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Midnight Express (1978)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  6 October 1978 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 51,204 users  
Reviews: 240 user | 65 critic

The true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.



(book) (as William Hayes) , (book), 1 more credit »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paolo Bonacelli ...
Hamidou (as Paul Smith)
Franco Diogene ...
Gigi Ballista ...
Peter Jeffrey ...
Joe Zammit Cordina ...


On October 6, 1970 while boarding an international flight out of Istanbul Airport, American Billy Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle 2 kilos of hashish out of the country, the drugs strapped to his body. He is told that he will be released if he cooperates with the authorities in identifying the person who actually sold him the hash. Billy's troubles really begin when after that assistance, he makes a run for it and is recaptured. He is initially sentenced to just over four years for possession, with no time for the more harsh crime of smuggling. The prison environment is inhospitable in every sense, with a sadistic prison guard named Hamidou ruling the prison, he who relishes the mental and physical torture he inflicts on the prisoners for whatever reason. Told to trust no one, Billy does befriend a few of the other inmates, namely fellow American Jimmy Booth (in for stealing two candlesticks from a mosque), a Swede named Erich, and one of the senior prisoners having already ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A story of triumph. See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| | |

Release Date:

6 October 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Expreso de medianoche  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,800,000 (estimated)


$35,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Publicity for this picture told of the start of the letter that Billy Hayes wrote to his parents in 1970. It read: "Dear Mum and Dad, This is the hardest letter I've ever had to write. I know the confusion and the pain it will cause you, and the disappointment.....I was arrested at Istanbul Airport yesterday, attempting to board an airplane with a small amount of hashish.....". See more »


The Turkish spoken by the Turkish characters in the film is uniformly broken. The actors are obviously not Turkish; sometimes the language is so broken it is difficult for native speakers to understand what they are saying. See more »


[first lines]
[Susan makes her way through a line at an airline checkpoint]
Susan: Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me.
[she reaches Billy in line]
Susan: Nervous?
Billy Hayes: No.
Susan: Geez, I hate flying.
Billy Hayes: It's something I ate. I think I've been poisoned.
Susan: Or you're just excited about getting home.
Billy Hayes: No, I think it's the baklavas.
See more »


Spoofed in SCTV: Midnight Express Special (1981) See more »


The Chase
by Giorgio Moroder
See more »

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User Reviews

When you're busted for drugs over there!
2 October 2002 | by (Auburn, Me) – See all my reviews

While this film is entertaining to watch and has its level of suspense at various points it is not a truly `true story' much of it according to the real Billy Hayes never happened and his eventual escape is very different from what is depicted in this motion picture. It also tends to demonize the nation of Turkey and presents a distorted view of its people. Is it possible to have sympathy for the main character? He was fully aware of what he was doing and knew the consequences should he be caught so sympathy is on an individual basis. You may have sympathy or may not.

A number of years ago a public service commercial narrated by actor Hal Holbrook frequently ran on Television, which told of Americans being held in foreign prisons. He spoke of one American held in a Turkish prison. Was it Billy Hayes? The commercial ends with the line `When you're busted for drugs over there you're in for the hassle of your life' That's the message this film was intended to send out irregardless if the events in it were true or fictionalized for dramatic purposes. As always purchase or rent a copy to see the uncut unedited version.

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