Upon graduating from college, a young man drops out of society, and meets various interesting people as he hits the road, preparing himself for an extended stay in the Alaskan wilderness.
It’s 1992 and college graduate Christopher McCandless (EMILE HIRSCH) has achieved his life goal of arriving and then living by himself in the Alaskan wilderness. Setting up camp in an abandoned bus, he tries to survive there, all while reflecting on the journey that led to that point.
Two years earlier, he’s a graduate of Emory University, adored by his younger teen sister Carine (JENA MALONE). Yet, his idealism clashes with his conservative father, Walt (WILLIAM HURT) whose marriage to Billie (MARCIA GAY HARDEN) is on shaky ground.
Disillusioned with who and what he’s supposed to be, Chris simply drops out from society, destroying all forms of identification and adopting the name Alexander Supertramp. He then sets out across the country, taking odd jobs here and there — such as working for farmer and satellite receiver box bootlegger Wayne (VINCE VAUGHN) — while meeting an array of interesting people, such as aged hippies Rainey (BRIAN DIERKER) and Jan (CATHERINE KEENER) who briefly and unofficially adopt him.
He later crosses paths with them again, which is when he meets young singer Tracy (KRISTEN STEWART) who takes an instant liking to him. Yet, he has no intent on settling down in one place, meaning after he spends some time with her and then widower Ron Franz (HAL HOLBROOK), he sets off once again, intent on making it to Alaska, and living a life that’s solely his.
*EMILE HIRSCH plays a college graduate who decides to drop out of society, travel across the country, and eventually settle in the Alaskan wilderness to live by himself. He uses strong profanity and drinks.
*JENA MALONE plays his younger teen sister who narrates in voice over what happened to him.
*WILLIAM HURT plays their conservative father who’s abusive to their mother, but softens his approach due to their shared grief and worry about what happened to their son.
*MARCIA GAY HARDEN plays his wife who’s stuck in an unhappy marriage, drinks some, and similarly worries about Chris.
*CATHERINE KEENER plays a middle-aged hippie who unofficially and only briefly “adopts” Chris, befriends and gives him advice. She has sex with Rainey and smokes a joint.
*BRIAN DIERKER plays her hippie partner, who uses strong profanity, has sex with her, and similarly smokes pot.
*VINCE VAUGHN plays a farmer who briefly employs Chris, drinks, briefly smokes, and illegally sells satellite receiver boxes.
*KRISTEN STEWART plays the 16-year-old daughter of hippies and an aspiring singer who wants to have sex with Chris.
*HAL HOLBROOK plays an older man who lost his wife and child to a drunk driver in the past, and now befriends Chris before the last part of his journey.