The Great Escape

The Great Escape

John Sturges (1963)

PG Certificate


Our Score
This is one of the all-time great war movies, a PoW adventure from director John Sturges that celebrates the indomitable spirit of the Allied forces even when their backs were to the wall. Sturges had already pulled off the same ensemble trick with The Magnificent Seven three years earlier, and here three of the Seven - Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn - are reunited. They join such British stalwarts as Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, David McCallum and Gordon Jackson in an escape yarn full of collapsing tunnels, probing searchlights and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It's impossible not to get caught up in the escape party's plans, and Sturges films each intricate step leading up to the break out with a masterly attention to detail. The cast is full of brilliant characters, from Pleasence's timid forger to James Garner's smooth-talking scrounger, but stealing the show from everyone is McQueen's anarchic but supercool Captain Virgil Hilts, whose attempt to leap to freedom on a motorbike has become an iconic movie image. It's no wonder that Elmer Bernstein's triumphant score has been adopted as an anthem by supporters of England's football team.


The most rebellious Allied prisoners of war are sent to a supposedly escape-proof maximum-security detention camp during the Second World War. They plan an ingenious mass breakout by digging a tunnel, but even when free of the camp, making it across occupied Europe proves a dangerous journey. Drama, starring Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, James Garner, Charles Bronson and Richard Attenborough.

Cast & Crew

Hilts, "The Cooler King" Steve McQueen (1)
Hendley, "The Scrounger" James Garner
Bartlett, "Big X" Richard Attenborough
Danny Velinski, "Tunnel King" Charles Bronson
Blythe, "The Forger" Donald Pleasence
Ramsey, "The SBO" James Donald
Sedgwick, "Manufacturer" James Coburn
Willie, "Tunneler" John Leyton
MacDonald, "Intelligence" Gordon Jackson
Ashley-Pitt, "Dispersal" David McCallum (1)
Cavendish, "Surveyor" Nigel Stock
Von Luger, "The Kommandant" Hannes Messemer
Werner Robert Graf
Ives, "The Mole" Angus Lennie
Director John Sturges
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: United Artists Corp. LtdGuidance: Violence.Available on: video, DVD and Blu-ray