Taglines: The terror starts the moment he stops.
Jim Halsey, a young man delivering a car from Chicago to San Diego, spots a man hitchhiking in the West Texas desert and gives him a ride. The hitcher, John Ryder, is brooding and evasive; when Jim passes a stranded car, however, Ryder forces his leg down on the accelerator.
Ryder calmly states he murdered the driver and intends to do the same to Jim. Terrified, Jim asks what Ryder wants. He replies, “I want you to stop me.” Ryder strokes Jim’s face with a knife while telling him to say, “I want to die.” When Jim realizes that Ryder never put on his seat belt and the car’s passenger door is ajar, he shoves him out of the door.
Relieved, Jim continues on his journey. When he sees Ryder in the back of a family car, Jim tries to warn them but becomes involved in an accident. He later comes across the family’s blood-soaked car and vomits. At a nearby abandoned gas station, Ryder corners Jim but simply tosses him the keys he took from Jim’s car. After Ryder leaves with a trucker, Jim encounters him again at another gas station, where the trucks nearly runs him down as it crashes into the pumps. As Jim flees, Ryder ignites the spilled gas and causes the station to explode.
At a roadside diner, Jim meets Nash, a waitress, and calls the police. As Jim relaxes, he finds a severed finger in his food and realizes Ryder is present. The police arrive and, after finding Ryder’s knife in Jim’s pocket, arrest him. Though the police doubt his guilt, they lock him up overnight as protocol. When Jim wakes, he finds the cell door is unlocked, and all the officers are dead. Jim panics, takes a pistol, and flees. At a gas station, he sees two officers, takes them hostage, and speaks to Captain Esteridge on the radio. As Esteridge convinces Jim to surrender, Ryder pulls up alongside them and kills the two officers.
The patrol car crashes, and Ryder disappears again. After briefly considering suicide, Jim reaches a cafe, where Ryder suddenly confronts him. After pointing out Jim’s pistol is unloaded, Ryder leaves him several bullets and departs. Jim boards a bus, where he meets Nash and attempts to explain his situation.
After a police car pulls over the bus, Jim surrenders, and the furious officers accuse him of killing their colleagues. As the officers goad Jim into a fight, Nash appears with Jim’s pistol, disarms the officers, and flees with Jim in their patrol car. As the police chase after them, their car crashes, and Ryder shoots down a helicopter, causing the police cars to also crash.
The Hitcher (1986)
Directed by: Robert Harmon
Starring: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, John M. Jackson, Billy Green Bush, Armin Shimerman, Gene Davis, Colin Campbell
Screenplay by: Eric Red
Production Design by: Dennis Gassner
Cinematography by: John Seale
Film Editing by: Frank J. Urioste
Set Decoration by: Lynda Burbank
Art Direction by: Dins Danielsen
Makeup Department: Leslie Ann Anderson, Leslie Anne Anderson)
Music by: Mark Isham
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: February 21, 1986