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I'm gonna sit here... and you're gonna drive.
~ John Ryder menacing Jim Halsey.

John Ryder is the titular main antagonist in the 1986 film The Hitcher and its 2007 remake.

He was portrayed by the late Rutger Hauer, who also played Roy Batty in Blade Runner, and Cardinal Roark in Sin City, in the 1987 film. In the 2007 film, he was portrayed by Sean Bean, who also played Sean Miller in Patriot Games, Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye, Patrick Koster in Don't Say A Word, Ian Howe in National Treasure, and Dr. Merrick in The Island.

Biography

In the original The Hitcher film, Ryder is first seen hitchhiking in a storm at night, a young man Jim Halsey picks him up hoping he'll keep him awake while he drives. While initially pleasant the conversation they have quickly unravels into a terrifying ordeal for Jim with Ryder refusing to answer even basic questions like where he's going, tension builds until they pass a car that appears broken down on the side of the road when Jim asks about the car Ryder bursts out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter causing Jim to join in, in a truly twisted scene he tells Jim that he was in the car that broke down, he killed the driver and he's probably going to do the same to him. As they carry on the journey Ryder taunts Jim telling him how he will kill him until he sees an opening and manages to kick Ryder out of his car. What follows is a deadly cat and mouse game with Ryder stalking Jim often appearing out of no where like a ghost, killing everyone Jim comes into contact with to make it look like Jim is responsible for Ryders killings. In the end Ryder gets caught after he kidnaps Nash a diner waitress Jim has befriended, and like the remake he ties her arms and legs to a truck to get Jim to kill him the problem is if he does his feet will come off the break, killing Nash in the process. Jim doesn't go through with it and Nash dies. The next time you see Ryder he's being interrogated. Jim gets to confront him for what he's done instead spitting in Ryders face. Jim warns the cop he's with that they wont be able to hold him, the cop tries to reassure him but Jim refuses to believe and goes for the cops gun, telling him to get out Jim goes to confront Ryder. Jim catches up with the armored vehicle that was transporting Ryder as the back doors burst open revealing Ryder has killed the cops guarding him and has acquired a shotgun. A battle ensues and Jim finally kills Ryder.

In the original Ryder is a brutal killer who appears to have a death wish but is too cowardly to do it himself so attacks innocent people in the hope one of them will kill him. He's highly skilled with weapons such as guns and knives. Hes a master of stealth appearing and disappearing with at an almost supernatural level (He manages to put a severed finger in Jim meal shortly after Nash cooks it for him with no one seeing him)

He's a master of combat, wiping out a whole police station just to get Jim out of jail so he could continue stalking him, the added bonus being it made Jim look responsible for Ryder's murders. This indicates he could be a member of special forces suffering from PTSD purely based on his skill level. It's never explained who he is or why he's doing what he's doing, even the name John Ryder is one that he could easily have made up. When the police try to identify him through his fingerprints or other means they come up with nothing.

Ryders obsession with Jim reveals a lot about his motive. The act of survival on Jim's part where he throws Ryder out the car is a turning point for Ryder. Its natural for most people when they have a knife being held at their throat to just do as your told, instead Jim fights back in doing so he seals his fate and Ryder chooses him to kill him as he could see the potential in him.

At one point after Jim escapes from the police station he sits in a diner and Ryder sits across from him. He asks Ryder "why are you doing this to me" Ryder replies after putting two pennies on Jim's eyes "You're a smart kid. Figure it out" and hands Jim bullets for the gun he picked up in the police station. The scene is almost touching as Ryder seems to be encouraging Jim.

Despite Ryder essentially being a slasher villain using a lot of tropes like appearing at just the right time and being an unstoppable killer, you can understand his motives. He's very similar to Heath Ledger's Joker, he's had one bad day and he's snapped, you don't really get the impression he enjoys the killing he just doesn't know how to be anything else and he cant help himself, acting purely on instinct because there's nothing that can stop him and he knows it.

In the 2007 remake, Ryder is a ruthless and psychopathic killer who constantly harasses a young couple named Jim Halsey and Grace Andrews after he hitches a ride with them. Inside the vehicle, he reveals himself as a psychopath and attempts to kill them, though they manage to knock him out onto the road and escape. Ryder tracks them down several times and continues to brutally attack them, forcing the terrified couple to flee for their lives.

Trivia

  • In the 1987 film, Ryder is killed by Jim, but in the 2007 remake, Ryder kills Jim by chaining him between a truck and a trailer and pulling him apart. He is promptly arrested by the police and is put in a van to be taken across the state. During the trip though, Ryder breaks free and uses the handcuffs he'd been put in to kill the cop who was guarding him in the back. He also kills another cop riding up front and the chaos causes the van to flip. Ryder escapes from the back and kills Esteridge, only to be confronted by Grace when she shoots him in the back with a shotgun. Ryder grins and asks if shooting him had felt good, to which Grace says she felt nothing, and she shoots him in the head.
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