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

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Indian Chief
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Julot
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Toussaint
Robert Deman ...
Maturette
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Clusiot
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Lariot
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Dr. Chatal
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Zoraima
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Warden Barrot
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Pascal
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Antonio
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Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)
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Guard
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Storyline

A semi-fictional account of Henri Charrière's time in the penal system in French Guyana - some of it spent on infamous Devil's Island - is presented. It's the early 1930s. Charrière - nicknamed Papillon because of his butterfly tattoo - and Louis Dega are two among many who have been convicted in the French judicial system, they now being transferred to French Guyana where they will serve their time, never to return to France even if they are ever released. A safe-cracker by criminal profession, Papillon is serving a life sentence for murdering a pimp, a crime for which he adamantly states he was framed. Dega is a wealthy counterfeiter, who expects his well-to-do wife eventually to get him released. On Papillon's initiative, Papillon and Dega enter into a business arrangement: Papillon will provide protection for Dega, while Dega will finance Papillon's escape attempt. As Papillon and Degas' time together lasts longer than either expects, their burgeoning friendship ends up being an ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Escape is Everything! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

6 February 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Leptir  »

Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$53,267,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(magnetic prints)| (optical prints)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

(at around 35 mins) The prisoner's uniforms are cleaner than they were just prior. See more »

Quotes

Toussaint: We do a lot of smuggling here. We raid the mainland. We steal boats. When an outsider comes in we generally kill him, as a security measure.
Papillon: That makes sense.
Toussaint: Well... a man of Christian understanding.
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Connections

Referenced in The Last Shot (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Ballet Music from Faust
(uncredited)
Music by Charles Gounod
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An amazing true story gets a pretty good film treatment.
26 December 2003 | by (Todmorden, England) – See all my reviews

The true story of Henri Charriere (nicknamed "Papillon" because of his butterfly tattooed chest), a Frenchman falsely accused of murder and sent to French Guiana's inescapable penal colony. Charriere spent years trying to escape from this mosquito-ridden, malaria-prone hellhole, but every attempt somehow went awry. On many occasions, the recaptured Charriere was sent into solitary confinement and only survived thanks to his incredible mental strength. Ultimately, the authorities lost hope of taming his urge to break out, so they abandoned him on Devil's Island, a tiny land mass where guards were not needed since the constantly ferocious surrounding sea was ample deterent for any would-be escapees.

Franklin J. Schaffner directs this film quite well, capturing the appalling prison conditions vividly and getting a wonderful, multi-layered performance from Dustin Hoffman as Charriere's friend, convict Louis Dega. However, McQueen struggles with the demands of the lead role. Yes, he's physically accurate in the part and during the escape sequences he looks convincing. However, during the quieter moments, McQueen looks distinctly uncomfortable, and his natural "cool" persona doesn't equate with the humiliated, tormented character he is supposed to be playing. The subsidiary characters are great, especially the guy with the tattooed face who attributes his ugly tattoos to an evening of drunkeness, and Anthony Zerbe as a grossly disfigured leper who asks Papillon to share a cigar with him.

Best sequence? Probably the one where McQueen and another escapee flee through the rainforest from some soldiers, using natural jungle-based narcotics to preserve their energy levels.


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Prison tame compared to other movies Wonderland26
McQueen deserved the Oscar foreverskins1976
No accent? jakholman
and the moral of the story is... flatlinebeforedeath
I think this movie is an insult to the book (founded) deboas
Great movie, but I call 'Bull *beep* le-fantome
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