The film opens with young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) and his father Barton Blaze (Brett Cullen) jumping motorbikes through burning hoops at carnivals. To save his father from dying of lung cancer, Johnny signs his soul over to the devil, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda), but Mephistopheles cheats Johnny when he causes Barton’s death in stunt that goes wrong. As a result, Johnny runs away leaving behind both his carnival life and adolescent sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (Raquel Alessi).
Years later, a much older Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) is a superstar motorbike rider, cheating death at every corner. Roxanne (Eva Mendes), now a successful news reporter, turns up at one of Johnny’s performances asking for an interview which leads to a renewal of their relationship.
Four anti-heroes, called the Hidden, come to earth to recover a contract containing a list of a thousand souls promised to the devil. The Hidden are Blackheart (Wes Bentley), son of Mephistopheles, and three fallen angels. However, Blackheart has greater plans to take over the world. In an effort to stop his son, Mephistopheles gives Johnny the powers of the fabled Ghost Rider. These powers enable Johnny to transform into a fiery skull-faced supernatural bike-riding vigilante by night and return to his mortal self during daylight hours.
In exchange for hunting down and destroying Blackheart and his cohorts, Mephistopheles offers to give Johnny his soul back. With the help of the Caretaker (Sam Elliott), Ghost Rider tracks down and defeats each of the Hidden, but must face a final showdown.
Selling one’s soul to the devil; self-destructive behaviour
Ghost Rider contains superhero style violence, which is both intense and brutal. For example:
- Mephistopheles deliberately causes Johnny’s father to crash his bike, causing his death.
- Blackheart massacres a room full of people by sucking their life force from them. His victims transform into desiccated corpses at his touch.
- Ghost Rider races his bike up a city street, creating a force that causes a car to be thrown through a shop window and a motorcycle policeman to be thrown through the air.
- A mugger stabs Ghost Rider in the back with a knife. When Ghost Rider tells the mugger to ‘look into my eyes and feel the pain’, the mugger fails to the ground in a catatonic state with his eyes wide open and fiery.
- A demon wraps a chain around Ghost Rider’s neck and hangs him from a beam.
- A demon crashes a semi trailer head-on into the Ghost Rider, crushing him against the front of a stationary train.
- Ghost Rider transforms a length of chain into a burning whip, which he then lashes around the body of a demon, causing the demon to burn like molten lava and then turn to ash.
- A mugger experiences flashbacks of all of the violent crimes he has committed, including stabbings and shootings.
- Johnny is surrounded by many police officers with their guns pointed at him and is shot at close range.
- Johnny is punched and kicked to the ground by prison inmates. He transforms into the Ghost Rider, throwing the inmates off. The scene ends with Johnny walking from the cell with all but one of the inmates left lying unconscious on the floor.
- Ghost Rider uses a length of chain to lasso and then drag a helicopter down to a rooftop.
- Ghost Rider uses a burning chain to create a mini burning tornado, which sucks in one of the demons and incinerates it.
- Blackheart touches Roxanne on the face, causing her pain and black lines to form on her face.
- A demon pulls Ghost Rider into a lake and tries to drown him. Ghost Rider then attacks the demon, dissolving him into mist.
- In a violent and brutal fight between Blackheart and Ghost Rider, the two punch each other and throw each other around. At one stage, the Ghost Rider hurls flames at Blackheart’s face.
- Blackheart hurls Roxanne through the air to land unconscious on the ground.
- Blackheart tries to strangled Ghost Rider who then shoots Blackheart numerous times in the chest and face with a pump action shotgun. At one stage Blackheart's head is blown from his body.
- Ghost Rider uses his powers to explode Blackheart’s body, blowing his flesh over walls and the floor.
- Ghost Rider forces Blackheart to look into his eyes. Blackheart, who has now been consumed by a thousand evil souls, has to relive their previous crimes and, as a result, is left lying on the floor in a catatonic state.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could be very scary for children in this age group:
- A demonic-looking cowboy and horse are engulfed in flames.
- Images of people burn in hell.
- Mephistopheles eyes glow red and smoke.
- An evil-looking demonic shadow appears on a wall.
- Smoke comes from Johnny’s eyes after he is touched by Mephistopheles.
- Blackheart transforms from a handsome man into an evil monster with sharp fangs.
- During a stunt Johnny's bike crashes and runs over him.
- One of the Hidden appears to be a water demon. One of his eyes slides off his face.
- At numerous points throughout the film, human-looking demons transform to reveal evil faces with sharp teeth.
- When Johnny first transforms into the Ghost Rider, his hands and eyes begin to smoke and his feet burst into flames. He loses control of himself, both laughing and screaming while his face explodes and bursts into flames, leaving a burning skull behind. In one scene, the Ghost Rider’s jaw becomes unhinged from his face.
- At one point, the Ghost Rider’s motorbike transforms into a living, demon-like ‘Hell cycle’.
- The Caretaker uses a needle and thread to stitch up a long laceration in Johnny’s shoulder.
- When Blackheart releases the thousand evil souls, they materialise as black, rotting corpses and invade Blackheart, entering his body through his chest, and forcing their way in through his mouth as he screams.
- In one scene, Blackheart’s flesh, which has been blown from his body, is seen creeping together to reform.
Many children in this age group will also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.
Some 13-year-olds may also find some of the images above disturbing.
In one scene Blackheart kidnaps Roxanne, and infers with gesture and body language to Johnny that if he’s late Roxanne may be sexually molested.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
- Johnny’s father smokes cigarettes and coughs.
- Johnny’s father is seen asleep in a chair with a half-empty bottle of bourbon and a packet of cigarettes on a table beside him.
- Men sit around a table smoking cigarettes and drinking bottles of beer.
- Roxanne sits alone in a restaurant and seems to have consumed an entire bottle of red wine by herself. She appears somewhat drunk, a little unstable, and with slurred speech asks the waiter if he thinks she is pretty.
- The Caretaker chews tobacco and spits out tobacco juice.
Nudity and sexual activity
- In several scenes, women wear tight-fitting clothing with plunging necklines and cleavage.
- Johnny and Roxanne kiss passionately several times.
The ‘Easy Rider’ Harley Davidson motorbike is displayed prominently in this movie.
This movie contains some mild coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Ghost Rider is a supernatural, action film with superheros, and targets adolescents and younger adult males. The special effects are impressive and the film contains some quite witty humour, but some of the scary images and violence could disturb younger children.
The film portrays the message that good will triumph over evil and that living in fear is a very negative way to live your life. You might like to discuss with your children some of the values presented in the movie such as turning life’s negatives into positives, self-sacrifice, love, loyalty, friendship and endurance through adversity.
You could also discuss the consequences of Johnny’s behaviour, such as the way he rides his motorbike recklessly to impress his girlfriend, and how this kind of behaviour could have lead to serious consequences for himself and those he loves. You could also discuss the real-life consequences of drinking alcohol to drown one's sorrows. You might also like to talk with older adolescents about the concept of selling your soul and whether this is OK if you do it for the right reasons.