Midnight Express (1978, USA)

Midnight Express

Based on the true story of Billy Hayes, an American caught smuggling a couple of kilos of hashish in Turkey in 1970, this is the quintessential cautionary tale against drug trafficking in a foreign country.  Unfortunately, it is marred by a large dose of xenophobia. 

In the film, Hayes gets within 53 days of release on a 4 or 5 year sentence before the prosecution successfully appeals its leniency, and he gets life, reduced to 30 years. For some reason this seems to displease him, and he rails at the Turkish legal system in righteous indignation, unwisely making porcine references about the court and the Turkish people in general.  Ultimately he ‘catches the Midnight Express’ (escapes) rather than risk dying in jail, having suffered beatings, torture and various injustices, some of which he is able to redress through extreme violence of his own (notably biting off the tongue of a hated snitch).

Filmed in Malta (permission unsurprisingly denied for the filmmakers to shoot it in Istanbul), the film has at its core the most unflattering depictions of Turkish people (not one of whom is shown sympathetically), and it is similarly not surprising that the Turkish government found it offensive.  The key message is ‘don’t traffic dugs in Turkey.’  Following close behind is the proposition (and one which the real-life Hayes apparently disliked) was ‘Americans, however flawed = good, Turks = bad.’  While the prison conditions are third world and the beatings are, well, excessive, it’s hard to avoid the thought that perhaps Hayes deserved more than a few years jail for trying to smuggle an awful lot of drugs out of the country.

Midnight Express #2 Midnight Express #3

Posted on May 16th, 2009 at 2:57 pm. Updated on August 21st, 2009 at 6:45 pm.

#126 in the Top 500

11 Responses to “Midnight Express (1978, USA)”

  1. September 7th, 2011 at 7:03 am
    Sven says:

    “..it’s hard to avoid the thought that perhaps Hayes deserved more than a few years jail for trying to smuggle an awful lot of drugs out of the country..”

    Most certainly. That seems to be an appropriate punishment for the transport of plants across a border. You retarded asshole.

  2. November 3rd, 2011 at 6:46 am
    Nicole says:

    I think 3 or 4 years is about right if not too long, it’s such a harsh place and you can see what it can do to a person.. at the end of the day the harm he could have caused by successfully transporting those drugs is completely in the hands of the person who is taking them.. whether or not you ruin your life with drug abuse is up to you.. he’s not forcing them

  3. June 26th, 2012 at 8:13 am
    Bader says:

    i have seen this movie near 6 years ago on MBC channel 2. And they show it only once, unlucky i had not known its name i was lookin at it but have nt found it. but woow its realy great i knew it now and will buy it for sure!! Thanks alot to prisonmovies.net!! GREAT JOB!!

  4. March 1st, 2013 at 9:29 am
    joe says:

    Point is dont smuggle drugs accross any country
    and the film does not portrey what Turkey really is
    it is a nice country
    This happens in american prisons too
    maybe even worse
    we saw what tehy did in iraq

  5. April 11th, 2014 at 10:27 pm
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    IMDB 8,6

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