A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Indian Chief
Robert Deman ...
Dr. Chatal
Warden Barrot
Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)


Henri "Papillon" Charierre is sentenced to life in prison and transported to the penal in French Guyana. Aboard ship on the voyage over, he meets Louis Dega, a forger. They form a bond that will last them a great many years. The conditions at the penal colony are horrific and Papillon desperately wants to escape. His first attempt ends quickly in failure and as a result he spends 2 years in solitary confinement. His next attempt is somewhat more successful and he actually spends a idyllic time with a tribe of Central America Indians. Once caught however, he does 5 years in solitary confinement. Once released, he decides to make one final attempt at freedom. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The greatest adventure of escape ever filmed! See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

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Official Sites:





Release Date:

6 February 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Leptir  »

Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)


$53,267,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(magnetic prints)| (optical prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Theft and pillage by the locals were a constant problem. When the production ended, before properties could be packed and shipped, locals raided and stripped the set, making off with costumes (600 pairs of shoes alone), machinery, and lumber. In all, $30,000 was lost. See more »


Newer prints, with improved resolution and brighter tone reveal that the leader of the leper colony's mouth isn't moving at the end of the "cigar" conversation, when he talks to McQueen. See more »


Dega: Well, it now seems quite possible that until we get to a decent jail with bribeable guards, I may stand in some need of... rather close physical protection.
Papillon: That depends on how long you want to live.
Dega: For a long time.
Papillon: Then you got a problem.
Dega: Well, I presume that you have some, uh, goals, some particular need that outrates all the others. I mean, if so... may I aslk what it is?
Papillon: Money!
Dega: For what?
Papillon: Escape.
Dega: Very good. You keep me alive until we land in Guyana, and I'll underwrite any escape you care ...
See more »


References The Great Escape (1963) See more »


Ballet Music from Faust
Music by Charles Gounod
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Excellent film entertainment
8 June 2002 | by See all my reviews

Excellent movie. Entertaining and realistic.

Although media promotion hinted that this was another version of "The Great Escape", the movie, and Steve McQueen, avoided what would have been a fatal pratfall - remaking the 1962 POW war film with different costumes.

In fact, this was an excellent film that stood on its own merit(despite the fact that historians claim the story is not true) It was an excellent depiction of the French penal colony in Guana. It would have been great even without McQueen in the title role.

Dustin Hoffman was his usual superb actor, making the most out of his role. McQueen wisely avoided playing himself, and as a result, his role was stronger and believable.

Location scenes and overall plot were superb.

Outstanding film.

39 of 55 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Prison tame compared to other movies CrescentRoses
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Great movie, but I call 'Bull *beep* le-fantome
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