The Great Escape is based on the true story of a group of Allied prisoners of war who managed to escape from an allegedly impenetrable Nazi prison camp during World War II. At the beginning of the film, the Nazis gather all their most devious and troublesome POWs and place them at a new prison camp, which was designed to be impervious to escapes. Immediately, the prisoners develop a scheme where they will leave the camp by building three separate escape tunnels. Richard Attenborough is the British soldier who masterminds the whole plan, and who commands his motley squad--featuring Charles Bronson as a Polish trench-digging expert, James Garner as an American with a talent for theft, Donald Pleasence as a masterful forger, and Steve McQueen as an American rebel--through the construction of the tunnels and, eventually, their escape. An epic adventure film, The Great Escape runs nearly three hours, featuring a rousing Elmer Bernstein score and exciting action sequences -- including a notorious motorcycle chase between McQueen and the Nazis -- the likes of which had never been seen before in Hollywood productions.~Stephen Thomas Erlewine
"The Great Escape": Heroes Underground, a four-part 2001 documentary about the real-life escape from the Stalag Luft lll prisoner-of-war camp during World War ll, including interviews with POWs held there
Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack
English SDH subtitles
New interview with critic Michael Sragow
New, restored 4k digital transfer
Plus: An essay by critic Sheila O'Mailey
Return to "The Great Escape," a 1993 program featuring interviews with Coburn, Garner, and actors David McCallum and Jud Taylor
The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones, a 2001 program on the United States Army Air Forces pilot David Jones, the inspiration for Steve McQueen's character in the film
Two audio commentaries, one from 1991, featuring Director John Sturges and Composer Elmer Bernstein; the other, from 2003, featuring actors James Coburn, James Garner, and Donald Pleasance
Steve McQueen"Cooler King" Hilts
James Garner"The Scrounger" Hendley
Richard Attenborough"Big X" Bartlett
James DonaldSenior Officer Ramsey
Charles BronsonDanny Velinski
James Coburn"The Manufacturer" Sedgwick
David McCallumAshley-Pitt "Dispersal"
Donald Pleasence"The Forger" Blythe
Gordon JacksonMacDonald "Intelligence"
John LeytonWillie "Tunnel King"
Angus Lennie"The Mole" Ives
Nigel StockCavendish "The Surveyor"
Robert Desmond"The Tailor" Griffith
Hannes MessemerVon Lugar "The Kommandant"
Robert GrafWerner "The Ferret"
Karl Otto AlbertySteinach
Daniel L. FappCinematographer
Elmer BernsteinComposer (Music Score)
Fernando CarrereArt Director
Bert HenriksonCostume Designer
Jack N. ReddishFirst Assistant Director
Ensemble Film,Escape Film,POW Drama,War Adventure
The Great Escape
Year of Release
Criterion Collection, DVD
Dolby Digital w/ sub-woofer channel, monaural
Enhanced Widescreen for 16x9 TV
The Great Escape [Criterion Collection] [DVD] 
The film was to a fair extent a work of fiction, based on the real events but with numerous compromises made for purposes of commercial appeal, serving as a vehicle for its box-office stars. While many of its characters were fictitious and events glossed over, most were amalgams of several real characters and many were based on real people. There were no escapes by aircraft or motorcycle: the motorcycle sequence was a request from McQueen, an avid motorcyclist, who did the stunt riding himself except for the final jump (done by Bud Ekins). Nor were the recaptured prisoners executed in one place at the same time. The screenwriters significantly increased the involvement of American POWs; the real escape was by largely British and other allied personnel. A few American officers in the POW camp initially contributed towards construction of the tunnels, and worked on the early escape plans; however, American personnel were moved to a remote compound seven months before the escape, ending their involvement. As well, the film suggests the three prisoners who escaped to freedom were British, Polish, and Australian; in reality, they were Norwegian (Jens Müller & Per Bergsland) and Dutch (Bram van der Stok)
The film omits mention of the crucial role Canadians played in the construction of the tunnels and the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so POWs in the compound, 600 were involved in preparations for the escape; 150 of these were Canadian. Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life "tunnel king", was engaged as a technical advisor for the film.
Ex-POWs asked film-makers to exclude details about the help they received from their home countries, such as maps, papers, and tools hidden in gift packages, lest it jeopardise future POW escapes. The film-makers complied.
This is among a select few movies I can watch over and over. This is a true classic - Steve McQueen, James Garner, David McCallum (Ducky on NCIS) - too many stars to name - many of which you would say, "Oh, yeah, I recognize him/her!" This is one for the collection!
Some swear it IS the best World War II film ever.
Based on a True Story, a group of soldiers plan to escape a German Prison Camp in WWII. James Garner, Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, David McCallum (yes, that guy on NCIS), Donald Pleasence (yes, that guy from the Halloween films) all star in this classic directed by John Sturges.
This is a Criterion Edition and it LOOKS SPECTACULAR. Two audio commentaries... one from 1991 (the Director) and one from 2003 (with 3 of the actors!) . Interviews and other special features abound.
This film has lots of suspense and action and all the actors do a top notch job; though Steve McQueen is best remembered.
Highly Recommended. The film was made in 1963.
An uncanny thriller, The Great Escape, remains John Sturges masterful and always entertaining adventure tale of a prison break to end all prison breaks. In a starring role that made Steve McQueen a Hollywood screen idol and film hero, The Great Escape remains a masterpiece of cinema now preserved in a stunning release by Criterion for movie goers to enjoy forever.