214 user 74 critic

Papillon (1973)

4:09 | Trailer
A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.


Dalton Trumbo (screenplay), Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1,994 ( 4)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve McQueen ... Henri 'Papillon' Charriere
Dustin Hoffman ... Louis Dega
Victor Jory ... Indian Chief
Don Gordon ... Julot
Anthony Zerbe ... Toussaint
Robert Deman Robert Deman ... Maturette
Woodrow Parfrey ... Clusiot
Bill Mumy ... Lariot
George Coulouris ... Dr. Chatal
Ratna Assan ... Zoraima
William Smithers ... Warden Barrot
Val Avery ... Pascal
Gregory Sierra ... Antonio
Vic Tayback ... Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)
Mills Watson ... Guard


A semi-fictional account of Henri Charrière's time in the penal system in French Guyana - some of it spent on infamous Devil's Island - is presented. It's the early 1930s. Charrière - nicknamed Papillon because of his butterfly tattoo - and Louis Dega are two among many who have been convicted in the French judicial system, they now being transferred to French Guyana where they will serve their time, never to return to France even if they are ever released. A safe-cracker by criminal profession, Papillon is serving a life sentence for murdering a pimp, a crime for which he adamantly states he was framed. Dega is a wealthy counterfeiter, who expects his well-to-do wife eventually to get him released. At Papillon's initiative, the duo enters into a business arrangement: Papillon will provide protection for Dega, who, in turn, will finance Papillon's escape attempt. As the two men spend more time together than either had expected, their burgeoning friendship ends up being an important ... Written by Huggo/RMS

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


For Papillon survival was not enough .... he had to be free See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Roman Polanski wanted to direct with Warren Beatty in the lead role. Beatty turned it down. See more »


When the guards start to open the alligator's belly and shout "Move it! What the hell you looking at!" Dega is wearing his long-sleeve dirty gray shirt with a wide brim hat (with nothing in his hands, i.e. his striped shirt), and Henri is wearing a headband across his forehead. Moments later, when they walk towards a log to sit down, Dega is now wearing his orange and white striped shirt with a bandana type headpiece and Henri's headband is now wrapped and tied around his neck. See more »


Toussaint: We do a lot of smuggling here. We raid the mainland. We steal boats. When an outsider comes in we generally kill him, as a security measure.
Papillon: That makes sense.
Toussaint: Well... a man of Christian understanding.
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Alternate Versions

The 1974 UK cinema release was heavily cut to secure a AA rating (nobody under 14 admitted) instead of a more restrictive X rating (nobody under 18 admitted). The cuts include . Reel 1: Reduced shot of Papillon stabbing man in the face in the scene on prison ship. . Reel 2: Removed shot of dead prisoner's bloody head in the sea. Removed shot of decapitated head falling into camera when guillotine blade descends. . Reel 3: Removed shot of Jules with his throat cut. . Reel 5: Removed shot of Maturette kicking guard in the testicles. Removed shot of blood coming from Clusio's mouth after he has been clubbed. . Reel 6: Reduced to flash shot only, the Spaniard impaled with spikes after he has trodden on a trap. . Reel 7: Removed shot of Papillon's toes being broken with a rifle-butt. The film was later passed uncut for all UK home video releases with an 18 rating in 1986 but the same uncut version was later passed with a 15 rating for the DVD release in 2000 (still retaining the Irish 18 rating however). See more »


Featured in Steve McQueen: The King of Cool (1998) See more »


Ballet Music from Faust
Music by Charles Gounod
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User Reviews

Enjoyable film upon escapes from an impregnable prison with strong performances
9 April 2005 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

The movie centers an unrelenting prisoner (extraordinary Steve MacQueen , who one time exposed : this shooting was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life) is sent to French Guayana in Devil's Island . He is determined to break out from the gaol placed on a deserted and impenetrable island . He befriends an inmate (Dustin Hoffman , a real chameleon actor who here had to wear contact lenses) who's imprisoned for swindle . They will confront lot of dangers and sufferings until reach freedom . McQueen tries a series of escapes but he's always recaptured . The punishments will be terrible and developed in graphic realism .

The story is based on real deeds , it is adapted from an autobiographical best-selling book about a French burglar named Henri Charriere and Dalton Trumbo (previously prohibited for the Black List and he's cast as the Commandant) and Lorenzo Semple Jr. are the splendid screenwriters . The pic is overlong , about two hours and half , though is neither boring , nor tiring , but entertaining , because of it develops several adventures and happenings . The motion picture obtained a big success , it was a box office winner . It attained hits at every cinemas around the world . The film is a magnificent portrayal of tortures and sufferings of the prisoners in far countries . The yarn's title refers to the starring's butterfly tattoo , being based on his actual-life , as Papillon , Henri Charrière , was 25 when he was sent to French Guyana .

Interpretation protagonists -McQueen, Hoffman- is top notch , they make a magnificent couple . In fact , McQueen did his own stunts , as he even insisted on performing a dangerous leap , as he jumped off a cliff himself . Dustin Hoffman said his interpretation was based on the movie's screenwriter Dalton Trumbo , especially his withdrawn and shy mannerisms which had inspired him when meeting Trumbo for the first time . The support cast , though very secondary , is very fine : George Coulouris , Don Gordon , Gregory Sierra , Victor Jory , among others . The veteran Jerry Goldsmith creates an exciting and atmospheric musical score , he also composed soundtracks for other Schaffner films as ¨Planet of Apes¨ and ¨Boys from Brazil¨ . Fred Koenekamp cinematography is excellent with astounding outdoors of the jungle . The picture was compellingly directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (¨Planet of Apes¨ , ¨Patton¨) . The flick will appeal to prison genre buffs and adventures films fans . Rating : Good and nice . Better than average . Well worth seeing.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

Official site


France | USA


English | Spanish

Release Date:

19 December 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Papillon See more »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints)| Mono (optical prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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