Films on Escape


Beyond the Steppes

Drama 2010 NR 1hr 20m. After World War II, a young Polish single mother is sent in to a remote, inhospitable area in Siberia to work at a labor camp. When her child becomes sick, she escapes the camp and sets off on a dangerous mission to find treatment for her baby.

Not Without My Daughter

Docudrama 1991 PG-13 1hr 55m. In this fact-based thriller, Sally Field plays an American housewife who finds herself virtually trapped in Tehran when she accompanies her Iranian husband on a vacation to his native country — and he decides to relocate the family to his homeland.See Full Review

Blind Mountain
(Mang Shan)

Drama 2007 NR 95 minutes. The promise of a good-paying job lures a young Chinese woman into a horrifying predicament in this drama. College student Bai Xuemei (Lu Huang) awakens in a remote village to find she’s been sold into a marriage to the repulsive “husband” that is slavery in disguise. Her resistance only results in being raped by her “husband” and continued beatings at the hands of her husband, her husbands’ parents and the villagers. Trapped in the fiercely traditional town, the young woman finds that her avenues of escape are all blocked. As she searches for allies, including a young boy, a school teacher and a mailman. With hope running out, Bai undertakes one final dramatic stand against her oppressors. See Full Review

Rabbit-Proof Fence

Docudrama 2002 PG 93 minutes. Australia had an official white supremacy program, which lasted for over 100 years until 1970. Australia’s aboriginal integration program of the 1930s took young aborigines from their families and placed in an abusive orphanage. Three girls resolve to make the 1,500-mile trek home, without food or water. Meanwhile, a well-intentioned tracker is trying to return the girls to the authorities. This story is true, and two of the girls (now old women) actually appear in the movie. See Full Review

Kyrgyzstan: The Kidnapped Bride
The Resurgence of a Banned Custom

Documentary Frontline / World 2004. Frontline/World reporter Petr Lom travels to Kyrgyzstan, where an ancient tradition of bride kidnapping, banned by the Soviets, is resurgent. Lom gets inside families to talk with kidnapped brides — those who have managed to escape from their captors as well as those who are making homes with their new husbands.


Docudrama 2007 R 120 minutes. Based on a New York Times Magazine story, this crime drama starring Kevin Kline delves into a sordid world of international sex trafficking that leads from Mexico City to a New Jersey stash house. In a bid to save kidnapped 13-year-old Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) before she’s sold into sexual slavery, her desperate brother (Cesar Ramos) teams with a Texas cop (Kline). Can they find her before she vanishes into a hellish underworld?


Camp 14: Total Control Zone

Documentary 2012 NR 101 minutes. Through interviews and footage of a North Korean re-education camp, director Marc Wiese paints a shocking portrait of inhumanity as he chronicles the harrowing story of Shin Dong-huyk, who was born inside the camp but escaped at age 23.

Seoul Train

Documentary 2005 TV-PG 54m. Via dramatic footage and firsthand accounts, this illuminating documentary chronicles North Koreans’ struggle to escape their oppressive Communist country, risking torture and execution for a chance at liberty. Refugees try to flee through China to their southern counterpart or to another country, aided by the underground railroad — a loose network of safe houses and secret routes leading to freedom. The film also details activists’ efforts to help.

Yodok Stories

Documentary 2008 NR. Providing rare insight into a situation that receives little exposure in the West, this documentary from Andrzej Fidyk shines a light on the North Korean concentration camps that house hundreds of thousands of that country’s “class enemies.” Focusing on a group of escapees now living in Seoul, South Korea, the film blends interviews with the defectors with scenes from a musical they produced based on their experiences in the camps.


The Tunnel

Docudrama Thriller 2001 NR 167 minutes. In this acclaimed drama inspired by true events, Olympic swimmer Harry Melchior (Heino Ferch) defects from East Germany in the 1960s and hatches a daring plot to help his sister (Alexandra Maria Lara) and others flee East Berlin through a 145-yard underground tunnel. With the help of an engineer (Sebastian Koch), Melchior leads the risky plan, under constant threat of being discovered by the authorities.

Berlin Tunnel 21

Docudrama Thriller 1981 NR 2hr 21m. Following the rise of the Berlin Wall, determined American soldier Sandy (Richard Thomas) and pessimistic engineer Emerich (Horst Buchholz) put their lives on the line in order to build a secret underground tunnel and spring their loved ones out of East Berlin. Full of nonstop tension, this gripping made-for-TV drama based on a true story finds the duo facing unexpected traitors, devastating setbacks and the constant threat of being discovered.


The Great Escape (1963)

Docudrama 1963 NR 172 minutes. Based on a true story, this tension-filled epic adventure centers on an audacious plan by Allied officers who’ve escaped their Nazi captors time and again to stage a massive breakout, this time from an ostensibly escape-proof German prison camp.

The Great Escape (2005)

Documentary Nova 2005 NR 60 minutes. This documentary tells the story of the daring World War II prison break that became a smash hit film starring Steve McQueen. During the war, the Allied POWs dug three escape tunnels (nicknamed “Tom,” “Dick” and “Harry”). This installment of “Nova” follows a team of archaeologists on their hunt for the single surviving tunnel, “Dick,” which the Germans never found. Accompanying the team is a group of three of the original escapees.

The Way Back

Docudrama 2010 PG-13 133 minutes. After narrowly escaping from a wretched World War II Siberian labor camp, a small band of multinational soldiers desperately undertakes a harrowing journey to traverse Siberia, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas on foot. Title Card: “In 1941, three men walked out of the Himalayas into India. They had survived a 4000 mile walk from a Siberian gulag to freedom. This film is dedicated to them.” This is an outstanding historical and survival drama, that is amazingly based on a true story. It portrays a part of WW II that we don’t hear much about…the Siberian gulags. Stalin and the Soviets were our allies during the War; but in 1941 when this took place, Stalin and Hitler were allied, and parties to the sordid partition of Poland. Polish political prisoners, like the protagonist, Janusz, were arrested on trumped up charges and sent to the virtually escape-proof gulags of Siberia. This movie portrays the story of how a group of prisoners manages to escape from a gulag and make their way out of Siberia, through Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, Tibet and the Himalayas, to India. They all did not make it of course, but the miracle is that any did. Based on the book The Long Walk.

Rescue Dawn

Docudrama 2006 PG-13 2hr5m. Captured by the enemy and held in a Laotian torture camp, a pilot defies death by organizing one of the most daring escapes of the Vietnam conflict. Based on a true story. (see also the related story in the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, both films by Werner Herzog)

Beyond the Steppes

Drama 2010 NR 1hr 20m. After World War II, a young Polish single mother is sent in to a remote, inhospitable area in Siberia to work at a labor camp. When her child becomes sick, she escapes the camp and sets off on a dangerous mission to find treatment for her baby.

As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me
(So weit die Füße tragen)

Docudrama 2003 NR 122 minutes. After escaping from a Siberian labor camp in the wake of World War II, German soldier Clemens Forell (Bernhard Bettermann) makes his way toward his wife and children, traveling more than 8,000 miles over the course of three long years to reach his final destination. Hardy Martins directs this critically acclaimed adaptation of the best-selling book by Josef Martin Bauer, a true story of survival and courage.

Great Escapes of World War II

Documentary 2001 NR. Blending interviews with former prisoners, resistance fighters and soldiers with extraordinary archival footage and insightful commentary from leading scholars, The Great Escapes of World War II brings stirring stories like the British retreat from Dunkirk and the P.O.W. breakout that inspired The Great Escape to life like never before.


Docudrama 2009 NR 1hr 47m.  Based on the real-life experiences of a Gypsy family living in Nazi-occupied France, this poignant drama explores the broader definition of freedom through the eyes of characters who see permanency as punishment.See Full Review

Grand Illusion

Drama 1937 NR 114 minutes. Two French soldiers — blue-collar Maréchal (Jean Gain) and genteel de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay) — strive to overcome their differences while plotting their escape from a German prison camp during World War I. Meanwhile, de Boieldieu finds a kindred spirit among his captors in a patrician German officer (Erich von Stroheim). Jean Renoir directs this genre classic, considered one of the first prison-break movies ever made.


King of Devil’s Island
(Kongen av Bastøy)

Docudrama 2010 NR 1hr 56m. This gripping drama tells the true story of the uprising at the notorious Bastoy Boys Home correctional facility on a Norwegian island. When a new boy arrives, he inspires the inmates to rise up against the daily brutal treatment they experience.

Escape from Alcatraz

Docudrama 1979 PG 111 minutes. Sent to Alcatraz for life, hardened crook Frank Morris plans his unauthorized departure from the island prison. Enlisting two bank-robber brothers as accomplices, Morris meticulously works out every detail before commencing his daring escape attempt.

The Real Story: Escape from Alcatraz

Documentary 2011 NR. Interviews with eyewitnesses and dramatic reenactments reveal the inside story on the events of June 11, 1962, when after months of meticulous planning, three inmates busted out of San Francisco’s notorious Alcatraz prison and vanished.

Unsolved History: Escapes from Alcatraz

Documentary 2004 NR. Peek behind the walls of Alcatraz, America’s famous penitentiary, as guards and historians offer an insider’s look at the most bizarre escape attempts. Also meet Frank Lee Morris, who may be the only man to ever escape from “The Rock” successfully.

Midnight Express

Docudrama 1978 R 121 minutes. The true story of Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is brought to life by Oliver Stone’s Academy Award-winning screenplay recounting the young American’s experience in a Turkish prison. When Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle drugs out of Turkey, the courts decide to make an example out of him and sentence him to 20 years in prison. With little hope of ever getting out, Hayes decides to attempt a daring escape. Co-stars Randy Quaid and John Hurt.


Docudrama 1973 PG 150 minutes. Caged for a murder he didn’t commit, petty thief Henri “Papillon” Charriere (Steve McQueen) finds himself trapped within the walls of a French penal colony, determined to escape, in this film adaptation of Charriere’s true story. Joining forces with fellow convict and quirky counterfeiter Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) and armed with dogged persistence, Papillon makes a daring bid for freedom. Franklin J. Schaffner directs.



Documentary Series 2009 NR. Imagine that you are trapped in a nightmare, the prisoner of a sick sadist who is an expert in torture and driven by the desire to murder. This incredible series reveals how ordinary people have escaped such extraordinary circumstances. From a boy who eluded his bone-breaking captor to a young woman forced into sexual slavery to a family’s escape from the Jonestown cult on its final day, these horrifying true stories will chill your heart.


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