Nubbins Sawyer appears in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Edwin Neal portrays him as a mentally unstable and murderous cannibal and grave robber; he lives with his equally depraved family, the Sawyers, in the back roads of Texas, capturing, torturing, and feasting on unwary travelers. Though sadistic and violent, he is generally one of the least threatening characters in the movie, being not very intelligent, and behaving erratically. The character also has a bizarre speech impediment and a large port-wine stain birthmark on the right side of his face. His speech impediment came from the actor who portrayed him, Edwin Neal, who played the Hitchhiker as someone who suffered from schizophrenia.
Nubbins first appears in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre walking along a road, where he is picked up by a group of friends traveling through the area, who feel sorry for him having to walk in the heat. The group ask him what he was doing out there and he tells them that he was "over at the slaughterhouse" where he and "his brother" and "his grandfather" used to work and shows them pictures of him and his family killing the cattle while telling them a story about how headcheese comes from the cows there when their heads are melted, all the while attempting to get them to drop him off at his home and even inviting them to dinner. The Hitchhiker soon begins acting erratically after being given back the photographs by the disgusted travelers, slashing his own hand with a pocket knife; after Franklin Hardesty (Paul A. Partain) refuses to buy a picture he took of him, the Hitchhiker sets the photo on fire and slashes Franklin's arm with a straight razor before being kicked out of the van. The Hitchhiker briefly chases after the van, kicking, yelling and smearing a bloody hand print on it, but soon relinquishes his attack on it.
The film later identifies Nubbins as one of the brothers of the main villain of the film, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and of Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow), as well as one of the family members of a mentally unstable and murderous family of cannibals. It is also revealed that he was the one responsible for the grave robbings and places the corpses all over the graveyards and took photos mentioned at the beginning of the film. Together, they torment Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), Franklin's sister whom Drayton had captured. Eventually deciding to kill Sally, Nubbins, Drayton and Leatherface are at first content to allow their highly regarded Grandpa (John Dugan) to do so, but when Grandpa proves unable to kill Sally with a hammer, Nubbins and his brothers become impatient and over-eager in trying to help him, Nubbins forgets to keep a hold on Sally, allowing her break free of their grasp and jump out a nearby window; as Sally flees, Nubbins and Leatherface give chase to her, with the Hitchhiker catching up to her on a road. While slashing Sally with a knife, an 18-wheeler fast approaches him. Not noticing this, he continues to try to kill Sally. He soon hears the honking of the truck but is too late to get out of the way as he watches in horror as the truck runs him over, killing him. Deleted scenes shows Nubbins' corpse lying in the road, his dislodged jaw spewing blood.
After the events of the film, Nubbins' remains were gathered and turned into a mummified puppet, seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The corpse is treated as if he is still alive, and is most often seen with his twin brother, Chop Top. Nubbins' pouch contains a grenade, which Drayton uses to blow up the family's lair after Lieutenant Lefty Enright infiltrates their home.
In the Jason vs. Leatherface Topps Comics' miniseries, the Hitchhiker (bearing only a minor resemblance to his film counterpart) appears as a main character. Encountering Jason Voorhees (the main villain of the Friday the 13th franchise) in the woods near the Sawyer house, the Hitchhiker, after seeing Jason non-lethally disarm Leatherface after a brief skirmish and decapitate a man he and Leatherface were chasing, befriends him and takes him home, where Jason is inducted as an unofficial member of the family by Drayton. After a fight happens between Jason and the family, the Hitchhiker "kills" Jason by bashing him in the head with a hammer.
The miniseries expands upon the Hitchhiker's character, revealing that he owns a pet dog named Sparky (whom he killed by shooting in the head and treats as if it were still alive) and that he creates furniture and sculptures out of corpses. The miniseries also showed the extent of the Hitchhiker's abuse of Leatherface whom the Hitchhiker constantly bullies for little or no reason (although he apparently respects Leatherface's prowess at frightening and killing people, as he laments to Jason). The comics also hint that the Hitchhiker, as well as Leatherface, were born of incest, with Drayton's younger sister Velma being implicated as being their sister and mother. The Hitchhiker is also seen driving a tow truck and working at the family gas station, where he sabotages motorists' automobiles. He then informs his family and they attack the newly stranded people. The Hitchhiker's bizarre birth mark also changes shape several times throughout the comics, at one point it takes the form of a swastika and a lightning bolt. After "killing" Jason, the Hitchhiker's brother Drayton (called Cook Slaughter in the comics) implicates that the Hitchhiker killed his own cousin named Emery with a two-by-four after a losing a game of checkers, to which the hitchhiker replies "He shouldn't have laughed at me".