- Directors: Jules Dassin
- Producers: Mark Hellinger
- Writers: Screenplay, Richard Brooks, Story, Robert Patterson
- Genres: Thriller, Film-Noir, Drama
- Actors: Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford
The film opens on a dark, rainy morning. Prisoners of Westgate Prison are crammed four into a small cell watch out the window as Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) leaves his term in solitary confinement. Joe comes out angry, and talking about escape. The warden is under pressure to improve discipline. The prison doctor warns that the prison is a powder keg and could explode if they are not careful, not to mention that there is little rehabilitation going on.
Joe’s attorney comes to visit and tells Joe his wife Ruth (Ann Blyth) is not willing to go forward with an operation unless Joe is there with her. Her life is at risk if she does not have surgery for her cancer. Joe asks his attorney to get some cash together and have it at his office. In the machine shop the prisoners plan to attack Wilson (James O’Rear) at 10:30. While other prisoners cause a commotion, Wilson is pushed into a compactor and killed. Not coincidentally, Joe is in Dr. Walters (Art Smith office when the murder takes place.
Joe presses Gallagher (Charles Bickford) to help him escape but Gallagher has a good job at the prison newspaper and could get a parole. But after instigating a prisoner suicide, the administration revokes prisoner privileges and cancels parole hearings. Gallagher decides breaking out with Joe may be a good idea after all. Joe and Gallagher plan an assault on the tower where they can get access to the lever that lowers a bridge they have to cross to escape.
While the escape plan is taking shape, the cons in cell R17 each tell a story, via flashback, about how being in love somehow got them all in trouble with the law. Standing in the way of the prison break is a sadistic prison Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn). When the break goes bad the normally subdued prison yard turns into a violent and bloody riot.