Joy Ride (2001 film)

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Joy Ride
Joy Ride Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Dahl
Produced by
Written by
Music byMarco Beltrami
CinematographyJeffrey Jur
Edited by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 5, 2001 (2001-10-05) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[2]
Box office$36.6 million[2]

Joy Ride (titled “Road Kill” in the UK) is a 2001 American horror thriller film[3] directed by John Dahl and written by J. J. Abrams and Clay Tarver. Paul Walker stars as Lewis Thomas, a college freshman embarking on a cross-country road trip during summer break to pick up his childhood crush Venna (Leelee Sobieski). Along for the ride is Lewis' brother Fuller (Steve Zahn), a practical joker who uses the car's CB radio to play a cruel prank on a trucker known only by the handle Rusty Nail. The victim of Fuller's gag, a psychotic murderer, pursues them relentlessly to get revenge at any cost.


Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) and Venna Wilcox (Leelee Sobieski), his childhood friend and crush, prepare to go home for the summer holiday. Lewis, a University of California student, offers to come by Venna's campus at University of Colorado to drive her home instead of both of them flying back; Venna happily agrees. After refunding his plane ticket to buy a 1971 Chrysler Newport, Lewis calls his parents to announce the change of plan and learns that his older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn), the family's black sheep, has been arrested once again. Lewis drives to Salt Lake City and bails out Fuller, who then tags along for the trip.

At a gas station, Fuller has a CB radio installed on Lewis's car for $40, and the two begin listening in on truckers' chatter. Fuller coaxes Lewis into playing a prank on a truck driver nicknamed 'Rusty Nail' (voiced by Ted Levine (uncredited)). Lewis pretends to be a woman named Candy Cane and sets up a meeting with Rusty Nail in a Wyoming motel where Lewis and Fuller will be spending the night. Lewis tells Rusty that "she" is in room 17, the room of an irritable businessman with whom Fuller had an unpleasant encounter earlier, but the guys are actually in room 18. When Rusty Nail arrives at the man's room, an argument and sounds of a scuffle are briefly heard. The next morning, Lewis and Fuller learn that the police found the businessman on the highway, barely alive with his lower jaw ripped off. Lewis admits they were involved, and Sheriff Ritter accosts them for their role in the incident, but lets them go, as he already has his hands full, and they do not know anything other than the man's nickname (CB handle). However, he orders them to leave the state by sundown.

On the road, Rusty Nail is heard again on the CB radio looking for Candy Cane. Lewis talks to him and reveals that he is Candy Cane. Rusty Nail demands an apology, but Fuller insults him instead. Rusty Nail simply notes that they should get their taillight fixed, indicating that he is behind them, causing the duo to panic and speed up. At the next gas station, they unsuccessfully attempt to contact Ritter. Seeing an ice truck pulling into the gas station, the already paranoid pair drives away. The ice truck driver chases them down; however, the driver turns out to be merely trying to return Lewis's credit card, which he left behind in panic. The real Rusty Nail then shows up in his truck and smashes through the ice truck, killing its driver. As he slowly crushes Lewis's car against a tree, Fuller hysterically apologizes, and Rusty Nail drives away, declaring his actions to be simply a retaliatory joke.

Believing themselves safe, the brothers arrive at the University of Colorado and pick up Venna. They stop at a motel and drink at a bar. Lewis goes to sleep, but Rusty Nail calls him, revealing he knows of Venna. The three flee the motel. Rusty Nail contacts them, announcing that he has kidnapped Charlotte, Venna's friend. After forcing the brothers to publicly humiliate themselves in a diner, he directs them to a cornfield, where he gets them to split up, and kidnaps Venna.

Rusty Nail sets up a meeting at another motel in room 17, mirroring the false date with which he was pranked. He sets up a trap that will kill Venna if the room door is opened. Fuller attempts to get in the room by a window, but is injured by Rusty Nail and stuck outside the room. Rusty Nail's truck appears uphill and begins rolling down towards Venna's room. Lewis frees Fuller, and the brothers save Venna just in time. As the police investigate Rusty Nail's truck, they see a dead body in the driver's seat and Charlotte, still alive, on the floor.

Lewis, Fuller, and Venna are treated for their injuries at an ambulance. At this point, the dead man found inside the truck turns out to be the ice truck driver. From the CB in the ambulance, the group hears Rusty Nail's voice, learning that he is alive and free.


Alternate footage[edit]

On the DVD release, there is a 29-minute-long alternate ending, and four other shorter alternate endings. The main one featured Rusty Nail's shotgun suicide and numerous bodies are found by the police in his trailer. One featured Rusty Nail being arrested, another being beaten in a fight with both Thomas brothers, another wherein he is blown up in his truck, and another saw Rusty Nail run over with his own truck. The ending featured in the actual theatrical cut of the film is the only ending in which Rusty Nail lives. There are also numerous deleted scenes.

In the alternate ending where Rusty Nail's truck explodes, you can see a water tower behind the truck as it burns. The original intention was to have the truck hit the water tower and have the water come down and put the flames out so that it would be believable if Rusty Nail survived. However, time constraints kept the scene from being filmed. The water tower cost over $100,000.

Sobieski filmed two romantic interludes, one with Zahn and one with Walker during the shooting and re-shooting of the film. Both scenes ended up getting cut. This may explain why Venna appears to be romantically interested in both of them.


Joy Ride opened theatrically on October 5, 2001, in 2,497 venues and earned $7.3 million in its opening weekend, ranking number five in the US box office.[4] By the end of its run, the film grossed $22 million in the US and $14.7 million overseas for a worldwide total of $36.6 million.[2]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating 74% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 6.61/10. The website's critics consensus states: "A well-constructed B-movie thriller, Joy Ride keeps up the necessary level of tension and chills. Critics also liked Zahn's performance as the goofball older brother."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[7]


The film was followed by two direct to video sequels, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008) and Joy Ride 3: Roadkill (2014).


  1. ^ "ROAD KILL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 30, 2002. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Joy Ride (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Williams, Karl. "Joy Ride (2001)". AllMovie. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for October 5-7, 2001". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. October 8, 2001. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "Joy Ride (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "Joy Ride Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  7. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Joy Ride" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved October 31, 2020.

External links[edit]