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The Great Escape (1963)

 -  Adventure | Drama | History  -  4 July 1963 (USA)
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 129,924 users  
Reviews: 285 user | 104 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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(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Top 250 #119 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Hannes Messemer ...
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Angus Lennie ...
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Robert Graf ...
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Storyline

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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Glorious Saga Of The R.A.F. See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

4 July 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran escape  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)|

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Donald Pleasence's character was based partly on London-born John Cordwell, later a Chicago architect and then proprietor of the Red Lion Pub on the city's N. Lincoln Avenue. Cordwell died in 1999. Stories about him and the Red Lion are told from various points of view in the collection "Tales from the Red Lion" (Chicago: Twilight Tales, 2007, ISBN 0977985623). See more »

Goofs

(at around 2h 35 mins) As Bartlett and Mac try to run from the police at the bus stop, a there is a spotlight on its mount on the left-hand side of the screen. See more »

Quotes

Danny: Willie, since I was a boy, I hate and fear little rooms, closets, caves.
Willie: But Danny, you've dug seventeen tunnels. Over seventeen!
Danny: Because I must get out! I hide the fear, and I dig. Tomorrow night in the tunnel with all those men... I'm afraid maybe this time I will lose my head and ruin the escape for everybody.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

GREAT MOVIE: MORE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE THAN SOME REALIZE...
11 January 2004 | by (Stowe, Vermont) – See all my reviews

This is a great movie which much more historically accurate than it is often given credit for. So many who say otherwise are ill-informed and obviously don't know much about the actual history of that actual escape. The depiction of what happened to the recaptured prisoners in the movie of THE GREAT ESCAPE is reasonably accurate as detailed on the historyinfilm site...specifically on the "Reprisal" page; along with being detailed in the various published accounts.

Hitler ultimately calmed down after being reasoned with by Goering, Feldmarschall Keitel, Maj-Gen Graevenitz and Maj-Gen Westhoff, and dictated that more than half the prisoners be shot and cremated. So, as depicted in the film, several of those recaptured were not executed and were indeed returned to confinement. In fact, even those executed were not "shot on the spot" for the most part, but were actually executed later after being turned over to the Gestapo; most being shot while being allowed to relieve themselves, under the guise of "trying to escape".

Furthermore, there are many accounts as to how much more humane the environment was within the camp (which even had a popular and very successful theatre, featuring prisoners who would later be name performers) than many other POW camps...and certainly nothing like the harsh conditions associated with the Concentration or Extermination camps.

To quote one source:

"It must be made clear that the German Luftwaffe [the German Air Force], who were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the camp security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or Gestapo. The Luftwaffe treated the POWs well, despite an erratic and inconsistent supply of food.

Prisoners were handled quite fairly within the Geneva Convention, and the Kommandant, Oberst (Colonel) Friedrich-Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, was a professional and honourable soldier who won the respect of the senior prisoners."

Finally, virtually all the major engineering aspects in regards to the tunnels and the initial escape in the film are as they were actually acheived in the real escape.

It would behoove some to learn a little more actual history or do a little simple research before shooting from the hip with supposed "knowledge" of reality. THE GREAT ESCAPE certainly takes liberties in tone and character portrayal, but not in the key elements that are disparaged out of sneering ignorance.

BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is also a great film, but took even greater liberties with the technical details of the events described than THE GREAT ESCAPE did....and offering up VON RYAN'S EXPRESS as a more realistic alternative is simply delusional and ridiculous.


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