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Midnight Express (1978)


No Reviews Yet...

Release Date: Sep 20, 1978 Wide



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 30,087

My Rating

Movie Info

Midnight Express is a harrowing tale of a na´ve American caught in a nightmare of his own making thousands of miles from his home. Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is an American tourist visiting Turkey with his girlfriend Susan (Irene Miracle) when he's caught by customs officials trying to smuggle a large amount of hashish out of the country. The crime would normally carry a sentence of four years, but officials decide to make an example of Billy, and he draws a 30-year sentence despite the promises


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Oliver Stone

May 22, 2001

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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All Critics (23) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (1) | DVD (13)

It defined the hell of a Turkish prison whil portraying the humanity needed to survive such a terrible place.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

a brutal and brutalizing film whose effects have diminished little in the decades since its controversial theatrical release in the late 1970s

July 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Strong stuff indeed...swells proportional sight and sound subjectively to convey Hayes' nightmarish experience but also hypes up a story that probably doesn't need the help. [Blu-ray]

July 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

A solid prison film that feels so real that if you heard a voiceover you'd swear it was a documentary.

July 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Horrific scenes of prison brutality and powerful acting by Brad Davis as the American Billy Hayes help make up for the shortcomings in Alan Parker's sensationalistic tale and Oliver Stone's factual inaccuracies.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Despite the negative hullabaloo "Midnight Express" provoked for its brutal characterization of Turkish prison officials, director Alan Parker's rendering of Oliver Stone's exploitation screenplay is a stick of pure cinematic dynamite.

February 21, 2008 Full Review Source:

Director Alan Parker's right. His 1978 riveting prison drama still holds up.

February 8, 2008 Full Review Source:

Searing and unforgettable. A harrowing descent into a real-life hell that's so relentlessly intense it will leave you feeling drained.

October 5, 2005
Fantastica Daily

All modern-day jail flicks owe it a debt.

August 7, 2005 Full Review Source:

harrowing and involving

May 13, 2005
Shadows on the Wall

Grim, nightmarish, unforgettabe prison tale

October 19, 2004

Suffers from the kind of excess -- and hyperbole -- writer Oliver Stone brought to his own films as director.

March 10, 2004 | Comments (5)

Intense, but somewhat false 'true' story distinguised by Parker's direction.

January 29, 2004
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Alan Parker's Midnight Express works like a hammer lock on the viewer's mind.

January 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

A genuinely disturbing prison film in the tradition of PAPILLON

March 20, 2003

Anyone thinking of smuggling drugs into a foreign country should watch this first.

February 4, 2003
Sunday Times (Australia)

One of the most terrifying "prison flicks" you'll ever see.

July 26, 2002

Midnight Express walks a fine line between portraying Hayes as a victim or a criminal.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for Midnight Express

The controversy surrounding the way the Turks are depicted is not without reason, but still the story is quite engaging and boasts a wonderful score. A disturbing portrayal of hell as a Turkish prison and the conditions faced by a very unfortunate man in a horrible situation.
October 2, 2013

Super Reviewer

A lukewarm representation of the Turkish prison system of the time, "Midnight Express" is dangerously violent and chillingly raw, and yet is flawed by its inaccuracy and errant racist slant of the Turkish people. The story is loosely based on the 1977 book of the same name, written by American Billy Hayes, who was arrested for possession of hashish while at the Istanbul airport and sentenced to four years in prison. He and his father fight for his freedom, yell and scream at the unfair conditions of the prison, and remind each other time and again that everything will be fine and Billy will come home soon enough. The tables are turned as his sentence is extended, and we watch as his simple existence in the prison changes into one for survival. The representation of the actual prison seems fair, as the cells were threadbare, the torture and consequences of incalculable actions are atrocious, and immense strife, but the Turkish people themselves are shown as cruel, slovenly rejects. The guards are beyond cartoonish in their villainous ways of torture, especially the head guard portrayed by Paul L. Smith. The prisoners fight in the mud like ravenous pigs, many are greedy, and some are outright fiendish. Hayes comes off as a juvenile but not a latent criminal, who certainly learns from his mistakes fast, and spouts poetic language and monologues at the climax of his horrific tale. The way he is treated is nothing compared to his hopeless plight, stuck forever behind high walls. John Hurt gives an exemplary performance as a drug addicted British prisoner who tries to help Billy escape time and again, but repeatedly fails. Randy Quaid plays a prisoner who has a violent mean streak, landing himself also in prison, which leads to beatings from the head guard as he fails escaping repeatedly as well, but gets all the punishment for it. It's a twisted film, one that makes me ill thinking about it, as well as watching it. It would have had a lasting impact on Turkish prison systems if the story hadn't been so specifically and falsely changed by Oliver Stone in his screenplay and the representation of people had been less obviously villainous. The theme of freedom, whether physically or spiritually, came through, giving this a legacy as a truly brilliant film. Though it is graphic and pitifully heartbreaking, it is a film that shows the strength of the human spirit, and the lengths to which we go to remain unchained.
December 31, 2012

Super Reviewer

One of the most intense films I've ever seen. Fantastic performances, nail biting and suspenseful throughout and a brutal but superb depiction of the horror that can go on in a prison.
August 10, 2012
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer

An American gets caught smuggling hashish and is sentenced to an interminable prison term in Turkey.
If you want to see a film about a man getting tortured for two hours, then this is the film for you!
I am selling the film short with that opening line, but the sentiment - that films should be about more than just shock value polemics - stands in relation to Midnight Express, In the world of Oliver Stone's script no Turk is a good Turk, and their system of justice is as outmoded as their restrooms. There are a few scenes in which the main character, Billy Hayes, struggles to maintain his sanity, and scenes like these are reasons to watch prison dramas because how one maintains sanity in such an environment is interesting; however, these scenes are too few to be a consistent thematic thread.
John Hurt is good, especially his mourning of his cat, but Brad Davis, whose performance has been universally praised, was horrid. His "you're all pigs" speech was melodramatic and over-played, and all of his torture sequences felt fake.
Overall, a good prison drama like The Shawshank Redemption is a film that becomes about more than just prison and has a fine performance to carry it forward; Midnight Express has neither.
August 6, 2012
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

    1. Billy Hayes: Jesus Christ forgave the bastards, but I can't!
    – Submitted by Alex A (2 months ago)
    1. Jimmy Booth: The second way out, I need you guy's help, and that's under.
    2. Billy Hayes: You mean tunnel? Are you serious?
    3. Max: This is Shagmahr prison, not Stalag 17.
    4. Jimmy Booth: Well that's where you're wrong fuckface, 'cause it's already built!
    – Submitted by Robin W (8 months ago)
    1. Tex: You seem like a nice guy, Billy. I really do feel sorry for you. But if you still try anything or try to run away again, I'll blow your fucking brains out!
    – Submitted by David E (11 months ago)
    1. Max: The best thing to do is to get your ass out of here. Best way that you can.
    2. Billy Hayes: Yeah, but how?
    3. Max: Catch the midnight express.
    4. Billy Hayes: What's that?
    5. Max: Well, it's not a train. It's a prison word for escape. But it doesn't stop around here.
    – Submitted by David E (11 months ago)
    1. Billy Hayes: I find loneliness is a physical pain that hurts all over. You can't isolate it in one part of your body.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (13 months ago)
    1. Erich: Lawyers?
    2. Max: Oh, yeah. There's no straight lawyers in Turkey. They're all bent. Bent as hairpins.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (13 months ago)
View all quotes (6)

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