The young couple hit the road en route to spring break. Ryder dangerously stands on the road, near his car, which apparently has broken down. After passing they worry that they might have hit him. When they see that he is unharmed, Grace insists that they do not give him a ride as he could be dangerous.
Later they arrive at a gas station. After Grace decides to go to the bathroom, Jim fills up his car and sees Ryder climb out of a tractor-trailer cab. After going inside, Ryder comes back out and begins using the phone. Ryder introduces himself and asks for a ride. Reluctantly Jim agrees. Once the three of them are driving down the road, Ryder becomes violent and talks of killing Grace and Jim. Jim manages to kick Ryder out of the car and drive away.
Later Jim and Grace drive down the road and see a station wagon with a couple of kids playing in the back seat. We then see Ryder appear in the back of the car, apparently hitchhiking. Grace and Jim try to warn the family of Ryder, but they get run off the road by an oncoming tractor-trailer. In the crash, Jim's car is totalled and the couple continue on foot. As they are walking, they find the station wagon on the side of the road and Jim goes to inspect. Jim then sees that both the children and the mother are dead, and the father has a knife embedded in his stomach and is slowly dying.
They drive the car trying to save the father when Ryder shows up, driving a truck, attempting to run them off the road. They stop at a cafe, where the father dies. While Grace is in the restroom Ryder tries to break in, only to disappear again. Jim and Grace are brutally arrested, suspected of the killings, and brought to the police station. While Jim is ruthlessly handcuffed to the cell door by a heartless deputy who arrested the two protagonists, Grace is being interrogated but the head cop doesn't believe her. Ryder shows up and kills the policemen at the station. Jim and Grace take a gun and flee on foot.
They come to a wrecking yard. Jim attempts to negotiate with the surviving cop from the station (who arrested the two leads earlier) who arrives; when this fails Jim and Grace are forced to order him at gunpoint to get into his car to allow them to escape and prove their innocence. However, before he can enter the car he is shot in the head by Ryder, framing them. Another officer just arriving witnesses this and begins shooting at the couple as they attempt to escape.
Lieutenant Estheridge (Neal McDonough) is informed of this and sends several cruisers and a helicopter after the couple, thinking they are the murderers of the family and the cops, but doesn't believe they're really murderers since he points out a "third suspect." As they are being chased, State Police officers shoot out their tires in an attempt to pull them over, whilst Grace begs them to first let them out distance Ryder a bit more.
Ryder in a 1979 Trans Am approaches at high speed; he pulls up alongside the closest cruiser and shoots both officers inside, which then crashes into another police cruiser, sending it flipping in a deadly crash. Ryder then overtakes the last cruiser causing it to crash; then Ryder shoots the helicopter pilot, causing the chopper to crash and explode. Ryder pulls up alongside Grace and Jim's cruiser and gives them a long, fixed stare before driving off. Due to incident, Estheridge slowly begins to believe that Grace and Jim are innocent.
The cruiser breaks down and Grace and Jim walk to a motel. There, they take a shower together and Jim steps out of the room to make a phone call, telling her that he will be gone for 15 minutes. He's gone for several hours and Grace falls asleep watching the Hitchcock film The Birds. She is then awakened by someone in the bed who is feeling her up. Ryder tries to rape her, but she pushes him away and hides in the bathroom armed with a revolver. Ryder then walks out of the room. Grace then quietly escapes and searches for Jim. The motel manager sees her with a gun and calls the cops. Grace finds Jim and sees that he is tied between a truck and a trailer. Ryder looks in the side-view mirror and revs the engine, moving the truck a few inches. This hurts Jim and Grace runs to the cab to find Ryder sitting in the driver's seat. Grace points the gun at him and tells him to stop the truck. Ryder keeps hitting the gas, brutally hurting Jim. The cops, who still thinks Grace and Jim are the killers, then show up and see Grace with Ryder at gunpoint. They tell her to drop the gun, but Ryder tells Grace not to listen to them. Ryder then tells her to point the gun between his eyes. Grace can't do it so Ryder does it for her. Ryder then tells her to shoot him, but she can't. Ryder then gets impatient and snatches the gun out of her hands. He then mutters under his breath, "useless waste." He then punches the gas and tears Jim in half. Ryder and Grace are then apprehended by the cops.
The next morning, Estheridge talks to Ryder and tells him he will be transported across the state. He also tells Grace, whose innocence been proven, that he'll be taking her for psychiatric care. Ryder is bound in handcuffs with a bulletproof vest and placed in the back of a police van, with Grace and Estheridge driving behind them in an SUV. During the ride, Ryder breaks or dislocates his own thumb, and, scraping off the skin, slowly squeezes his hand through the handcuff. The accompanying policemen sees the loose handcuff lock and goes for his gun. Ryder whips the lock at his throat, taking out a large chunk of it. Ryder then gets the policeman's gun and shoots the policeman in the front passenger seat. The van crashes and rolls. An oncoming Chevrolet El Camino crashes into the van and then the SUV.
Lieutenant Estheridge's leg has been trapped in the accident. Grace takes Estheridge's gun and slowly makes her way to the van in which Ryder is caught. Estheridge radios in for backup. Grace opens the back door, whereupon Ryder takes her gun and locks her in the back. Ryder sees a pool of gasoline near the van, shoots it and walks away. Grace manages to get a shotgun from the front seat of the van right before the gasoline explodes. Ryder walks up to Estheridge and shoots him in the head. The van door is unhinged in the explosion and Grace knocks it out. As he walks away Grace shoots him twice with the shotgun. His vest catches the shots until he is on his knees. He smiles weakly and asks Grace if it feels good. Grace tells him she doesn't feel a thing. Ryder's smile then turns into a grimace as Grace points the gun to his face and pulls the trigger. Grace then drops the gun and walks away as it fades to the end credits, playing How We Operate by Gomez.
The movie debuted at #4 at the box office with $7,818,239 made in the opening week. After three weeks the movie placed #11 at the Box Office and subsequently made $16,366,370. 5 weeks after its nationwide release, The Hitcher had been pulled from most screens due to its poor performance at the box office and poor reviews, and was completely removed from cinemas after six weeks. The Hitcher began its international release on March 1 2007. As of January 9, 2008, the film has had a lifetime gross of only $23,153,663.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 20% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 86 reviews, with the consensus that the film is "interested in only cheap shocks, and gratuitous gore and torture. The movie did slightly better on Metacritic, gaining a 29 rating. Movie Crab gave the movie a poor review, stating that the movie had absolutely no purpose, and left too much unexplained. Empire Magazine gave the film two stars and said that the picture was totally inferior to the original. The Guardian said "Don't even slow down for this one; certainly don't tag along for the ride. The Times however gave it four stars and praised Sean Bean for his menacing performance.
The film was ranked #12 on Moviefone's "25 Worst Movie Remakes of All Time."
On the DVD, there is an alternative ending where Grace aims the shotgun at Ryder and pulls the trigger but the shotgun is out of ammunition. She then proceeds to brutally bash in Ryder's head with the gun.