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The Great Escape (1963)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, History | 4 July 1963 (USA)
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Allied prisoners of war plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.

Director:

John Sturges

Writers:

Paul Brickhill (book), James Clavell (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1,319 ( 730)
Top Rated Movies #125 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve McQueen ... Hilts 'The Cooler King'
James Garner ... Hendley 'The Scrounger'
Richard Attenborough ... Bartlett 'Big X'
James Donald ... Ramsey 'The SBO'
Charles Bronson ... Danny 'Tunnel King'
Donald Pleasence ... Blythe 'The Forger'
James Coburn ... Sedgwick 'Manufacturer'
Hannes Messemer ... Von Luger 'The Kommandant'
David McCallum ... Ashley-Pitt 'Dispersal'
Gordon Jackson ... MacDonald 'Intelligence'
John Leyton ... Willie 'Tunnel King'
Angus Lennie ... Ives 'The Mole'
Nigel Stock ... Cavendish 'The Surveyor'
Robert Graf Robert Graf ... Werner 'The Ferret'
Jud Taylor ... Goff
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Storyline

Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POWs) are all put in an 'escape proof' camp. Their leader decides to try to take out several hundred all at once. The first half of the film is played for comedy as the prisoners mostly outwit their jailers to dig the escape tunnel. The second half is high adventure as they use boats and trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hours ago... Minutes ago.... These men were behind barbed wire. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | French | Russian | Spanish

Release Date:

4 July 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El gran escape See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$12,100,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Mirisch Company,Alpha See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System)| Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ramsey's title, 'S.B.O' stands for Senior British Officer. See more »

Goofs

Flipped shot. After Hilts steals the motorcycle, he is hiding behind a building waiting for the German troops to go by. As they go by, the sidecar on the German motorcycle is on the wrong side of the bike. See more »

Quotes

Willie: This is the dirt from the compound.
Danny: This is from the tunnel.
[Mac takes a handful of tunnel dirt and sprinkles it onto the mound from the compound]
MacDonald: Wherever we put it, they're going to spot it a mile away.
Willie: Well, maybe we could put it under the huts. The dirt's dark there.
MacDonald: Nah. No, it's the first place the ferrets would look. I saw one measuring the height under a hut yesterday.
Willie: Well, maybe we could dry it out the same color.
Danny: We'll have fifty tons of it.
Willie: Well, I was just thinking out loud.
Bartlett: If you...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ripping Yarns: Escape from Stalag Luft 112 B (1977) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

If you're going to critique the history, then know the history.
31 January 2003 | by FABabeSee all my reviews

I find it difficult to believe that some reviewers' negative reactions to this film are based on their (misguided) beliefs that none of this could possibly have happened. Comments like these make it crystal clear that what some people don't know about history is appalling. If you are going to judge a film based on historical fact, it helps if you know what it is.

It is well-documented what amazing technical feats the POW's were able to accomplish in the stalags. There was even an entire section of the British Secret Service dedicated to coming up with all sorts of clever ways to send these captured men the tools they needed to facilitate their escape attempts, i.e., sandwiching maps between the split sides of a record album (yes, the Germans allowed the prisoners to have records in the camps) or compasses in pens. At Colditz Castle, one of the more forbidding stalags, (actually an offlag since is was for officers only), many, many tunnels were dug and disguises created. One man actually created a German sergeant's uniform totally from scratch, donned a moustache and created an overall impersonation so realistic, it fooled two out of three sets of sentries. Some of the POW's built and concealed an entire glider that would have carried two men off the roof and over the wall! The only reason it didn't fly was because the prison was liberated before they got the chance! The Colditz experience is well documented. There are many books written about that particular prison complete with photographs, including one by a German officer confirming these amazing escapes and attempts. The reviewers who doubt what can be done when necessity is truly the mother of invention should look for them and learn something.

As for the prisoners not being in jumpsuits, as suggested by one reviewer as one reason to question the authenticity of the film? Ludicrous, POW's wore what they were captured in. The German military (different from the Gestapo and the SS) considered them soldiers and allowed them to keep their badges of rank.

As for the film itself, it is long, but absorbing. There are historical flaws (as there are in all movies), but several of the former POW's participated in the filming process, keeping it, for the most part, very authentic. As for the emphasis on Americans, it's true they were not among the escapees per se, but several did assist in the effort before they were transferred out, as mentioned by a previous reviewer. However, you must remember that the movie was made for an American audience in 1963, long before international distribution revenue became so important to a studio's bottom line. They needed American stars who would appeal to an American audience. Who knows, perhaps if they were to remake it today, the cast would be all British and German, but I doubt it (see "Hart's War" where not only the plot, but all the British and Canadian characters that were in the book, disappeared).

All in all, "The Great Escape" is an entertaining movie telling a fascinating story of what ordinary men can achieve in adverse circumstances. It's well worth the time.


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