The American Dreamer (1971)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Dennis Hopper, who has been seen onscreen in small roles from the mid-50s, hit paydirt in Easy Rider, released in 1969. Aimed at the audience that attended Easy Rider, American Dreamer is a documentary/biography of Dennis Hopper. While this film is intended to look like it used cameras so ubiquitous that their subject has forgotten them (enabling them to reveal the "real life" of their subject), at no point does Mr. Hopper fail to take them into account. Nonetheless, a good deal of at least historical interest is shown, including an expression of his philosophy of life at the time, and one encounter in which he brings a fuzzy-minded young woman back down to earth with a thud. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi
Documentary , Television
Directed By:

Critic Reviews for The American Dreamer

All Critics (6)

As a piece of cultural history it's kind of interesting. But as a documentary it's pointless.

Full Review… | June 8, 2016
NOW Toronto

Situated between critique and wake for Hopper's ideals, perhaps we can optimistically see it as a reminder that the perpetual end-of-times cinema seems to be facing is actually what keeps it going, no matter the dangerous levels of hubris.

Full Review… | March 29, 2016
The Film Stage

What's striking about this documentary is that it proves Hopper was full of shit all along.

Full Review… | February 25, 2016
The Skinny

A deliberately composed bathtub ménage à trios later on in the film looks like it could have been a deleted scene from Easy Rider.

Full Review… | February 17, 2016

The American Dreamer is a wonderful look at a complex figure dealing with his own place in an ever-changing world.

Full Review… | February 5, 2016

There is a fuzzy underground feel to this film: choppy editing, sudden freeze frames, maundering voiceover. It has archival value as a study of Hopper and a footnote to the American new wave.

Full Review… | February 4, 2016

Audience Reviews for The American Dreamer


This near legendary documentary about Dennis Hopper struggling - or more like avoiding - to complete the near legendary "The Last Movie" unfortunately falls flat on many levels. The production is amateurish, the music truly awful and the subject comes across as a babbling Manson wannabee - even at one point giving a semi-glowing appraisal of the man himself. Hopper brags that he doesn't like reading - that reading "does nothing for him" and that to experience life is the only real education anyone ever needs. Not sure how much he experienced back here in 1971 through the thick fog of drugs but it does shed light on to why "The Last Movie" turned out such a jumbled (though far superior to this film) pretentious mess. Definitely worth a view for Hopper fanatics but hardly deserving a second screening.

djedfre block
djedfre block

An underground documentary about Dennis Hopper at the peak of his hippie-era hedonism sounds exciting but, unfortunately, "The American Dreamer" doesn't live up to its potential. As the film opens, Hopper has just finished shooting "The Last Movie" (a notorious bomb, following the landmark "Easy Rider"), and is amidst editing it and haggling with the studio about its content and release date. But such movie-biz issues comprise only a small portion of the film. Shaggy and thin, he's living in a desert town somewhere with other like-minded free spirits. We see him walking, driving, bathing, eating, flirting and kissing, but mostly he just philosophizes. Mind you, he has interesting things to say and doesn't come off like some rambling, incoherent stoner. He's actually quite introspective, and his articulate language confirms that his vacuous "Easy Rider" character was simply a role. (In fact, he offers a surprisingly cynical view that Billy was really no better than the rednecks who shot him -- they were just criminals of a different flavor.) But Hopper's musings grow tiresome, and there is little sense of capturing any natural reality, because everyone is so conspicuously aware of the camera's presence. Explicit quarrels about the crew's effect on behavior are even left in the film. The print I saw was brownish, faded and fuzzy, and the action contains far too many montages backed with forgotten, dated folk tunes. Everyone who can strum an acoustic guitar gets a shot in this movie. (Who the heck is John Buck Wilkin?) The editing is rough too. "The American Dreamer" is essential viewing for Dennis Hopper fans, but a failure by most general criteria.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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