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Papillon (1973)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  16 December 1973 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 90,521 users  
Reviews: 163 user | 58 critic

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), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Indian Chief
Robert Deman ...
George Coulouris ...
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


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:

16 December 1973 (USA)  »

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
See  »

Did You Know?


Henri Charrière was present for the shoot in Jamaica, but he died of lung cancer in July 1973, a few months before the film was edited and released. He never got to see the finished product. See more »


The guillotine permanently erected in the prison courtyard is a piece of pure Hollywood. By the 1870s the French had developed demountable guillotines that could be easily transported and set up in the town square wherever an execution was to take place, taking only an hour or so to assemble and dis-assemble. There is ample evidence that the 'bagne' (Caribbean penal colony) had one of these, which would have only been brought out of storage when needed. Had it been left permanently exposed to the tropical sun and rain, its timbers would have very rapidly deteriorated and warped to render it unusable. See more »


Maturette: We all have sensitive spots.
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Referenced in Shameless: Strangers on a Train (2014) See more »


Ballet Music from Faust
Music by Charles Gounod
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

May I never have to go to the pen
27 May 2000 | by (Broken Bow, Oklahoma) – See all my reviews

Terrifying film dealing with life in prison. Not just any prison, but one way off to itself with few fellow human beings around. I think this was McQueen's finest film ever, and perhaps Hoffman's also. I know it has had a lasting effect on me through the years; I have never forgotten the awesome loneliness the prisoners went through. Great picture, thumbs up.

70 of 104 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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McQueen deserved the Oscar GeorgeZipp1980
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
Exactly where did Dega... Hei_Shibing
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