Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a helicopter pilot investigating a food riot for the government. You see in 2017 there really isn't much government in charge. What you have are zones that are run by small police states. Food and all other commodities are at an all-time low and people riot over them. Richards is told when he sees the riot to shoot as many of the people as he can. He sees that they are unarmed and won't do it. The 2nd in command is then ordered to subdue Richards and carry out the mission.
Richards is sent to a penal colony and for the next 18 months does hard labor. He and two other men, one by the name of William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto), escape from the prison. They make their way to a nicer section of town and separate. Richards finds an apartment to hide out in and finds a woman by the name of Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso).
Richards doesn't know but the Producer of the "Running Man" TV show Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) has seen his picture and wants him to participate on the show. Now this show would allow Richards the opportunity to escape and if he makes it he is a free man.
Anyway, Amber and Richards make their way to the Airport, but then Amber gives him away. Richards is caught and brought to Killian. You see Killian made a deal with Justice that if Richards is caught he would be given the chance to star on the show.
Richards is coerced to do it and eventually Amber and two others are running. They will go up against Fireball (Jim Brown), Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura), and others in an attempt to gain their freedom. What they don't know is that no one has ever escaped and won. Will they be the first?
Director Paul Michael Glaser does a wonderful job with this movie. He shows the desperation of all those running as well as those going after them. This is a world that to live you must kill or be killed.