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Midnight Express (1978)

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



(screenplay), (book) (as William Hayes) | 1 more credit »
2,749 ( 896)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Irene Miracle ...
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 »


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:


(still photographs)| (Eastmancolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


To find a suitable prison for filming, location scouts were conducted in Crete, Cyprus, France, Israel, Italy, Sicily, Spain and Malta, the latter country being successful with Fort St Elmo which got to double for Istanbul, Turkey's Sagmalcilar Prison. The fort was the site of the legendary Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The original Turkish gaol could not be used for self-explanatory reasons. See more »


The "fez" hat worn by several Turkish men in the movie has been extremely rare in Turkey since 1925 when it was abolished by Kemal Ataturk (the leader and founder of the Republic of Turkey) in an attempt to "westernize" the country. 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 »


Referenced in The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) See more »


The Chase
by Giorgio Moroder
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User Reviews

A Thrill-Ride Of Fictional Proportions.
9 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I have to be fair, the movie does what it's supposed to and that's giving the audience a horrific thrill ride. You'll spend your time watching the movie in sheer horror and at the edge of your seat wondering what's going to happen next. As with all Oliver Stone movies such as Salvador, Born On The Fourth Of July and Platoon, Midnight Express is brutal and merciless. Oliver Stone it seems, has made a habit of making money and getting Oscars from controversial and/or little known events in history and dramatizing on it to a point of making the story haunting. The only downside is, for the sake of awards and "art", a culture was demonized beyond redemption and any limits over a fictional story (Oliver Stone himself wrote the story for the movie). *The following is not a spoiler from the movie but points out an event from the plot* In reality, William Hayes it turns out, was arrested at the Turkish airport for trying to smuggle packs of drugs attached on his body into the U.S., and he was held for a time before being given to the American authorities for deportation. William Hayes and Oliver Stone themselves it turns out, have already apologized to the Turkish people for the overly dramatized and fictional parts of the movie and the book. It's funny actually how a movie can create so much on a true moment in life to a point of fiction and still call it a true story. The Turks don't get any breaks in the movie. All their people, cops, judges, lawyers and inmates are shown in such extreme way as ugly, merciless, demonic and sadistic people that one who knows nothing about Turkey would think that its population consists of demons and ugly merciless sadists. Actually this can be compared to movies which have been made about the Russians in the past which always seem to show the Russian women as ugly people with facial hair and nothing attractive while in reality, Beautiful Russian women dominated the modeling business in the world. While apologies have been made, the damage has already been done on the image of the Turkish people. People who are anti-Turkish love praising this movie and insisting that it's a true story all the way while the Turks keep getting rightfully offended. Be aware however, that %80 or some more of this movie is purely fictional. Even just logic would tell you that at a time where the U.S. and Turkey had such strong relations during the cold war, something like what is shown in the movie would have been unthinkable by the Turkish authorities. For a person who just wants to watch a good thriller movie and doesn't care nor wants to get involved in any dramatic flame wars or political discussions on this board or any other, it's worth watching at least once. If you don't like the movie, at least you'll see what all this fuss has been about over the years since the movie was shown in the theaters.

Keep the pop-corns popping' and the good movies rolling' :D

53 of 94 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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