Study Guide

Blade Runner

Blade Runner Summary

As the movie begins, a renegade replicant (read: an artificially created human) named Leon attacks a blade runner (read: a replicant-killing detective) who's performing a test on him. 

Turns out that Leon is one of four replicants who have escaped their lives of slave labor in space colonies to come to earth, searching for the man who created them: Dr. Eldon Tyrell. They're nearing their expiration dates, and they want to extend their lifespans beyond the set four-year limit Tyrell programmed into them. The Los Angeles Police Department enlists a blade runner named Rick Deckard to track 'em all down.

Hello, Harrison Ford.

But things quickly get murky for Deckard: 

  • He falls in love with a replicant named Rachael, complicating his feelings about slaughtering other replicants. 
  • The replicants' leader, Roy, makes his way toward Dr. Tyrell as his lover, Pris, meets one of the genetic designers responsible for creating them (J. F. Sebastian)
  • Deckard successfully tracks down one of the replicants, Zhora, and shoots her dead in the street. 
  • Rachael blows Leon's brains out as he tries to attack and kill Deckard.

So, yeah...complications.

Sebastian leads Roy to Dr. Tyrell's residence, where Roy demands a normal human lifespan. Tyrell says this is impossible, and Roy murders him (and Sebastian, for good measure). Back at Sebastian's apartment, Deckard has a duel with Pris, whom he finally kills, despite her impressive gymnastics. Roy arrives and starts to flip out: he chases Deckard around the apartment but finally decides to spare Deckard's life with an unexpected act of mercy. 

And Roy dies that same night.

Deckard escapes back to his own apartment, where he and Rachael reunite. They decide to run away and try to lead a new life together. Depending on the version you're watching, you get a very different ending:

  • In Version 1, they either live happily ever after in the natural world outside Los Angeles; in this version, Rachael has a normal-length lifespan.
  • In Version 2, we don't know what happens to them...and it turns out that Deckard himself may have been a replicant all along.
  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    Trying to Enjoy Some Sushi in Peace 

    • As the movie begins, we see an opening text, which explains what Nexus 6 replicants are: artificial beings that are essentially identical to humans but are used as slaves on outer-space "Off World" colonies. They're not allowed on planet earth, and if any infiltrate, special policemen called blade runners are sent to track them down and kill them.
    • Next, we're in a futuristic L.A., complete with burning industrial torches (reflected in a human eye) and flying cars soaring near a weird pyramid-like building.
    • We see a blade runner, Holden, performing a special test—the Voight-Kampff Test—on a man named Leon, in order to find out if the guy is a rogue replicant or a human. The test functions by measuring the fluctuations of one of a Leon's eyes.
    • Holden and Leon are in the headquarters of a company called The Tyrell Corporation, and it's November 2019 (as of writing this we have about 3 years before we get humanoid slaves exploring the reaches of space so chop chop scientists).
    • Things start to go pretty badly, and Leon seems distressed. Finally, he pulls out a gun and shoots Holden.
    • The setting changes, and now, in the bowels of this futuristic L.A., we see another blade runner, Rick Deckard, getting a meal at a sushi stand. His co-worker, Gaff, interrupts him, and insists on dragging him down to the police station, where a new assignment awaits.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    Bryant, Explainer in Chief

    • Deckard's boss, Bryant, tells him that they have four replicants on the loose in L.A. He explains that they killed a bunch of people and hijacked a shuttle to come to earth. Deckard's assignment is to track the replicants down and "retire" (kill) them.
    • When Deckard tries to suggest that Holden take the job, Bryant explains that he's already been shot and hospitalized. Deckard has no choice but to accept the mission.
    • Bryant fills Deckard in on some more details, showing him the video of Leon attacking Holden and explaining the replicants' names: there are two women, Pris and Zhora, and two men, Leon and Roy Batty, their probable leader. They all have a limited four-year lifespan.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    Replicant or Repli-won't?

    • Deckard takes a flying car over to the Tyrell Corporation—the same pyramid building from the movie's beginning.
    • Deckard goes to the penthouse of the corporation's founder and chief scientist, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, where he meets Tyrell's assistant Rachael, who questions him about his work.
    • Tyrell enters and asks Deckard to perform the same test on Rachael that Holden was performing on Leon at the beginning of the movie.
    • Deckard obliges, going through the test and asking Rachael about her feelings on eating boiled dog and killing wasps.
    • At a certain point, Tyrell asks Rachael to leave. Deckard says that she's a replicant—as Tyrell knows—but a very craftily disguised one who comes close to passing the test.
    • Tyrell explains that Rachael doesn't know she's a replicant. She has fake memories, which allow her to have more normal human reactions.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    A Collection of Kodak Moments

    • Deckard and Gaff fly over to Leon's apartment—which they've identified from his interview with Holden.
    • Deckard manages to find a snake's scale in the shower and some mysterious photos belonging to Leon.
    • The scene quickly switches to Leon himself, who meets with Roy on the street. Leon spotted Deck and Gaff at his apartment but managed to turn away undetected.
    • Roy and Leon go into the freezing cold lab of a genetic designer named Hannibal Chew—the man who designed their eyes. They strip off his protective suit and demand that he give them help in finding and speaking with their creator, Dr. Eldon Tyrell.
    • Chew tells the replicants to find another designer, J. F. Sebastian, who will be able to help them.
    • At Deckard's apartment, Rachael pays him a visit, surprising him in the elevator before thanking him for stopping by the Tyrell Corporation. They're clearly attracted to each other.
    • Rachael suspects that she's a replicant, but she shows Deckard a family photo. Deckard explains that all of Rachael's memories were programmed—they actually come from Tyrell's niece. This upsets Rachael, and Deckard weakly tries to take back what he said.
    • Deckard goes to get Rachael a drink, but when he returns, she's gone. However, she's left her family photo; it has a phone number written on the back of it.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    His Friends are Sims

    • Another replicant, Pris, wanders alone around an alley, trying to hide under some trash. She ends up encountering the very man her confederates have been looking for—J. F. Sebastian, the genetic designer.
    • Pris is hungry, and together, she and J. F. Sebastian go to Sebastian's apartment, where they meet the weird toys he's personally designed and treats as his "friends."
    • Back at Deckard's apartment, Deck drinks and looks at family photos sitting by his piano. If you happen to be watching one of the newer, re-released cuts of the movie, you might find a weird, brief dream sequence involving a running unicorn placed right here.
    • Deckard pulls himself out of an alcoholic funk and studies Leon's family picture using a machine. It shows him that another replicant, Zhora, was staying at his apartment and that the scale is connected to her in some way.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    Snake Charmer

    • A lady in a marketplace helps Deckard identify the scale as a snake scale—from an artificial snake manufactured by a dude named Abdul Hassan.
    • Deckard visits Abdul Hassan, and after an angry confrontation, Hassan directs him to a club owned by a man called Taffey Lewis.
    • At the club, Deckard has an unhelpful encounter with Lewis and tries to phone Rachael to invite her to the club—but she won't come.
    • Nevertheless—surprise, surprise—Zhora is present, working as an exotic dancer with her artificial snake as a prop.
    • After the show, Deckard visits Zhora's dressing room, where she strips down and changes, while he pretends to be a guy working for the Committee on Moral Abuses; he says he's making sure she hasn't been exploited in her job.
    • But Zhora catches onto Deckard's game and attacks him. He ends up chasing her through the street, finally gunning her down as she crashes through a store's window.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    Meeting His Maker

    • Deckard meets up with Bryant and Gaff, who congratulate him on killing Zhora—before explaining that Rachael ran away, and now she's on their hit list, too.
    • Immediately thereafter, Deck runs into Leon, who tries to kill him. But Rachael shows up and saves Deckard, shooting Leon before he can finish the job.
    • A shaken Deckard and Rachael go to his apartment, where Rachael plays the piano as Deckard falls asleep (other cuts of the movie include the unicorn dream sequence at this point).
    • When Deckard gets up, they kiss and have sex (implied, not shown).
    • At Sebastian's apartment, Pris and Sebastian chat—he suffers from a disorder that involves premature aging.
    • Roy arrives and tells Pris that he and she are the only two replicants left.
    • Sebastian has guessed that Roy and Pris replicants. Now, Roy and Pris try to convince and intimidate him into taking Roy to see Tyrell. Sebastian agrees.
    • In the elevator up to see Tyrell, Sebastian announces a checkmate move in the long-term chess game they've been playing (Roy suggests the move). Tyrell lets them in.
    • Tyrell and Roy talk. Roy demands a longer lifespan, but Tyrell says it's impossible to change the genetic coding sequence he's given him. He advises Roy to make the most of the time he has left.
    • Angered, Roy kills Tyrell, crushing his skull and pushing in his eyes with his bare hands and thumbs.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    "Tears in Rain"

    • Sitting in his cop car, Deckard gets a notice from Bryant, informing him that Tyrell and Sebastian have both been murdered.
    • After calling Sebastian's apartment and hearing Pris pick up the phone and then hang up on him, Deckard journeys over to see what's up.
    • Deckard wanders around Sebastian's apartment, which is full of creepy toys—one of which turns out to be Pris in disguise. She does somersaults through the apartment before catching Deckard's head between her thighs; she tries to kill him.
    • After a little more combat, Deckard shoots Pris dead.
    • When Roy arrives, he's not pleased with the situation. As Deckard tries to hide behind a wall, Roy smashes a fist through and grabs one of Deckard's arms. He breaks one of his fingers for Zhora and one for Pris before letting him go.
    • Roy acts crazy, driving a spike through his hand, and howling as he chases Deckard around. Deckard hits him with a pipe, but it has no real effect.
    • Deckard manages to get out on the roof and jump across to another roof, where he ends up hanging from the side, grasping on to a beam.
    • Roy pursues Deckard, holding a white dove (a room in the apartment building was infested with birds).
    • Surprisingly, just as Deckard is about to fall, Roy saves him, pulling him up to safety.
    • It turns out that Roy is reaching his expiration date, and his body is automatically dying. He tells Deckard about the amazing things he remembers seeing as a slave in space, talking about how his memories will now be lost "like tears in rain."
    • Roy dies, and as he does so, he releases the dove, which flies away.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    To End or Not to End?

    • Gaff shows up and congratulates Deckard on a job well done. He says it's too bad that Rachael won't live, given that Deck is in love with her.
    • Deckard races to his apartment, discovering that Rachael is still alive. Gaff was there, and he left behind a silver origami unicorn, which shows that he decided not to kill her. (It also hints that he knew Deckard's dreams, which may indicate that these dreams were implants, and that Deckard is actually… a replicant!)
    • Deckard wakes Rachael. She says she loves and trusts him, and they depart, gathering their things and getting into the elevator to leave.
    • If you're watching certain cuts of the movie (like the Director's Cut or Final Cut), this where the movie ends. But in the original theatrical version, Deckard and Rachael drive into a scenic, natural environment, and Deckard reveals via voiceover that Rachael doesn't have a limited four-year lifespan; instead, she's a special replicant with the lifespan of a normal human. So it's a totally unexpected happily-ever-after for the couple.