The Great Escape Movie Poster Image

The Great Escape

An exceptional story about teamwork.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1963
  • Running Time: 172 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive role models

People from a variety of backgrounds and countries work together toward a common goal.

Violence & scariness

Very tense moments, characters in peril and many killed.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking, smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are some tense scenes in this movie, people are killed, and there's some drinking and smoking.

What's the story?

This is the true story of the extraordinary courage and ingenuity of Allied men imprisoned in the Germans' special high-security WWII prison camp, and their plans for the greatest escape ever. Each man contributes his expertise. There are "tunnel kings" to dig the three tunnels, a "forger king" (Donald Pleasence) to forge the papers the soldiers will need when they escape, a "scrounger" (James Garner) to obtain required materials, and others. An American loner, Hilts (Steve McQueen), becomes the "cooler king" for his long stints in solitary, as a result of his own escape attempts. When "Big X" (Richard Attenborough), the British officer supervising the escape, asks Hilts to go through the tunnel to get important information, and then allow himself to be recaptured so he can give them the information, he refuses. But when his friend is killed trying to escape, Hilts changes his mind. Seventy-five of the prisoners are able to escape before the tunnel is discovered. The Germans track almost all of them down, and fifty are killed, including Big X.

Is it any good?


As in Stalag 17 and other films about prison camp, the prisoners in this remarkable drama adapt to the direst of circumstances with differing approaches. Hilts works on his own, or with one man, while others work on a massive group escape. Two men begin to unravel under the stress, not so much a "choice" as an involuntary response. Unlike other prison camp movies, this one does not dwell on disputes between prisoners or on the deprivations, which seems almost comfortable. It is about the professionalism, courage, resourcefulness, teamwork, and loyalty of every one of the prisoners.

Like a traditional "heist" film, the story focuses on defining a problem and then solving it. They examine the restrictions imposed by their conditions, change the ones they can, and adapt to the ones they cannot. They must also adapt quickly and calmly when the plan does not go as they expected. The story gives us an exceptional example of teamwork and loyalty, and the prisoners protect each other.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why the experts are called "kings." What makes Hilts change his mind about getting the information they want? Who was right about taking the Forger out through the tunnel, Big X or the Scrounger?Given the results of their action in this story, should officers who have been taken prisoner feel duty-bound to try to escape?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 4, 1963
DVD/Streaming release date:March 31, 1998
Cast:James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen
Director:John Sturges
Run time:172 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 7 year old Written bygracec March 22, 2010

Only for tweens please

I rented this to watch with my husband and 7 (almost 8) year old son and was very disappointed with how inappropriate it was for someone his age. There is extreme violence; the majority of the protaganists were viciously gunned down. My son was inconsolable. I can't imagine this movie being appropriate for young children
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 8 and 9 year old Written byGlenview Parent January 31, 2010
The last hour of the movie is very tough to take for kids under 12. The excitement leading up to the escape from the German POW camp is now over, but the men are far from being safe. They are still in Nazi controlled Germany. One by one they keep getting recaptured and returned. The most awful part is that during the last hour, fifty of the allied men who have been recaptured (our heros up to that point), are told to go & stretch their legs and then they are machine gunned down. I have real trouble believing that the age range for this movie should be less than 12. My children are 8 and 9, and it was TOO YOUNG. They were understandably very upset. They had so many questions about war, being a prisoner of war, the camps. They had many, many questions that started with Why, many of which I had trouble explaining. The film just raised too many questions about the brutality of war that my children weren't ready to deal with yet. I think the movie is better for a child of 12+ years, who will be emotionally stronger, more mature, and better able to handle the very real disappointment of fifty unarmed prisoners being executed. A twelve year old would also be more aware of the realities of war. An eight year old is too young to see this movie, in my opinion.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byPrimeMogul April 9, 2008
This is a excellent war movie. Both light and serious (50 of the men escaping get shot, another dies while being shot climbing barbed-wire). The main review says it has no language, but that is not true. There are though perhaps only a dozen foul words in its three hour length.