7.3/10
38,183
243 user 91 critic

The Hitcher (1986)

A young man who escapes the clutches of a murderous hitch-hiker is subsequently stalked by the hitcher and framed for his crimes.

Director:

Robert Harmon

Writer:

Eric Red

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3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Rutger Hauer ... John Ryder
C. Thomas Howell ... Jim Halsey
Jennifer Jason Leigh ... Nash
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Captain Esteridge
John M. Jackson ... Sergeant Starr (as John Jackson)
Billy Green Bush ... Trooper Donner (as Billy Greenbush)
Jack Thibeau Jack Thibeau ... Trooper Prestone
Armin Shimerman ... Interrogation Sergeant
Gene Davis ... Trooper Dodge (as Eugene Davis)
Jon Van Ness ... Trooper Hapscomb
Henry Darrow ... Trooper Hancock
Tony Epper Tony Epper ... Trooper Conners
Tom Spratley Tom Spratley ... Proprietor
Colin Campbell Colin Campbell ... Construction Man
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Storyline

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 <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

He came from hell. Don't ask him where he wants to go. See more »

Genres:

Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

21 February 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Liftaren See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,134,214, 23 February 1986, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$5,844,868
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (4 channels)

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is one of the few films that Roger Ebert gave zero stars to. When he and Gene Siskel denounced the movie for its violence on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), Carson asked them if they were opposed to censorship, and Ebert replied, "Of course! The film should be made, it should be shown, and it should not be attended by anybody." See more »

Goofs

When the dog is licking the dead officer, his mouth is closed. In the next shot, his mouth is open. See more »

Quotes

Jim Halsey: Look, I think you better get out now.
[Silence]
Jim Halsey: . The ride is over.
[Silence]
Jim Halsey: . Goodbye.
John Ryder: I'm going to sit here. And you're going to drive.
See more »

Connections

Remade as The Hitcher (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

DON'T STOP LOVIN' ME
Performed by Mickey Jones
Published by Mickey Jones Music (ASCAP)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
some kind of insane and intensely tense thriller that rarely comes around anymore
7 March 2009 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

The Hitcher is guided to being such an awesome feat because it features a character and a performance that lift reality into hyper-reality, and it's frightening and fascinating to see how the character John Ryder becomes like a presence as alarming as just a state of mind than as an actual threat. It may be a super anti-kindness to an extent (one could say that Jim Halsey is asking for it simply by picking up the man in coat and thumb out in the dead of night in the rainy desert), but once it takes off from its point of departure it doesn't stop. In that sense Robert Harman's film could make some comparison to Spielberg's Duel, only this case in place of a truck is, well, Rutger Hauer. It's a purely relentless cat-and-mouse game, as ambiguous about what lies behind the dark forces of life and death as No Country for Old Men (if not quite as timeless as that film).

It should be said, plain and simple, Hauer's performance here and in Blade Runner are his definitive work as an actor. He's does so much with so little that even when he's not totally on screen or isn't in frame he gives the chills incredibly by his face, those eyes peering out. Him and Kinski have that affectation, though with Hauer there's something about him that could, under other circumstances, look very kind and heartfelt. But between scenes like his "talk" with Jim at the diner to his mere (more than usual) startling re-appearance in the motel room lying next to Jennifer Jason Leigh, one can't help but feel his character and performance to a degree straddles the line of reality and the supernatural, as if it's all allegory while at the same time directed and acted with such a straight face. Considering the whole concept is based off of the Doors song "Riders on the Storm" I hope that comes as sincere a compliment at possible.

But Hauer isn't alone in delivering an uncommonly good performance in a thriller. Years before he became just another hack-actor looking for whatever work he could (such as last year's War of the Worlds 2 and Day the Earth Stopped), C. Thomas Howell was delivering the goods and this shows him in his own right as a fine counterpart to Hauer. At his older counterpart's level? Probably not, but it's hard not to feel for him and see him go deeper into the insanity of the story as it unfolds. What will finally lead him to killing this psychopath on his trail? Will he have to take a cop or two with him? The dilemma is further compounded by the immediate task to stay alive.

In a more conventional neo-noir it might be simply that Ryder would set up Jim with these crimes or whatever on the road and that Jim would have to do heavy jail time without any witnesses or evidence of the existence of this "Mr Ryder". But the writer of the script, Eric Red, is far more interested in the minute-to-minute danger present with Ryder's vendetta with Jim. What is it about death or murder that keeps this young guy from going for it? I have to wonder if Christopher Nolan watched this film, and particularly studied the climax, for the Dark Knight (one can see the ambiguity with his Joker and obsession against the Batman as a comparison to Jim and Ryder), since at the least the Hitcher delivers so strongly on counts of storytelling, acting, cinematography, even the somewhat dated 80s music sticks tough. And in case it needed it, the action is cool too (maybe *too* cool in that way that sadly inspired Michael Bay to produce a remake).

Not for the squeamish, and certainly not for budding Rutger Hauer fans to miss, the film is something of a minor mid-80s classic.


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