The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away?



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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away?

Director: Félix Enríquez Alcalá
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Vincent D'Onofrio, Donnie Wahlberg


Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Wallace ...
Al - the Mayor of New York City
Tom Pedi ...
Beatrice Winde ...
Nathan George ...
Police Ptl. James
Rudy Bond ...
Phil - Police Commissioner
Harry - Borough Commander (as Kenneth Mc Millan)
Jessie - the Mayor's Wife


Four seemingly-unrelated men board subway train Pelham 1:23 at successive stations. Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey and Mr. Brown are heavily armed and overpower the motorman and novice conductor to take control of the train. Between stations they separate the front car from the remainder of the train, setting passengers in the back cars and the motorman free. The four demand $1 million ransom within exactly one hour for the remaining eighteen hostages, including the conductor. If their demands are not met in time or their directions are not followed precisely, they will begin to shoot hostages dead, one every minute the money is late. Wisecracking Lt. Zach Garber of the transit police ends up being the primary communicator between the hijackers and the authorities, which includes transit operations, his own police force, the NYPD, and the unpopular and currently flu ridden mayor who will make the ultimate decision of whether to pay the ransom. Unknown to Garber, what may be working on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No other hijack was ever like his See more »


Action | Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 November 1974 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

El tomar de Pelham uno dos tres  »

Box Office


SEK 1,003,937 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The meaning of "Pelham One Two Three" refers to the New York subway timetable terminus and time of departure schedule radio call sign. As explained in the movie, "Pelham" is the name of the station of origin where the subway train departs whereas "One Two Three" refers to the time of departure i.e. 1.23 pm. See more »


The phone that the Mayor uses to take a call in his bedroom has buttons under the dial pad which must be depressed in order to receive a call on that particular line. When he is seen talking on the phone, none of the buttons are depressed See more »


[first lines]
Mr. Mattson: Okay, kid, out loud now so's I can hear what you're sayin'.
Bud Carmody: I'm checkin' the passengers gettin' on and off...
Mr. Mattson: Uh-huh.
Bud Carmody: Front and back. Shuttin' the doors. Rear section first and the first section. And the doors are closed. Now I'm checking my indicator lights to make sure all the doors are locked. I remove my switch key and back out the window for a distance of three car lengths to make sure no one's being dragged. 51st Street next stop; next stop, 51st Street. How'd I do?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Although many of the scenes in this film were taken on transit property, the New York City Transit Authority is not responsible for plot, story and characters portrayed. The Authority did not render technical advice and assistance. See more »


Referenced in Bad Movie Beatdown: New Year Special: Money Train (2010) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

film student's action picture
7 February 2006 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

There are many disappointing action pictures out there – this is not one of them. The genius of the film is there is no wasted motion. The picture starts right with the plot – no introduction or character development. The characters are allowed to develop as the plot moves along.

Which brings us to pacing – the pacing in this picture is excellent. It moves right along and never stops, never slows, never goes too fast. This is the strongest element of its success.

Another strength is its economy of motion. Many action pictures bore us with unneeded car chase scenes, shoot-em-ups, explosions and other mayhems that are used as filler when true creativity comes up short. This film needs none of that. Only that which is necessary is shown. Only that which needs speaking is spoken. This film is deftly written and crafted with great economy and this underpins the excellent pacing. It moves right along because there is no wasted motion as there is in most other action pictures.

This does not mean there is no action, there is fabulous action, but only such action as is necessary to move the plot along. There is no action simply to occupy time until the requisite 90 minutes are up.

The directing is equally economical. No fancy shots, shaky cameras, or special effects – just good, straight forward directing.

I doubt this picture could be made today for the above reasons. The script readers would reject it for 'lack of development'; 'not enough action'; 'no romantic interest'; and all the other brainless formulas script readers dole out. The producers would demand 'more action' and 'camera work' from the directors. And, of course, a romantic interest (in some state of undress) would have to be shoe horned in.

Film students should study this picture. From it they will learn that brevity is a virtue and mindless formulas are just that - mindless.

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