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Escape from New York (1981)

tomatometer

83

Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 48
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 8

Featuring an atmospherically grimy futuristic metropolis, Escape from New York is a strange, entertaining jumble of thrilling action and oddball weirdness.

67

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 2

Featuring an atmospherically grimy futuristic metropolis, Escape from New York is a strange, entertaining jumble of thrilling action and oddball weirdness.

audience

77

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 70,657

My Rating

Movie Info

The year is 1997. Manhattan Island is now a heavily guarded maximum-security prison, where the scum of the earth have converged. When Air Force One crash-lands in Manhattan, the president (Donald Pleasence) is held hostage by its denizens. One-eyed mercenary Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is strong-armed into rescuing the chief executive. He is aided, not always willingly, by a tough gal (Adrienne Barbeau) and a manic cab driver (Ernest Borgnine). Escape from New York was followed by a sequel of

Nov 21, 2000

MGM Home Entertainment

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Latest News on Escape from New York

March 18, 2013:
Escape from New York Reboot Trilogy Planned
Producer Joel Silver is teaming up with Studio Canal to bring Snake Plissken back to the big...
February 10, 2010:
New Line Still Working on Escape from New York Remake
We haven't heard anything about it in awhile, but Vulture tells us the "Escape from New York" remake...

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All Critics (48) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (8) | DVD (43)

The movie proudly wears its affection for crusty Sergio Leone archetypes and countdown-clock suspense sequences; Carpenter was Tarantino long before Tarantino was.

July 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a rare film that has so many ideas and yet fails so consistently to make use of them.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (6)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A solidly satisfying actioner.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety | Comments (2)
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The plot gradually winds down into predictable though highly enoyable histrionics.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a toughly told, very tall tale, one of the best escape (and escapist) movies of the season.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When the final credits roll, you can be forgiven a vague sense of dissatisfaction, because the creativity that went into formulating the premise was never extended to the script writing stage.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Most of the images are elaborate confections of urban blight, etched against a nearly unlit soundstage, and the sound mix, until the finale, is rarely louder than Snake's elbow busting out an old windowpane.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Has a surprisingly measured pace, its set pieces choreographed with a deliberateness at odds with the frantic nature of Snake's quest.

April 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Extremely dark '80s sci-fi classic is too intense for kids.

September 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media | Comments (2)
Common Sense Media

an enthralling, if sometimes inadvertently cheesy adventure yarn, an intriguing window into the fears and anxieties of the early Reagan years, and a film-lover's cavalcade of genre mash-up

August 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

New York is the ghost town and Van Cleef the corrupt sheriff in Escape from New York's thinly disguised postmodern Western, with ex-soldier Russell as the anti-establishment hero who won't cotton to anyone's code but his own. [Blu-ray]

August 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

viewing the film today is akin to having one's sense of youthful nostalgia violated. ...the terrible dialogue, patchy pacing and silly costumes, so easily overlooked during one's wild-eyed teen years, now seem so much more obvious and distracting.

November 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Eye for Film
Eye for Film

Its influence cannot be understated.

July 30, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com | Comment (1)
eFilmCritic.com

This almost forgotten film reveals a near-visionary workmanship, a low-budget film heavy on atmosphere and playful of character.

June 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A generally gripping actioner, the film can also be read as a percipient satire of a society irreparably split along lines of class and race.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Com exceção de seu interessante anti-herói, é um filme medíocre: pouco imaginativo, com cenas de ação frouxas e uma trilha amadora (marca registrada de Carpenter), é um daqueles exemplos de longas que se tornam cult sabe-se lá por quê.

September 11, 2006
Cinema em Cena

Boasting one of the most iconic characters ever in Plissken, and an effective sci-fi set-up, this is entertainment of the highest order.

November 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Reagen-era horseshit.

November 22, 2004 | Comments (6)
Pasadena Weekly

Vicious scenes are often juxtaposed with comic sequences in a tap dance of contrasting tones that is both bizarre and grandly entertaining.

July 2, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinemania

You can't think too much about any of the details of the story because it is, after all, a comic-book adventure.

February 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Escape from New York moves swiftly and succeeds as taut drama.

January 31, 2004 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Audience Reviews for Escape from New York

In the distant future of 1997 the world has dissolved into a dystopian hell. so much so that the Island of Manhattan has been turned into a huge prison. Enter the man with the coolest name since Clint Eastwood's character which was cool enough to not even have a name.

'call me Snake'

Probably the roughest, toughest, coolest, badass since 'Bob Fett' and he has an eye patch. Not only is 'Snake' one cool son of a bitch but he is hired for the mission by another cool son of a bitch. Lee Van Cleef is 'Hauk', the guy in charge of this operation and is one hardass leather faced amigo...even at this ripe old age. The mission, we all know it, get into Manhattan, get the President and bounce back across the prison walls before anyone knows they were there, simple.

'the name's Plissken!'

What can I say about this action thriller? its the best damn flick Carpenter made, its got everything you could need. For a start the cast in this film is truly epic, I mean look at it! some massive cult names there and this film was still a small budget affair!. Carpenter having made some already great small budget films continued to hammer out top class thrills whilst utilizing basic simple ideas and without the aid of top effects.

The atmosphere of the film is electric all the way through, so dark, creepy and almost medieval in appearance as Plissken wades through the criminal scum. Naturally the bad guys are your typical cliched 80's bunch of fantasy cyberpunk fetish gear wearing bikers that wouldn't look too outta place in the 'Mad Max' universe. Stereotypical now...twas how it was then.

The visuals for the film are bleak and gloomy, plenty of shadow, not much is shown despite the sky high concept. Much is clever use of lighting, camera angles, models, matte work, sets and hard work. You really have to give it to Carpenter and his team for the way they managed to get this film looking so flippin' good, at no point would you think your not on the grimy streets of NY. On top of that the film does have that near futuristic feel as though it could be accurate. Its not over the top with silly gadgets, weapons or robots etc...a reachable possible apocalyptic future which makes it more scary.

'When I get back, I'm going to kill you'

To be honest this film is all about Plissken, the new sheriff in movie town at the time, the new 'Dirty Harry'. If it wasn't for this character the film would never have been as good, this character makes the film. Not only is he ice cool with deadly smartass verbal, he dresses uniquely (for the time), looks butch, plenty of stubble, doesn't give a shit and is a complete loose cannon. Cinematic history was made when this fellow stepped out from the shadows, the ultimate anti hero.

Always amused me how Russell's costume kinda looked as if Carpenter and co simply threw it together at the last minute. Some military cargo pants, a vest and those odd silver shin pads...job done. Such a simple almost crappy look but its now iconic.

Not only is the main character a legend the musical score is also probably Carpenter's best. Previous horror flick 'Halloween' set the bar for its spine tingling tunes, his next film 'The Fog' was also haunting but did seem too similar to 'Halloween'. Before all that 'Assault' had a great videogame-like score which in my opinion is more on track with 'Escapes' theme.

For this film you still have the now classic electric tones but its much deeper than 'Assault', less of a videogame sense and more of a pending doom sense. Its pretty much Snakes's theme tune really, his personal track as he swaggers slowly across this crumbling earth.

'The president of what?'

Like all Carpenter films the plot is simple and straight forward, visuals are just enough but the cast make it work. The fact Plissken is on a health related time limit really adds some tension to the whole plot and keeps you glued to the action. The fact you don't know who will survive, no guarantees for anyone, makes the film even more fun and original for the time.

The action keeps going right to the bitter end and Snake gets his sweet anarchic last word/gesture. The film almost corrupts you as you watch, Snake's badassery is so infectious, you can't help but cheer as he strides away after fudging over the President and what he stands for. An almost anti-authoritarian vibe that runs right through this film which always works well in films.

Ps. Not only is the film tops but the films poster is also excellent.

'No human compassion'
April 21, 2014
phubbs1

Super Reviewer

This is John Carpenter's low-budget cult classic that introduced the world to one of the coolest anti-heroes ever: Snake Plissken.

Set in the then near distant future of 1997, the world has become a messy dystopia, and Manhattan island has become an isolated prison. When Air Force One crashes there, the President (and a valuable audio tape) are taken hostage by a ruthless gang leader, and the decision is made to have the rescue mission be conducted by Snake Plissken- a war hero turned criminal who is promised a full pardon if he can complete the task. To ensure he'll cooperate, Snake is implanted with an explosive device that will go off if not deactivated within 24 hours.

What follows is a tense jaunt through a desolate wasteland populated by colorful character played by the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, and Donald Pleasence. As Snake, Kurt Russell absolutely dominates, and this is easily one of his best and most iconic roles.

As a Missourian, it makes me proud to see St. Louis used as a stand in for Manhattan a majority of the time. The cinematography and set design are great, and you really believe that this place has become a really dangerous world. The music is typical Carpenter, but fun, and the set pieces are decently executed.

The film has aged a bit better than I figured, and, even though it's not glossy, it has a lot of charm due to the creativity employed to counteract the low-budget. All in all this is a great genre movie, and easily one of Carpenter's best. Strongly recommended.
December 9, 2012
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

During my childhood, I enjoyed many movies from director John Carpenter but it's been a long time since I've revisited any of them. If truth be told, I kind of avoided them incase they didn't hold up on reflection and quite frankly, I didn't want my memory of them to be tarnished. In this case, I'm glad I revisited this cult classic from my younger years as it still holds many memorable moments.
In the year 1997, the entire city of New York has become a maximum security prison, holding all of society's criminals. All the bridges leading into the city are cut off, a large wall is built along the shoreline and a large police force is based there to stop any attempted escapees. Things take a turn for the worse though, when the President's (Donald Pleasance) plane is shot down and he has to eject. Unfortunately for everyone he lands in New York forcing a rescue mission. It's here that prisoner and ex-soldier Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the decaying city. If he manages to rescue the president then he'll win his own life and freedom in return.
Straight from the off-set, this film sets the tone with Carpenter's own foreboding music score, luring you into an anarchy ridden, post-apocalyptic New York. Like all of Carpenter's works during the 70's and 80's, the concept is sheer brilliance. There are very few directors these days that have the vision or originality that this man had. Unfortunately, Carpenter can't seem to hit the same heights these days but he was way ahead of his game around this time and this film stands as one of his most recognised and has a fervent cult following. Like a lot of cult movies though, it has it's flaws; the settings are basic and it has the old flashing computers with an abundance of lightbulbs on show but it's testament to Carpenter's vision that his concept overrides these dated faults and the film still manages to remain suitably futuristic. Granted, in some cases it can come across as amateurish - even self-conscious - but good sci-fi primarily works on it's idea's and Carpenter certainly applies the idea well here. This is a film that confidently relies on it's premise and it works an absolute treat. It is also helps that it doesn't take itself too seriously and has it's tongue stuck firmly in it's cheek. That's thanks-in-large to Kurt Russell, who delivers a string of great one-liners in a memorable and iconic central performance as Snake Plissken - one of cinema's finest anti-heroes. Unfortunately, the film does succumb to some formulaic action material but it's credit to Carpenter's pacing and Russell's wisecracks for keeping the films head above ground. Despite it's style and substance becoming a casualty to the action, it's still a lot of fun, regardless of it's occasional wandering.
A great sci-fi cautionary tale that a contemporary audience can still identify with. It can also proudly take it's place amongst the great B-movies and cult classics of our time and lasting proof, that John Carpenter was one of the finest directors working during the 1970's & 80's.
October 2, 2012
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

I've always enjoyed Dystopian, futuresque films such as V for Vendetta, Blade Runner, THX 1138 among countless others. Escape from New York is for me, a new favorite in such a genre of film. Escape from New York is an excellent sci-fi action film with a brilliant cast. I personally think that this one of the best cult action films since The Warriors and Mad Max. Escape from New York is a top-notch action film that is a riveting, thrilling film. One thing I've always admired about John Carpenter (and it's why he's one of my favorite directors), is because he always crafts a solid film using quite a simple concept for its plot. Though not very elaborate, the plot to Escape from New York is nonetheless exciting and exhilarating. Carpenter always knew how to develop a simple idea into an exciting, thrilling film. Kurt Russell delivers one of his strongest performances here as Snake Plissken. Russell is simply bad assed in this film and is one of cinema's most memorable heroes. Escape from New York is a well crafted film that has a dark, gritty and raw atmosphere. Escape from New York is a must see Carpenter classic. This is a brilliant action film with a great cast of talented actors. The idea of its plot may be simple, but that doesn't stop Escape from New York being a thrilling and memorable action film that every John Carpenter fan should check out. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and is definitely among John Carpenter's strongest efforts. A stunning dystopian sci-fi action film that is guaranteed to thrill you. Escape from New York is a classic action film. This is a dark, atmospheric film that adds so much power to the film and is a solid actioner that every action film fan should check out. One of John Carpenter's best non horror films. A brilliant piece of cinema.
November 27, 2011
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Cabbie: [Snake runs into Cabbie's taxi cab while being chased by the Crazies] Bad neighborhood, Snake! You don't want to be walking from the Bowery to 42nd Street at night. I've been driving a cab here for 30 years and I'm telling you: you don't walk around here at night! Yes, sir! Those Crazies'll kill you and strip you in ten seconds flat! Usually I'm not down around here myself, but I wanted to catch that show. That stuff is like gold around here, you know. [Cabbie casually lights a Molotov cocktail and throws it at approaching Crazies, which explodes in front of them, stopping them... and Cabbie speeds away with Snake in his taxi]
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. Bob Hauk: There was an accident. About an hour ago, a small jet went down inside New York City. The President was on board.
    2. Snake Plissken: The president of what?
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. President of the United States: [fires machine gun at the Duke] Ayy! Number Onnee! You're the Duke! You're the Duke! [stops firing] You're the... Duke. [quietly] You're... A-number one.
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. The Duke of New York: They sent in their best man, and when we roll across the 59th Street bridge tomorrow, on our way to freedom, we're going to have their best man leading the way - from the neck up! [cheering erupts] On the hood of my car!
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. Bob Hauk: We'd make one hell of a team Snake.
    2. Snake Plissken: It's Plissken.
    – Submitted by Phil P (2 years ago)
    1. Brain: Swear to God Snake, I thought you were dead...
    2. Snake Plissken: Yeah, you and everybody else!
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
View all quotes (11)

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