Impossibly Real: "The Great Escape"

Nathan Chandler

Who starred in the film?

Steve McQueen had the lead role, but he was joined by other stars such as James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, among other big names.

The men decided to dig an escape tunnel. Where did they put the soil that they excavated?

The POWs spread the soil evenly around their camp ground to avoid any noticeable accumulation that might raise suspicion. They designed a system for pulling a string inside their pockets to open pouches hidden inside their pants legs, which released the soil as they wandered around.

Actor Charles Bronson played the character known by which nickname?

Bronson portrayed the character known as The Tunnel King. He was one of the men in charge of building the escape tunnel.

What was NOT one of the code names used for the three escape tunnels?

John wasn't one of the tunnel code names. They were named "Tom," "Dick" and "Harry."

Actor Charles Bronson suffered from what problem during filming?

Bronson -- like the character he played -- had trouble with claustrophobia. Given the small size of the escape tunnel, their fears must have been difficult to overcome.

"The Great Escape" is a movie based on a non-fiction book.

The book of the same name was written by Paul Brickhill in 1950. It featured first-hand narratives of an amazing British POW escape from a German camp in World War II.

Which actor played the character named "Scrounger"?

James Garner was Scrounger. He scrounged materials necessary for the escape attempt.

In what year did "The Great Escape" arrive in theaters?

"The Great Escape" was released in 1963. This epic war movie was unveiled on (of course) the Fourth of July.

Yep, Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Charles Bronson all starred. Was anybody NOT in this thing?

This ensemble cast wasn't just strong, it was pretty much a who's who of 1960s UK cinema -- with the notable exception of any female characters.

When he wasn't in the middle of an escape attempt, what was the main hobby of McQueen's character?

Many heroes of cinematic history have spent time in solitary confinement of various kinds, but Steve McQueen elevated the role with just a mitt and ball.

Who directed the movie?

John Sturges had already made a couple of big movies before "The Great Escape." He directed "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and "The Magnificent Seven."

The men in the movie are trying to escape from a camp. Which country would this camp be located in today?

They are trying to escape from Stalag Luft III, which was located in what is now part of Poland. Many of the movie's details regarding the prison are from real life, as British and Canadian soldiers did everything they could to escape the Nazis.

The movie is set in which year?

The movie is set in 1943, the height of World War II. The men are sent to a camp that is said to be completely escape-proof.

In real life, American POWs contributed heavily to the planning and execution of the escape.

The movie exaggerates the role of Americans in the plan … but those liberties were taken with the story to help sell more movie tickets in the United States.

One of the actors, Til Kiwe, had been a POW in real life. What was the name of his character?

The German guard nicknamed "Frick" was played by Kiwe, a German who had been captured and sent away to a POW camp in Colorado. He escaped multiple times (but was recaptured) using some of the techniques highlighted in the film.

Actor Steve McQueen did ALL of his own motorcycle stunts.

McQueen played Captain Hilts, who leads one of cinema's finest motorcycle chase scenes during an escape attempt. The actor had raced motorcycles at one point before his career in Hollywood, so really was adept and completed several scenes on his own. However, for the more dangerous scenes, including the famous fence jump, he used a stunt double.

Who is the senior British officer among the POWs who takes charge of them?

Captain Ramsey is the senior officer among the the POWs. Ramsey is played by actor James Donald.

Which of the following was NOT one of the nicknames used during the film?

"Rat" wasn't one of the nicknames. The men often used nicknames related to their escape-related tasks so that they could remember who was in charge of what aspect of the mission.

The characters in the movie were highly accurate portrayals of the men who performed these feats in real life.

The characters are based on real people. But the movie takes plenty of narrative license, sometimes attributing the characteristics and experiences of multiple individuals to a single storyline.

Where was the movie filmed?

For "The Great Escape," John Sturges took his crews to Bavaria, Germany. There, they constructed many of the buildings used during shooting.

In the movie, the men attempted an escape on their very first day in camp.

The men are having none of the POW life. They make numerous escape attempts on their very first day in camp, all without success. Once they realize they'll be POWs for awhile, they start working out their roles on the team and hatching more advanced escape plans.

The POWs decide to dig how many tunnels at the same time?

To maximize their chances of success, the prisoners decide to dig three tunnels at the same time. When one is discovered by the guards, they are devastated, sure that the Nazis will then locate the other two tunnels.

"The Great Escape" was a smash hit at the box office.

The movie raked in more than $11 million on a budget of $4 million -- and those numbers made it one of the year's most profitable movies.

What experience did the book's author endure that added authenticity to his writing?

Paul Brickhill didn't just write about the experiences. He lived as a POW in a German camp during the war.

What role did Wally Floody, a Canadian pilot and POW, take in the creation of the film?

Floody was one of the men who took part in the real-life escape, so he served as technical advisor during filming.

For how many Academy Awards was the film nominated?

"The Great Escape" was nominated for several awards around the world, including one Academy Award nomination.

For which Academy Award was the film nominated?

The movie was nominated for Best Film Editing (performed by Ferrris Webster). It didn't win. McQueen did win the Silver Prize for Best Actor at the Moscow International Film Festival.

In the movie, how many men manage to escape through the tunnel?

The escape is a huge success, with 76 men clawing their way to freedom through the tunnel and into the woods around the camp. Unfortunately, one of the last men makes a sound that the guards can hear.

In real life, how many POWs worked on the escape operation?

There were about 1,800 POWs in the camp, and a third of them were actively involved in the escape plan. Only a fraction of them were able to actually make it out of the camp's confines.

How many escapees survived and made it to freedom?

Of the 76 escapees, only 3 survived. In the days following the attempt, the Nazis executed 50 of the men.

Explore More Quizzes

About This Quiz

"The Great Escape" details the persistence of Allied prisoners of war as they defy their Nazi captors. Featuring some of the biggest stars of the day and an epic soundtrack, it depicts some of the most harrowing aspects of war and impressive shows of resistance. How much do you know about the World War II film classic?

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!