Escape From Alcatraz

Escape from Alcatraz (film)

This article is concerned with the Escape From Alcatraz film; for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon see Escape from Alcatraz (triathlon).
Escape from Alcatraz is a 1979 thriller film, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood. The film co-stars Fred Ward, and also features Patrick McGoohan as the suspicious, vindictive warden.


The film is based on the non-fiction book Escape from Alcatraz by J. Campbell Bruce. It chronicles the story of Frank Morris (Eastwood) and brothers John (Ward) and Clarence Anglin (Jack Thibeau), who have the distinction of being possibly the only people to ever escape from the Alcatraz prison. It also features the film debut of Danny Glover.

A cold, atmospheric thriller, the film captures many of the difficulties of prison life and the conditions of Alcatraz prison before it was closed down permanently, shortly after the escape.

There is some hint at the end of the film that the escape was successful, but in fact it remains a mystery as to whether the escapers succeeded or not.

Background and filming

Alcatraz was closed shortly after the true events on which the film was based. It is not known whether the three escapees survived as their bodies have never been found.

Fifteen miles of cable were required to reconnect the island to the city's electricity, and a great deal of work was required to restore the prison to its 1963 state. Many of the improvements were kept intact after the film.

The dangerous escape down the prison wall and into the water was performed without doubles by Eastwood, Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau (who had both been cast partly for their athleticism). Director Siegel twice thought they had been lost to the treacherous currents.


Clint Eastwood Frank Morris
Patrick McGoohan Warden
Roberts Blossom Doc
Jack Thibeau Clarence Anglin
Fred Ward John Anglin
Paul Benjamin English
Larry Hankin Charley Butts
Bruce M. Fischer Wolf
Frank Ronzio Litmus
Fred Stuthman Johnson
David Cryer Wagner
Madison Arnold Zimmerman
Siegel makes a cameo appearance as the prison doctor.


The film took $5,306,354 in the USA on its opening weekend from 24 June 1979, shown on 815 Screens. In total the film took $43,000,000 in the USA and $21,500,000 from rentals.


  • The Mount Sutro Tower (breaking ground in 1971 and completed in 1972) is pictured in the movie's opening sequence while at the same time on-screen text indicates the plot year to be 1960.
  • When Frank Morris smuggles the metal wedge through the detector, there is an oscilloscope connected to the detector loop that was not made until the 1970s.
  • The Coast Guard cutter searching for escapees has a red diagonal stripe painted on the hull near the bow. This stripe was not adopted by the Coast Guard until 1967.
  • On the boat ride over to the prison from San Francisco a radar unit can be seen spinning on top of the boat. That type of radar transponder wasn't developed until the mid 1970s.

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