"A man went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere.", Easy Rider tells the story of two drug dealers riding bikes across America on a search for "freedom". On their way they meet many people who mock them and attack them, afraid of what the two represent in America.
Fonda and Hopper did not have a full script when they began shooting the movie and much of the filming was improvised with hippies from communes across America and nearby pedestrians to hold the cameras.
Having successfully smuggled cocaine from Mexico to Los Angeles Wyatt ( Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) make their sale and hide the money in the patriotic-colored fuel tank of Wyatt's motorcycle. They decide to ride east and reach New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.
Along the way, the duo meet up with a cavalcade of characters representing different pieces of America. The first man they meet is a simple rancher who makes his due simply, from the land. After that they come across a hitch-hiker ( Luke Askew) who is fleeing the city. The two take him to his commune and there they stay for a day. The soil is dry and conditions are poor at the commune, the pray for a blessing, that the next crop may be successful. They spend their time at the commune partaking in the "free love" philosophy of the hippies and leave after the hitch-hiker they picked up gives them some LSD.
Arriving at a small town, the two partake in the parade going on but are quickly arrested for "parading without a permit". They are thrown in jail and there they meet George Hanson ( Jack Nicholson), a drunk lawyer who helps them get out. They share marijuana with George (which is real, the trio smoke real marijuana) and he decides to go with them to New Orleans.
They arrive at another small rural town, this time in Louisiana, close to their destination. They stop to eat a local restaurant but are heckled by the men there. After taking as many slurs as they could take being thrown at them, they leave and make camp near the town. The three lament the passing of America's free spirit and its hypocritical take on freedom.
While asleep, the men that had previously insulted the three in the restaurant come after them with baseball bats. George is killed by a blow to the neck with a machete, but Billy manages to scare the rest off with a switchblade. The two gather George's belongings and wrap him up in his sleeping back, promising to return his things to his family. They reach New Orleans and go to a brothel that George had wanted to visit. They take prostitutes there and go gallivanting on the streets of New Orleans in the midst of the Mardi Gras celebration. They eventually end up at a cemetary where they all ingest the lsd the hitch-hiker had given them. The trip they have is bad and in this scene Wyatt makes one of his more famous speeches, an impassioned plea to a statue in the church.
Making camp that day, the two realize that their journey for spiritual freedom was unsuccessful, that too much had gone wrong. They decide to continue on to Florida where they can retire wealthy with the money they made on their drug deal. On the way two hillbillies pull by them on a pickup truck and threaten them with a shotgun, shouting slurs at them. Billy gives them the middle finger and attempts to ride off, but is shot with the shotgun. Wyatt stops his bike and attempts to help Billy as the hillbillies drive away. He puts his jacket over him and gets back on his bike, riding for help. The hillbillies come back down the road, however, and shoot at Wyatt, hitting his gas tank and causing the bike to explode. Wyatt flies off the bike and it rockets into the air, aflame.