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Johnny Blaze, the son in a father-son motorcycle stunt team, is in love with Roxanne, the daughter of the richest man in town. After planning to run away with her, Johnny discovers his father is terminally ill with little time left. The Devil (in an awesome Cameo performance by Peter Fonda) shows up and offers Johnny a Deal with the Devil. Johnny asks the Devil to save his father's life. Miraculously, Barton Blaze is cured of his cancer, but dies immediately afterward in an accident because the Devil wants Johnny freed up.
Realizing what he's just gotten himself into, Johnny takes off and abandons his sweetheart at their meeting place.
Fifteen or twenty years later, we join Johnny (now portrayed as an adult by Nicolas Cage) on the road. He's now a world-famous stunt cyclist, and repeating the Survival Mantra "you can't live in fear", knowing the Devil hasn't come for him yet, but he keeps living through the increasingly insane stunts he does.
Meanwhile, Blackheart, son of the devil, shows up and has decided it's time for the old man to step aside for a new Lord of Hell. He summons three elemental demons to serve him, promising that if they help him defeat the Devil, he'll give them nobility in Hell.
Meanwhile, Roxanne has turned up to interview Johnny after his stunt. Johnny takes this as a sign and asks her out. But the Devil of course picks the night she agrees to give him another chance to call in his marker. Johnny refuses, but cannot resist the power of hell. He transforms into the Ghost Rider and dispatches the first of Blackheart's minibosses. Now Johnny must try to control the power of the Rider, defeat the elemental demons, and Blackheart - all while trying to keep Roxanne out of the line of fire.
Despite the critical consensus, the film managed to do well at the box office. A not-quite-sequel/not-quite-reboot was released in 2012, subtitled Spirit of Vengeance, which featured Idris Elba in a supporting role and was helmed by Neveldine/Taylor, the guys behind the Crank films and Gamer. Currently, the sequel was met with the same critical response of the first, if not worse, however worldwide it's becoming a modest financial success.
Ghost Rider was one of Marvel's February releases, which were by and large B-Movies as compared to their summer blockbuster cash cows, X-Men and Spider-Man. To read about the comic book, go here. For a much later Spiritual Licensee with different themes, a bigger Grindhouse theme and less Villain Decay, see Drive Angry.
- Absolute Cleavage: Roxanne seems unaware of the top two buttons of every shirt she wears.
- Age Cut: The film starts with young Johnny and Roxanne, then cuts to the adult Johnny.
- As the Good Book Says...: Blackheart says the I Am Legion line verbatim.
- The Atoner: Both Riders.
- Awesomeness Is Volatile: Implicitly the reason that Ghost Rider's bitchin' hellcycle tears up the road, sets things on fire and sends cars flying.
- Badass Biker: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Body Horror: Johnny's transformation into the Ghost Rider.
- But Your Wings Are Beautiful: Roxanne does to Johnny in the end when she sees him as Ghost Rider.
- Cassandra Truth: Johnny confesses he's the Ghost Rider to Roxanne, but she believes it's just a fear of commitment sort of thing.
- Call It Karma: The Penance Stare. If you look into GR's eyes while he's within an arm's reach of you, he can force you to experience every iota of pain you've ever inflicted on others without cause in your entire life. Your average hood just realizes he should go home and rethink his life. A Complete Monster will be reduced to a vegetable - unless they don't have a soul.
- Civvie Spandex: Justified in that Johnny is a performance motorcyclist so wears biker gear as his street clothes.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: There's something of an 'orange and blue' theme around Ghost Rider and Blackheart respectively.
- Cool Bike: The Ghost Rider's flaming bike.
- Cool Horse: The previous Ghost Rider's flaming metal-banded horse.
- Combat Stilettos: Roxanne is surprisingly good at running in heels.
- Composite Character: Ghost Rider is Johnny Blaze, but the different appearance of Ghost Rider (Chain wrapped around the torso, and the spikey one) is the comic book costume of Danny Ketch (Ghost Rider II). Originally, the chain was exclusive to Danny, who had the spike-bearing costume. When Johnny was brought back for the new comics, he inherited the look. Johnny originally wore stylized black leathers with a high collar and that was it. Also, Johnny's version of Ghost Rider fired blasts of flames while Danny had the Penance Stare. This version has both powers, though the Penance Stare is given more importance by the plot.
- Confessional: Blackheart mockingly confesses to a priest before killing him.
- Confused Bystander Interview: This scene happens with a goth girl who is not so much confused as impressed.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Justified since it's magical fire.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The Rider kills Wallow by setting him on fire. From the inside.
- Deal with the Devil: Johnny's Deal with the Devil is an odd one. He did it to save his beloved father rather than for personal gain, which is presumably why he is able to control the Ghost Rider's powers so quickly.
- Additionally, in the movie Johnny never actually agrees. He cuts himself, bleeds on the contract, and Mephisto considers it sealed. That may actually account for his inability to remove the powers once the contract was complete.
- The main plot item the contract of San Venganza, was the result of basically an entire crapsack city making deals with the Devil.
- In Spirits of Vengeance, Blaze confesses that he did make the deal for personal gain; that is, he couldn't let his father go and he thought he could save him. Blaze also has much less control over the Rider's actions in that film, to the point where he's justifiable afraid it might go around killing people for petty sins like software piracy.
- Dramatic Finger Pointing: The Rider loves this.
- Elemental Powers: Ghost Rider is Fire. He's pitted against three demons based on wind, water, and earth.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: Blackheart freezes a biker's beer just by being nearby.
- Faustian Rebellion: Johnny does this after the Devil shows up to thank him for living up to his contract.
- Flash Back: Johnny recalls his father fondly when he has to explain why he wants to do a certain stunt in a certain way. (See below).
- Flipping the Bird: Ghost Rider does this when he escapes from the police (See Under the Sea below)
- Freaky Is Cool: See also But Your Wings Are Beautiful.
- Genre Savvy: Johnny recognizes Good Cop, Bad Cop when he sees it.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Blackheart after getting the contract.
- Good Cop, Bad Cop: The police try this on Johnny when he's suspected of murder. It fails because Blaze knows that they are both good guys.
- Good Is Dumb: Inverted, bigtime. TWICE.
- Blackheart - Way to set yourself up with a fatal weakness:
Ghost Rider: Look into my eyes.
- Really, Mephistopheles — you kill the guy's father, force him to abandon his Love Interest, and then make Johnny stand her up when he reunites with her, and you're surprised that Johnny can control the power of the Ghost Rider, doesn't have to give it back after fulfilling the terms of the contract, and has sworn to fight your evil influence wherever he finds it?
- Also happens in Spirits of Vengeance when Roarke gives Danny his power, not realizing Danny will actually use it for good.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The police try Good Cop, Bad Cop on Johnny and the good cop smokes a cigarette.
- Hellfire: It burns hotter the more sins the target has. This tends to show up as the Rider's penance stare (or as fireballs he can throw). It sears souls.
- Hellish Horse: The previous Ghost Rider's horse is a black horse. Nothing special until the Ghost Rider powers up. Then it's a flaming metal skeleton horse which leaves fiery hoofprints.
- I Am Legion: Blackheart, upon getting what he came for.
- Immune to Bullets: Johnny in his Ghost Rider form.
- Instant Expert: It looks that way, but Johnny knew the Devil would be coming for him from his teens, and has spent the intervening years reading a lot of metaphysical and paranormal books to prepare himself for what he'd become when the Devil called in the marker.
- Instant Knots: The Ghost Rider's chain.
- Just Hit Him: Blackheart seems to prefer pushing Ghost Rider over to punching him, and even pushes Johnny into a church that he obviously wanted to enter. The wind demon, too, does little more than knock Ghost Rider around.
- Large Ham: Nicolas Cage.
- Leitmotif: The Ghost Rider has one, as does Roxanne.
- Laughing Mad: Johnny while turning into the Ghost Rider for the first time.
- The Magic Touch: Johnny's motorcycle and a shotgun.
- Magic A Is Magic A: The 'At night in the presence of evil' rule for Johnny's transformation is adhered to begin with, and the fact he can't transform while in direct sunlight is made a critical part of the final battle. However, Johnny and the gravekeeper transform despite the fact that there's no evil around, basically so we can see two Ghost Riders riding together. Later, Johnny rides through a swamp, at night, with a demon nearby and doesn't transform until it's dramatically appropriate. In the final moments of the film Johnny rides into the camera and transforms despite the fact that it's dusk and he's not near any evil beings.
- Though the latter one may be due to him now being free of his contract.
- In the sequel, most of the Rider's transformations occur at night, but the final action sequence occurs in broad daylight. Although this may possibly be explained by the fact that Blaze's final Ghost Rider form was bestowed to him by Danny instead of the Devil.
- Also much earlier in the film, Johnny is shown trying to take control of the forces possessing him and has some success, and The Caretaker (who delivers the line) is an Unreliable Narrator (and Mephisto is just a liar.)
- Though the latter one may be due to him now being free of his contract.
- Marquee Alter Ego: How frequently the Rider gives way to Johnny... especially in the big fight scene at the end.
- Justified by adhering to the very earliest comics, where Johnny only became the Rider at night/in the dark.
- Mind Rape: In addition to being Hellfire, the Penance Stare of the Ghost Rider rips a target's mind open, so as to make them relive the pain they've caused others with every sin they've committed.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Johnny's reaction when he revisits the scene of his rampage the night before.
- Mundane Utility: Johnny Blaze uses his Nigh Invulnerability to... be a great stunt driver.
- Never Say That Again: Blackheart, when asked about Mephistopheles by name.
- New Old West: The movie tied in an older Western character by the same name (who existed in the comics but was unrelated to the modern character, initially).
- Besides being set in the American Southwest, the creators of the movie were intentionally going for a Western feel in several areas, albeit with a supernatural twist. For example, the clothing of Blackheart and his henchman were made similar to traditional Western costumes with an updated look.
- Nitro Boost: What Johnny uses in his Blackhawk Helicopter jump stunt.
- Noble Demon: Johnny-as-Ghost Rider.
- Oblivious Janitor Cut: The eponymous biker rides down the side of a office building, shattering glass windows all the way down, and the janitor, wearing headphones again, doesn't notice the broken glass until after Rider is long gone.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: We hear a gleeful burst of this when Johnny is forced into his first Ghost Rider transformation.
- Our Souls Are Different:
- Absorbing every soul in the town of San Venganza causes Blackheart to be vulnerable to the Penance Stare.
- Johnny Blaze seems to lose his free will as a consequence of selling his soul to the Devil, as he is unable to refuse to become the Ghost Rider, or even to get off his bike when Mephisto doesn't want him to. Once his big mission is complete and his soul restored, though, Blaze has no trouble refusing the Devil's offer to free him of the Rider or in using the powers of the Rider against Mephisto's plans on Earth.
- Souls are the source of free will, and if one makes a Deal with the Devil, they ultimately become a puppet. However, the intent behind the deal can make this more complex: Most specifically, because Johnny "did it for love, to help someone (he) cared about, not for money or fame" "puts God on (his) side."
- Post-Modern Magik: The Ghost Rider of the past hands the current one his shotgun which fires Hellfire (if in the hands of a Ghost Rider).
- This might be a subtle nod to an era in the comics when Johnny Blaze lost the mantle of Ghost Rider, but used a shotgun that could shoot hellfire with what remaining power he had.
- To be more specific: He gave up the powers of the Ghost Rider (By then revealed as a demon called Zarathos, and later realed to not bethe actual Ghost Rider at all (it's a very long story)) willingly in the comics, and actually gained the power to shoot hellfire through a gun when he, believing that the new Ghost Rider was the demon he was originally bonded to (he wasn't), tried to trap him in some kind of mystic circl. The Rider simply gave him a minor pulse of Hellfire. The problem? This jumpstarted Blaze's own ability to channel Hellfire, and turned his gun into a foci through which to use it. Almost killed the Rider while using it initially, too.
- Power Echoes: Upon absorbing all the souls in San Venganza, Blackheart's voice is his voice plus all of theirs.
- Power Incontinence: Small case, Played for Laughs. Johnny's mere presence is enough to make a policeman's lighter flame flare up.
- Played straight with Moreau in Spirits of Vengeance.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner:
To Abigor — "Let's clear the air!"
- Promoted Fanboy: Nicolas Cage is a huge Ghost Rider and comic book fanboy, who has wanted to play Ghost Rider since he got into acting. He actually has the Rider tattooed on one arm; they had to cover the tat so he could portray the role.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The three elemental demons who work for Blackheart.
- Red Right Hand: The Ghost Rider has a flaming skull. Additionally, one of the first things to happen to Blaze during his initial transformation is that his hands turn red.
- Rule of Cool: The reason Johnny took out the cars and instead put in six Blackhawk helicopters? "My dad thought it'd be cool." His manager agrees Johnny's dad was right.
- Also the direct basis for the character in the first place. His appearance was too cool to waste on a 1-shot villain, as was originally intended.
- Shout-Out: The Running Gag of Johnny eating jellybeans from a margarita glass could be a nod to the infamous Urban Legend about Van Halen having a rider in their contract that stipulates that they be provided with a brandy glass full of M&Ms (minus the brown ones) before every concert.
- Which is Truth in Television. They use it as a test to determine that the venue has read their contract carefully.
- In the anecdotal case, the venue had screwed up so bad that simply setting up equipment broke the floor. And considering that Johnny is an uber-Evel Knievel stunt biker who thinks nothing of jumping six Blackhawk helicopters on a whim, any screw-up at all could turn him into Ludicrous Gibs. So, yeah - specific jelly beans in a specific distribution or he WALKS!
- "GET OVER HERE!"
- Which is Truth in Television. They use it as a test to determine that the venue has read their contract carefully.
- Smith Will Suffice:
Roxanne: [on discovering Johnny's manager dead] Jesus!
- Stealth Pun: Carter Slade's mount in Ghost Rider form is an Iron Horse.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Well, the guy with the flaming skull is named Johnny Blaze. Since his father had the same profession, it may not have been his birth name though.
- That profession being 'stuntman', not 'guy with flaming skull for a head'.
- Stood Up: Twice.
- Young Johnny bails on running away with Roxanne after he realizes what his Deal with the Devil will turn his life into.
- Years later, Johnny goes to some lengths to get Roxanne to agree to dinner with him. She grudgingly agrees, but this same night is the night Mephisto calls in the marker and forces Johnny to become the Ghost Rider for the first time.
- Super Strength: All over the place.
- Sweetie Graffiti: Young Johnny carves "J & R Forever" into a tree.
- Taken for Granite: Ghost Rider uses his chain to turn Gressil into stone, before breaking him to pieces.
- Tempting Fate: After apparently crushing Ghost Rider with a semi truck, Gressil disparages him with a “Not so tough.” No guesses for who turns up behind him.
- Thememobile: The rider's motorcycle takes on that whole 'flaming demonic skull' motif. To a lesser degree, it's true of the previous Ghost Rider's horse as well.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: The rider won't kill humans, though the Penance Stare leaves its victims mentally ravaged.
- Though even that is directly proportional to the amount of senseless pain and suffering they've caused others.
- Touch of Death: Blackheart's preferred method of killing his victims. When he touches you, your skin melts within seconds, leaving behind only a charred skeleton.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Jelly beans.
- Transformation Trauma: Johnny's first transformation into the Ghost Rider is seriously disturbing. The indicators of his condition go from his skin turning red and steaming when wet to his eyes lighting with the fires of hell, to the flesh burning off his skull and hands.
- Under the Sea: Okay, under the river. The police barricade a bridge, so Ghost Rider drives off the bridge into the river. He emerges with his skull and bike still on fire.
- Variable-Length Chain
- Victorious Childhood Friend: Subverted. Roxanne wants to not forgive Johnny, but their love for each other has not been diminished by the years. Only once they get through the events of the movie, she knows they still can't be together because Johnny has sworn to fight Mephisto in revenge for what he did to Barton Blaze.
- Villain Ball: While screwing people that make a Deal with the Devil is pretty standard, it isn't very smart to do it with a prospective Ghost Rider, since the event that starts the plot proves Ghost Riders can in fact ignore the Devil's orders. Given that Mephisto doesn't use Johnny until years later, there was little reason to let his father die immediately.
- Villains Never Lie: Mephisto.
- Villainous BSOD: The effects of the Penance Stare.
- Voice of the Legion
- What Could Have Been: The novelization ended with an explanation of how Johnny Blaze got off the murder charges, having "some hotshot New York lawyer" make a mockery of the prosecutors case. Said lawyer was supposed to be Matt Murdock.
- Almost certainly a Shout-Out to the original Ghost rider concept. He was intended to be a Daredevil villain, but it was just too good of an idea.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Blackheart tends to kill anyone who he has finished questioning, and sometimes kills people just for fun.
- You Killed My Father: Johnny says this outright to the Devil, and it's his reason for not giving up the Ghost Rider powers after he's fulfilled his end of the bargain.
- Possibly subverted: there is a chance Mephisto didn't kill Johnny's dad, that he would have died in that accident before the cancer could kill him anyway. That's when Johnny realizes he sold his soul for no reason. However, Mephisto did stop Johnny from finishing work on the bikes the night before, and there is a chance he did actually directly have a hand in Barton's death, since he was present at the time.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
- Action Mom: Nadya packs a knife and gun and isn't afraid to employ a little Car Fu.
- Actor Allusion: Johnny touches Danny's hair, trying to comfort him, and plays it off by saying there was a bee there and he was afraid it was going to sting his face.
- The Alcoholic: Moreau.
- Anti Christ: Danny.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Devil's previous human incarnations have included Vlad the Impaler, Idi Amin, Billy the Kid, Joseph Stalin... and Jerry Springer.
- Ascended Demon: What Johnny Blaze becomes when he becomes Ghost Rider a second time... with blue flames and a soul to keep.
- Aside Glance: Ghost Rider does this when he pees fire.
- Asshole Victim: Methodius and the other monks who tried to sacrifice Danny.
- Ax Crazy: The Angel-turned-demon Zarathos is explicitly stated to be insane, and Ghost Rider kills Mooks aplenty.
- Badass Abnormal: Carrigan was pretty tough even before he gained powers.
- Badass Normal: Moreau can still hang with demons despite not having any powers.
- Nadya, in spades.
- Badass Preacher: Moreau.
- Bad Powers, Good People: Take it away, Johnny:
Johnny: This power that we have comes from a dark place, but it's not who we are. And we can use it to help people.
- Big Bad: Roarke.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Roarke is unable to use The Devil's powers without burning out his body, so in a fight he's pretty much just a dude in a suit. He at least seems to be a decent getaway driver, though.
- Bloodless Carnage: People are turned to ash and set on fire. But, as you can guess from its PG-13 rating, there's no blood and gore. Though there is one very quick aerial shot in which a mook is cut in half by the Ghost Rider's chain and you see that his upper half plops on the ground, with what appears to be a puddle of blood.
- A few mooks are also taken down with gunfire with no signs of blood.
- Body Snatcher: Roarke's plan for Danny.
- Brought Down to Normal/He's Back: Who else?
- Canon Immigrant: Moreau.
- Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Carrigan is never called Blackout, the name of his character in the comics. The name Ghost Rider is only spoken once (otherwise, it's "the Rider").
- Continuity Nod: While in a restaurant, Johnny drinks water straight out of a pitcher.
- Creator Cameo: Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
- Darker and Edgier
- Decoy Protagonist: Moreau shows up in the first scene and has an extended action sequence before we ever get a glimpse of Ghost Rider or even the title. Additionally, the opening sequence is set up with the possibility that Moreau died, but we quickly learn he survived.
- Demonic Possession
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
- Carrigan, a puny human, manages to K.O. Ghost Rider during their first encounter, a feat that high-level demons couldn't manage in the first film.
- Also, more literally near the end, where a de-powered Johnny punches s Satan/Roarke right in the face.
- The Dragon: Ray Carrigan.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Danny
- Hot Mom: Nadya. Dear God, Nadya.
- Jerkass: Carrigan, Even before getting turned into Blackout.
- Karmic Death: Benedict is killed by Carrigan, something that wouldn’t have happened if Benedict had listened to Moreau.
- Knight Templar: The Rider is depicted as having become much more merciless in this film, to the point where Blaze suggests that it would use the Penance Stare on someone simply for illegally downloading an mp3. This explains why Blaze abandoned his original plan from the end of the first movie to use the Rider's powers for good, and is hiding out in a warehouse in Eastern Europe.
- Large Ham: Nicolas Cage seems to have forgotten to take his anti-crazy pills because he's friggin' insane in this.
It's scraping at the door! IT'S SCRAPPIN' AT DA DAAAAAAAWWWWWW!!
- Mood Whiplash: Moreau showing up at Johnny's hideout of self-imposed exile, dramatically declaring that his (Moreau's) brothers are dead and so should he be, but for the grace of God... and then a quick flashback to him hanging upside down from a tree.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Blackout was about two seconds away from killing Ghost Rider. And then he made the fatal mistake of looking into his eyes.
- Roarke explaining to Danny that they have the same powers.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Roarke's minions actually chant when they perform The Rite.
- Power Degeneration: The more Roarke uses his powers, the more burned out his host body becomes. This actually drives the plot.
- Precision F-Strike: Johnny Blaze was the "Worst fuckin deal" Roarke ever made.
- Rewrite: While keeping in continuity with the first film for the most part, Mephisto is retconned out in favor of the less ostentatiously named Roarke.
- To be fair, Moreau does say that "The Devil goes by many names." The real change is that Mephisto was manifesting in the real world himself before, but now can only act through an agent. This one happens to be named Roarke.
- There's also a retcon in terms of the circumstances about Johnny's father's death. Rather than dying in a motorcycle stunt, it's implied that he dies of some disease. Also, there's a change is that Johnny wanted to keep his father alive rather than let him die naturally.
- Retcon: It's kind of a soft-reboot, a la The Incredible Hulk.
- Smug Snake: Benedict, given he underestimated the Devil himself.
- The Starscream: Methodius leads the monks in turning against Moreau.
- The Cameo: Anthony Head and Christopher Lambert both show up as priests of Moreau's order.
- Universal Driver's License: The Rider can drive anything, and convert it to a hell-born mechanical nightmare while doing so.
- Walking Wasteland: Carrigan is brought back from the dead by Roarke as Blackout, with the ability to decay anything he touches.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Methodius.
- What Could Have Been - The creators behind Drive Angry originally presented a treatment of Ghost Rider 2 which would have been a true sequel to the original film instead of the reboot it turned out to be. It was deemed too violent but in any case it is insane.