Escape from Alcatraz

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Escape from Alcatraz Movie Poster Image
Quiet, tense prison-break drama has violence, profanity.
  • PG
  • 1979
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Cruel authoritarianism eventually backfires, with tragic consequences. Sometimes you have to take risks, even when the stakes are as high as your life, when the rewards are worth it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters all are convicted criminals who were too incorrigible for regular federal prison and therefore sent to Alcatraz. But they're sympathetic and shown as regular people who made mistakes. They demonstrate remarkable resilience under harsh circumstances and are amazingly clever and resourceful. Hero Frank Morris never gives up, never backs down, and is unimpressed by power.


A man chops his own fingers off; the bloody hatchet, severed fingers, and large drops of blood are shown, along with another picking up the fingers and putting them in a box. Past incident told about slicing one's own tendon to get out of solitary confinement. Two fistfights show punching, kicking, and threatening with a knife; one ends in gunfire from guards overhead. A man in solitary is shown being sprayed with a fire hose from a few feet away.


An inmate threatens and intimidates another with sexual overtones. Nude males seen two or three times from behind with medium-to-close shots, including buttocks. One communal shower scene with incidental frontal nudity very briefly, from a distance, and off to the side.


The "N" word four times. Infrequent swearing: "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "goddamn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sniffing glue mentioned once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Escape from Alcatraz is based on the true story of three inmates who may have been the only ones in the prison's history to successfully escape. There are a couple of fistfights and one gory scene in which a man chops his own fingers off. There's some male nudity from behind, though one man in the shower is very briefly seen from the front from afar. Strong language, including "s--t," is infrequent; the "N" word is used four times. The tone is very quiet and tense. The film is likely to appeal mainly to teens who are curious about the island, the prison, and this incident.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTV-007 May 24, 2019

Excellent Movie

Good movie its violent has profanity and has a glimpse of nudity.
Adult Written byForecast C. June 5, 2017
Teen, 16 years old Written bySasina vengt February 19, 2019
Little bit of violence, nudity

What's the story?

The movie is based on the true story of three convicts who escaped from Alcatraz in the early '60s. To this day no one knows for certain whether they succeeded in making it across the San Francisco Bay to freedom or whether they drowned in the attempt. Through the eyes of Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris, we go inside the walls of the notorious prison, see what the prisoners endured, and learn how they engineered their daring escape.

Is it any good?

ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ is a low-key but suspenseful prison-escape story. The almost-eerie quiet is established right from the start, with an extended opening sequence showing Morris' ferry ride to the island and intake process with only three or four terse spoken lines. That quiet eventually escalates the tension and suspense of watching the escape plans come to fruition to an almost unbearable level, but it also effectively underscores the isolation and desperation that would drive someone to try such a dangerous escape.

No one does quiet-but-tough like Clint Eastwood, and fans will enjoy this mid-career performance. But teens old enough to handle the brief nudity, gore, and strong language may find the slow pace and quiet tone don't hold their interest. Those who are curious about the history of Alcatraz -- maybe they remember the book Al Capone Does My Shirts or Mythbusters episode -- will find a lot of food for thought in this retelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies based on true stories. Are the characters and events often realistic and believable? 

  • Did you know much about Alcatraz before you saw this movie? Did anything surprise you about it? What else do you know about the island's history, both before and after the prison operated there?

  • Do you think the characters made it alive? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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