The Great Escape (1963)


Adventure | Drama | History


John Sturges




Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Hannes Messemer, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, Angus Lennie, Nigel Stock, Robert Graf, Jud Taylor, Hans Reiser, Harry Riebauer, William Russell, Robert Freitag, Ulrich Beiger, George Mikell, Lawrence Montaigne, Robert Desmond, Til Kiwe, Heinz Weiss, Tom Adams, Karl-Otto Alberty


Exasperated at the number of escapes from their prison camps, the Nazis relocates the Allied prisoners in an "escape-proof" camp. What the Germans don't realize is that they've put all the best escape minds in one location, and, undaunted, the prisoners will plan one of the most ambitious escape attempts of World War II.


With a title itself that already implies its greatness, The Great Escape is a magnificent film that has everything. Action, adventure, comedy, and drama.

The film is essentially divided into two parts, having the first part telling in detail the planning of the clever escape, and the second part following the protagonist during the real escape. These two parts differ in their quite opposite tone and rhythm of narration. The slower and almost playful first part in which the viewer is dragged into the story is followed by a more dramatic second part, in which we see, one by one, the dream of our escapees vanish. 

Director John Sturges handles the slow and extremely detailed narration in an exceptional manner and does not make the audience feel the burden of the passing hours. Also, he delights us with tons of claustrophobic sequences that have as their main character the narrow tunnels dug by the prisoners.

Among the escapes, the most famous is indeed Steve McQueen's spectacular and scenic escape on a motorcycle, that has made its place in the history of cinema.

Mention worthy is Elmer Bernstein's spectacular, epic musical score, that wonderfully blends humour, excitement, and drama.

In this first-class cast, Steve McQueen is the star among the stars and gives a terrific performance as Virgil Hilts, the Cooler King. James Garner plays James Garner as Robert Hendley, the Scrounger. Richard Attenborough is superb as Big X, the escape committee mastermind. Charles Bronson is spectacular as the claustrophobic Danny "Tunnel King". Everybody else also made a wonderful job.


Ramsey: Colonel Von Luger, it is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape. If they cannot escape, then it is their sworn duty to cause the enemy to use an inordinate number of troops to guard them, and their sworn duty to harass the enemy to the best of their ability.


  1. I haven't heard of this film before but I am gonna have to say that it sounds really cool! I love the sound of the plot and it seems like everything about it was done incredibly well too. A must see :)

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  2. The theme tune is going to be stuck in my head all day now!

  3. Just watched this for the first time a short while ago. You and I had quite the opposite reaction to this. I was utterly underwhelmed by the first part of it which dragged on an on for two really long hours which could've easily been compressed into one. That third hour was great. It just took entirely too long to get there. And that score annoyed me to no end. My full two cents: