Escape From Alcatraz (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

Escape From Alcatraz (1979)



Critic Consensus: Escape from Alcatraz makes brilliant use of the tense claustrophobia of its infamous setting -- as well as its leading man's legendarily flinty resolve.

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Movie Info

No one can escape from Alcatraz, right? Try telling that to lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood). This Donald Siegel-directed nailbiter is a reenactment of Frank Morris' 1962 attempt to bust himself and two other cons out of The Rock. Eastwood, as Morris, tilts with nasty warden Patrick McGoohan for a while, befriends several fellow prisoners, and picks the guys with whom he'll make his escape. Among his break-out buddies are the Anglin Brothers (Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau), with whom he'd served in other lockups, and several others who've got their own special reasons to despise the sadistic McGoohan. Filmed on location at the newly renovated Alcatraz, Escape From Alcatraz was another box-office winner for the Eastwood/Siegel combo.

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Clint Eastwood
as Frank Morris
Jack Thibeau
as Clarence Anglin
Fred Ward
as John Anglin
Larry Hankin
as Charley Butts
Madison Arnold
as Zimmerman
Blair Burrows
as Fight Guard
Bob Balhat-Chet
as Medical Assistant
Ray K. Goman
as Cellblock Captain
Ed Vasgersian
as Cranston
Stephen Bradley
as Exam Guard
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Critic Reviews for Escape From Alcatraz

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (5)

Escape From Alcatraz is a nifty prison movie, among the best of that genre ever made.

July 17, 2019 | Full Review…

Escape from Alcatraz is relentless in establishing a mood and pace of unrelieved tension.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

It's an austere depiction of the tedious routines of prison life, and of the courage and strength of spirit needed in coping with unpleasant warders, tough fellow-inmates, and a life sentence.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

It's one of those very difficult exercises in which large emotions, like the compulsion to be free, are reflected in minute actions, like the chipping away at stone with a pocket nail clipper.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

What Mr. Siegel has made is fiction, a first-rate action movie that is about the need and the decision to take action, as well as the action itself.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Never before and never again would Siegel engage in this type of cinematic bravura.

June 22, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Escape From Alcatraz

Representing the culmination of a decade long collaboration between director Don Seigel and perpetual 1970's Clint Eastwood Escape from Alcatraz is a very loose account fo the 1962 escape from the legendary prison located in San Francisco Bay. The film opens with Frank Morris (Eastwood) being delivered to his new island home. He meets the hard ass warden (Patrick McGoohan) and delivers the speech to Morris about no one ever escaping Alcatraz and no one ever will. The film then follows Morris and his compatriots (Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, and Larry Hankin) use their wits and the materials they have on hand to make their daring escape. Shot on the actual island, the film has a washed out and bleak look that obviously mimics its location in the foggy and cold bay area. The order in these broken down buildings shows how the island has rotted away with time, but the cogs of justice have continued to turn no matter what happens. Clint Eastwood's performance is one of his best, on par with Josey Wales or Unforgiven. You are not watching Dirty Harry in this film as Eastwood leaves that persona before the opening credits roll. The performances throughout the film are filled with hopelessness and even characters not involved in the escape seem to perk up when it's even hinted at. It's like sun light breaking through the clouds for one solitary moment. As a whole, the theme of the film is hope. All of the convicts are hopeless until Frank shows up and starts filling their minds with the possibility, the hope, of escape. Could there be a way out of Alcatraz that doesn't end in death? This is another '70's film that flipped the good guys and the bad guys. Once again, after Vietnam and Watergate, the nation lost confidence in its authority figures. In Escape from Alcatraz you are rooting for the cons to overcome the authority that keeps pressing its thumb down on them from the opening moments. It is a great film that is really an underrated masterpiece of the 1970's.

Chris Garman
Chris Garman

Super Reviewer


An efficient prison break movie that manages to be tense and gripping, even though there is nothing really memorable about the plot and it doesn't even make any attempt to conceal its artificial and clearly manipulative efforts to create suspense in many key scenes.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Maybe for its time, it was considered a great masterpiece but with little character development and no real emotions it's hard to like this slow paced uneventful long movie!

Film Crazy
Film Crazy

Super Reviewer

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