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The Great Escape (1963)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  4 July 1963 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 150,805 users  
Reviews: 291 user | 105 critic

Allied P.O.W.s plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.



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Top 250 Movies #119 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hannes Messemer ...
Robert Graf ...


Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POW's) are all put in an 'escape proof' camp. Their leader decides to try to take out several hundred all at once. The first half of the film is played for comedy as the prisoners mostly outwit their jailers to dig the escape tunnel. The second half is high adventure as they use boats and trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


From a barbed-wire camp to a barbed-wire country, they made... [The Great Escape] See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

4 July 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran escape  »

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)|


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the scene following Hilts' theft of a German motorcycle, he rolls into a nearby town, and stopped by a police officer. He tells Hilts something in German, to which Hilts kicks him away and rides off. The officer asked Hilts for identification papers Hilts doesn't have. See more »


When Hilts crashes his motorcycle into the barbed wire fence, he is clearly in front of the barbed wire. When they cut back for the close-up, he is entangled in the barbed wire. See more »


[gathering wood to shore up the tunnels, Hilts removes the wooden slats from bunk beds in the sleeping area of the prisoner barracks, holding a stack of them, and walks carefully out into the hallway]
Cavendish: [passes Hilts in the hallway on his way to his bunk bed] Five gold rings. Four calling birds - bloody singing, I've never worked so hard in all my life. Hi, Hilts!
Hilts: [turns and tries to warn him] Say, Cavendish...
Cavendish: Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear - ...
See more »


Referenced in Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Series 2 Compilation 2 (1990) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A genuine timeless classic.
28 December 2003 | by (Rugby,UK.) – See all my reviews

During World War Two the Germans build a new prison camp, Stalag Luft III, for the express purpose of housing many of their most troublesome captured Allied airmen. However, all this serves to do is to pool the resources of some of the most ingenious escape artists in captivity and fill them with a resolve to engineer a mass breakout from the camp.

Based largely on real events, this film has assumed classic status over the years and its easy to understand why. Quite simply, it excells in many departments. Director John Sturges was at the height of his creative powers and he keeps a firm grip on the proceedings. Although the film runs close to three hours it never feels sluggish, while at the same time winding up the tension gradually and developing the characters. The production design is first rate, to the point where Donald Pleasance (who had been a P.O.W.) felt quite intimidated by the vast set on his arrival. Daniel Fapp's beautiful photography shows this and the picturesque German locations off to full effect. Put these virtues together with a good script, inspired casting and a classic score by Elmer Bernstein, and you have an object lesson in how to create an intelligent and exciting big budget adventure film.

On the subject of the cast; Much is made of Steve McQueen's role. While I am a huge McQueen fan, I feel that some of the other performances are equal to, if not better than his. Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, Charles Bronson and Gordon Jackson are all excellent. Good too are James Coburn, James Donald, David McCallum and Hannes Messemer as the sympathetic Commandant.

This is one of those films that I can happily watch time and time again. In September of this year a new print was screened at the NFT in London as part of an 'Attenborough at 80' season. It was a pleasure to see this on the big screen at last. For the most part the print was in very good condition. The DVD was one of the first that I ever bought some three and a half years ago, and I watched its inevitable Christmas screening on BBC2 last night. I just never tire of it. In these days of brainless, poorly executed action fodder, its a joy to behold something that hits its targets so precisely.

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