At 79 years old, inimitable Hollywood icon Peter Fonda passed away this week, leaving behind a legacy of iconic work. He is survived by his older sister, actress Jane Fonda, and his daughter, actress Bridget Fonda. In tribute to his career, here are five Fonda performances to seek out:
“The Wild Angels” (1966)
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Cult hero Roger Corman’s 1966 biker outlaw film put Peter Fonda on the map as one of the faces of the New Hollywood, and forever memorialized the actor as a Harley-Davidson icon. The film that Leonard Maltin once called “OK after 24 beers” stars Fonda as Heavenly Blues, the leader of a hard-partying San Pedro motorcycle gang, opposite Bruce Dern, Nancy Sinatra, and Diane Ladd. Fonda went on to co-star with Dern in Corman’s 1967 psychedelic film “The Trip.”
“Easy Rider” (1969)
Dennis Hopper’s wild road movie arrived in Hollywood like a brick through a windshield, shattering conventions and inspiring generations of filmmakers to come. Fonda and Hopper play drug-smuggling motorcyclists making their way across the country for Mardi Gras, and along the way they get entangled with shady hitchhikers and end up taking a seriously bad dose of LSD in one of the film’s trippiest sequences. “Easy Rider” remains a countercultural touchstone, made all the more iconic by Fonda’s brilliant turn. He earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for co-writing with Hopper and Terry Southern.
“Ulee’s Gold” (1997)
Peter Fonda received his only Best Actor nomination for playing a reclusive, widowed beekeeper in Victor Nuñez’s drama. Ulee is on a mission to piece his broken family back together, which includes making amends with his criminal son, in jail for a robbery gone wrong. Roger Ebert wrote “Peter Fonda here reveals a depth of talent we did not suspect.”
“The Limey” (1999)
Steven Soderbergh’s atmospheric neo-noir pivots on Terence Stamp as a dangerous Englishman who comes to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter’s murder. Fonda emerges one of the prime suspects, a record producer with a checkered past in drug-trafficking. Stamp and Fonda make for a compelling tete-a-tete, as we watch two legendary actors at the top of their game.
“3:10 to Yuma” (2007)
James Mangold’s remake of the 1957 Delmer Daves classic includes Fonda in a memorable supporting turn as a Pinkerton agent tasked with hunting down Russell Crowe’s outlaw Ben Wade. After “3:10,” Fonda continued to work steadily up until his death, including in “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” in 2017.