The Wild Angels (1966)

wild angels poster 1966 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Looks good

The attempts to make the characters unlikable succeeds

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Wild Angels

Studio:  American International Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s):  June 20, 1966

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

wild angels peter fonda nancy sinatra

We’re pretty cool…we ride motorcycles and drink beer!!!

Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda) is the leader of the Hells Angels in San Pedro.  When a trip to get the motorcycle of the Loser (Bruce Dern) back from a chop-shop, the Loser is captured by the police.  Angels realize they must get the Loser back from the police, but an assault in the process puts Heavenly Blues in the crosshairs of the law…and Heavenly Blues is on the run with his girl Mike (Nancy Sinatra).

Directed by Roger Corman, The Wild Angels is a motorcycle movie written by Charles B. Griffith and an uncredited Peter Bogdanovich.  The movie is credited to kicking off the “biker gang” movie genre.

Peter Fonda is forever associated with motorcycles due to Easy Rider, but The Wild Angels was his first dip into the genre.  The movie now seems like a bunch of clichés, but at the time of its release, The Wild Angels was probably pretty original.

wild angels nancy sinatra peter fonda

“Why are you sad, Heavenly Blues?”
“I wish the movie was better…”

The movie however hurts itself.  None of the characters in the film are really redeemable, and the movie goes out of its way to make sure of that.  The Hells Angels are associated to the Nazi party in the film and though people like Fonda stop members from raping a nurse, he later joins in the busting up of a church and attacking the minister who didn’t really seem to do anything to offend the people (he didn’t have to perform the funeral).  It makes it hard to like the movie regardless what Fonda does in the last scene.

Fonda is broody in the movie and it is the same broodiness that he carries over to Easy Rider.  The role was originally cast for George Chakiris who wanted a stunt double for the motorcycle scenes so Fonda was recast from the role as the Loser.  Bruce Dern is probably more interesting and more three dimensional in the movie as the Loser and his real life wife Diane Ladd plays his tortured girlfriend Gaysh (their daughter Laura Dern was conceived during the filming).  Nancy Sinatra doesn’t really seem to fit into the movie much and remains under developed.

wild angels bruce dern diane ladd

Nope…can’t see how they could be related to Laura Dern (sarcasm)

The movie does have that gritty look that gives it a little of a cool factor.  The story doesn’t do much to help the movie but the visuals do.  Corman did use some real Hells Angels in the movie but the Hells Angels did end up suing him for defamation.

The Wild Angels is entertaining but it could have been so much better with some direction.  Easy Rider shows what a movie in a similar vein could be.  Much like The Wild Angels, it has characters that are often unlikable but it is written in a way that redeems their actions…The Wild Angels misses that mark (probably intentionally), but it makes it a lesser movie as a result.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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