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Papillon (1973)

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.


(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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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:
Robert Deman ...
Dr. Chatal
Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)


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


For Papillon survival was not enough .... he had to be free See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:





Release Date:

6 February 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Leptir  »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(magnetic prints)| (optical prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although many considered this Steve McQueen's best performance to date, he was overlooked by the Academy. Some say that was because McQueen had "stolen" Ali MacGraw (who became his second wife) from her husband Robert Evans, who was a powerful studio executive at the time. McQueen was also rumored to have slept with many other Hollywood wives. Others say McQueen's Oscar snub was because the actor, in rather coarse language, once told the Golden Globes committee he would accept an award if he won but would never consider going to the ceremony. He did, however, receive a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. See more »


The alligator the two are supposed to grab has its mouth tied shut. See more »


Maturette: We all have sensitive spots.
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Referenced in Murphy's Law: Electric Bill (2003) See more »


Ballet Music from Faust
Music by Charles Gounod
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

This actually happened
3 August 2004 | by See all my reviews

Steve McQueen plays Henri "Papillon" Charriere who is sentenced to life in a French penal colony for a murder he didn't do.There he befriends with an other convict Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman).Henri's only goal is to escape.Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon (1973) is based on a true story.Charriere actually went through all this and then wrote a book. The acting work is unique.Steve McQueen (1930-1980) is superb in the lead.Also Dustin Hoffman (1937-) is excellent as always.This movie is filled with incredible scenes.Everything works perfectly in this amazing movie.If you want to see a dramatic adventure masterpiece this is a movie for you to see.

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