Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

In maverick director Monte Hellman's 'bare-bones' existential road movie, a cult film with minimal dialogue, about a group of self-destructive, counter-cultural drag racers in the SW USA in a cross-country competition to the East Coast:

  • the scene in a small Flagstaff, Arizona cafe along Route 66 when two rootless, emotionally-inert road and car-obsessed freaks: the inexpressive Driver and the distant Mechanic (James Taylor, the folk-rock singer, and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, both in their only film roles), sat in the foreground and an unidentified teenaged hitchhiker Girl (Laurie Bird in her film debut) left her psychedelically-decorated hippie van and got into the back of their parked '55 Chevy outside in the background (to the tune of Hit the Road Jack on the jukebox) - to tag-along with them; the two males wordlessly accepted her presence when they returned to their car; her first words to them were: "It's really bumpy back here. What kind of car is this anyway? (no response) You guys aren't the Zodiac killers or anything like that, are you?"
  • the discussion while sitting on a white picket fence between the Girl and the Driver about the noisy cicadas: "Hear those cicadas?...You talk about survival, man, those are some freaky bugs. They spend, uh - they come out of the ground every seven years, and they live underground the rest of the time, and the only time they come out of the ground is to crawl out of their skins and grow some rings - grow some wings so they can f--k. And then they die. But before they die, they manage to lay some more eggs so that these bugs..."; the Girl interrupted: "We've got a better life, haven't we? We make them look sick"
  • during the playing of Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee, the meeting up at a Needles, California gas station with talkative, story-telling, middle-aged G.T.O. (Warren Oates), the owner of a souped-up yellow '70 Pontiac; the Driver predicted to the Girl that he would be a good candidate to race against: ("I think we got us a squirrel to run"); GTO was challenged to a cross-country race from New Mexico to Washington DC, where the winner would receive the other's car as the prize: "pink slips...for cars... all the rolling stock" - The Mechanic: "We put the pinks in an envelope, send 'em to D.C., general delivery. First one there waits for his car"; there were ground rules as they began the race, suggested by the Mechanic as he drew the route along Rte. 66 on a map: "We stay on the country roads. Less heat that way. Never say you're racing, or they'll bust you for it"
  • during the competitive race, GTO's succession of picked-up hitchhikers, notably (during the radio's playing of Chuck Berry's Maybelline) a desperately-gay cowboy (Harry Dean Stanton) in Oklahoma - rebuffed by GTO after touching his leg ("I'm not into that!")
  • the Girl's role as the cosmic (and sexually-willing) bond between the three racers; later in the film in a roadside motel restaurant in Tennessee, she was forced to make a choice about sexual exclusivity with one of the men, and responded simply: "No good" (she was unsatisfied with all of her fleeting relationships with them) - there was no visible reaction from any of them, only stares and stark silence; impulsively, she left the diner, followed after a young, long-haired motorcyclist (Kreag Caffey), dropped her duffel bag of belongings on the ground in the parking lot, and hopped onto the back of his bike as he sped off
  • the film's final lines of dialogue were between the garrulous GTO and two hitchhiking soldiers on a 10-day leave bound for NYC, when he wildly bragged about the race he was engaged in, and lied about his car: "I won it flat out. I was drivin' a '55 stock Chevy across country and I got in a race with this GTO for pink slips. I beat the GTO by three hours. Of course, the guys in the GTO couldn't drive worth a damn. But I'll tell you one thing. There's nothin' like buildin' up an old automobile from scratch and wipin' out one of these Detroit machines. That'll give you a set of emotions that'll stay with ya. Know what I mean? Those satisfactions are permanent"
  • the abrupt non-ending on another two-lane blacktop at the local race-track with the Driver looking out at the gray pavement - as the soundtrack went silent, the celluloid reel of film froze and then disintegrated and burned (with fiery bubbling) within the stalled projector - the image turned to complete blackness (followed by the credits - white letters on the black background)


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