WW II Escape Films

This is a list of escape films (cinema or TV) of WW II. Only successful escapes from POW camps are included. Simple escapes from behind front lines are not included.

Most people think of films showing Allies escaping, but at least two of these films show German escape attempts. Two of the films show escapes from the Japanese.

I label the films either "Fiction" (no basis in actual incident, though possible real location) or "Truthful" (varying degrees of basis in actual incident).

It's not my intention to include documentaries, as they don't have the entertainment value that Hollywood made films have. Documentaries are very educational, but I watch films for their entertainment value, not to necessarily become educated.

If anyone knows of any other WW II escape films I have missed, I would certainly like to know about them.
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Break to Freedom (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
In 1944, at a POW camp in Germany the Allied prisoners use a dummy prop named Albert to fool the German guards and escape. (88 mins.)
Director: Lewis Gilbert
“ Fiction - Escaping from a German POW camp. Not a very well known film and not yet available on DVD. I've never seen it. ” - Bill Goode
Breakout (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
In 1943, an Italian-administered POW camp for captured Allies goes through a series of failed escapes only to culminate in a daring plan for a literally-dramatic mass escape. (101 mins.)
Director: Don Chaffey
“ Fiction - Plot summary from IMDb: "In 1943, an Italian-administered POW camp for captured Allies goes through a series of failed escapes only to culminate in a daring plan for a literally-dramatic mass escape." ” - Bill Goode
Colditz (2005 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Four Brits tunnel out of a German POW camp. One is killed, two are recaptured and one escapes. Scottish Corporal Nicholas McGrade... (240 mins.)
Director: Stuart Orme
“ Fiction - I don't know much about this film, except from the IMDb plot descriptions. Seems like fictional escapes from a real WW II POW camp in Poland. It may be more about a romance involved than the actual escape. ” - Bill Goode
The Colditz Story (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Allied prisoners of various nationalities pool their resources to plan numerous escapes from an "escape-proof" German POW camp housed in a Medieval castle. (94 mins.)
Director: Guy Hamilton
“ Truthful - Not a very well known film, but it's an interesting depiction of multi-national cooperation in escaping the Germans. Colditz is a castle in former East Germany, about 20 miles SE of Liepzig. During the war it was a POW camp, but no escapes. Americans freed the POWs in 1945, but then gave up the town to the Soviets under the Yalta agreement. ” - Bill Goode
The Cross of Lorraine (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A group of French soldiers during WWII are captured by Nazis troops and sent to a military prison. There they will have to make use of his best resources to keep alive... and sane, while at the same time scheming a way out. (90 mins.)
Director: Tay Garnett
“ Fiction - An uplifting story of surviving in a German POW camp. They receive counsel from a soldier priest who gives them moral strength to survive and find a way out. ” - Bill Goode
Escape from Sobibor (1987 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
During WWII, the death camp at Treblinka had an escape, causing the Commandant at a similar camp in... (143 mins.)
Director: Jack Gold
“ Truthful - This film shows the escape of Jews from a labor camp in eastern Poland in 1943. It was the largest escape from a German concentration camp in WW II. The camp was closed shortly after the escape, partly because there were no more prisoners, but also due to the horrors committed against the Jews at the camp. The film does not dwell on the horrors, but dwells on the escape. ” - Bill Goode
The Great Escape (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Allied prisoners of war plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II. (172 mins.)
Director: John Sturges
“ Truthful - Probably the best known of all the WW II escape films. Starring Steve McQueen, the film shows the planning and tunneling out of the POW camp. It shows that the tunnel actually ended up being just short of the trees they had planned on reaching. The escape is from Stalag Luft III in SW Poland, 24 March 1944. ” - Bill Goode
The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (1988 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
Allied prisoners tunnel out of a stalag, then return to avenge fellow escapees executed by the Nazis. (178 mins.)
“ Truthful - A sort of followup of the famous Steve McQueen film. This film depicts the escape more truthfully than the original film, but also shows the postwar investigation of the Gestapo members who killed the 50 escapees. ” - Bill Goode
The Great Raid (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Taking place towards the end of WWII, 500 American Soldiers have been entrapped in a camp for 3 years. Beginning to give up hope they will ever be rescued, a group of Rangers goes on a dangerous mission to try and save them. (132 mins.)
Director: John Dahl
“ Truthful - This film shows the escape of the American POWs from a Japanese POW camp. These particular POWs were those who survived the Bataan Death March in 1942 after the Japanese captured the Philippines. The film shows how the POWs were rescued from the Japanese camp in January 1945. ” - Bill Goode
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
All her life Englishwoman Gladys Aylward knew that China was the place where she belonged. Not qualified to be sent there as a missionary... (158 mins.)
Director: Mark Robson
“ Truthful - The film shows the real life story of Gladys Aylward, English missionary in China. It's an exception to my criteria of this list, in that the escape does not involve a POW camp. But it's such a great story, include it here.

For China WW II started in 1937 with the Japanese invasion of China. In 1938 as Japanese forces threatened the orphanage that Aylward was managing, she led the children to safety. In my opinion this was Ingrid Bergman's greatest role, depicting Aylward. ” - Bill Goode
The McKenzie Break (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
During WW2, German POWs in Britain plot to escape from their prison camp in Scotland. (108 mins.)
Director: Lamont Johnson
“ Fiction - This is a story of German POWs in a prison camp in Scotland and their attempted escape. Their escape is suspected, so a tough Capt. Connor (portrayed by Brian Keith) is called in to deal with it. ” - Bill Goode
The One That Got Away (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A cocky German flight officer is shot down over England and makes numerous attempts to escape to fight again. (106 mins.)
Director: Roy Baker
“ Truthful - This is the real life story of Franz von Werra (portrayed by Hardy Kruger), the only German POW to escape from Canada all the way back to Germany. One can imagine the difficulty involved in escaping across the Atlantic back to Germany. After several unsuccessful escape attempts in England, Werra was sent to a POW camp in Canada in January 1941. On the way in Canada Werra escapes a train to the United States. Since the United States was not yet in the war, Werra manages to travel through the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and back to Germany. Hitler of course made the most of the incident, awarding Werra the Iron Cross. I have not seen this film, but it looks very interesting, I'll keep an eye out for it. ” - Bill Goode
The Password Is Courage (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A World War II British officer named Charles Coward, having been captured by the Germans, tries everything he can to escape... (116 mins.)
Director: Andrew L. Stone
“ Truthful - An actual story of a fellow who escaped several times and was purposely recaptured as he sent info back to the Allies in England. According to the IMDb plot summary, he was a British soldier, who was awarded the Nazi Iron Cross in the process of his escapades. ” - Bill Goode
Stalag 17 (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German POW camp barracks black marketeer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer. (120 mins.)
Director: Billy Wilder
“ Fiction - An interesting story of Sgt Sefton (portrayed by William Holden), who is accused by his fellow POWs of giving information to the Germans about escape attempts. So in order for Sefton to clear his name, he must find out the real informer. Then he has to make his own escape. I have not seen this film, but I really like William Holden, so will look for it. ” - Bill Goode
Stalag Luft (1993 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
During World War II, some Commonwealth prisoners are trying to escape from a German prison camp. Because they are old and weak... (103 mins.)
Director: Adrian Shergold
“ Fiction - A comedy of older POWs in a German camp. They manage to switch places with the German guards and officers and start running the camp with the Germans being the prisoners. I have not seen this film. It is not well known. Being a comedy, it reminds me of Hogan's Heroes. ” - Bill Goode
To End All Wars (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A true story about four Allied POWs who endure harsh treatment from their Japanese captors during World... (125 mins.)
“ Truthful - Based on the plot summaries at IMDb, this film depicts a sort of spiritual escape from harsh Japanese treatment by British prisoners earning the respect of their Japanese captors. It seems there is no physical escape, only a spiritual escape, and being a spiritual individual, I've included it herein.

The film also reminds me of another WW II film, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) (not an escape film), also showing British soldiers building a railroad for the Japanese in the Southeast Asian jungle. ” - Bill Goode
Varian's War: The Forgotten Hero (2001 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Varian Fry rescues more than 2,000 artists from Nazi persecution during World War II. (121 mins.)
Director: Lionel Chetwynd
“ Truthful - Real story of an American, Varian Fry (portrayed by William Hurt), who aids the escape of Jews from Vichy France. Fry was an American journalist living in the USA and went to France specifically to aid the Jews. He is helped in this effort by Miriam Davenport (portrayed by Julia Ormond, a favorite actress of mine), another American in France since the start of the war. Together they helped thousands of Jews from all over Europe escape through France to Spain and on to the United States from 1940 to 1942. ” - Bill Goode
Victory (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
As allied POWs prepare for a soccer game against the German National Team to be played in Nazi-occupied Paris, the French Resistance and British officers are making plans for the team's escape. (116 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Fiction - A great story of a soccer team competing with Germans in Paris. Allies, playing soccer in a German POW camp, are challenged to a match in a huge stadium in Paris (Colombes Stadium, about 1500 feet from the Seine, but the stadium used in the film is located in Budapest). If you get a chance to see this film, be certain to watch it all the way to the end to see the actual escape. The players are heroic and the actual escape is a great tribute to the masses of people. Sylvester Stallone plays an American on the team who knows very little about soccer, but makes a great goalie. Michael Caine stars as the captain of the team and works with Max von Sydow, portraying a German officer in the POW camp, to get the game to happen. You really have to see the actual escape. It's amazing, even if it is fiction. ” - Bill Goode
Von Ryan's Express (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
An American POW leads a group of mainly British prisoners to escape from the Germans in WWII. (117 mins.)
Director: Mark Robson
“ Fiction - A story of British & American prisoners in an Italian POW camp just as the Allies have conquered Sicily. Frank Sinatra stars as American pilot, Colonel Ryan. He gains the moniker "von Ryan" from British Major Fincham (portrayed by Trevor Howard) for exposing escape intentions to the Italian guards. Ryan, aka von Ryan, did this to get medicine, food and clothing for the prisoners, justifying the exposure by the belief that the American forces would rescue them in a few weeks. The Italian guards abandon the POW camp as the Americans are marching north through Italy. As Italy has surrendered to the Allies, Germans quickly recapture the prisoners and plan to take them by train to Austria. So the Allied prisoners take over the train and have to maneuver their escape. ” - Bill Goode
The Wooden Horse (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
True story of three British POWs and their attempt to escape from Nazi Germany. (101 mins.)
Director: Jack Lee
“ Truthful - This film depcits an escape from Stalag Luft III in SW Poland, October 1943 (same camp as The Great Escape -1963). I have not seen this film, so the significance of the wooden horse is not clear to me. But evidently there was a wooden horse involved in the escape, and it was small enough for a man to carry. ” - Bill Goode