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The Great Escape (1963)

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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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682 ( 1,259)
Top Rated Movies #127 | 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:

What went into these few seconds ... The Hell...the heroism...the high adventure ... Make for the screen's great entertainment! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | 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:

The Great 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

No American POWs participated in the actual "great escape "as suggested in the movie. Some American POWs helped with the digging of tunnel "Tom" but they were moved to another camp, seven months earlier before the "escape" as the Germans had suspicions something was going on. See more »

Goofs

When Hendley's stolen plane crashes the wings are clearly ripped completely off the fuselage. When the plane is next seen on fire the wings are still attached. See more »

Quotes

Goff: [Sedgewick has just descended into the tunnel entrance] Was that Sedgewick with his steamer trunk?
Cavendish: Who else?
Goff: I wish he was back in Australia with his kangaroos.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Some TV versions edit the scene in which Ives is shot and killed for trying to escape over the fence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill (1999) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

GREAT MOVIE: MORE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE THAN SOME REALIZE...
11 January 2004 | by warrior_sarahSee all my reviews

This is a great movie which much more historically accurate than it is often given credit for. So many who say otherwise are ill-informed and obviously don't know much about the actual history of that actual escape. The depiction of what happened to the recaptured prisoners in the movie of THE GREAT ESCAPE is reasonably accurate as detailed on the historyinfilm site...specifically on the "Reprisal" page; along with being detailed in the various published accounts.

Hitler ultimately calmed down after being reasoned with by Goering, Feldmarschall Keitel, Maj-Gen Graevenitz and Maj-Gen Westhoff, and dictated that more than half the prisoners be shot and cremated. So, as depicted in the film, several of those recaptured were not executed and were indeed returned to confinement. In fact, even those executed were not "shot on the spot" for the most part, but were actually executed later after being turned over to the Gestapo; most being shot while being allowed to relieve themselves, under the guise of "trying to escape".

Furthermore, there are many accounts as to how much more humane the environment was within the camp (which even had a popular and very successful theatre, featuring prisoners who would later be name performers) than many other POW camps...and certainly nothing like the harsh conditions associated with the Concentration or Extermination camps.

To quote one source:

"It must be made clear that the German Luftwaffe [the German Air Force], who were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the camp security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or Gestapo. The Luftwaffe treated the POWs well, despite an erratic and inconsistent supply of food.

Prisoners were handled quite fairly within the Geneva Convention, and the Kommandant, Oberst (Colonel) Friedrich-Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, was a professional and honourable soldier who won the respect of the senior prisoners."

Finally, virtually all the major engineering aspects in regards to the tunnels and the initial escape in the film are as they were actually acheived in the real escape.

It would behoove some to learn a little more actual history or do a little simple research before shooting from the hip with supposed "knowledge" of reality. THE GREAT ESCAPE certainly takes liberties in tone and character portrayal, but not in the key elements that are disparaged out of sneering ignorance.

BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is also a great film, but took even greater liberties with the technical details of the events described than THE GREAT ESCAPE did....and offering up VON RYAN'S EXPRESS as a more realistic alternative is simply delusional and ridiculous.


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