The Hitcher (1986)

hitcher poster 1986 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Grindhouse horror feel

Not a fan of frame-up movies

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Hitcher

Studio:  HBO Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  February 21, 1986

MPAA Rating:  R

hitcher c thomas howell rutger haeur

Thanks for the ride

Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is travelling across country in the hopes of starting a new life in San Diego.  When he gives a ride to a hitchhiker named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), Jim’s life is turned upside down.  John is a psychopath and a serial killer.  As John continues to set up Jim, Jim seeks to free himself from suspicion…but John seems one step ahead of Jim every time.  John’s attacks are getting more and more dangerous and more people are dying…and Jim is going to take the blame.

Directed by Robert Harmon, The Hitcher is a psychological horror thriller.  The movie was met with mixed to negative reviews but gained a cult audience over the years.

I remember The Hitcher being on TV a lot growing up.  The movie was immensely cut down and chopped up for TV due to the film’s violent nature, but if you could find a horror movie, you watched a horror movie.  While I do like some aspects of The Hitcher, for me it is torture to watch.

hitcher c thomas howell gun

I would say it is going to get better…but it probably isn’t

I hate movies where the guy is framed…that is the biggest plot device that drives me crazy.  The Hitcher represents one of the greatest frame-ups of all time.  While it seems like everything could be disproven easily with some fingerprints, etc., Howell keeps running and getting in a worse and worse situation…and more and more people keep dying.  It is frustrating and drawn out too long.  I also don’t believe the last act of the film from the truck stop to the end.  I don’t think it is a game that Hauer’s character would play.

Rutger Hauer has the “scary guy” down pat.  Even in his other movies where it isn’t necessarily the role, he has that edge to him that makes him creepy.  C. Thomas Howell is pretty bland as the guy caught up in the frame-up and I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be ’80s preppy or punk.  I always like Jennifer Jason Leigh and always remember her “exit” in this movie.

hitcher jennifer jason leigh death

Jennifer Jason Leigh just goes to pieces in this movie

The movie is pretty grim and gruesome.  Allegedly some of the violence was toned down in the movie, but it still seems violent.  It has a bit of a grindhouse feel to it (especially in some of the car-chase scenes), but it is also tempered with an ’80s vibe.

The Hitcher is an imperfect film.  It has some really tense moments and a killer that has no qualms about killing anyone.  The relationship between Hauer and Howell’s characters is “odd” to say the least and probably the meat of the film…but it is left up to the viewer to determine why Hauer has changed his MO for Howell.  The Hitcher was followed by a sequel The Hitcher 2 in 2003 with Howell returning and a remake in 2007 starring Sean Bean as John Ryder and Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton as his unfortunate victims.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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