The carefree life of motorcycle riding was exposed in the 1953 film, "The Wild One." Marlon Brando exuded a leather jacket-style and rebellious attitude that set the tone for dozens of low-budget motorcycle movies shown at drive-in movie theatres a decade later. These tales of exploration and revenge featured violence, sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. The biker movies of the 60s appealed to a growing youth culture which was outgrowing the idealised vision portrayed in beach-party films of the time.
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Kenneth Anger's 1964 experimental film explores an army of bikers combined with Nazi and gay themes. Some consider this the first postmodern film. The choppy symbolic imagery creates a chaotic and rhythmic movie experience that is visually artistic and revolutionary.
"The Wild Angels"
Roger Corman claims to have been inspired by a Life magazine photo spread about the Hells Angels motorcycle club when he made this 1966 film starring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and Nancy Sinatra.The biker gang drama is full of hate and violence, but guns are rarely the weapon of choice. The biker is more likely to use a found object, a chain or pipe ripped off the motorcycle. This film paved the way for a string of movies about the Hells Angels.
"The Born Losers"
Tom Laughlin directed and acted in a series of five movies about Billy Jack, a half-Cherokee, former Green Beret Vietnam veteran and martial arts master. This 1967 film, the first of the series, shows him up against his own demons and a gang of motorcycle outlaws.
"She-Devils on Wheels"
Women in biker films were cast as the girlfriend, a "mama" riding on the back of her "papa." This 1968 Hershall Gordon Lewis film is campy and raunchy. It turns over the female stereotype with a gang of teenage girl bikers. The Maneaters dominate social interactions with the local boys as they organise races and cause trouble in a small Florida town.
"Girl on a Motorcycle"
Master cameraman Jack Cardiff directed this 1968 film starring popular singer Marianne Faithful. The story veers away from the biker-group format to examine freedom, escape and individualism. The female character is a newlywed who leaves her husband to find freedom on the road, indulging in psychedelic reveries while riding a motorcycle to visit her lover.
After appearing in "The Wild Angels," Peter Fonda teamed up with Dennis Hopper, who had just completed "The Glory Stompers." They set out to create a modern western about drifters on the American frontier. Jack Nicholson is invited to join the cast after his role in "Hells Angels on Wheels." Released at the end of the 60s, "Easy Rider" shows the clash of cultures when bikers, rednecks and hippies cross paths. It remains the ultimate 60s biker movie with a soundtrack straight from the era's top radio hits.
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