Escape From New York (1981)

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Kurt RussellLee Van CleefDonald PleasenceErnest BorgnineIsaac HayesAdrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Synopsis: 1997 – and Manhattan has become a walled prison for three million criminals where they are left to run loose. The plane carrying the American President crashes there and he is taken prisoner by “the Duke”. Sent in to rescue him from this land of hell is Snake Plissken, former war hero turned criminal. To ensure he does not abandon his mission, two devices are implanted in his arteries, primed to blow him to pieces if he fails to return on time.

Escape From New York takes place in 1997, Fifty-foot containment wall surrounds Manhattan Island on all sides and soldiers patrol it constantly at all times.

Manhattan Island has become a massive maximum-security prison. The island is mined on all roads and waterways. Liberty Island, which is located nearby, serves as one of the prison’s security headquarters. A prisoner’s only rule is that once he or she enters, they never leave. 

Snake Plissken, a hardened, yet highly decorated war hero is currently on his way to the island to serve a life sentence for a daring robbery, and when the President’s plane, Air Force One is hijacked and crashes inside the prison, the security officials in charge blackmail Snake. He is forced to infiltrate the prison and safely escort the President off the island. Two microcharges are injected into Snakes arteries, which will explode if he doesn’t return the President within twenty-two hours. The charges will be deactivated if he succeeds, and he will be fully pardoned for all crimes he has committed.

Snake Plissken: “I’m an asshole…”

Kurt Russell plays Snake Plissken, an anti-hero hired by his authoritative enemy Bob Hauk to rescue the American President after his plane crashes in New York. Snake wears an eye patch, biker boots and a tank top, he has a nihilistic attitude to top it all off. The crime rate in New York has risen 400% since 1987 and it has become a giant prison where criminals are the ones who define “civilization”. Snake comes across many new and imaginative characters, which are introduced within the first hour of the movie. These utterly cool characters are all played by Class-A actors, which makes the movie even more memorable! In addition to Kurt Russell, “Escape from New York” also stars Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasance, and Harry Dean Stanton.


Murderers, rapists, and thieves are everywhere in the city. In order to survive, some groups of people in the city, most notably the “crazies” who live underground in the subway, have resorted to cannibalism.The most powerful person in the prison is The Duke played by Isaac Hayes. Hayes puts on a menacing performance and makes Vito Corelone look like a pussycat. The Duke rules the city with an iron fist.


There are some excellent action sequences and Carpenter’s own music score creates a great mood of despair. Kurt Russell has always been one of the best actors in the business. The role of Snake Plissken is clearly one of his best performances. Escape From New York is one of Carpenter’s many heavy hitters in his filmography. This is a must watch!

Rating: 4 out of 5.