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[1]
Release date
  • October 5, 2001 (2001-10-05) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[3]
Box office$36.6 million[3]

Joy Ride (also known as Roadkill in the UK and Australia) is a 2001 American road horror thriller film 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 girlfriend 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 lonely 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.


University students Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) and Venna Wilcox (Leelee Sobieski), Lewis's 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 (she attends 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 the 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 earlier argued, 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, Sheriff Ritter announces to Lewis and Fuller that they found the businessman on the highway, still alive with his lower jaw ripped off. Ritter figures out the two are involved 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 right 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 crushes the ice truck and its driver. He then slowly pins Lewis's car against a tree. The two hysterically apologize, 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. 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 toward 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 turns out to be the ice truck driver. A CB in the ambulance is on, and the group hear Rusty Nail's voice, learning that he is still 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 different 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.[3]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73% approval rating based on 113 reviews and an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's 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] Metacritic reports a 75 out of 100 rating based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]


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


  1. ^ a b "Joy Ride (2001)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  2. ^ "ROAD KILL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 30, 2002. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Joy Ride (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  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. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 1, 2015.

External links[edit]