Escape from New York

1981

Escape from New York

Critics Consensus

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

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 61

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 72,536
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Movie Info

It's 1997 and Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison. When the United States president crash lands into the city after fleeing a hijacked plane, a ruthless prison warden bribes ex-soldier and criminal Snake Plissken to rescue the president, who is being held hostage.

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Cast

Kurt Russell
as Snake Plissken
Lee Van Cleef
as Bob Hauk
Donald Pleasence
as President of the United States
Isaac Hayes
as Duke of New York
Season Hubley
as Girl in Chock Full O'Nuts
Charles Cyphers
as Secretary of State
Joe Unger
as Taylor
Tobar Mayo
as Third Indian
Nancy Stephens
as Stewardess
Steven Ford
as Secret Service #2
Lonnie Wun
as Red Bandana Gypsy
Dale E. House
as Helicopter Pilot #1
Bob Minor
as Duty Sergeant
Wally Taylor
as Controller
James O'Hagen
as Computer Operator
Tom Lillard
as Police Sergeant
Borah Silver
as Theater Manager
Tony Papenfuss
as Theater Assistant
Clay Wright
as Helicopter Pilot #3
Ron House
as Dancer
Ron Vernan
as Dancer
Jamie Lee Curtis
as Narration and Computer Voice
Steven M. Gagnon
as Secret Service #1
Al Cerullo
as Helicopter Pilot #4
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News & Interviews for Escape from New York

Critic Reviews for Escape from New York

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (8)

  • 1997 is the year in which the film's events are set, but far from being a bright, progressive future, it is a hyperbolic deterioration of 1981's here and now

    Nov 19, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The film plays its social satire broad but strings it along a rail of self-awareness.

    Oct 25, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Phil Hoad

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • It has got an intriguing premise, an effective cast, and it has been expertly mounted.

    Jul 10, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The movie proudly wears its affection for crusty Sergio Leone archetypes and countdown-clock suspense sequences; Carpenter was Tarantino long before Tarantino was.

    Jul 23, 2013 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a rare film that has so many ideas and yet fails so consistently to make use of them.

    Jun 5, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A solidly satisfying actioner.

    Jun 5, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Escape from New York

  • Apr 19, 2017
    Snake Plissken is known as one of the most iconic sci-fi characters in film history, but why? Kurt Russell is a fine actor in just about everything he does, but Escape From New York never gives him anything to do besides hold a gun which he uses maybe once the entire film? It's safe to say I wasn't impressed with this film. Manhattan is now a security prison for criminals of all variety and after the President crash lands in the middle of the city, Plissken is hired to rescue him. Apparently Plissken is like the boogeyman for these Manhattan criminals, since they all know who he is but didn't seem to know he actually existed or where he's been. The weirdest part, however, is we never get to see him to anything of value. Even in criminals past references, they never mentioned anything specifically which would warrant him a spot to save the President. It's one thing if the film embraces its silliness and makes all of the dialogue, action, and performances cheesy, but they don't. The tone is never truly set. On one hand, you have Plissken taking on dozens of criminals who look like they are wearing Mad Max cosplay, but then you have the issue of the President's life being on the line. Those are two opposing tones butting heads, and you never get a grasp on the type of film John Carpenter wants to make. I think Carpenter is a masterful director, but Escape From New York felt kind of like a cheap side project for him. Though, I will say Carpenter's original score made for this film is brilliant. I think a lot of my frustration comes from the fact that this film was made close to 40 years ago, and therefore, there's plenty of dated qualities to it. CGI was young in 1981, and it shows. That and the green screen effects were difficult to watch. Of course, these aren't necessarily the film's fault, but sometimes the reach shouldn't exceed the grasp by that much of a margin. It's not the fault of the film, but I've seen plenty that are better since. Donald Pleasance doesn't get much to do, and neither does anybody in a supporting role. And most of all, I just didn't care for any of the characters or the story they were in. +Great score -Why is Plissken so revered? -Dated 4.2/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2017
    You know, I've reviewed a few John Carpenter movies on here and they've all been movies that I've enjoyed, with the minor exception of The Ward. Let's be honest here, from 76-88, John Carpenter was a pretty high quality genre filmmaker. From Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog (which I wasn't that high on), The Thing (one of my favorite horror movies of all time), Christine, Big Trouble in Little China (which I greatly enjoyed) and They Live (another movie I really fucking liked). There's many other cult movies that Mr. Carpenter, but those are his most known works. During the 80s, it seemed that Carpenter was working at his highest capacity. This is why I decided to watch this movie last night (I hadn't actually seen it in its entirety) and not to mention the fact that Escape from LA (this movie's sequel) had been available on Netflix, but I didn't wanna watch that without having seen the original, which wasn't available on the aforementioned streaming site until just recently. Now that I watched this, as luck would have it, Escape from LA has been removed. Anyway, having said all of that, and having been a fan of most of the Carpenter movies from this era, I've gotta admit that this falls just a little short of that mark, in my opinion. This movie is obviously very different from The Thing, They Live and Big Trouble in Little China, but I enjoyed all of those movies more than this one. Though this movie has more in common than with the last two than it does with the first one. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this movie's dystopian depiction of New York City being turned into a maximum security prison where all of the criminals are sent. Things are further complicated when a terrorist group, who hijacked Air Force One, causes the President to use an escape pod that lands in NYC. He is then taken hostage by the prisoners in NYC for, you guessed it, their freedom. A former war hero turned criminal Snake Plissken is asked to retrieve the president with the promise that he will receive a full pardon if he does so. He is injected with something that will cause his arteries to explode if he is not able to complete the mission within the allotted time. Snake Plissken, as a character, has very little that is actually compelling. He's a cool character, for sure, the entire look and attitude of the guy has pretty much influenced Metal Gear Solid, right down to the name of the lead character (Snake) and the eye patch. He's just a macho badass who doesn't take any shit from absolutely nobody. That's all you need to know about him and, you know what, that's absolutely fine in this movie. But, sadly, the fact of the matter is that time simply hasn't been as kind to this movie as, say, They Live and Big Trouble in Little China has. Not to mention The Thing, which is still phenomenal to this day. They Live still holds up because its themes of the ruling class trying to keep those "below" them under control through the use of subliminal messages in mass media is still relevant in this day and age. Big Trouble holds up because it pokes fun at American hubris with a completely ineffectual and useless lead hero. This movie, on the other hand, doesn't really have that going for it. It's just a near future movie as so many others from that era. It's an entertaining movie, even to this day, for sure, but it just doesn't age as well as some of the others. 1981 was also the year when The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2) was released and, while they are very different (even though both feature dystopian worlds. Both also feature men of few words as their lead characters. They let their actions do their talking. But The Road Warrior is far and ahead the more impressive film in terms of action choreography, which was ahead of its time in terms of the crazy shit that they did. It's almost impossible, when doing a retrospective look at the year of 1981 in films, to not compare the two. One held up better than the other, that's for sure. But that's neither here nor there. I digress, the problem I have with this movie is that, for the first 40 minutes, nothing actually really happens. They take a long ass time setting up Snake's arrival to NYC and, even then, it's a few minutes until the film really gets going. And when it does get going, it's not like it hits the ground running either, there's still some slow moments. Again, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this movie, but there's no denying that the flaws are readily apparent. The acting is good here, for sure, Kurt Russell is good as the badass, silent type. Harry Dean Stanton is always great. Even Isaac Hayes, while not getting a lot of screen time, is pretty good. There's this one problematic scene that feels so unnecessarily racist, though. When Snake makes his way back to the top of the World Trade Center, where his glider is then thrown off to the ground, Harry Dean Stanton's character (who has the president) then proceeds to say 'goddamn redskins, they're savages'. Jesus fucking christ. This film takes place in a NYC, that has been turned into a MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON. The city is ruled by violent gangs who have the equivalent of Roman fights in the colosseum inside of a wrestling ring. Yet the Native Indians are the savages because they pushed off the glider off the top of the WTC? Come the fuck on with that bullshit. It'd be horrifyingly racist under normal circumstances, if there weren't violent gangs roaming about. But it's made even worse when you look at the content of the film and realize that everyone in this fucking place is violent and out to kill our lead characters. I'm not gonna let that affect what I thought of the film, I still think it hasn't aged well, but I just had to point out that bullshit line. The action is fine, just a lot of punching and shooting. It's not The Road Warrior, that's for sure, but it's not bad. The look of the film is great, though, it captures that dystopian feel perfectly. They do a great job at building the world these characters inhabit. I can't say that this is John Carpenter's best film, and I don't think many people would say that, but it's still an enjoyable dystopian action film, even if I would say that time hasn't been super kind. I'd still give it a recommendation, particularly if you're a Carpenter fan.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • May 03, 2015
    When domestic terrorists kidnapped the president of the United States, mercenary Snake Plissken must go into Mahattan (now a maximum security prison) to find the president. 98 minutes of boredom, it started off with an interesting premise but soon fell to pieces with the ridiculousness of the plot and the lack of substantial action. An utter disappointment from Carpenter.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jan 05, 2013
    Bleak view of the prison system in the future, 1997 to be correct. I did laugh at the time line for the film considering it's 2016 and the film states now. Snake isn't the toughest guy around but he knows how to get the job done. Russell and Carpenter are a great team, a shame most of their work never generated box office results. The film is grim from beginning to end and has that 80s vibe throughout. Like most Carpenter films you are provided a score that is very unique to the film. If you dig Carpenter films you'll definitely dig this
    Brendan N Super Reviewer

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