Several thousand years ago, 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.