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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 153,360 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 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


Hours ago... Minutes ago.... These men were behind barbed wire. 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 motorcycle scenes were not based on real life but were added at Steve McQueen's suggestion. See more »


Immediately after Lt. Henley tells Colin that they are just one mountain ridge away from Switzerland, their plane flies past the famous castle of Neuschwanstein, which is on the Austrian border, about 60 miles (and some very high mountains) away from Switzerland. See more »


Stratwitch: I will not take action against you, now. This is the first day here and there has been much stupidity and carelessness... on both sides!
See more »


Featured in 100 Years at the Movies (1994) 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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