Escape From New York (1981) – Movie Review

Escape From New York (1981) - Movie Review


During the ’80s there was an emphasis on apocalyptic action films like The Mad Max movies, Steel Dawn, Blade Runner, and The Terminator, where the future wasn’t exactly a great place and often the main characters were reluctant heroes, stuck in a bad situation and trying to make the best of it.  Escape From New York is one of the best films of this genre, still to this day.  Set in the future, which at that time was 1997, The crime rate in the U.S. had risen to such a high level that the country had to take desperate measures and turn Manhattan into an island prison with the only rule being, once you go in, you don’t come out.  The U.S. police force, like an army, patrols the massive walls around the island and the skies with helicopters, killing anyone that attempts escape.  While the idea of the prison might have worked great up to that point, a massive problem develops.  The President of The United States’ is hijacked in airforce one with the hijackers crashing the plane in the prison, and the President barely getting out in an escape pod.  Enter previously decorated war hero, now criminal, Snake Plissken.  Set to enter the prison for the robbery of Fort Knox, Snake is the only guy that they believe can get the President out alive.  With the reward being a full pardon for his crimes and ultimately freedom. The only catch, if he doesn’t rescue the President within the allotted time, he dies from a small explosive injected into him and triggered by the police commander.

Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Snake Plissken is simply incredible as he navigates the prison with only 24 hours to rescue the President.  Throughout the film, which was filmed almost entirely at night, which provides a darker atmosphere, Plissken has to deal with the inmates inside while staying alive himself.  Russell’s riveting performance as the ultimate anti-hero has earned the film a cult following that still exists today, almost 40 years after it’s initial release. The supporting cast is far above average with Isaac Hayes portraying the self-proclaimed “Duke Of New York” and classic performances from Harry Dean Stanton as “Brain”, Adrienne Barbeau as “Maggie”, Ernest Borgnine as “Cabbie” and Donald Pleasance who also starred in John Carpenter’s Halloween as the President. The movie is a thrill minute with an absolutely nail-biting conclusion. 

While Kurt Russell was never really out of the film industry, Escape From New York helped him shift away from being known as a child actor and Disney prodigy in their films, and into starring roles in more adult-oriented films. The film was a box office success and spawned a sequel “Escape From L.A.” years later that has been criticized as a huge disappointment. 

If you’re an action fan, this is a must-see movie. It’s clearly one of the best original films of the 1980s that was quite different at the time.  It still holds up incredibly well today, if you just forget about the timeframe of the film as 1997 and just see as sometime in the future. Don’t miss Escape From New York! It’s a rollercoaster thrill ride that you’ll not soon forget.


Title: Escape From New York
Runtime: 99 Min
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: July 10, 1981
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, and Donald Pleasance


You can watch Escape From New York on most major streaming platforms

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