Adapted from James Dickey's popular novel, John Boorman's 1972 movie recounts the grueling psychological and physical journey taken by four city slickers down a river in the backwoods of Georgia.
At the behest of Iron John-esque Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the less adventuresome Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty), and Drew (Ronny Cox) agree to canoe down an uncharted section of the river before a dam project ruins the region.
After warnings from the grimy, impoverished locals, and Drew's tuneful yet ominous Dueling Banjos encounter with a mute inbred boy, the four men embark on their trip, exulting in the beauty of nature and the initial thrill of the rapids.
The next day, however, things begin to take a turn for the worse when Bobby and Ed decide to rest on shore after becoming separated from Lewis and Drew. Two rifle-wielding mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert Cowboy Coward) emerge from the woods, tying up Ed while one of them rapes Bobby and makes him squeal like a pig.
Lewis and Drew rescue them, but the attack irrevocably changes the tenor of the journey. As the river gets rougher and rougher, the men come to nightmarish grips with what it means to survive outside the safety net of civilization.