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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 132,786 users  
Reviews: 284 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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Title: The Great Escape (1963)

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Top 250 #117 | 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:

the great adventure! the great entertainment! 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)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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 had actually been a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II, who was shot down, became a prisoner of war and was tortured by the Germans. When he kindly offered advice to the film's director John Sturges, he was politely asked to keep his "opinions" to himself. Later, when another star from the film informed John Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a World War II German POW Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward. See more »

Goofs

When Hilts turns and runs, in his attempt to stop Ives from climbing the fence, his vest is unbuttoned, buttoned, unbuttoned and buttoned again. See more »

Quotes

Bartlett: Hilts, how do you breathe?
Hilts: Oh, we got a steel rod with hinges on it. We'll shove it up and make air holes as we go along.
[to Ramsey]
Hilts: G'night, sir.
[Walks out]
MacDonald: Why didn't anyone think of that before? It's so stupid, it's positively brilliant!
[face falls]
MacDonald: Oh, but it'll bring every goon in the camp down on top of us!
Bartlett: I don't know. Perhaps we're being too clever. If we stop all the breakouts, it will only convince the goons we must be tunneling.
Ramsey: I hope it works. If it doesn't, those two will be in ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in Steve McQueen: The King of Cool (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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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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