The Great Escape

1963

The Great Escape

Critics Consensus

With its impeccably slow-building story and a cast for the ages, The Great Escape is an all-time action classic.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

95%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 103,432
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Movie Info

Based on the book by Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape is the true story of Allied prisoners plotting to break out of Nazi detention camp. Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) is the British officer who masterminds the escape. Out of 250 prisoners, only 76 manage to escape, and the number soon dwindles to two dozen. Hilts (Steve McQueen) and company must get through Nazi occupied territory, which is the premise for most of the film. McQueen rides a motorcycle through heavy gunfire in a spectacular action sequence to avoid certain death at the hands of the enemy. James Garner, Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson and James Coburn also star in this exciting, suspenseful action adventure. Although he had appeared in other previous film, this is the one that brought superstar status to Steve McQueen. The handsome, brooding actor performed all his own stunts in the action sequences in the type of action adventure film that became McQueen's trademark.

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Critic Reviews for The Great Escape

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (3)

  • For all its missteps, when it comes to escapism, intrigue, and indulgence, you could do a whole lot worse than The Great Escape. Just watch it with an open eye.

    Feb 21, 2019 | Full Review…
  • This is a Boys' Own Tale, and, as boys, we wanted it, cleansed of horrors, for ourselves.

    Apr 23, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The Great Escape is simply great escapism.

    Feb 6, 2014 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Producer-director John Sturges has fashioned a motion picture that entertains, captivates, thrills and stirs.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Way too flabby at 168 minutes, but once this 1963 feature gets going it's good, solid stuff.

    Mar 1, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Worth seeing the last half hour, if nothing else, for one of the best stunt sequences in years: McQueen's motor-cycle bid for freedom.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Great Escape

  • May 22, 2016
    One of the great epic films. The Great Escape starts off slowly but is so full of detail. The film builds to its ultimate finale, and has one of the greatest action sequences in history: Steve McQueen's motorcycle chase. I have lost count how many times i have seen this. Its rewatchability is unrivaled.
    Peter B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2012
    Exciting, action-packed film. I think this is McQueen's best performance.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 27, 2012
    Funny how there are only three american characters in this film, yet they manage to make the film all about them. The Great Escapce is fun, it aged actually pretty well, but it's nothing mot. McQueen reminds of Michael Keaton; or should I say that Keaton reminds me of Steve McQueen.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • May 30, 2012
    And so, for the Magnificent McQueen's next magic trick, he presents, "The Great Escape"! This title does actually sound a bit like a magic trick, yet don't make that mistake, because magic is kind of dorky, and the legendary Steve McQueen was anything but. Man, he was so manly that he played a sailor, and as we know, there's nothing lame about being a sailor, let alone gay. Okay, in all seriousness, even in "The Sand Pebbles", he was so awesomely charismatic and cool that the Oscars just had to give him an Oscar nomination for his simply being so awesome... and because he cried a little bit in the role. Wow, come to think of it, by leading role, are we really sure that he was offered the George Peppard role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"? No, but seriously though, the boy was just too cool for school, as well as German prison camps, so if anyone was going to keep a film like this from slowing down then, well, Steve McQueen should have done it, so I guess this film is beyond saving from slowness. No, the film does have quite a lot of kick to it, yet it doesn't quite have enough juice in it to escape slowness. Running a whopping 172 minutes and not being a Bollywood action film, this film is much too long to be consistent in its intrigue, and sure enough, the film dries up something awful and awful fast, not necessarily being meditative in its story structure, just kind of dull, with story and character exposition going further hurt by the constant action of the story, only with significantly less intrigue for the over eventfulness to feel all that eventful. Overly take-action, yet consistently over steady and, at times, bone-dry, this sprawler gets to be a crawler after a while, losing steam much too often. To make matters worse, even with the concept boasting potential at sweep, it doesn't quite wield nearly three hours worth of material, so it should almost go without saying that some excess fat around the scenes, with repetition serving a more prominent and damaging threat to the film's tightness, a flaw found in a number of epic-length non-epics of this type and era. Hey, I'll at least give it to the film for its commitment to go out there and extract detrimental flaws from films of this formula in order to further augment this film's pile of conventions. No, the film isn't quite that bad generic, yet the fact of the matter is that this film is simply too 1960s, falling a tad too deeply into many of the conventional flaws and substance tropes of the time, and with many of those common tones being hardly threatening, even with our facing a large story of should-be high danger and intrigue, the film feels rather underwhelming in the way of tension for many long lapses within in this almost three hour storyline, further adding to the periodic steam loss. Really, there's surprisingly not a whole lot to say about the film, other than the fact that it's slow and repetitive, with not enough intrigue or audacity to warrant such a lengthy runtime. Well, you can say that about the film, as well as the fact that it has enough to it to counteract the flaws and leave it a worthwhile picture that may not be capable of escaping its own plagues, yet goes the distance enough to win you over. Limited in the depth you would expect, or at least hope to see in a film of this subject matter, the story is not terribly strong, with faulty execution further securing that statement, yet it reamins intriguing for what it is. The film over prominently reptitiously, yet intriguingly studies upon the layers and depths of the core plot, creating a sesne of investment that most certainly would have been intensified were there also more meditation exposition and the tone of danger, yet still stands fairly strong. It certainly goes amplified by the occasional moment of genuine depth, something that's found not nearly as much as it should be, yet delivers quite a fair bit when it does come into play at typically just the right moment, giving the story more weight, consequence and compellingness, and, again, while more depth would have proved most favorable for the final product, as things stand, these spurts of depth that break up general intrigue, spawned from the film's core being handled mostly quite well, is enough to get the film by as just compelling enough to be deemed generally rewarding. For that, nevermind the writers and director, it's the performers who you really have to thank, as they deliver distinctiveness in their never-the-same, yet always involving presences, both as individuals, and as a whole. Mostly, everyone's a charisma, especially an obviously show-owning Steve McQueen, yet there does get to be a certain level of depth in most everyone, and it's depth that doesn't give the film terribly powerful resonance, yet certainly builds upon the already present level of depth and intrigue that would ultimately be a shadow of what it ultimately is if it didn't have such talents backing it up. Still, our performers are at their most static when they join each other on the screen, as the chemistry between just about every person is palpable, whether we're feeling the razor-sharp sense of building comradery among our leads or the sense of distrust between our protagonists and antagonists. It's that level of humanity, depth and chemistry that helps significantly in defining a film like this, especially when the film is so heavily flawed, and these performers do what they do and do it all more than well enough to extract from the film charm, depth and a feel for that defining humanity, giving this film the strength needed to stand as a generally satisfying, if nothing else, character study. At the end of the run, the film finds itself often dulled down quite a bit by dryness and excessive padding, made all the worse by only so much in the way of exposition, leaving the film overlong and potentiall fall-flat, yet through a generally winning plot filled with intriguing concepts, as well as a fair couple of moments of genuine depth and, most of all, consistently charming, distinctive and, at times, soulful performances by a slew of electric charisma - whom define their characters and, by extension, the film itself through such strong performances, matched, if not beaten out by their level of fiery, winning chemistry -, "The Great Escape" makes it through as a generally compelling and rather rewarding not-all-that-thrilling thriller. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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