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Midnight Express (1978)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  6 October 1978 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 50,644 users  
Reviews: 241 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


Everybody gave up on Billy Hayes -- except Billy. 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?


The large group of Turkish police and soldiers at the Istanbul airport, which are on hand to search each passenger before they board the jet, was another attempt by the film makers to portray Turkey as an authoritarian police state. But in reality, this real-life event that Billy Hayes encountered of a thorough search of each passenger was a reaction to the PLO hijacking (and subsequent destruction) of four passenger jets in Europe just four weeks prior to the event portrayed at the beginning of the film (October 6, 1970). There are two somewhat oblique references to this event early in the film: a headline on the paper that Susan is reading on the bus that takes them to the plane ("Nixon Outraged at Palestinian Hijackers"), and again in the car after his arrest when Tex says "You decided to fly at a bad time... guerrillas all over the place, blowing' up planes... 4 planes in 4 days". See more »


The amount of hash strapped to Billy's body differs from when he was first frisked in the airport and later when he was in the police interrogation room. 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 »


The Chase
by Giorgio Moroder
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User Reviews

Completely biased, dishonest and one-sided movie
21 February 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

First of all, the movie has inaccurate portrayal of the events and it is dishonest, more violent as a national hate-film. Many hearts were broken in Turkey" due to this film. Although the film is set largely in Turkey, most of the location work was done in Malta, using local actors along with some Greeks and Armenians playing Turks. At some occasions in movie, people supposedly speaking Turkish are, in fact, speaking Maltese. Moreover most of the supposedly Turkish dialogs are so inarticulate that they cannot be understood even by natives. Throughout the whole film, Turks figure as brutes, militarists, bloodthirsty, stupid and evil torturers and sadistic, in brief as true "bastards". Their image is a real caricature: ugly, with a mustache, badly shaved, suntanned, with eyes and hair very dark. They are stereotypical persons, who, even when they are killed in the film, they always have the lot they deserve! In an interview in 1984 producer David Puttnam admitted that the film is based on a "dishonest book".

Billy Hayes reveals himself 20 years after his release, that what is presented in the movie is a very exaggerated and fictional version of what happened to him in the prison in Istanbul, Turkey.

Finally, after 25 years, Oliver Stone has apologized to Turkey for this film in 2004 when he visited Turkey. He admitted that he did not do any research about the so called "true story" of Billy Hayes before he wrote the script. This hate-film has been definitely affected the relations between Turkish and American people as well as Turkish tourism.

132 of 256 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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