In fiction, picking up a hitchhiker is an exceptionally risky proposition, as there's a good chance they're either a) a Serial Killer who will murder you, or b) a wanted criminal (or escaped convict) who will force you to help them evade the authorities, then murder you. This trope can also cover rape, robbery, and other kinds of violence or maltreatment inflicted by hitchhikers on those who pick them up. This may include a form of Wounded Gazelle Gambit, in which the hitchhiker gains trust by Faking Engine Trouble. They might use their last victim's car for this purpose. Harmful To Hitchhikers is the Inverted Trope, in which it's the driver that is the homicidal maniac that the hitchhiker needs to beware. See also Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts, the difference being that hitchhiking ghosts are generally supernatural and not always malevolent. Also see Not My Driver, for when a driver that the passenger already trusts is replaced by a hostile person, or when the vehicle is an official taxi.
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- Played for laughs in a Bud Light commercial, where a guy driving through the woods in the middle of the night decides to pick up a shifty-looking hitchhiker simply because he has Bud Light — even though, as his passenger points out, "He has an axe!" The hitcher claims that the axe is a bottle opener, and the driver promptly invites him in. He later picks up an even shadier hitcher because he also has Bud Light, and the first hitcher objects.
Driver: Look. He has Bud Light.
Hitcher: And a chainsaw!
- One issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions has an operation go seriously bad with Outback being the only one to escape. At one point, he buys a truck from a gypsy and tries to drive to a friendly country. He picks up a hitchhiker because he figures the authorities are looking for just him and a second person in the vehicle might throw them off. The hitchhiker then tries to hijack the truck and rob him. This quickly turns into Mugging the Monster due to Outback being a highly trained soldier who then kills the hitchhiker and crashes the truck.
Film — Animated
- Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation has Mr. Hitcher, a chainsaw-wielding psychotic killer with a strange aversion to pork and duck. When Hamton's Family, who are on their way to HappyWorldLand, pick him up, they don't see him as a psychotic killer. Plucky, who is going to HappyWorldLand with them, is the only one who does, as he listened to a radio broadcast describing Mr. Hitcher as an escaped convict. Even worse, before he could get the important number to call the authorities, Hamton's Mom shut off the radio, saying there was too much sensationalism in the media. After narrowly avoiding getting sliced by Mr. Hitcher's chainsaw, it is later revealed that Hamton gave Mr. Hitcher Plucky's address, rather than his own, and at the end of the movie, Mr. Hitcher is seen chasing and trying to attack Plucky after Hamton shows him to the class.
Film — Live Action
- The Hitcher (1986) is about a driver who is stalked and manipulated by a hitchhiking spree killer after foiling the man's direct attempt on his life. Screenwriter Eric Red said the story was inspired by song "Riders on the Storm" (see Music, below). Was later remade in 2007.
- Detour uses a variant: the driver dies accidentally, and the rider (who is the protagonist) seizes the opportunity to steal his identity. Later, he picks up a hitcher of his own — who figures out what happened and blackmails him over it.
- Downplayed in Thelma & Louise, in which an otherwise friendly hitchhiker ends up stealing all their money.
- The 1953 film The Hitch-Hiker is about a hitchhiking robber/murderer in the southwestern U.S. who, after a Run for the Border, gets picked up by two vacationing Americans. He forces them to transport him south through Baja California, intending to kill them when he reaches his planned destination.
- The Anti-Hero protagonist Nomi Malone from Showgirls thumbs a ride to Las Vegas from a man in a pick-up truck. En route, the man suggests sex-for-mileage; Nomi and her switchblade vehemently disagree. Bookends with the closing scene, where Nomi thumbs a ride to Los Angeles with the exact same man and pick-up truck. She shrieks, "You stole my luggage!" and resumes slashing at him while he's driving.
- There is a hitchhiking Serial Killer on the loose in the comedy There's Something About Mary. The cops find the body he was carrying and peg the main character as a guy who kills hitchhikers, starting a hilarious Mistaken Confession.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): The hitchhiker travels with the group for a bit and start talking about his family who worked at the old slaughterhouse. He borrows Franklin's pocket-knife and cuts himself, then takes a Polaroid picture of the others and demands money for it. When they refuse to pay, he burns the photo and slashes Franklin's arm with a straight razor. The group forces him out of the van and drive on.
- Dumb and Dumber: Mental (one of the hitmen that are pursuing Harry and Lloyd) pretends to have car trouble and hitches a ride with them in order to find out that they know about the Briefcase Full of Money MacGuffin that they unknowingly carry and to check out if the Mistaken for Badass beliefs that he and his employers have are actually well-founded. He nearly becomes a straight use of this trope when he almost pulls a gun on them because they are annoying him so much (but their picking up some Mexican immigrants prevents him from doing so) and then it (accidentally) becomes the inverted version when Harry and Lloyd pull a prank that makes his ulcer act up and they give him some pills he had on his pocket, not knowing that it was some rat poison that he was planning to sneak into their food.
- In The Hitchhiker (The Asylum's Mockbuster of the 2007 remake of The Hitcher), the title character befriends four road-tripping party girls who pick him up, then imprisons them in a hotel room and tortures them.
- In Larry Niven's story "The Deadlier Weapon", a hitchhiker pulls a knife on the driver who picked him up. The driver starts acting like he intends to kill them both by deliberately crashing the car, ramping up the psychological pressure by looking at the hitchhiker instead of the road until the hitchhiker gives up, drops the knife out the window, and allows himself to be dropped off in the median of a busy highway where he is trapped until the cops come for him.
- CHiPs once had a trio of Valley girls who would hitch rides from strangers, hold them hostage with a water pistol, and rob them. Their crime spree ends when they try this on someone who recognizes the water pistol for what it is and threatens to commit sexual assault on them. Luckily, the officers intervene before anything happens.
- One episode of Criminal Minds ("Safe Haven") features a teenage sociopath called Jeremy, who is hitchhiking his way back to his home (after his mother dumped him on another state exploiting the titular child protection law, knowing pretty well that he's a monster and deciding to let the government deal with him) and exploiting his innocent looks to be allowed to spend the night on the houses of the people who pick him up... where he goes on to annihilate them and their entire families.
- Six Feet Under had a very controversial episode, "That's My Dog", that almost approached Torture Porn, in which David Fisher was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and almost murdered by a psycho hitch-hiker.
- Thunderbirds: In the episode Thirty Minutes After Noon, a man named Thomas Prescott picks up a Hitchhiker, who unfortunately for him turns out to be a member of the infamous Erdmann Gang. The crook straps a bomb bracelet to Prescott's wrist in order to force him to carry out a terrorist attack for them.
- The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" has a verse about this:
There's a killer on the road,His brain is squirming like a toad,Take a long holiday;Let your children play;If you give this man a ride, sweet memory will die;Killer on the road....
- The Far Side has two women in a car looking at at a a one-eyed man with a Hook Hand and a sign that says "Anywhere". The caption is "Come on, Cynthia, where's your sense of adventure?"
- In an episode of Futurama, the crew goes on a team-building trip with an overly enthusiastic coordinator. He says that just to make a point he'll pick up a random hitchhiker to catch him on the first trust fall of the trip. He picks up a very bored-looking hitchhiker and starts to fall back...only for the hitchhiker's stomach to open up into a mouth and eat him. Subverted because the hitchhiker turns out to have been placed there as part of the team-building exercise, and no one was actually eaten.
- In an article about the decline in Real Life hitchhiking (caused largely by fear of this trope), Molly Osberg tells about a driver who, being in a bad headspace after a divorce, picked up two hitchhikers in the hope that they'd kill him. Osberg concludes that, nowadays, "picking up a hitcher can be considered a lackadaisical attempt at suicide."
Harmful To Hitchhikers:
Film — Live-Action
- Pee-wee's Big Adventure subverts this. Early on in his journey, Pee Wee hitches a ride with Mickey, who is quickly established as an escaped convict. However, he never harms Pee Wee and even lets him drive. When Pee Wee crashes the car and almost kills them, he still doesn't kill him but instead forces him to find new transportation.
- The opening and closing scenes of Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead showcase that this is one of Rusty Nail's methods to obtain victims.
- In The Nail Gun Massacre, a hitchhiker flips off a vehicle for speeding past him. Unfortunately, it's being driven by the killer — who stops, waits for the hitchhiker to approach, and then fills him full of nails.
- In Road Games, Smith (alias Jones) is a hedonistic serial killer who rapes, strangles and dismembers young female hitchhikers.
- In an early scene of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the main characters threaten and terrorize (but don't, and may not really intend to, physically harm) a young male hitchhiker.
- In Julie Orringer's short story "Stars of Motown Shining Bright," the main character — on the road with someone who is trying to drag her into a scheme she doesn't like — decides not to get out and hitch a ride home.
"She imagined herself standing beside the highway in her short white skirt. It seemed like an image from a slasher movie."
- Strange Frequency: One episode/story ("My Generation") features both forms: Wheeler (a driver Serial Killer that kills hitchhikers) and Walker (a straight version of the trope). Their Trigger happens to be music (Grunge Rock for Wheeler and old-school Rock and Roll for Walker — if someone likes those genres, they are immediate targets), trying to kill each other and, when they wreck the car they are in, doing casual conversation on their killing methods as an old man that was passing by with his RV helps them fix the car... and soon after going on the road and thinking of teaming up, the car's brakes malfunction and they crash fatally. Turns out that the old man is a third Serial Killer, one that has a modus operandi of sabotaging vehicles... and his trigger is people who don't like Big-Band music.
- Masters of Horror featured an episode, "Pick Me Up", that was apparently a remake of the Strange Frequency episode. Wheeler is a truck driver who kills hitchers that he picks up, Walker is a hitchhiker who kills people that pick him up. Neither of them use music as a trigger, it adds a Final Girl character, and the third serial killer in this scenario becomes two ambulance drivers.
- A 1983 ABC Afterschool Special called "Andrea's Story: A Hitchhiking Tragedy" was about a girl dealing with the aftermath of being raped while hitchhiking.
- An early CHiPs episode has a pair of teenage girls hitchhike to get where they're going. This works well until the person who stops for them turns out to be a kidnapper. One girl abandons the other and Ponch and Jon come to the rescue.
- Rides With Strangers was created based on this trope; the player has to hitchhike their way to a meeting they are late for, and must avoid being killed by the driver.
- A Grand Theft Auto V player can do this while playing as Trevor. If he encounters someone lost in the wild, he can deliver them to the Altruist cult to be eaten.