10 Movies Like Escape From New York | TheReviewGeek Recommends

1981 saw the release of John Carpenter’s newest film, Escape From New York. By this time, he had already had a few big hits that established him as a major player in genre filmmaking. Carpenter had explored horror with classics like Halloween and The Fog but was now dabbling in the world of suspense and science fiction action with his minimalist direction. 

Escape From New York takes place in the year 1997, a time when the island of Manhattan had been blocked off from the rest of the world. It’s an area full of crime and anarchy that isn’t meant for anyone to go to. It just so happens that the president of the United States (Donald Pleasence) has flown into the island via an escape pod due to a high-jacking of Air Force One.

In order to save the president, you have to send in the most bad ass criminal you know for the rescue mission. Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell, heads up the cast as the ultimate badass who gets his freedom if he completes his mission. If not, he’s a goner.

Escape From New York was such a success that, to this day, there are still films that draw some inspiration from it. Here are 10 movies that are just like it. 


This 2016 Netflix original release has a lot in common with Escape From New York. Spectral hit at a time when Netflix was really starting to unload original content onto their service. This big budget action film is about a unit of futuristic soldiers that get trapped in a rundown foreign city and go toe-to-toe with supernatural beings.

It sounds cliche, but the action is a a lot of fun, and the world of it all is a nice blend of scares and big explosions. Spectral touches on a theme that Escape From NewYork does: it’s about being trapped in a hairy situation and having to do anything necessary to get out. 


Overlooked and under-appreciated, Gamer hit at the height of Gerald Butler’s popularity in Hollywood. Gamer and Escape From New York take place in a dystopian future that oddly feels believable. Their protagonists are also both criminals. Snake Plissken is a criminal hired to save the president. Kable (Gerald Butler) is a death row inmate who is used as a pawn in an interactive, violent online video game. And speaking of inmates being used as pawns….

The Running Man - Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Running Man

Based on the Stephen King novel (which reads nothing like how the movie paces), The Running Man takes place in the year 2019 and is about a wrongfully accused prisoner named Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who has a chance to make it back to the outside world as a contestant on a game show called, you guessed it, The Running Man.

On it, he must run to freedom to avoid a brutal death from opponents on the show. The film’s futuristic plot line is reminiscent from earlier in the decade with Escape From New York. And both films have a protagonist who is trying to stick it to the elitists of the world. 

2019: After the Fall of New York

This entry needed to make an appearance on this list because, not only is it like Escape From New York, it is a clear rip-off. The film is part of a slew of 1980’s Italian science fiction films that were capitalizing on the success of many American films at the time.

The film also has a touch of Children of Men in the plot as it is about a mercenary who must infiltrate New York City’s wasteland after a nuclear war and find the only fertile woman left on earth. 

The Last Starfighter

The Last Straighter is the epitome of 1980s sci-fi fantasy. The film is about a high schooler named Alex Rogan who is the best of the best at the arcade game, The Last Starfighter. It turns out the game was just a test, and he is recruited to defend the world from alien attacks.

Starfighter and Escape both differ in tone, as one is very light and the other is more dark. However, they are two real treasures of the early to mid-80’s in terms of science fiction. Both are about outsiders being recruited to take on a massive task.

The film is also directed by John Carpenter’s good friend and the man who played Michael Myers in Halloween, Nick Castle.


Released within a decade of one another, Freejack and Escape From New York have a lot in common. Like many films on this list, it is about someone having to take on an extraordinary undertaking. In Freejack, Emilio Estevez plays a race car driver who is kidnapped by time travelers from the future for the purpose of putting elderly people’s brains in them. Yeah, I know, what the hell?

Like Escape From New York, the future is very bleak and not so promising. Both of these films have achieved massive cult status. And both have ensembles, with Escape having a cast with the likes of Lee Van Cleef, Tom Artkins, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, and Donald Pleasence. Freekjack has a cast that also includes Mick Jagger, Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo, David Johansen, and Jonathan Banks.

Olympus Has Fallen

We can fall in love with the dark, futuristic side of Escape From New York, but in the end, it’s a movie about a rescue mission. Snake Plissken must get the president to safety to achieve his freedom. Another great Save the President movie is none other than Olympus Has Fallen.

Gerald Butler appears again on this list as a secret service agent who is the lone man in the White House during a terrorist takeover. The film also gets its schtick from Die Hard, but with the tough guy action vibe of it also seems to be taking a page out of Escape From New York.


The 2012 underrated film that adapts the world of Judge Dredd, the tough-as-nails law enforcer, works as a perfect double feature with Escape From New York. The film takes place primarily in a high-rise building and paces like a western as Dredd prepares for the showdown with the drug-dealing mastermind, Mama.

Karl Urban as Dredd feels like Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken. A tough-talking bad ass who has one job, and if you’re going to get in his way, you better be willing to face the consequences.


Lockout is on this list for the fact that there was actually a legal battle for a few years between John Carpenter and Luc Besson because Lockout is basically Escape From New York in space. In the film, Guy Pearce plays Snow, a wrongfully accused man who becomes the only help for the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace), who is held hostage by prisoners in an outer space prison after her attempt to perform an act of humanatarism.

Despite the legal issues that surrounded Lockout, it makes for a fun, throwback-feeling action film in space. The case is there that there are strong similarities between the two films, but regardless, Guy Pearce can do no wrong in a film like this.

Ghosts of Mars

One of John Carpenter’s last directorial efforts would be and should be on this list. Ghosts of Mars was a box office dud upon its late-summer of 2001 release. It’s a bit of a slog in its pacing, but in true Carpenter fashion, some of his films take a few viewings to catch on. But when you do watch Ghosts of Mars, go into it knowing this bit of internet hearsay.

Apparently, this film was originally going to be called Escape From Mars, making it a third Snake Plissken adventure. Due to the box office bombing of Escape From L.A. in 1996, Carpenter had to scrap the idea and turn it back into an original concept. Again, all of this is rumor, and Carpenter has never confirmed it.

In watching the film though, the evidence in the plot and all the characters in the film do give off a sense that at one point this was a third installment in the Escape From movies.

There we have it, our list of best movies that are similar to Escape From New York. What do you think about our picks? Did one of your favourites make the list? Let us know in the comments below!

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