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


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


Biography | Crime | Drama


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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?


The prison set was the largest in the film, an 800-foot expanse resulting from two years of research by production designer Anthony Masters. It was built near Falmouth on the north shore of Jamaica. See more »


At a scene in St. Laurent, there are mountains in the background, presumably on the Suriname side of the river. There are no mountains in that part of Suriname. See more »


Papillon: Hey you bastards, I'm still here.
See more »


Referenced in The Last Shot (2004) 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

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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Message Boards

Recent Posts
Prison tame compared to other movies CrescentRoses
McQueen deserved the Oscar ganggreen1960
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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