"The reason I bought a DVD player almost four years ago was that I finally saw for myself the drastic increase in picture quality from VHS. I can tolerate DVD releases that skimp on extras like behind the scenes documentaries and director commentary, but I do demand good picture quality. This DVD fails to deliver. It doesn't look too bad when the scenes occur in daylight, but when you reach the point in the story where darkness falls and the scenes were shot at night, the extremely low quality of the film print and digital transfer come shining through. I haven't seen this much grain and artifacting since... well, ever. It's even worse than the "gray market" DVD of the Twin Peaks pilot episode. Buy if you must, but as for me I wish I'd held out for a better edition."
One of the greatest horror movies to come out of the 80's
N. Durham | Philadelphia, PA | 03/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some call the original Hitcher a horror movie, others classify it under the suspense genre, etc. All that aside, this little flick did more than turn a few heads back when it came out in the mid-80's, featuring Rutger Hauer's ice cold performance as a psychotic killer who hitches a ride with a young man (C. Thomas Howell) whom he terrorizes and frames for his crimes as the film rolls on. Considering the time the Hitcher was made, it's surprisingly not predictable, and loaded with taut suspense, with great performances from Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh (whose character has the most infamous death in the whole film), and especially Hauer who is disturbingly perfect as psychopathic killer John Ryder. Hopefully the Hitcher will be re-released on DVD with loads of features and a much better picture transfer (the one on this disc is terribly grainy), and considering all the DVD double dipping of late, that possibility isn't entirely unlikely."
Surreal, dreamy, and absolutely thrilling
Mr Vess | Cracow | 07/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is probably Rutger Hauer's best known role - and *the* perfect example of how good an actor he is. His magnificent performance adds to the film's strange and surreal atmosphere and creates one of the most chilling movie villains of all time. A mysterious modern Flying Dutchman, shadowy and coming from nowhere, undead and cursed to roam not the sea but a desert and kill over and over again, Rutger Hauer's "John Ryder" cannot be liberated unless *he* himself is killed... and this is the favor that he asks a young driver he meets to do. The movie is not standard, down-to-earth thriller. It creates its own world and you can only understand it when you watch it and have the Flying Dutchman's story in mind. Only then will you see that what some people thought to be mistakes and holes in the script are in fact deliberate and well-thought elements of the plot. Watch the movie thinking of "John Ryder" as the Flying Dutchman, and you will understand every comment he makes, every line he says, and every action he takes. And, hopefully, you will appreciate the genius of Rutger Hauer and director Bob Harmon."
See this version, not the remake
James G. Greenhill | Durango, CO USA | 01/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why Hollywood remakes movies such as "The Hitcher," "Psycho" or "The Manchurian Candidate" defies explanation. All of these should be seen in their original versions, not as remakes. Every review I've read of the 2007 version of "The Hitcher" has been horrible, and I don't plan on wasting my money on it. See this 1986 version. The combination of C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh; plus the landscape, music and lighting; plus Robert Harmon's direction made for a must-see thriller/horror classic. It is a work of art. If you like reading pulp/noir/crime fiction, you'll love watching this cult classic which succeeds as much because of perfect casting and perfect choices of locations as anything else. But remaking this is like repainting classic art or rewriting Shakespeare -- I mean, it's just downright stupid and also doomed from the get-go. [Five stars for the movie; I'm not rating the quality of this DVD (see reviews below).]"
Low budget thriller, or legitimate work of art?
Alexiel | United States | 04/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How about both. Reading through these reviews, I don't think people have properly emphasized that this is a work of art, and displays a more deft hand in story-building and characterization than you might think you're getting from what appears to be on the surface another brainless 80s thriller.
But it's so much more. It's almost like an old existential play in a way, with parts of feeling like they could've been penned by Beckett or Sartre.
There are essentially 3 characters. C. Thomas Howell as Jim Halsey, a magnificent, yes, Oscar worthy performance by Rutger Hauer as John Ryder, the hitcher, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Nash, the waitress. Jim is driving a car from Chicago to California, part of a service where people were hired to drive cars to locations of places they wanted to go anyway, a service you don't see too much anymore. Along the way he picks up Ryder. In a scene that unravels in a horrifying way, Ryder reveals that he is a murderer and Jim will be his next victim. Jim manages to dump him. However, Ryder turns up again in a truly chilling scene that made my blood run cold the first time I saw it.
Ryder frames Jim for murders he commits, further entangling Jim in his web. Yes, Ryder appears to have supernatural powers at times, and the cops do seem excessively stupid to advance the story, but it's worth it to see first rate acting and characterization like this.
Hauer should've won awards for this movie. He is nightmarish, an absolute monster as Ryder, an enigmatic and almost spectral killer, with yes, a funny, but horrifying and black sense of humor. His diner scene is one of the most powerful pieces of acting I've ever seen in any movie, ever. If you have the movie, queue it up to that part. Look at the look on he gives Jim when Jim looks up to see him sitting across from him at the diner. Dread-inducing evil, and the coldest, most sadistic blue eyes you'd ever not-hope to see. He is handsome in a cruel, terrifying, yet captivating way. His ambivalence towards death is frightening, and never before in movies have pennies seemed so fraught with symbolism and menace.
The relationship between Jim and Ryder is one of much speculation and debate. It is wonderfully mysterious, puzzling, warped, and compelling. Even the sherriff notes something strange is going on between them. Does Ryder have a [...] attraction to Jim? Or some sort of death wish he wants Jim to fulfill? Did he just randomly pick some kid and decide to wreck his life with this game? It seems sadomasochistic in a way, like Ryder wants to inflict as much pain as possible on Jim, but he doesn't want to kill him, he wants Jim to kill him, to become him. This is just one interpretation of many you could make.
The stark California desert makes an excellent backdrop for the movie, and the mood is well enhanced by the excellent symmetry; the movie begins with the flares of the Hitcher's match and ends on the same note with Jim Halsey.
In conclusion, "The Hitcher" is one of the best thrillers of all time, in addition to having some of the best characterization, and one of the best acting performances (Hauer) *ever* in cinema. It is not without some forgivable flaws, and it does have a couple of stomach-churning scenes (one of them quite famous) so I can't recommend it to the faint of heart, but for everyone else, see this movie as soon as you possibly can."