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There’s only one classic presidential movie from the ‘80s

Escape from New York



Remember this beginning? “In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple: once you go in, you don't come out.”

Oh yeah, 1981’s Escape from New York. Donald Pleasence played the unnamed president in the flick, which starred Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a decorated soldier-turned-criminal who is recruited to save the president from the prison on Manhattan. 

As far as I can tell, it’s the one true “presidential movie” from the ‘80s. (For whatever reason, every other decade has several classics to choose from.)

Pleasence is a man of few words in Escape from New York, but gets some of the best lines: “God save me, and watch over you all” and of course, “Ayy! Number Onnee! You're the Duke! You're the Duke!”

Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Escape From New York:

1. The set of the city was reused for Blade Runner - after a good paint job first.

2. Does the narrator’s voice (and computer’s voice) sound familiar? It should. That’s Jamie Lee Curtis.

3. Donald Pleasence has said he drew inspiration for his character from his real-life experience in a German POW camp during World War II. (He also played a POW in 1963’s The Great Escape.)

4. That’s Steven Ford playing the Secret Service agent trying to break into the cockpit of Air Force One at the beginning of the movie. The son of former President Gerald Ford had several movie roles in the ‘80s, but is probably best known for playing Meg Ryan’s boyfriend Joe in When Harry Met Sally.

5. Very little of Escape from New York was actually shot in New York. The streets of East St. Louis - which had recently suffered through a devastating fire - served as the backdrop for much of the movie.


[Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 9:02am]


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