20 GROOVY COUNTERCULTURE FILMS

Dig. The late 60s and early 70s sure were a wild time man. The social and political climate was erupting in America. The KIDS were finally taking over and telling THE MAN to shove it. Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, drugs, feminism and free love all seemed to collide causing a massive impact on pop culture. That included the world of cinema and there were lots of stories about the people who were right smack dab in the middle of the happenings being put up on the silver screen. These counterculture films had something the squares just couldn’t quite turn on to, ya know? For our new Furious list (made up of a mixture of period films, documentaries and modern titles) we’d like to pay tribute to the generation of seekers, lovers, trippers and far out freaks that actually turned the world on its ear, if only for a little while…

hip6Easy Rider (1969, Dir: Dennis Hopper)

In this touchstone for the 60s generation, two hippies Wyatt aka “Captain America” (Peter Fonda) and best pal Billy (Dennis Hopper) sell a cache of cocaine to fund a cross country motorcycle trip to Mardi Gras. A furious masterpiece that kicked off the New Hollywood era. The rock soundtrack features bands like Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and many more. Co-starring Jack Nicholson, Luke Askew, Karen Black and Toni Basil.

hip18Psych-Out (1968, Dir: Richard Rush)

A psychedelic journey in which a young deaf runaway named Jenny (Susan Strasberg) arrives in San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury area looking for her estranged brother Steve aka The Seeker (Bruce Dern) and gets some assistance from the band members of Mumblin’ Jim (Jack Nicholson, Adam Roarke, Max Julien). A trippy, humorous, close up look at the flower power San Francisco Peace & Love scene. Co-starring Dean Stockwell and Henry Jaglom. Featuring far out music by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds and Storybook.

hip14Woodstock (1969, Dir: Michael Wadleigh)

Alright man, here it is, the granddaddy of all music concert documentaries. Featuring a truly amazing line up of acts that performed at the now legendary three day festival of peace love and music. You’ll get to see Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie, Ritchie Havens, Santana and many more doing their righteous thing onstage! A must see film about the legendary pop culture hippie extravaganza in Upstate New York that capped off the 60s. Remember: DON’T TAKE THE BROWN ACID! TRIVIA: Director Martin Scorsese worked on this film.

hip10Gas-s-s-s (1970, Dir: Roger Corman)

In this post-apocalyptic black comedy, an accidental gas leak causes the death of everyone over the age of 25. In the aftermath, a group of young people led by Coel (Bob Corff) and his girlfriend Cilla (Elaine Giftos) travel cross country with some newfound friends to seek out a peaceful place to live together. This is hippie idealism at its zenith man. Co-starring Cindy Williams, Ben Vereen, Talia Coppola (Shire) and Bud Cort. Joe McDonald of Country Joe & The Fish makes a cameo as spokesman named AM Radio.

hip5Wild in The Streets (1968, Dir: Barry Shear)

Max Frost (Christopher Jones) a rock singer turned revolutionary helps the younger generation under 30 take over the government but runs into some major snags along the way due to The Fuzz trying to come down on his plans. One of the greatest Youth Runs Wild films of its day. Co-starring Hal Holbrook, Richard Pryor, Shelley Winters, Larry Bishop, Dick Clark. Featuring the garage rock single “Shape of Things To Come” by Max Frost & The Troopers.

hip15The Doors (1991, Dir: Oliver Stone)

An autobiographical look at one of the 60s most popular rock groups and the explosive life of its legendary frontman Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer). Although most of the movie is based on true facts, it is more of a mythic, heightened version of the band’s story. That certainly doesn’t keep it from being a mindblowing, celebratory experience. Get ready to Break On Through! Co-starring Kyle McLachlan, Kevin Dillon, Frank Whaley, Meg Ryan and Kathleen Quinlan.

hip16The Trip (1967, Dir: Roger Corman)

Mild mannered TV commercial director Paul Groves (Peter Fonda) decides to drop LSD for the first time and goes on a mindbending trip through another realm of sights and sounds. Made at the height of the acid tripping era and inspired by Roger Corman’s own experiences on the drug. Turn On, Tune In and Freak Out! Co-starring Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper.

hip1Riot on Sunset Strip (1967, Dir: Arthur Dreifuss)

A misguided teenager (Mimsy Farmer) dealing with her parents divorce takes LSD for the first time and finds herself put in a compromising position by her fellow hippies. A slightly corny melodrama on one hand but also an enjoyable look at the L.A. hippie scene set around popular clubs like Pandora’s Box. This film was released within six weeks of the actual late-1966 Sunset Strip curfew riots. Starring Frank Alesia, Aldo Ray, Michael Evans, Anna Strasberg. Featuring appearances by popular garage rock bands The Standells and The Chocolate Watch Band singing their hits.

hip12Head (1968, Dir: Bob Rafelson)

“We hope you like our story/Although there isn’t one/That is to say, there’s many/That way, there is more fun!” The Monkees were a major pop sensation when they starred in this psychedelic stream of consciousness epic that covers subjects ranging from The Vietnam War to LSD to Westerns. It comes as no surprise it was co-written by Jack Nicholson while under the effects of various drugs. You won’t know what’s happening moment to moment but you’ll surely dig the ride! Co-starring Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper and Timothy Carey.

hip17Zabriskie Point (1970, Dir: Michaelangelo Antonioni)

Antonioni’s beautiful meditative portrayal of rebellion, uprising, nature, capitalism and love stands out as a fine piece of hippie cinema. The movie’s troubled history (it took a while also to finally get this uncut and restored on home video), and the mix between nature photography and dream sequences make it a rather unique counterculture film – and one of Sebastian’s favorites.

hip9An American Hippie in Israel (1970, Dir: Amos Sefer)

Stop Pushing Buttons! A world traveling hippie/Vietnam Vet named Mike (Asher Tzarfati) arrives in Israel and finds himself being chased by gangster mimes and tries to create an island commune with some of his new friends only to find they sadly can’t outrun their troubles. It’s Zabriskie Point meets Lord of the Flies with a heavy dose of oddball humor. Co-starring Lily Avidan, Shmuel Wolf, Tzila Karney. Once thought to be a lost cult film, Grindhouse Releasing (home video distributors) released it on a special edition Blu Ray recently and it looks spectacular.

hip11Medium Cool (1970, Dir: Haskell Wexler)

A powerful experimental film by DP/director Haskell Wexler that mixed cinema verite and fictional drama together causing a unique, thrilling outcome. Robert Forster plays a TV news cameraman who becomes disallusioned after discovering his company is providing the FBI with information taken from different journalists. The most memorable scenes were filmed during a real riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago which was set within the story.

hip7Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, Dir: Russ Meyer)

A truly outrageous adventure into the world of the Los Angeles 60s rock n’ roll music scene with an up and coming all girl group called The Carrie Nations. This is one of the most exciting works of offbeat pop cult cinema ever made. Inspired in large part by enigmatic music producer Phil Spector and The Manson murders, it’s an offbeat masterpiece from the minds of Russ Meyer and writer/critic Roger Ebert. Starring Dolly Read, John LaZar, Erica Gavin, Michael Blodgett and James Iglehart.

hip4Billy Jack (1971, Dir: Tom Laughlin)

A renegade half Native-American vigilante simply known as Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) violently defends a progressive school for young outsider kids from the rednecks of a small Southwest town. A counterculture gem that became one of the first indie film sensations in America due to its “Four Walling” promotional campaign. You’ll just go BERZERK with this movie. Co-starring Dolores Taylor. This was Billy Jack’s second appearance after Born Losers, a biker film which introduced the character.

hip3Hair (1979, Dir: Milos Forman)

Based on the hit 1968 Broadway play, a young Okie farm boy named Claude Hooper Bukowski (John Savage) travels to NYC to enlist in the Army and serve in Vietnam. While walking through Central Park he encounters a group of freewheeling hippies (Don Dacus, Dorsey Wright, Annie Golden, Beverly D’Angelo) led by George (Treat Williams). Claude and his new friends start a wild, drug induced musical adventure as the troupe try to keep him from heading off to recruit training in Nevada. A seminal musical about the height of the peace, free love, anti-War era. Features hit songs “Hair” and “Age of Aquarius”.

hip3Getting Straight (1970, Dir: Richard Rush)

Elliot Gould stars as Harry Bailey an ex-social radical thats returns to his alma matter to complete a college course to become a teacher. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Jan (Candice Bergen) is playing a large part in the student protests taking place, something Harry no longer wants to be involved in. The film delves into the activism of the late 60s/early 70s and the social and political views young people wanted to confront by any means necessary in between growing their hair, making love and getting high. Co-starring Harrison Ford, Jeff Corey, Max Julien, Gregory Sierra.

hip2The Strawberry Statement (1970, Dir: Stuart Hagmann)

Set in Stockton California, Bruce Davison plays Simon, a college student that gets caught up in a controversy surrounding his school’s new gymnasium being built in an African American neighborhood. An important yet overlooked gem based on the Columbia University protests of 1968 that puts viewers right smack dab in the hectic atmosphere of the times. Co-starring Kim Darby, Bud Cort, Andrew Parks and Bob Balaban. The author of the book the film was based on, James Simon Kunen has a cameo appearance. Featuring Thunderclap Newman’s iconic 60s theme “Something in the Air” as well as other standout tracks from the period.

hip13More American Graffiti (1979, Dir: Bill Norton)

In this enjoyable, well made, yet often forgotten sequel to the 1973 smash hit, we rejoin the main cast of characters over a period spanning from 1964-67. Toad (Charles Martin Smith) is fighting in Vietnam while John Milner (Paul LeMat) is a professional hot rod racer and Steve (Ron Howard) and Laurie (Cindy Williams) have gotten married. Meanwhile, Debbie (Candy Clark) has become a hippie up in San Francisco. Fans of the original will appreciate this piece of pop culture cinema. Co-starring Mackenzie Phillips, Scott Glenn, Harrison Ford. Featuring some great rock n’ roll from the period.

hip20Skidoo (1968, Dir: Otto Preminger)

This is easily one of the weirdest movies to come out of the psychedelic era. Jackie Gleason (The Hustler) stars as Tony Banks a retired mafia hitman who lives with his wacky wife Flo (Carol Channing) and rebellious daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay). When two of his old crime partners Hechy (Cesar Romero) and son Angie (Frankie Avalon) arrive at his home with one last assignment, he’s forced to go along. Their boss “GOD” (Groucho Marx) needs Tony to go undercover inside Alcatraz Island and knock off “Blue Chips” Packard (Mickey Rooney) another soldier who is set to testify before the Crime Commission. Meanwhile, Darlene’s new hippie boyfriend “Stash” (John Philip Law) moves in at their house with a ton of freak longhairs. When you see Jackie Gleason tripping on LSD, you’ll know why this movie is considered a one of a kind cult classic. Featuring superb music by the great Harry Nilsson.

hip19Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, Dir: Terry Gilliam)

Based on the best selling novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp plays eccentric, drug fiend/writer Raoul Duke who travels from LA to Las Vegas on assignment with his friend Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) to cover a road race and anti-drug convention. Thompson’s stylized ode to the end of the 60s is now looked on as The Great Gatsby for the hippie generation. Co-starring Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Mark Harmon.

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n’ crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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3 Responses

  1. Gav says:

    Great list! I’d just like to add some other personal favourites. There is ‘Taking Off’ (1971), which was Milos Forman’s first American film after defecting from the Soviet bloc. It centres on conservative parents trying to find their missing daughter who has got mixed up with the hippie scene. Which is similiar to the darker film ‘Joe’ (1970) by John G. Avildsen, which also has a narrative about a missing hippie daughter. Jack Nicholson’s directing debut ‘Drive, He Said’ (1971) is also interesting as it focuses on college campus turmoil during the sixities. On the intellectual side, there is Jean-Luc Godard’s film ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ (1968) which documents the Rolling Stones in the studio as they record their album ‘Beggars Banquet’, while inter-cutting some political vignettes.

  2. Debbie says:

    I am looking for the movie where the main character writes “happy” in the sky with a sparkler…70’s rehabbed druggie, blond actress fairly famous later I think. Any ideas? Thanks.

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