#1027: STURGES, John: The Great Escape (1963)

STURGES, John (United States)
The Great Escape [1963]
Spine #1027

One of the most exciting adventure tales ever told, this action epic recounts the planning, execution, and aftermath of a daring true-life escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, in which 250 men attempted to tunnel their way to freedom. In the role that cemented his superstar status, Steve McQueen plays the motocycle-racing daredevil who sets out to foil the Nazis, alongside an all-star cast that includes Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Garner, and Donald Pleasence. The expert direction of John Sturges, eminently hummable Elmer Bernstein score, and rip-roaring stunts come together in what may just be the most spectacularly entertaining prison-break movie of all time, a rousing ode to the determination, camaraderie, and courage of everyday heroes.

172 minutes
2:35:1 aspect ratio
Criterion Release 2020

Based upon the book by Paul Brickhill.
Screenplay by W.R. Burnett and James Clavell.
John Sturges was 53 when he directed The Great Escape.

The Film


Film Rating (0-60):


The Extras

The Booklet

Ten-page wraparound featuring an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

  1. From 1991, featuring director Sturges and composer Elmer Bernstein;
  2. From 2003 featuring actors Coburn, Garner, and Pleasence.

With critic Michael Sragow.

“The Great Escape”: Heroes Under Ground

A four-part 2001 documentary about the real-life escape from the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, including interviews with POWs held there.

The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones

A 2001 program on the United States Army Air Forces pilot David Jones, the inspiration for McQueen’s character in the film.

Return to “The Great Escape”

A 1993 program featuring interviews with Coburn, Garner, McCallum, and Taylor.


Extras Rating (0-40):


60 + 39 =


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