[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/steve-mcqueen-great-escape_6509.jpg]]

->'''Hilts:''' How many you taking out?\\
'''Bartlett:''' [[GreatEscape Two hundred and fifty]].\\
'''Hilts:''' [[YoureInsane You're crazy]]. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin' down the road, just like that?

''The Great Escape'' is a classic 1963 war film, directed by John Sturges and featuring a veritable AllStarCast including Creator/SteveMcQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Creator/CharlesBronson, James Coburn, and Creator/DonaldPleasance. InspiredBy the true story of a mass escape from a German prison camp, by way of Paul Brickhill's ([[AdaptationDisplacement now nearly forgotten]]) autobiographical account.

[[DuringTheWar During World War II]], the Germans decided to put all the allied prisoners with a record of escaping in the same supposedly escape-proof camp, Stalag Luft III. The prisoners promptly formed an escape committee, which coordinated a mass breakout. {{Tricksters}} forged documents, suborned the guards, and acquired needed equipment, while others dug secret tunnels.

Seventy-six were able to escape, but only three made it out of Germany. The rest were recaptured, several of them [[ThwartedEscape at the last moment]]. 'Cooler King' Hilts ([=McQueen=]) was only caught after an iconic motorbike chase, which ended with him trapped on barbed wire, only inches from theoretical safety - an entirely fictitious sequence. Finally, most of the recaptured escapees were executed.

The film is largely accurate but [[ExecutiveMeddling meddling executives]] added an unhistorical American character, and, for security reasons, omitted all mention of the help the escapees received from outside the camp. It also contains a series of continuity errors relating to the real-life segregation of American prisoners part-way through the tunnel digging; Hilts is given a couple of lines which are references to this (based on the book) while he, for no explained reason, is left there. The other American prisoners do not appear, so the whole thread is meaningless in context.

The film's theme music is very well known and a favourite of English football fans (especially when playing Germany). The story goes that the supporters' club band started playing it when England went a goal behind in a match against Italy; England staged a comeback and ended up winning, and the fans adopted the tune. It's one of ElmerBernstein's epic masterpieces.

'''Be warned. There are some unmarked spoilers.'''
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!!''The Great Escape'' provides examples of the following tropes:

* AcePilot:
** Hilts is described as a "hotshot pilot" and seems to stand out in a Stalag Luft camp meant for captured Allied aviators.
** Averted with Colin, who was in the Aerial Reconnaissance as a photographer and was shot down after a single and ill-fated reconnaissance mission.
* AdaptationDistillation:
** A large section of the end of the original book detailing things like the building of a later tunnel named George, how the imprisoned men eventually meet up with allied soldiers, the Gestapo murder investigations, etc, is completely omitted in the movie.
** The whole issue about the camp being full of escapers is this. The "bad boys" were sent to Colditz; the name "Stalag Luft" signifies a camp for Air Force officers, which virtually all pilots and most aircrew were. The later [=NCOs=] were simply lumped in with the rest.
* AffablyEvil: Von Luger is more civil to the prisoners than they are to him. He is also genuinely ashamed by [[spoiler:the Gestapo's murder of the escapees]].
* AlasPoorVillain: Von Luger's villainhood is [[PunchClockVillain mild]] in the first place, especially compared to the Gestapo, but in any case he leaves the picture with respectworthy dignity, the implication being he's going to be sent to [[ReassignedToAntarctica the Russian Front]], court-martialed, [[YouHaveFailedMe or worse]], and that things will go FromBadToWorse for the [=POWs=].
-->'''Von Luger:''' It looks, after all, as if you will see Berlin before I do.
* TheAlcatraz: The camp. The Gestapo interrogation and dungeon scenes in particular.
* AllGermansAreNazis: Averted; some of the guards are shown to be on quite friendly terms with the prisoners. The camp commandant is shown to not give the Nazi salute much respect. In the scene in his office with Bartlet he seems to be actively struggling to keep his visible distaste for the Gestapo and SS down to a level that won't get him arrested. TruthInTelevision as the Stalags were run by the German Military, e.g Luftwaffe being in charge of the Air Force [=POWs=][[note]]this arrangement was fortunate, since a couple of years of bombings had left the German public with very little love for allied airmen (lynchings occurred) -- however Luftwaffe leadership generally upheld proper procedure and respect for the [=POWs=] in the camps they ran[[/note]], not the Nazis.
** Additionally, Colonel von Lindeiner-Wildau, on whom von Luger was loosely based, was respected enough by his prisoners that several testified in his favor at a postwar trial for war crimes.
* AntiVillain: Von Luger.
* ArtisticLicenseCars: The motorcycle Hilts rides is a Triumph T6. The Germans [=BMWs=] and Zundapps, never used Triumphs.
* ArtisticLicenseHistory: Several of the characters assault German guards, a thing which real-life prisoners and escapers avoided at all costs as being tantamount to inviting execution, or at least a spell in a highly unpleasant German military prison
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: Averted. The Germans are played by German actors (although they inexplicably switch to English in several scenes) and Creator/RichardAttenborough amazes everyone by speaking perfect, almost accent-free German in a scene towards the end (his character is based on Roger Bushell, who really could speak fluent German and Afrikaans.. so this is TruthInTelevision). [[spoiler:It didn't help him, though.]] When a character doesn't speak German, or has a terrible accent, their character just isn't meant to speak German. (They even make it a plot point to let the persons with the best German skills escape first.)
* AsYouKnow: Ives reminds Hilts that in the art of tunnel-making, the digging is not the main problem. It's the shoring up with wood and getting the dirt out.
* AuthorAppeal: The bike escape performed by Hilts originates from Creator/SteveMcQueen's love for motorcycles. The star had enough clout and [[WagTheDirector creative control]] to ask for such an [[AdaptationExpansion additional scene]], now iconic.
* {{Badass}}: Everyone in their own way, but the grand prize goes to Hilts.
* BadassBookworm: Creator/SteveMcQueen's character was studying chemical engineering when he joined the war. Next he's riding motorcycles and beating up ThoseWackyNazis.
* BigBlackout: A low-key one helps the prisoners out when the Germans shut down the lights during an Allied air raid.
* BigGood: Bartlett "Big X", the leader of the operation.
* BittersweetEnding:
** Only Sedgwick, Danny, and Willie manage to escape Nazi Germany entirely (this is another major departure from the book, because the three who got to England were Dutch and Norwegian). Most of the others are either killed during the escape, or executed afterward. A small number (including Hilts) are recaptured and simply put back in the camp. Also, the Luftwaffe Commandant is being replaced by the Gestapo, who will probably make life more difficult for the remaining [=POWs=]. The [=POWs=] succeeded in causing the Germans to expend resources capturing them again, but fifty were murdered. It's openly asked: "Was it worth it?" and answered with: "That depends on your point of view."
** Hilts is back in the cooler bouncing a baseball against a wall, [[TheDeterminator planning his next escape]] as he did so many times before. When the guards place Hilts back in the cooler again, you can visibly see their heads bow, and their actions half-hearted. Proving that even Mooks have emotion.
* BrutalHonesty: When Hilts is discovered testing his baseball trick to cross the wire, he first tells a tale to a mook and then to an officer. When Von Luger arrives to question him, Hilts is annoyed by the repetition, drops the act and flat-out tells the Colonel he was planning an escape.
-->'''Von Luger: ''' 10 days isolation, Hilts. 20 days. Cooler.
* CacophonyCoverUp: The prisoners loudly sing Christmas carols to mask the sounds from a workshop. Also when the tunnel is started and it is necessary to break a thick piece of slate, some of the prisoners pound some stakes into the ground with mallets for their vegetable gardens (which are part of the distractions as well).
* CaliforniaDoubling: Averted. At first when they scouted possible locations in California, it was difficult for them to find locations with appropriate scenery (especially trees). They gave up when it became clear that "[[CaptainObvious Germany looks like Germany]]" and no other location would suffice.
** Look for postwar [[WestGermany Deutsche Bundesbahn]] markings on the railroad rolling stock, however...
** In his book, ''Not So Quiet On The Set'', Robert Relyea (one of the film's producers) revealed that they also ended up going to Germany over the closer California because the German officials allowed them a ''lot'' of leeway. They were allowed to essentially destroy a swath of forest to make the prison (provided they planted new trees after filming) and gave them access to an entire train and an active section of track for however long they needed it. They even provided, unprompted, a senior train official for safety and coordination.
* {{Catchphrase}}: Colin loves to define things as "splendid."
* ChekhovsHobby: In the cooler, Hilts tells Ives that he did a lot of motorcycle riding while in college. After the Escape, [[spoiler:he nearly reaches Switzerland on a commandeered motorcycle.]]
* CrazyEnoughToWork:
** Hilts' escape plans. Big X and the others do mention it's so crazy it might work. The first time, it fails. The second time, it works so well, Hilts got captured on purpose to bring back information Big X and the others needed.
** The whole escape plan hinges on this, since the Germans are on the lookout for attempts that typically feature half a dozen men. Big X lampshades that they ''never'' will suspect them of being crazy enough to try and breakout over ''[[RefugeInAudacity 250]]!''
* CoolBike: The bike stolen by Hilts is a Triumph [=SR6 650=] disguised as a German [=BMW=] R75.
* CompositeCharacter: Some of the characters were based on a couple different prisoners rather than just one individual.
* CulturalTranslation: Kinda. While there were Americans at the prison camp in Real Life, the breakout was primarily enacted by British and Canadian pilots flying with the RAF.[[note]]The early stages of the real plan actually involved a large number of American prisoners. Unfortunately as the tunnels progressed the Germans decided there were now enough Americans in the camp to justify giving them their own compound and transferred them all over at about the time where the film puts the July 4th celebration.[[/note]]
* TheDeadHaveNames: [[spoiler: A list with the fifty is read at the end.]]
* TheDeterminator: The Allied [=POWs=] as a whole. Von Luger is appalled when he reads their dossiers. The first five minutes are without dialogue as the prisoners are herded into the camp and immediately start sizing up their preferred escape routes.
-->'''Von Luger:''' The men under your command have been most successful. This man, Ashley Pitt, for example: shot down over the North Sea, escaped, recaptured, escaped, recaptured. Archibald "Archie" Ives: eleven escape attempts. He even tried to jump out of the truck on the way here. [...] The list is almost endless. One man here has made 17 attempted escapes! Group Captain, this is close to insanity!
* DiabolusExMachina: A realistic but unexpected one happens on the the night of the escape. Despite the calculations, the tunnel is found to be several feet short of the trees, so the escapees are briefly exposed. Cue FinaglesLaw.
* DoubleVision: During the iconic motorcycle scene, Creator/SteveMcQueen is not only playing Hilts, but is the guy riding the motorbike that Hilts stole and also played one of the German motorcyclists chasing him!
* DreamTeam: The Germans round up together a large group of Allied escape artists, hoping the [=POWs=] would be easier to contain in a new Stalag-camp, [[TaughtByExperience designed and run without the flaws of previous ones]]. The temerity of this predicament is addressed in-story.
* DressingAsTheEnemy:
** A variation when Danny and Sedgwick try to pose as Russian prisoners when this special, secluded group is being taken outside to cut trees. They are easily spotted.
** Hilts dresses as a Wehrmacht soldier in the climax, but his cover is blown when he's halted and is unable to provide a travel permit when asked for one by a German officer. In fact, he probably doesn't even understand German in the first place.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Ives.]]
* DuringTheWar
* EagleLand: AcePilot Hilts loves to project the boisterous, self-confident and proud image. The Germans are able to find a tunnel during the 4th of July celebration, when the prisoners are relaxed.
-->'''Von Luger:''' You are the first American officer I have met. Hilts, isn't it? [...] Are all American officers so ill-mannered?
-->'''Hilts:''' About 99 per cent.
* EmbarrassingFirstName: Don't call Hilts "Virgil."
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: During Hilts' first scene, he tries a baseball trick to cross the safety wire and gets sent to the cooler when he talks back to the Colonel in the ensuing argument after he gets discovered. He gets effectively drawn as cocky and snarky, resourceful but over-confident, proud and unabashedly determined.
* FaceYourFears: Ironically enough, "Tunnel King" Danny sufers from {{claustrophobia}}, but he recounts he was able to overcome it because his resolve to escape is usually stronger than his fear. After he snaps, Willie is there to help him.
* GetAHoldOfYourselfMan: Willie punches some sense into Danny when he's trying an ill-conceived escape after a panic attack. It works indirectly, but Danny warns Willie not to do that again, ever.
* GoodIsNotNice:
** Bartlett, in part due to the TheChainsOfCommanding, is sometimes unnecessary blunt and cold to some of the fellow escape artists under his watch. He also refuses to give due credit to a Luftwaffe that applies some professional courtesy and is milder compared to other Nazi branches.
** Hilts is cocky and acts like a self-centered narcissist at first, but he sacrifices his own escape for the greater good a number of times and puts his life at risk to protect Ives and others.
* GreatEscape: The TropeNamer. Planned for 250 [=POWs=], around a third of them reach the second stage.
* GuileHero: The Allied [=POWs=] obviously need to be smart, because being overly brass and confrontational may be rewarded with a visit to the cooler or a bullet to the back. Hendley the scrounger stands out among them.
* HeroicBSOD:
** Danny having an attack of {{Claustrophobia}} in the tunnel.
** Ives in the cooler. Ives suffers a second one during the 4th of July celebration, [[spoiler:[[DrivenToSuicide which leads to his suicide]]]].
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Lt. Cmdr. "Dispersal" Ashley-Pitt]] at the train station, among others.
* HeroStoleMyBike: Sedgwick steals a bicycle, Danny and Willie appropriate a rowboat. Averted by Hilts in that his bike isn't civilian property. Material from the DVD points out these thefts aren't recommended for [=POWs=], as such a crime gives the foreign government an excuse to prosecute the POW as a criminal.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Willie and Danny are very dear friends who go back a long way. The same can be said for Barlett and Mac.
* HollywoodDarkness: During the escape scene. Even worse when the camp's lights turn off, yet the ambient light levels barely change. Same when the lights turn back on.
* HonorBeforeReason: "Colin is not a blind man as long as he's with me!!"
* HopeSpot: After most of the escapees are rounded up, the leaders try to remain upbeat and talk about the possibility of escaping again in the future. A few seconds later...
* IconicItem: Hilts' baseball and glove. The guards are chivalrous enough to let him use 'em in the cooler.
* InMemoriam: "This film is dedicated to the fifty."
* InSeriesNickname: Everyone in the main cast has a nickname:
** Hilts is "The Cooler King."
** Danny and Willie are "The {{Tunnel King}}s."
** Bartlett is "Big X."
** Hendley is "TheScrounger."
** Sedgwick is "The Manufacturer."
** Blythe is "The Forger."
** Ives is "The Mole."
** The guards are referred to as "goons" and "ferrets".
* InspiredBy: As disclosed in the opening titles.
* KilledMidSentence: [[spoiler: Bartlett. He's wistfully telling Mac how this escape has given him a renewed sense of purpose in life, before trailing off when he notices that the Gestapo have set up machine guns.]]
--> [[spoiler:'''Bartlett''']]: You know Mac...
* KilledOffForReal: [[spoiler:Bartlett, Mac, Cavendish, Ashley-Pitt, Blythe, and Ives, to name a few.]]
* LastNameBasis:
** Everyone except Roger, Colin, Danny and Willy.
** Hendley and Mac address each other as 'Bob' and 'Andy' respectively in a single scene.
* LateArrivalSpoiler: The execution of most of the recaptured escapees.
* TheLoad: Bartlett insists on not taking Blythe along for fear he might become this due to his poor vision. Hendley offers to watch after Blythe and Blythe manages to avoid slowing them down for the most part, although he [[spoiler:does wind up getting himself killed.]]
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: [[spoiler: The 50 are reported as "shot while escaping" and not like the real thing, war crimes victims. The allied prisoners are not fooled by the [[BlatantLies obvious lie]] and even Von Luger is ashamed by the murders.]]
* MeaningfulEcho: "It looks, after all, as if you will see Berlin before I do."
* MilitaryMoonshiner: Americans Hilts, Hendley, and Goff celebrate the Fourth of July by distilling some [[GargleBlaster paint-peeling hooch]] and sharing it with the other prisoners.
* MinorMajorCharacter: Group Captain Ramsey is the British senior officer but his involvement in the escape is very limited, he never intends to escape - he walks with a cane, but it's hinted that his code of duty precludes him from abandoning his post anyway - and mostly serves as Barlett's {{foil}} stating some unpleasant truths, and to receive exposition from the Germans.
* MoodWhiplash:
** The cheery 4th of July party is ominously aborted when the Germans find "Tom", and to make things worse, [[spoiler: Ives]] is killed a moment later trying to climb the barbed wire.
** The spirited, mischievous and almost jovial first day of the Allies in the camp is counterpointed by the somber, grim and grizzled looks of the Russian prisoners used as [[WorkingOnTheChainGang forced labor]]. Even a death march is played during this scene.
** In spite of their situation, Bartlett begins to tell Mac about how working on the tunnels has given him a sort of purpose in life, then [[spoiler:not only them, but the other forty-eight men who were in the truck, are gunned down in cold blood.]]
* NotSoDifferent: Hendley invokes a moment of bonding with Werner by bringing up his background in The Boy Scouts. Werner reveals he was enrolled in the German counterpart when, to his chagrin, it was merged into The Hitler Youth. The camps for Allied Airmen are run by the Luftwaffe, and they share a mutual loathing of the Gestapo. This bonding over their shared military background is TruthInTelevision.
* ObfuscatingStupidity:
** Initially The [=POWs=] spread the word about ignoring Bartlett, aka [[LetXBeTheUnknown Big X]], just in case the Germans don't know who he is.
** The escape committee realizes the lack of escapes would make the Germans suspicious, tipping them about something big going on so the committee allows quick and less elaborate attempts -- if not ill-conceived -- to go ahead.
* PatrioticFervor: The three Americans organize a festive, good natured 4th of July celebration, where [[BraveScot Mac]] agrees to Hilts' "down the British!". Early on, Werner tries to use the WarOf1812 as a wedge between the British and Hendley, who is oblivious to the feud and dismisses it as propaganda.
* POWCamp: The entire setting.
* PrisonEscapeArtist: The inhabitants of the Nazi prison camp are the best escape artists among captured Allied soldiers, and Roger Bartlett (AKA "Big X") is the best organizer of escape attempts among them.
* PunchClockVillain: Colonel von Luger and Werner "The Ferret".
* PunishmentBox: The Cooler.
* PyrrhicVictory[=/=]WasItReallyWorthIt:
-->'''Ramsey''': Roger's idea was to get back at the enemy the hardest way he could, mess up the works. From what we've heard here, I think he did exactly that.
-->'''Hendley''': Do you think it was worth the price?
-->'''Ramsey''': Depends on your point of view, Hendley.
** Averted by various material published in recent years. It seems that at least the principal organisers were well aware that they could expect a bullet in the back if caught; several were known to the Gestapo, the book skates around the fact but it is clear that [=MI9=] were in contact with the leaders and they, in turn, were in contact with the resistance in Holland and elsewhere. They were at large in enemy territory in civilian clothes with no identification as combatants; the book mentions at one point, a captures escaper being examined to demonstrate that his clothes were converted from uniform for this reason. The Germans had at least some justification for regarding them as spies.
** It is also mentioned in several sources that the two Norwegians were transported to Sweden by a captain who was a member of the resistance, who was subsequently imprisoned in Auschwitz, and that the Dutch escaper is implied to have been rejected by his family after the war for bringing the wrath of the Gestapo on them at a time when the Allies were already in Holland.
* RaceLift: Averted, save for a downplayed country lift. There were mostly British-Commonwealth prisoners in the camp and the movie reflects that. On the other hand the Americans were transferred to other camps just before the great escape but the movie has only three American characters, one of them fairly minor. American actors Creator/JamesCoburn and Creator/CharlesBronson (of Polish-Lithuanian ancestry) are playing an [[FakeNationality Australian and a Pole]], respectively.
* RatedMForManly: Oh Hell yes.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: A reassignment to the bloody Eastern Front is mentioned as a potential and terrifying punishment for incompetent Wehrmacht guards.
* RunForTheBorder: The POW variety.
* RunningGag:
** Hilts and his baseball and glove when he's in the Cooler.
** Cavendish, who yells "Alley-Oop!" before jumping into his upper bunk. [[spoiler: He eventually falls through to the lower bunks when his bed slats are stolen to reinforce the tunnels.]]
* SceneryPorn: Lots of it, particularly in the post-breakout portion of the film.
* ScrewTheWarWerePartying: The prisoners take a brief hiatus to celebrate 4th of July, however the German guards do not and a tunnel is discovered.
* TheScrounger: James Garner's character, Hendley.
-->'''Trailer voiceover:''' He'd come up with a baby elephant if the men needed it.
* {{Sequel}}: The 1988 MadeForTVMovie ''The Great Escape II: The Untold Story'', which stars Christopher Reeve and basically picks up where the original film left off. It's almost 100% fictional, though. It also features [[YouLookFamiliar Donald Pleasence again]], this time as a Nazi officer.
* ShownTheirWork: They went to great lengths to accurately build a German POW camp. Of course, it did help that [[ActorSharedBackground several of the actors had been prisoners of war]] during WW2:
** Creator/DonaldPleasence, who had been in a German POW camp, made a few suggestions to John Sturges, who wasn't aware of that fact, and was told to keep his opinions to himself. However, when the director learned that Pleasence knew what he was talking about, he was asked for advice all the time.
** Creator/CharlesBronson had actually been a coal miner and actually was claustrophobic because of it.
** James Garner had been the scrounger for his unit in the Korean War.
* TheSmartGuy[=/=]NonActionGuy: Colin's mild, meek demeanor makes Hendley wonder [[FishOutOfWater what is he doing there]]. Colin nonchalantly replies that he is the forger.
* SpySpeak: The tunnels are called "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry".
* StiffUpperLip: Roger, Mac, Colin, Cavendish, and a lot of the British officers.
* StockBritishPhrases: The British officers tend to use these.
* SuicideByCop: After the tunnel Tom is discovered, the shattered [[spoiler:Ives]] commits suicide by attempting to scale the wire in full view of the guards, and is machine-gunned.
* TemptingFate:
-->'''Hendley:''' Over this range, then twenty more minutes and we've got it made!
* ThoseTwoGuys: "Tunnel Kings" Danny and Willie.
* ThoseWackyNazis: The villains, the Gestapo. Many of the guards of the camp, ruled by the Luftwaffe, are just antagonists.
* ThwartedEscape: Painfully. There are various cameos lifted out of context, which are referred to in the opening sequences of the book as having taken place elsewhere; Creator/JamesGarner and Creator/DonaldPleasance have several of them including the train jump, and the attempted theft of the aircraft, although the real escapees didn't manage to start it and were caught on the ground. The lorry theft is another. At one point the POW leaders allow the Americans to try an easily thwarted escape just so the Germans don't get suspicious of their bigger planned escape.
* TrainEscape: A way a number of them try to escape.
* {{Tricksters}}: ''Everyone''.
* TunnelKing: Danny and Willie are the {{Trope Namer}}s. Archibald 'The Mole' Ives also qualifies.
* TyrantTakesTheHelm: Von Luger gives a reasonable NewEraSpeech to Ramsey in the beginning, but the trope is only played completely straight in the end, when the Gestapo takes over from the Luftwaffe.
* WorthyOpponent: Von Luger respects his prisoners as fellow soldiers and officers doing their duty and fighting for their country.
* YouJustToldMe / ImposterForgotOneDetail: After [=MacDonald=] tries to pass himself off as a French citizen by speaking fluent French to some SS officers, he succeeds until they politely tell him;
--> '''Officer''': ''(In English)'' Good luck!
--> '''Mac''': Thank you... ''([[OhCrap Suddenly looks horrified]])''
** Made worse by the earlier scene where the prisoners are rehearsing as [[ChekhovsGun Mac uses the exact same trick]] on one of the prisoners he tests and admonishes him for being so stupid for falling for it. Bartlett's real-life counterpart is described as having been caught this way.
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->''This article is dedicated to the fifty.''
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