Great Escape Movies

We take a look at some of the greatest films about breaking free…

THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED is released in Irish cinemas this week. Inspired by the film – and the 100-year-old Allan’s quest for freedom – we take a look back at some of the greatest movies about breaking free.


A clear choice from the outset, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is the story of the bond between two imprisoned men. Not everyone gets to escape in the film however, that honour goes to Andy (Tim Robbins), who has one of the greatest and most iconic escape sequences in modern movies.
Andy always maintained his innocence, and when an inmate at another prison takes responsibility for Andy’s crimes – implying his innocence – Andy seizes the opportunity, and escapes through a tunnel he has carved, and the prison’s sewer system.
In films, escape is often about hope, and Andy’s escape is fuelled by the hope that he will be found innocent and allowed to live his life in peace and anonymity.


Far less dramatic than Andy’s escape from prison, but no less iconic, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides to escape from school, rules and work for one glorious day. Bueller takes his best friend and his girlfriend into downtown Chicago where the three have a fancy lunch, catch a ball game and crash the annual Von Steuben Day Parade. Bueller escapes from school for one glorious day, and escapes justice when his best friend takes the blame for a damaged car, and his sister Jeanie helps him to escape his principal and the wrath of his parents. Charm will get you everywhere, and Ferris has it in spades.


In this futuristic tale, crime has risen 400% and war has broken out in the aftermath of the Cold War. While on the way to a Peace Summit, Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists, crashes into Manhattan – now a maximum security prison – and it is up to U.S special forces soldier turned rebel “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) to rescue the Leader of the Free World.
Of course, the title of the film is about the President and Plissken having to battle through the anarchic city of New York and win their freedom, but the escape of the title is also Snake’s escape from his criminal past, and his hope that he can disappear somewhere quiet to live out his days. We know that doesn’t go quite according to plan though, as Snake is drafted in to ESCAPE FROM LA some years later.


In Gareth Evans’ cult classic, Rama (Iko Uwais) is a member of a SWAT team that becomes trapped in a tenement building run by a ruthless drug lord. In order to do their jobs, they must fight their way to the top floor and bring the criminal to justice, but in order to survive, they must find a way out of the building, n which many of the tenants are under the drug lord’s control.
THE RAID won over audiences and created an almost instant fan base when it was released in 2011, and is wonderful in its simplicity. The hope and will to escape from a hellish situation are all Rama’s and, even though he has to main, murder and disembowel the enemy, he does it with the hope of escape and getting home to his pregnant wife. Perhaps the emotional element of the film is not the strongest, since THE RAID is so action led, but it is hard to deny a feeling of relief when Rama finally escapes to the world outside the building.


Woody (Tom Hanks) is a cowboy doll, and has been leader of the toys that live in Andy’s room for what seems like an eternity. Woody’s orderly world is thrown into chaos by the arrival of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), an astronaut toy who has not realised that he is a toy. In trying to get his life back to the way it was, Woody finds himself on an adventure outside of Andy’s room, and it is up to him to bring Buzz back home.
TOY STORY is such a strong film, with many themes running through it, including acceptance, bravery and love. Escape comes into the equation when Woody and Buzz find themselves in Sid’s room; Andy’s next door neighbour who has a penchant for torturing toys. Woody casts aside his notions of what toys should look like to work with the disfigured playthings in Sid’s house, and find a way for he and Buzz to escape. The escape sequence itself is wonderfully creepy and startlingly funny, and it is to Buzz, Woody and the audience’s relief that the toys find themselves reunited with their owner.


THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED is released in Irish cinemas on July 4th

Words: Brogen Hayes