Crossroads is a 1986 American coming-of-age musical drama film inspired by the legend of blues musician Robert Johnson. Starring Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca and Jami Gertz, the film was written by John Fusco and directed by Walter Hill and features an original score featuring Ry Cooder and guitar virtuoso Steve Vai on the soundtrack's guitar, and harmonica by Sonny Terry. Steve Vai also appears in the film as the devil's guitar player in the climactic guitar duel.
17-year-old Eugene Martone has a fascination for blues music while studying classical guitar at the Juilliard School for Performing Arts in New York City. Researching blues and guitar music brings famed Robert Johnson's mythically creative acclaim to his attention; especially intriguing are the legends surrounding exactly how Johnson became so talented – most notably the one claiming he "sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads", as well as a famed "missing song" that was lost, supposedly evermore, to the world.
In his quest to find this song, he researches old archived newspaper clippings, learning that Johnson's longtime friend, musician Willie Brown, is alive and incarcerated for murder or attempted murder in a nearby minimum security hospital. Eugene goes to see the elderly man, who denies several times that he is that Willie Brown. He finally admits his identity after hearing Eugene play some blues (but notes that Eugene "plays with no soul").
Willie then says he knows the missing Robert Johnson tune in question but refuses to give it to Eugene unless the boy breaks him out of the facility and gets him to Mississippi, where he has unfinished business to settle. Eugene agrees and they head south. The boy soon realizes, however, that Willie is constantly running minor scams such as claiming that he has more money than he actually has to cover their bus tickets. With only $40 on them, they end up "hoboing" from Memphis to rural Mississippi.