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The Great Escape

Still of Steve McQueen in The Great EscapeStill of Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson in The Great EscapeStill of Steve McQueen in The Great EscapeStill of Donald Pleasence in The Great EscapeStill of Steve McQueen in The Great EscapeStill of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape


Allied POWs plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.

Release Year: 1963

Rating: 8.3/10 (81,617 voted)

John Sturges

Stars: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough

Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist type prisoners of war 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.

Writers: Paul Brickhill, James Clavell


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 'The 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

Werner 'The Ferret'

Jud Taylor


put a fence in front of these men…and they'll climb it…

Release Date: 4 July 1963

Filming Locations: Bavaria Filmstudios, Geiselgasteig, Grünwald, Bavaria, Germany

Box Office Details

Budget: $4,000,000


Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The film was shot entirely on location in Europe, with a complete camp resembling Stalag Luft III built near Munich, Germany. Exteriors for the escape sequences were shot in the Rhine Country and areas near the North Sea, and Steve McQueen's motorcycle scenes were filmed in Fussen (on the Austrian border) and the Alps. All interiors were filmed at the Bavaria Studio in Munich.


Errors in geography:
Immediately after Lt. Henley tells Colin that they are just one mountain ridge away from Switzerland, their plane flies past the famous castle of Neuschwanstein, which is on the Austrian border, about 60 miles (and some very high mountains) away from Switzerland.


Sergeant-Hauptmann Strachwitz:
I will not take action against you, now. This is the first day here and there has been much stupidity and carelessness… on both sides!

User Review



This is a great movie which much more historically accurate than it is
given credit for. So many who say otherwise are ill-informed and
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
GREAT ESCAPE is reasonably accurate as detailed on the historyinfilm
site…specifically on the "Reprisal" page; along with being detailed in
various published accounts.

Hitler ultimately calmed down after being reasoned with by Goering,
Feldmarschall Keitel, Maj-Gen Graevenitz and Maj-Gen Westhoff, and
that more than half the prisoners be shot and cremated. So, as depicted
the film, several of those recaptured were not executed and were indeed
returned to confinement. In fact, even those executed were not "shot on
spot" for the most part, but were actually executed later after being
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
than many other POW camps…and certainly nothing like the harsh
associated with the Concentration or Extermination camps.

To quote one source:

"It must be made clear that the German Luftwaffe [the German Air Force],
were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of
professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the
security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or
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
professional and honourable soldier who won the respect of the senior

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
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

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
ESCAPE did….and offering up VON RYAN'S EXPRESS as a more realistic
alternative is simply delusional and ridiculous.