Before The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China, this film was, for many, the introduction to one of the great director/actor duos of the ‘80s; John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. A super-stylish cult favourite with just the right amount of wry self-awareness, the film, including its iconic eye-patch-wearing hero, has been a major influence on the sci fi and action genres in film, television and video games since its release.
It is the near future (well, 1997!), and to combat crime the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam the dilapidated streets. The rules are simple: once you go in, you never come out. But when the American president (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, the authorities must rely on the only man who can bring him back alive: notorious outlaw and Special Forces war veteran Snake Plissken (Russell).
Escape From New York is part science fiction and part action movie, with nods to 1970s Blaxplotation, horror, westerns, and of course the prison escape film. With Russell’s irresistibly snarky performance, and one of the best supporting casts ever, including Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasance, and Ernest Borgnine, this is the most ambitious – and enjoyable – film of Carpenter’s early career.