Ben Richards is a captain of the military police who leads a squadron of armed helicopters to a demonstration. His superiors want him to shoot at the protesters, despite the fact that they are unarmed. He refuses, and is removed from command and imprisoned. His successor, along with the others in the squadron, suppress the demonstration as ordered in an event later known as the Bakersfield massacre, in which 60 people were murdered. They frame Ben Richards for it, and he spends 18 months in prison where he orchestrates a prison revolt, which succeeds and makes sure that he and the prisoners can escape.In the city, after getting rid of his last chains with the help of a resistance group, he tries to contact his brother so he can get out of the country. His brother turns out to be dead, and Instead a woman named Amber lives in his home. She delivers him to the authorities because she believes the propaganda that he is a mass murderer. Later she begins to doubt it because his arrest was seen as a violent one, despite of the fact that it was not so. In the meantime Ben is taken to Damon Killian, the responsible man of the show The Running Man. Impressed by his escape, his past, and his ability to fight and run, he wants him in his show. Ben only agrees when he realizes that his two best companions during the prison escape, Laughlin and Weiss, and other resistance members have been arrested too and will be sent to the show if he doesn't relent.
He allows the entire procedure to become a runner, but he then discovers that his two companions are to be sent to the show anyway against his will. When he and the others arrive at the location they have to fight against the stalkers, also known as gladiators, who have their immediate weapons while they don´t. In the meantime Amber, driven by guilt and doubt and also an employee of the show, has launched a private investigation about Ben. She finds out that Ben is innocent and even has the proof, which leads to her being arrested and forced to go on the show. To legitimize it they even make everyone believe publicly that she was Richard´s lover and an accessory to the Bakersfield massacre. In the arena she is forced to join the others in the fight against the gladiators, who are dispatched one by one by Richards with the help of the others. On the way they discover that the antenna that controls the show is in this place, which the resistance was searching for. They manage to find the code to access it while Amber finds out that no one who wins the show gets out of that place alive, so that no one knows about the antenna and about the policy of getting rid of political prisoners this way. Richard´s two companions die, but Amber and Ben manage to contact a resistance base nearby, evade the game, and deliver them the code. When it is clear that this has happened, Killian and the government fake Ben´s and Amber´s deaths so that they can go to the gladiator´s location with the police and kill them there. That way they can no longer be a risk for them.Thanks to Ben´s and Amber´s actions the resistance can finally act against the show and against the government that is actively supporting it.. They get control of the antenna, disclose the truth about the Bakersfield massacre by using a tape Amber hid about the truth regarding the "winners" of the Running Man. The gigantic fraud is exposed in front of the entire nation and all attempts to stop it fail. In panic the military police even try to kill the spectators inside the building, speculating that it will not be public and that they are the only ones that know the truth. The entire nation is under shock and utter disbelief. Ben confronts Killian for his crimes, and he justifies them as a necessity of being the number 1 since it is not a matter of people, but of ratings. For his actions Ben forces him to play this game too, rightly speculating that everyone would agree with it. The vehicle, which brings him out to the field crashes into a wall, destroying itself and Killian. Ben is seen as a national hero, and realizing he has fallen in love with Amber, he kisses her in public and goes away with her. The TV show is then closed.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards.
- María Conchita Alonso as Amber Mendez.
- Richard Dawson as Damon Killian.
- Yaphet Kotto as William Laughlin.
- Marvin J. McIntyre as Harold Weiss.
- Mick Fleetwood as Mic, the secret leader of the resistance.
- Professor Toru Tanaka as Professor Subzero, a stalker who uses a hockey-stick capable of cutting steel, exploding pucks, and a hockey rink zone specially fitted for him.
- Gus Rethwisch as Eddie "Buzzsaw" Vatowski, a stalker who uses a specially reinforced chainsaw and a motorcycle.
- Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom, a ten-time former Running Man stalker champion.
- Jim Brown as Fireball, a stalker who is armed with a flamethrower and jetpack.
- Erland Van Lidth De Jeude as Dynamo, an opera-singing stalker who drives a buggy and wears a suit that allows him to arc electricity.