By Jeff Shannon
Forever embroiled in controversy, Midnight Express divides
viewers into opposing camps: those who think it's one of the most intense
real-life dramas ever made, and those who abhor its manipulative tactics
and alteration of facts for the exploitative purpose of achieving a
desired effect. That effect is powerfully achieved, regardless of how you
may feel about director Alan Parker and Oscar-winning screenwriter Oliver
Stone's interpretation of the story of Billy Hayes. It was the American
Hayes--played by the late Brad Davis in an unforgettable performance--who
was caught smuggling two kilograms of hashish while attempting to board a
flight from Istanbul, Turkey, in 1970. He was sentenced to four years in a
hellish Turkish prison on a drug possession charge, but his sentence was
later extended (though not by 30 years, as the film suggests), and Hayes
endured unthinkable brutality and torture before his escape in 1975.
Unquestionably, this is a superbly crafted film, provoking a visceral
response that's powerful enough to boil your blood. By the time Hayes
erupts in an explosion of self-defensive violence, Parker and Stone have
proven the power--and danger--of their skill. Their film is deeply
manipulative, extremely xenophobic, and embellishes reality to heighten
its calculated impact. Is that a crime? Not necessarily, and there's no
doubt that Midnight Express is expertly directed and blessed with
exceptional supporting performances (especially from John Hurt as a
long-term prisoner). Still, it's obvious that strings are being pulled,
and Parker, while applying his talent to a nefarious purpose, is a
Midnight Express received Academy
Awards for Music Scoring Awards (Best Original Score; Giorgio Moroder)
and Writing (Best Screenplay based on material from another medium; Oliver
Stone). Midnight Express also received Academy
Awards nominations for Best Picture (Alan Marshall - Producer, David
Puttnam - Producer), Supporting Actor (John Hurt), Directing (Alan
Parker), and Film Editing (Gerry Hambling).
Share Your Memories!
Is Midnight Express one of your favorite movies? What do you remember about it? Share your stories (or your reviews) with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)
Your Memories Shared!
"I've read a few reviews for Oliver Stone's Midnight Express on the Net and they all say the same: "Good screenplay, but would not recommend this movie". Why is that? For it's amazing display of reality? For breaking down the stereotype-drugtourist-image and giving you the feeling that the kid who is put in a Turkish jail could be your very own son?
Midnight Express won 2 Academy Awards and it deserved 5 more. The story is breathtaking. But only because of the acting abilities of Brad Davis (who 'stars' as Billy Hayes), Randy Quaid (best performance ever) and John Hurt. These actors take you on a trip to hell on earth.
The story is about Billy Hayes, a young American guy who is arrested at the Turkish airport for a minor offense and is sentenced to 30 years in prison. In this Turkish prison he is tortured and mentally broken by the prison authorities.
The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat for the full 2 hours and afterwards you will probably watch it again.
I rate this movie: TOP 5 movies EVER!"
"Midnight Express was without doubt one of the best true to life movies I have seen. And yes this movie did deserve the awards it received and some. I saw this movie upon its first release back in the Super70s, and as most recently on the Bravo channel. But one thing after seeing the movie I always wondered what became of Billy Hayes. I saw an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show with Billy Hayes's wife. I caught the interview in the middle of it. But I thought and hopefully I'm wrong but if I recall I thought she said that her husband, referring to Mr. Hayes died from the AIDS virus. I hope heard it wrong, because I truly felt terrible about that. This man suffered for so long in the Turkish prisons, I would hate to think that's what happened to him in the end."
"Dimitri, put down the hash, open a window and let some fresh air in. The reason most people are embarassed about this film is that the Real Billy Hayes himself has acknowledged that the last half of the flim is basically Oliver Stone's fantasy. It is not a "TRUE STORY" beyond the opening line about an American caught smuggling drugs in Turkey. Read Billy Hayes own denunciations of the film and then re-consider your praise of this film being one of the best of all time. It is a nice piece of Anti-Turkish propaganda, and it does stir moral outrage, but against who? Billy Hayes who admits he smuggled drugs, against the Turks who do run some brutal (but not as brutal as they are portrayed in the film) prisons, or Oliver Stone for inventing events and a chronology that throws away the source material for sensatiionalism. This is a film that should be viewed but viewed with both eyes opened."
"I remember when my parents borrowed this film in the mid-Awesome80s, from a friend of ours, and watching the beginning of the film. At first, I thought Billy Hayes was wearing regular glasses instead of sunglasses. Second, I wondered why he was taping, what appeared to be Hershey's chocolate bars around his waist. My father later explained that it was hashhish, not chocolate bars. At first, I thought he said hashhash. Another scene I recall was when Billy brutally beaten and killed another inmate on a stairway. At first I thought he ripped off his ear. When I saw the movie in its entirety during its 15th Anniversary, I realized that it was the inmate's tongue he ripped out. Not his ear.
I still have mixed views about the film to this day. While it is excellent in terms of drama and other fine acting, the violence and other subject matter is quite controversial. It may have been based on a true story, but many liberties were taken.
Overall, I will say this, it's an okay film, and should be used to teach young people about how bad narcotics really are."
"Being a Turkish citizen I didn't like to hear the following : "You're all pigs". [Editor's note: Us Americans are used to such insults.] That's all one can say about this movie. But Dimitri liked it, just because he is called Dimitri.
We are the only nation to be insulted so obviously in a movie. [Editor's note: Oh really???] I'm coming from the land of "Midnight Express", but in this land too, although not mentioned in the movie, we have feelings. And the general idea of this movie makes us feel "hated" and feeling hated makes us surprised, broken, disappointed. The "hero" of the movie was the victim of Turkish justice and we're the victim of Occidental fantasies. [Editor's note: What is not an "Occidental fantasy" is the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 at the hands of the Turks. A recent film (Ararat) explores this subject but cannot be shown in Turkey because of death threats to the distributors. Yes, the U.S. has plenty of atrocities to answer for itself, but don't pretend Turkey is above the fray.]"
"Just finished watching this movie for the third time in my life of 25 years and I remain enthralled."
"Anyone who would not recommend this movie must be smoking hashish! This movie is an absolute must see, easily the best 'prison' movie ever made. And just to think it is based on a true story..... Brad Davis is superb in the leading role, and Giorgio Moroder's haunting score accompanies the film perfectly. Definitely a 5 out of 5."
--Mike in L.A.
"I must agree . Midnight Express is a cinematic experience like no other .Words do not do justice to impact of this movie . I saw it as lately as the year 2000. And believe you me there is nothing made that I can recall that leaves you with a feeling that this movie leaves you with .
Even the bit parts were acted with class . Rifki for example.
This rates as my alltime favourite movie . I have watched it many times since them . It still leaves me spellbound.
"Where is Billy Hayes today?? What ever became of his life?? Do you think this kind ofthing could actually happen today?"
"I completely agree! This movie is so real, I get the same level of emotional response every time I watch it!"
"Whoa! If there was ever a cautionary tale about using your head when it comes to controlled substances, this was IT. Everyone was getting high in the Super70s and nobody paid attention to the offical scare tactics. Then came Midnight Express and the reality of a regular fellow thrown in a Turkish prison. That meant something."
"Recently I watched "Midnight Express" and I can honestly say that I feel I will never forget it. It was absolutly magnificent, not only because it is a true story, but also due to the realisation it broght me about prison life in other countries which more than likely still exist. It was acted superbly and by the end I was in tears. I feel it deserved more recognition for its pure brilliance and therefore should have gained more than 2 awards."
"As I have seen this amazing film, I became completely thrilled with many effects of the prisoners' cell scenery. Even though, several men in Turkey were sentenced to a limited time in prison for their recent charges and convictions. They were remain desperate to escape, as time passed a few men who worked much harder to find many ways. Finally, only one man had sucessfully made to the escape.
I'd recommend this one to a history, criminal and an adventurous movie enthusiast."
"I absolutely loved the film "Midnight Express". The acting was brilliant. I thought it was interesting and full of suspense. I know it was supposed to be a serious film and it was but there were also some funny moments. The character I loved the most was Max the Englishman. He was very funny. I loved the way he was so sarcastic towards the man who was trying to explain his plans for excape. I was sitting down but I ended up falling on the floor I was laughing so much. He just took the ---- out of him.
That showed that even though he seemed physically weak, he had an inner strength and a great sense of humour. John Hurt, I think you are were brilliant. Keep up the good work!"
"A classic piece of cinema, brimming with suspense (albeit with many a liberty taken). A few things to note for the confused here.
(1) Billy Hayes IS alive, and working in the "industry" as a director/producer.
And (2) Brad Davis should have been nominated for the Academy Award. Granted it was a tough year for nomination, but we all know had he been more known, and the academy members didn't have their heads up their arse's as usual, it could have worked out much different. But hey! He got a golden globe!(that's a little sarcasm)
R. I. P."
"[Editor's note: We recently received a special message from a Turk named Ali, who further research revealed spends most of his time watching this movie (200 times, he claims; I leave it to you to decide how mentally stable someone who watches Midnight Express that many times is) and creating paranormal documentaries. Most of you should already know all you need to know about him. His hate-filled and multipage diatribe is far too long to fit here, but I wanted you all to have a sampling of it in my ongoing and unfortunately endless campaign of exposing ignorance. Here are your selections. His first comment must be an attempt at self-criticism.]
Don't talk with you’re a**, talk as a free-minded and well informed person.
WTF don't you accept an alternative look in your page from an ordinary Turkish citizen?
What kind country this is? Everybody are fu*****, liars, thieves, cruels, barbars.
To talk behind the computer is so easy.
You are only f****** the people's brains by your ignorance and prejudices!
Explain yourself to us
write a warning on top of the page with capital letters: "NOT FOR TURKS AND ALL MUSLIMS"
You, the man called "editor", don't try to protect this **** as an amateur racist!
This level of my foreign language is enough for your cultural and humanistic level. You'll got the message.
[Yeah Ali, I got the message. And yes, it is easy for you to talk behind your computer. Reinforcing negative cultural stereotypes may not have been your intention, but you did a fine job of it. However, I know you are not representative of vast majority of family-oriented, intelligent and peace-loving people of Turkey. I refuse to hold your statements against them nor form any prejudices based on your ignorance and intolerance; I have not been burdened with a negative view of Turkey or its citizens and, despite your best efforts, I remain free from such thoughts. Despite some problems that few countries seem to be amune from, Turkey and its secular government are a bright beacon of hope for a part of the world that desperately needs hope and change.
However, I do NOT have to explain myself to you nor anyone else on this planet and I will not allow the ignorant to spew here unedited. I reserve the right to challenge a reader from a country guilty of recent mass genocide when he claims that a rarely-seen motion picture has made him and his countrymen "the victim of an Occidental fantasies." The only victims I can see are Armenian, not Turkish. If you do not like the movie and how certain characters are portrayed then don't watch it 200 times! And while this site and others allow you to voice your concerns - providing they are neither too long to print nor too profane - it is Turkey that has effectively banned the recent motion picture (Ararat) depicting the unforgivable and systematic slaughter of Armenians. I will thus not take lessons from Ali on free speech.
And speaking of genocide, 'Monster' also makes the breathtakingly ridiculous claim that Turkey is the only country to be insulted so obviously in a movie. Ask the Germans if they feel slighted about their portrayals in the countless Hitler movies - or the Japanese for that matter to use but two examples from among... how many countries are there in the U.N. now?
Anyone with the least bit of critical thinking skills understands that by challenging him on these points, I am NOT defending the film nor am I attacking Turkish citizens. Indeed, I never, ever have defended the content of the film and have allowed others to criticize it. For the record, the third comment was posted some years ago and long before any Turk's had sent feedback. And it is from an American who correctly points out that Billy Hayes has admitted the last part of the film is pure fiction and that it is anti-Turk propaganda.
I will not allow Ali nor his "comments" to become an ongoing discussion. I won't be posting anything more from him nor anyone who might wish to take issue or sides with either of us. However, if anyone - Turkish or otherwise - wishes to rationally criticize this film, Billy Hayes, or Oliver Stone, I'd be happy to publish them without any comments. Just don't expect to be able to make baseless statements without my editor's hand slapping you back into reality. Don't like it? Get your own website and spew away blissfully to the few likeminded who have figured out how to use a mouse.]"
Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Randy Quaid, John Hurt, Mike Kellin, Paul Smith
Released: October 6, 1978
Availability: DVD VHS CD