Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 24


Audience Score

User Ratings: 48,679
User image

Watch it now

Papillon Photos

Movie Info

The autobiography of Henri Charriere, one of the few people to successfully escape from the notorious French penal colony of Devil's Island, served as the basis for Papillon. Steve McQueen plays the pugnacious Charriere (known as "Papillon," or "butterfly," because of a prominent tatoo), incarcerated--wrongly, he claims--for murdering a pimp. He saves the life of fellow convict Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman), a counterfeiter who will later show his gratitude by helping Charriere in his many escape attempts, and by smuggling food to Charriere when the latter is put in solitary confinement. One breakout, which takes Charriere and Dega to a leper colony and then to a native encampment, is almost successful, but Charriere is betrayed (allegedly because he stopped for an act of kindness) and back the prisoners go to French Guiana. Years later, Dega is made a trustee and is content with his lot, but the ageing, white-haired Charriere cannot be held back. A tribute to the unquenchability of the human spirit, Papillon brought in an impressive $22 million at the box office. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Steve McQueen
as Papillon
Victor Jory
as Indian Chief
Robert Deman
as Maturette
Dar Robinson
as McQueen's Cliff Stunt
Anthony Zerbe
as Toussaint Leper Colony Chief
Bill Mumy
as Lariot
George Coulouris
as Dr. Chatal
Ratna Assan
as Zoraima
William Smithers
as Warden Barrot
Barbara Morrison
as Mother Superior
Don Hanmer
as Butterfly Trader
Dalton Trumbo
as Commandant
Val Avery
as Pascal
Vic Tayback
as Sergeant
Ron Soble
as Santini
E.J. Andre
as Old Con
Richard Angarola
as Commandant
Jack Denbo
as Classification Officer
John Quade
as Masked Breton
Fred Sadoff
as Deputy Warden
Allen Jaffe
as Turnkey
Liam Dunn
as Old Trustee
Anne Byrne (II)
as Mrs. Dega
View All

News & Interviews for Papillon

Critic Reviews for Papillon

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (4)

  • The narrative is epic and life-spanning...The locations are stunning...and the surreal touches...add to the sense of a highly original art-movie spectacular.

    Sep 14, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • McQueen works hard and al most manages to triumph over his star presence, while Hoffman submerges himself eccentrically and amusingly in his coward's role.

    Sep 23, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Director Franklin J. Schaffner has succeeded in making a two-and-a-half-hour film that seems like six.

    Sep 23, 2015 | Full Review…
  • The script is very good within its limitations, but there is insufficient identification with the main characters.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A rousing drama of endurance, opportunism and friendship under fire.

    Aug 3, 2007 | Full Review…
  • With Schaffner unable to find the necessary perspective to prevent the film from becoming unevenly episodic, it ends up looking as if it were tacked together by at least three different directors.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Petit

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Papillon

  • Oct 02, 2013
    With an excellent performance by Steve McQueen and a stunning cinematography that employs a large depth of field to explore the setting and thus the gravity of the situation, this compelling prison film works so very well despite losing some of its credibility in the third act.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 04, 2012
    Ultimately, "Papillon" lags in too many places for it to be considered a classic, but it is a decent prison drama with enough moments of brilliance to ensure that it won't be forgotten. Some scenes are better directed than others and there are a lot of narrative elements that aren't ever fully explained, but "Papillon" also has a brilliant breakout sequence and several others moments of peril that succeed in providing a high level of tension. Plus, even though Steve McQueen's acting is a little uneven, the good parts of his performance outweigh the bad. "Papillon' is quality entertainment that moves at a quick pace, but it might have been better under more cohesive direction.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Aug 26, 2012
    A great prison escape movie, Papillon features terrific performances, a thorough and smart script, and a gritty and unflinching look at penal colonies. Steve McQeen anchors every scene with his gripping and nuanced portrayal, a character we see grow, but with an uncanny resilience that only McQueen can muster. He is also matched well by Hoffman, who injects his role with humor and despair. The film does an excellent job of going all-in, in that we see every aspect of the colony, and the unrelenting horror. My only real issue with the film is the overly lethargic pace in parts, and perhaps a bit of a lack of focus towards the end, tending to meander too much on certain threads. Overall, a very strong and memorable classic. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 29, 2012
    Tense and scary, Papillon it's with no doubt about it, is one of the most breathtaking escape movies that I ever saw, with a likable duo, form by McQueen and Hoffman.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer

Papillon Quotes

News & Features