The Hitcher (1986)

R  |   |  Thriller  |  21 February 1986 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 32,583 users  
Reviews: 234 user | 83 critic

A young man who escaped the clutches of a murderous hitch-hiker is subsequently stalked, framed for the hitcher's crimes, and has his life made into hell by the same man he escaped.



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Complete credited cast:
Sergeant Starr (as John Jackson)
Trooper Donner (as Billy Greenbush)
Jack Thibeau ...
Trooper Dodge (as Eugene Davis)
Tony Epper ...
Tom Spratley ...
Colin Campbell ...


A young man transporting a car to another state is stalked along the road by a cunning and relentless serial killer who eventually frames the driver for a string of murders. Chased by police and shadowed by the killer, the driver's only help comes from a truck stop waitress. Written by Keith Loh <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The terror starts the moment he stops. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 February 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Liftaren  »

Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)


$5,844,868 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(4 channels)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Eric Red:  Screenwriter can be seen in a cameo role toward the end of the film as a sheriff's deputy escorting the prisoner to the transfer bus. See more »


When State Trooper Ed and Captain Esteridge escort Jim to the Semi, the police are talking nervously without stopping. However you can hear the English "Hold-your-fire" in almost audio tracks of almost every language, such as French, German, Italian, Spanish. This is because the maker forgot to treat it as audio rather than environment noise. See more »


[Donner photographs Jim Halsey]
Trooper Donner: Well, these are real good. Your mama's gonna like those.
See more »


Performed by Mickey Jones
Published by Mickey Jones Music (ASCAP)
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

an intense, nihilistic take on the 'predator/prey' theme
16 January 2003 | by (Hellfudge, Pennsylvania) – See all my reviews

A cat spends the day chasing a mouse. When he finally corners the mouse, he takes sadistic delight in batting it around, playing with it before it goes in for the kill. The cat wishes to savor the look of fear on its prey, instead of merely indulging the reward it's worked so hard to catch. This is the predator/prey relationship evidenced in "The Hitcher," one of the most relentlessly intense and mean-spirited horror films ever made.

Since the setting is the desert, I suppose it would make more sense to call John Ryder (played by Rutger Hauer) a vicious coyote, who is picked up one rainy night by a stray lamb named Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell). Ryder, who's apparently been murdering people all over the desert, is looking to do the same with Halsey, who cheats death only to be tormented for the rest of the film by this savage predator. The coyote craves a challenge--in fact, he seems to live for it.

Nothing else needs to be said. "The Hitcher" relies so heavily on a plot that weaves in and out of 'the expected' that any further description would spoil the fun. The two leads are excellent--Rutger Hauer has created one of the great villains of modern cinema, and C. Thomas Howell is a sympathetic and believable victim driven to madness. While the film isn't necessarily deep, the high-energy cast, moody desert settings and twisty script fuel this effort for 98 intense minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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