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Papillon (1973)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  16 December 1973 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 92,229 users  
Reviews: 163 user | 58 critic

A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.


(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Top Rated Movies #237 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Indian Chief
Robert Deman ...
George Coulouris ...
Dr. Chatal
Warden Barrot
Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)


Henri "Papillon" Charierre is sentenced to life in prison and transported to the penal in French Guyana. Aboard ship on the voyage over, he meets Louis Dega, a forger. They form a bond that will last them a great many years. The conditions at the penal colony are horrific and Papillon desperately wants to escape. His first attempt ends quickly in failure and as a result he spends 2 years in solitary confinement. His next attempt is somewhat more successful and he actually spends a idyllic time with a tribe of Central America Indians. Once caught however, he does 5 years in solitary confinement. Once released, he decides to make one final attempt at freedom. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Two men with nothing in common but a will to live and a place to die See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:





Release Date:

16 December 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Leptir  »

Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)


$53,267,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(magnetic prints)| (optical prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Third music score composed by Jerry Goldsmith for director Franklin J. Schaffner after Goldsmith's two previous scores for both Patton (1970) and Planet of the Apes (1968) and the future score for The Boys from Brazil (1978) all of them Oscar nominated. Goldsmith's score for this film was also Academy Award nominated - for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, the movie's only Oscar nomination. See more »


When the random prisoner has his head cut off, if you watch it slowly, you can see the blade come down and stop, then the next cut (at the same angle) has a dummy's head rolling. Additionally, in the latter cut the Sun's position has changed, so it is now in the frame. See more »


Warden Barrot: [to Papillon upon his release from solitary confinement after two years following his first escape attempt] Your term is completed.
See more »


Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »


Ballet Music from Faust
Music by Charles Gounod
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Terrific! Most underrated film ever.
15 December 2004 | by (Davis, California) – See all my reviews

I felt so moved after watching this film. Steve McQueen did a terrific job acting as Henry. Although at times, he just acted as McQueen, he did a wonderful job expressing suffering in the solitary confinement scene, and great towards the end of the movie. Hoffman is always an exceptional actor and in this movie he is no different. Unfortunately it neither won for, nor got nominated for an Oscar, and it deserved to win 3 (supporting actor, actor, picture). As much as I loved the Sting, this movie was better for that year.Some critics gave it a bad review, even a 1973 Roger Ebert article criticized this film. I guess you cant blame them too much, movies were better those days. Note that 1973 was sandwiched between 2 Godfather years.Maybe some people figured that McQueen was just redoing his Great Escape role. Either way, nowadays films are so bad I am just thirsting for a movie this deep. But if the best Hollywood can do nowadays is a glittzy trashpiece like Chicago, we cant expect too much from our times.

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Prison tame compared to other movies CrescentRoses
McQueen deserved the Oscar GeorgeZipp1980
No accent? jakholman
and the moral of the story is... flatlinebeforedeath
I think this movie is an insult to the book (founded) deboas
Great movie, but I call 'Bull *beep* le-fantome
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