The Devil, Mephistopheles, sends his bounty hunter of the damned, the Ghost Rider, to retrieve the contract of San Venganza for control of a thousand corrupt souls. Seeing that the contract would give Mephistopheles the power to bring Hell on Earth, the Rider refuses to give him the contract.
In 1986, Mephistopheles reaches out to 17-year-old stunt motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze, offering to cure his father's cancer in exchange for Blaze's soul, to which he hastily accepts. The next morning, Blaze awakes to discover that his father's cancer is cured, but he is killed that same day in a motorcycle stunt in which he falls into the ring of fire he is jumping through. Blaze accuses Mephistopheles of causing his father's death, but Mephistopheles considers their contract to be fulfilled and promises to one day see him again.
21 years later, Blaze has become a famous stunt motorcycle rider known for surviving numerous deadly crashes. Blaze meets his lifelong sweetheart Roxanne Simpson, now a news reporter, whom he abandoned after his father's death. He convinces her to attend a dinner date. Meanwhile, Blackheart, the demonic son of Mephistopheles, comes to Earth, along with three fallen angels who bonded with the elements Air, Earth, and Water. They are tasked to find the lost contract of San Venganza. In response, Mephistopheles makes Blaze the new Ghost Rider and offers to return his soul if he defeats Blackheart, though he is also told he has no choice in the matter. Blaze is driven straight to the station on his "first ride", where he transforms into the Ghost Rider and kills the Earth Angel Gressil. The next day, he meets a man called the Caretaker, who seems to know all about the history of the Ghost Rider. He tells him everything that happened was not a dream and that it will happen again, especially at night when he is near an evil soul.
When he arrives home, Blaze finds Simpson and reveals himself as the Devil's bounty hunter. Unconvinced, she walks away in disbelief. After a brief imprisonment for the murders that Blackheart committed, Blaze kills the Air Angel Abigor, and escapes from The Police, before returning to the Caretaker who tells him of his predecessor, Carter Slade, a Texas Ranger who hid the contract of San Venganza. Blaze returns home to find that Blackheart has killed his friend Mack and has taken Roxanne captive, threatening to kill her if Blaze does not deliver the contract. Blaze tries to use the Penance Stare on Blackheart, only for it not to work since Blackheart has no soul to burn.
Blaze returns to the Caretaker and obtains the contract. The Caretaker reveals that he is Carter Slade. Slade tells Blaze that he is more powerful than his predecessors since he sold his soul for love as opposed to greed. Slade leads Blaze to San Venganza, then gives Blaze a lever action shotgun before fading away.
After killing the Water angel Wallow, Blaze gives the contract to Blackheart. He quickly transforms into Ghost Rider in an effort to subdue Blackheart, but dawn arrives and he is rendered powerless. Blackheart uses the contract to absorb the thousand souls into his body. He attempts to kill Blaze, but is distracted when Simpson uses Blaze's discarded shotgun to separate them. After Blaze tries to kill Blackheart with the shotgun, he moves in and uses his Penance Stare to render him catatonic, burning all the corrupt souls within Blackheart, which is what he had hoped for.
Mephistopheles appears and returns Blaze his soul, offering to take back the curse of the Ghost Rider. Determined not to make another deal, Blaze declines, saying that he will use his power against him, and against all harm that comes to the innocent. Infuriated of being robbed of the power, Mephistopheles vows to make Blaze pay, but Blaze tells Mephistopheles that he is not afraid. Mephistopheles then disappears, taking Blackheart's body with him. Later, Simpson tells Blaze that he got his second chance before sharing a final kiss with him. Blaze then rides away on his motorcycle, turning into the Ghost Rider.Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider: A motorcycle stuntman who makes a deal with the Devil so that he can save his sick father and transforms into supernatural demonic soul hunter.
Matt Long as young Johnny Blaze
Eva Mendes as Roxanne Simpson: A news reporter and Johnny's childhood girlfriend.
Raquel Alessi as young Roxanne Simpson
Wes Bentley as Blackheart / Legion: The Son of Mephistopheles who wants to use the Contract in order to unleash hell over Earth.
Sam Elliott as Carter Slade / Caretaker: A former Ghost Rider, and an ally and mentor to Blaze.
Donal Logue as Mack: One member of Johnny's team and his own impresario.
Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles: The Devil, with whom Blaze makes a deal and who turned him into the Ghost Rider.
Brett Cullen as Barton Blaze: Johnny Blaze's sick late father and a motorcycle stuntman.
David Roberts as Captain Jack Dolan: A police captain.
Rebel Wilson as Girl in alley
Marvel Studio began development for Ghost Rider as early as 1992 and were in discussions with potential distributors. In 1997 Gale Anne Hurd was listed as producer, with Jonathan Hensleigh attached to write the script. David S. Goyer developed a script and in May 2000 Marvel announced an agreement with Crystal Sky Entertainment to film Ghost Rider with actor Jon Voight attached as a producer. Production was scheduled to start in early 2001 with a budget of $75 million and Johnny Depp expressing interest in the lead role. The following August, Dimension Films joined Crystal Sky to co-finance the film, which would be directed by Stephen Norrington. Producer Avi Arad approached Eric Bana on the possibility of playing Ghost Rider, but opted to cast him in Hulk instead. In June 2001, actor and Ghost Rider fan Nicolas Cage entered talks to be cast into the lead role, after having found out about Depp being a possibility for the role and contacted the director to express his own interest. Norrington would drop out within a few months due his commitment to Tick Tock and Cage eventually left the project as well. By May 2002 Columbia Pictures sought to acquire rights to Ghost Rider in turnaround from Dimension Films following their success with Spider-Man. They brought Shane Salerno to rewrite Goyer's script.
In April 2003, under Columbia Pictures, director Mark Steven Johnson took over the helm for Ghost Rider with Cage returning for the lead role. Johnson, rewriting Salerno's script, was set to begin production of Ghost Rider in late 2003 or early 2004. but it was delayed to October 2003. Cage took a temporary leave of absence to film The Weather Man. Ghost Rider production was slated to tentatively begin in May or June 2004.
Ghost Rider had again been delayed to begin in late 2004, but the lack of a workable script continued to delay production. In January 2005, actor Wes Bentley was cast as the villain Blackheart, having been introduced to Johnson by Colin Farrell, who had worked with the director in Daredevil. Actress Eva Mendes was also cast opposite Cage as Roxanne Simpson. On February 14, 2005, Ghost Rider commenced filming in Australia at the Melbourne Docklands film studios. Then in March 2005, actor Peter Fonda (who starred in Easy Rider) was cast as the villain Mephistopheles. Johnson originally planned to film before an audience at the Telstra Dome, but instead opted to create a crowd using computer-generated imagery. The director also chose to film in the motorcycle district of Melbourne. By June 2005, principal photography had been completed for Ghost Rider, which was set for a summer 2006 release. In April 2006, the cast and crew performed last-minute reshoots in Vancouver. Ghost Rider was originally scheduled to release on August 4, 2006, but the date was moved three weeks earlier to July 14, 2006. Sony changed the film's release date once more to February 16, 2007 to help relieve the studio's crowded 2006 calendar.
Instead of a "hard drinking and smoking bad ass" Johnny Blaze, Nicolas Cage decided to give him more depth. "I'm playing him more as someone who... made this deal and he's trying to avoid confronting it, anything he can do to keep it away from him". Cage also explained that Blaze's stunt riding was a form of escape and a way to keep him connected to his deceased father, who taught him to ride. Cage rode a Buell motorcycle for Blaze's stunt cycle, and a heavily customized hardtail chopper named "Grace" which transforms into the "Hell Cycle". The Hell Cycle's wheels, made of pure flames in the comics, were changed to be solid tires covered in flames in order to give the motorcycle more weight onscreen.
The film's visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack, and the visual effects team at Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the difficult task of creating computer-generated fire on a shot-by-shot basis. Ghost Rider's skull flames were designed to become smaller and blue to display any emotion other than rage. Kevin's Team at Imageworks also created computer-generated motorcycles, chains, water, black goo, dementors and buildings. To pull off such effects as the living morph where the hardtail chopper ("Grace") comes alive to become the "Hell Cycle" Sony enlisted teams of animators, models, effects artists, lighters & "Flame" artists. The department supervisors for these teams at Imageworks included Kevin Hudson, Brian Steiner, JD Cowels, Marco Marenghi, Joe Spadaro, Joanie Karnowski, Vincent Serritella & Patrick Witting. Patrick's team bore the brunt of the work as they created the fire using a custom pipeline that automated the set up starting with Maya animated geometry driving Maya Fluids, imported into Houdini and then rendered & composited on top of the live action plates. Patrick and his team set up the fire process and much of the front end automation was set up by Scott Palleiko and Joe Spadaro. The fire was then tweaked and manipulated to look and move believably by Patick's eleven man Houdini effects team. All of this was enabled by effects producers Daniel Kuehn and the Digital Effects Supervisor Kee-Suk 'Ken' Hahn.
The digital version of the hell cycle was modeled in detail by Kevin Hudson and based on the practical prop used in the film, it included animatable skeletal hands that came alive to wrap the gas tank during the supernatural transformation scene. The transformation scene was animated by Max Tyrie and finalized by Joe Spadaro. Each part of the "Grace" geometry had to match up and morph with a piece of geometry on the "Hell Cycle"
The bullet time like scene where Ghost Rider on the "Hell Cycle" jumps from a building cutting to slow motion with the flaming chain was the brainchild of animator Maks Naporowski. Kevin Mack, was looking for what he called "shoe leather" to tie the two scenes together. Maks & Marco came up with this incredible concept that went on to become one of the most impressive scenes in the film & on the trailers. Ghost Rider's voice was manipulated by sound designer Dane Davis, who won an Academy Award for Sound Editing for The Matrix. Davis filtered Cage's line readings through three different kinds of animal growls that were played backwards and covered separate frequencies. Davis then amplified the dialogue through a mechanical volumizer. Director Johnson described the sound as a "deep, demonic, mechanical lion's roar".
In December 2005, musical composer Christopher Young was announced to score Ghost Rider. In addition, Spiderbait, a band that Johnson befriended during filming in Australia, performed a cover of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" for the end credits.Track listing
All tracks written by Christopher Young.
In May 2005, Sony Pictures launched the official website for Ghost Rider.
The following July, the studio presented a Ghost Rider panel at Comic-Con International and screened a teaser for the audience. The teaser, which did not have finalized footage of the film, eventually leaked online. In the same month, Majesco Entertainment Company announced its deal with Marvel to acquire worldwide rights to produce the video game Ghost Rider for the PS2, PSP, and Game Boy Advance consoles.
In December 2005, the studio presented a first glimpse of Ghost Rider in a ten-second footage piece on the official site.
In April 2006, Sideshow Collectibles announced the sale of a Ghost Rider maquette based on the concept art of the film.
The following May, domestic and international teaser trailers for Ghost Rider were launched at Apple.
The Ghost Rider was also featured in a commercial for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services in which the character presented his income tax forms to a clerk for processing to receive a quick refund check.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the film on June 12, 2007 as a single-disc Theatrical Cut DVD, two-disc Extended Cut DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and UMD. Special features on the Extended Cut DVD include two commentary tracks, a comic book history feature, and a making of the film featurette.
Ghost Rider was commercially released in the United States on February 16, 2007. The film grossed $15,420,123 on its opening day, while earning $45,388,836 for its opening weekend. The film earned $52,022,908 over the four-day President's Day weekend, with a per-theater average of $US 14,374 in 3,619 theaters. The film's total earnings were $228,738,393 worldwide of which $115,802,596 was from the North America.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Ghost Rider has a 26% overall approval out of 135 reviews from critics; the critical consensus states: "Ghost Rider is a sour mix of morose, glum histrionics amidst jokey puns and hammy dialogue". The results were mirrored in Metacritic reviews as well, displaying a ranking of 35 out of 100 based on 20 critical reviews. Additionally, Michael Ordoña of the Los Angeles Times and Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times expressed disappointment in the film. Ordoña cited the "satanic references" and "judgemental" elements of Cage's character, and Catsoulis said Johnny Blaze is "more funny than frightening". Although Eric Alt of the Chicago Tribune praised the computer-generated effects of the film, he also criticized it, calling it a "clumsy, lifeless outing". IGN named the film the worst comic book film of the decade. The film was nominated for one Razzie Award for Nicolas Cage as Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.
A sequel, entitled Spirit of Vengeance, started filming in November 2010 and was released on February 17, 2012. Cage reprised his role as Johnny Blaze and also portrayed Johnny Blaze in his Ghost Rider form. Crank filmmakers Neveldine/Taylor directed the film. The film opened to worse reviews than the first but was a box office success.