy Rider,” starring three iconic actors premiered in theaters on this day in 1969.

“Easy Rider” starred Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson in a story about two bikers (Fonda and Hopper) who travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans. According to IMDb, they cross paths with a man who helps them understand a counter-culture gap they didn’t know about at all.

Fonda and Hopper co-wrote the movie along with Terry Southern. Fonda played Wyatt while Hopper played Billy. Nicholson showed up as George Hanson, a lawyer who meets up with Wyatt and Billy in a jail cell. Fonda also produced it while Hopper directed it.

‘Easy Rider’ Earned $60 Million Worldwide At The Box Office

Was the movie well-received by movie-goers? Let’s take a look at the numbers. “Easy Rider” pulled in $60 million around the world off about a $400,000 budget.

Most people connect music with the movie. Rock band Steppenwolf, led by singer John Kay, has two of their songs featured in the opening of the movie. A few verses of “The Pusher” are heard, followed by their best-known hit, “Born To Be Wild.”

Take a look at Fonda and Hopper at the beginning of “Easy Rider” with some help from Steppenwolf.

It was an important movie at the time because “Easy Rider” spoke directly to social issues of the day. Were the drugs used in the movie real? Yes, the marijuana and LSD used in the movie were very real.

Peter Fonda was the son of veteran actor Henry Fonda. Prior to the success of “Easy Rider,” Fonda starred in 1967’s “The Trip,” another counter-culture film directed by Roger Corman. Its focus was around the consequences of taking LSD and was written by Nicholson. Hopper also co-starred in this movie.

In 1966, Fonda played a biker in another Corman picture called “The Wild Angels.” This, too, would highlight cultural differences of the day.

Fonda died on Aug. 16, 2019, at 79 years old. Hopper died on May 29, 2010, at 74 years old. Nicholson is still going strong at 84 years old.

Hopper Found Himself Appearing on Classic TV Western

Before starring in “Easy Rider” and other films, Dennis Hopper had to earn his way up the acting ladder.

He made a stop along the way in a 1964 episode of NBC’s smash-hit Western “Bonanza.”

Hopper appeared in the show’s fifth season in an episode called “The Dark Past.” He played a lonesome bounty hunter who ended up crossing paths with the Cartwrights. The bounty hunter, who ends up being the son of a preacher Ben Cartwright [Lorne Greene] Once knew, is hunting down an outlaw named Ron Starr.