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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 153,593 users  
Reviews: 290 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.



(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Top Rated Movies #120 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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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?


The medal that Colonel von Luger wears around his neck is the Pour le Merite, also known as the Blue Max. Originally a Prussian military honor, in the First World War it was automatically given to fighter pilots who shot down eight planes (later raised to sixteen). The Nazis replaced it with the Knight's Cross but it could still be worn by officers who'd won it before the Third Reich. See more »


At least one escapee is dressed as a German guard. While this is against all standard protocols, and being caught in a uniform would be an act of spying punishable by execution after torture, the source book itself states that one of the escapees, Tobolski, did in fact escape disguised as a Luftwaffe Unteroffizer. See more »


Bartlett: Gentlemen, no doubt you've heard the immortal words of our new commandant: devote your energies to things other than escape, and sit out the war as comfortably as possible.
Sedgwick: [derisively] Ha!
Bartlett: Well, that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to devote our energies to sports and gardening, all the cultural pursuits as far as they're concerned. In fact, we're going to put the goons to sleep. Meanwhile, we dig. Now, even a superficial look at the compound shows us that Huts 104 and 5 are ...
See more »


Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Ryan Phillippe/Ke$ha (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

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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