The Hitcher 1986

The Hitcher

Critics Consensus

Its journey is never quite as revelatory as it could be, but The Hitcher stands as a white-knuckle vision of horror, bolstered by Rutger Hauer's menacing performance.

61%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 36

74%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 43,813

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Movie Info

While transporting a car from Chicago to San Diego, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) picks up a hitchhiker named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), who claims to be a serial killer. After a daring escape, Jim hopes to never see Ryder again. But when he witnesses the hitchhiker murdering an entire family, Jim pursues Ryder with the help of truck-stop waitress Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh), pitting the rivals against each other in a deadly series of car chases and brutal murders.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The Hitcher

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (14)

  • This set-up is intriguing, and you wish director Robert Harmon had made more of it.

    January 4, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A highly unimaginative slasher that keeps the tension going with a massacre about every 15 minutes.

    March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • It's a highly competent sick-fright version of the evergreen chase formula.

    February 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Mr. Hauer, who has reportedly vowed not to play any more villains or crackpots, is probably making the right decision, if this is any measure of the sort of role that comes his way.

    May 20, 2003
  • I would have admired it more if it had found the courage to acknowledge the real relationship it was portraying between Howell and Rutger, but no: It prefers to disguise itself as a violent thriller, and on that level it is reprehensible.

    January 1, 2000 | Rating: 0/4 | Full Review…
  • Despite the fact that The Hitcher is both conventional and ultimately hollow, it does take the viewer for a terrifying ride.

    July 19, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Hitcher

  • Jan 04, 2013
    What is there to say about Hitcher? At the beginning of the film, Jim escapes the clutches of a hitch hiking murderer, but not for long. John Ryder, the ironically named antagonist, has a power of sensing where his victim is when and how to go about attacking them almost perfectly (he's even better than Myers is at this!) John frames Jim for all of his murders, and that's about the jest of the film. Nothing special, but a decent watch. There are some suspenseful moments, I was always expecting to see the camera to pan over to John who somehow was right on Jim's tail! Sometimes it did happen, sometimes it didn't.
    Horrific R Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2012
    In 'Halloween', Michael Myers was simply credited as The Shape because the viewers would project their own ideas of horror onto his amorphous face. In many respects, John Ryder is similar to Myers insofar as he is an oppressive, omnipresent villain without a motive. He appears spontaneously (one example of hysterically irrational gallows humor is his materialization in the back of a family's station wagon) and he could be construed as the personification of Jim's coming-of-age obstacles on the road to manhood. 'The Hitcher' is a taut, exquisitely surreal B-movie with a powerhouse performance from Hauer. At first, Hauer is bedraggled from the rain, sniffling with a cold and intentionally vague about his destination. He unveils his switchblade and almost pleads to Jim "I want you to stop me". Their relationship is like the symbiotic link between the host and a virus with each one goading the other. Every time they rendezvous, Ryder provokes Jim to shoot him but Jim is too sheepish and cowardly. At an abandoned garage, Ryder could easily disembowel Jim but instead he throws him his keys as if to enable Jim to continue the cat-and-mouse pursuit. Hauer is fraught with ambiguous touches such as when he lays next to Nash and slightly whimpers before he cuddles with her. 'The Hitcher' has been enshrined as an unsung gem in 80's horror and based on the evidence, deservedly so.
    Cory T Super Reviewer
  • Aug 10, 2012
    ** out of **** Robert Harmon's "The Hitcher" is a crowd-pleaser slasher movie. The original script that didn't make it to the screen was a lot darker and violent and was therefore scrapped (because darkness and violence is just no good), the suspense isn't too slow-burn for a majority audience so that it's easily accessible, and it'd got a big name in the cast that everyone adores. The producers were convinced that they weren't making a slasher film at all when they were making this movie and rather a thriller, but upon viewing the finished product, I'm not so sure. This feels like a slasher flick. A bland, messy, yet better-than-average slasher flick. And by better-than-average I mean, in the case of the slasher film, better than shit. "The Hitcher" really isn't bad at all. It has more impressive ambitions than most films of its kind, but then again you must remember that it didn't even want to be classified amongst them in the first place. A young man (Thomas C. Howell) is terrorized by a hitchhiker who turns out to be a serial killer (Rutger Hauer) while delivering a car that he deliberately keeps saying isn't his to a location in San Diego. It starts with him picking up the hitcher and then driving him a little ways, although it doesn't take too long for this fellow to start saying stuff that could come off as disturbing. For instance, he tells his driver that earlier he killed the people in a car that the two see parked on the side of the road when they're still driving into the night. The young man, named Jim, manages to escape the hitcher by throwing him out of the car, left for dead on the side of the road; but of course the bastard follows him around and eventually frames Jim for his crimes. He accomplishes this by switching out their leather jackets at a diner. The police come at the wrong time and instantly have the wrong man. We know Jim is not the killer, yet the bloody knife is in his jacket pocket. He has virtually nobody to turn to, except for a girl about his age (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that worked at the diner where he stopped. He's able to convince her that he's innocent and together they run from the law. Meanwhile, the hitcher continues to kill all who cross his path, stealing their cars so that he may further be a complete menace to Jim, who understands that there will more than likely be only way out of this hodgepodge. I'm actually pretty amazed that the experience went by so fast, given how bored I constantly was with the film. It's not a particularly painful or painless watch; it's so heavily flawed that I couldn't really ever say I enjoyed it, but at the same time it's competently made to the point where it is, well, watchable. There is good camerawork (which could be easier appreciated if the DVD wasn't of such bad video quality, if only in the darker scenes), some good gore (although keep in mind, it's far from extreme), and yes, there are a few moments where the thing is actually thrilling. But it's still merely half a thriller as much as it is half a slasher. On the bright side, Rutger is really good. On the not-so-bright side, I felt he was much underused. The film at least makes an attempt to be tense, but in the end, Rutger brings the best scenes and even those come off as underwhelming. There was nothing worth writing home about in the memorably menacing scenarios department. Plus, Rutger's killer character doesn't get nearly as much screen-time as he deserved; and instead, we're trapped in a story told through the eyes of Howell's "tough" (which translates here to wimp) hero. I do admire that the killer had no motivations behind what he did, since the best villains are often pure evil without any rational explanation, but at the same time these feel like characters that require detailed backstories and characteristics. Instead, the film is left on the side of the road with only its actors, its cinematography, and its laughably weird homoerotic undertones to save it from being a total loss. I say it's still worth seeing; even if it is a huge let down.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 10, 2012
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img] An unforgivably forgotten thriller that remains to this day relentlessly intense and has a few shocks thrown in for good measure. Despite losing a bit of steam in the last 30 minutes, particularly when police cars are seen tossing over and helicopters exploding, Rutger Hauer's terrifying performance as the title character keeps the movie gripping and interesting. Original in every sense and unrecognised for what I think is influential to modern horror cinema, The Hitcher is suspenseful and creative all the way through. It never resorts to childish horror cliche's and unlike countless horor thrillers doesn't end with one last pointless shock. But has a finale that can rightfully be called an ending.
    Directors C Super Reviewer

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