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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 »
3,645 ( 415)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
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 »


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?


The picture's executive producer Peter Guber said of this film: "We knew when we chose to make 'Midnight Express' that we were tackling an explosive and controversial subject, but we were determined to do it as honestly as was humanly possible". 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 Malmö's Finest: I Am the Hammer of Thor (2009) See more »


(Theme From) Midnight Express (Vocal)
Performed by Chris Bennett
Vocals and Lyrics By Chris Bennett
Arranged By [String And Horn] Greg Mathieson, Harold Faltermeyer
Music composed by Giorgio Moroder
Published by Gold Horizon Music Corp./ Rick's Music, Inc. (O.P. Ed.Intro/Say Yes Music) (BMI)
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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.

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