Midnight Express (1978) Script

Excuse me.

Excuse me.

-Nervous? -No.

-I hate flying. -It's something I ate.

Maybe you're just excited about getting home.

-No, I think it's the baklavas. -Told you not to eat them.

-I've got to go to the john again. -I'll wait.

-No, I'll catch up to you. Okay? -Okay.



It's a frisbee.

You throw it and catch it. It's a game.

A game.

-Are you okay? -Yeah, great. Want a piece of gum?

Thank you.

See this? Janis Joplin died yesterday.

Overdose. There never was anyone like Janis.

There never was anyone like you.

Knock it off.

-You never take anything seriously. -Nothing.

-What's he saying? -I don't know.

They always have everything ass backwards in Turkey.

-Billy, what's the matter? -Passport. Susan, get on the plane.

What is it Billy? What's wrong, are you sick?

Get on the plane. Go.

I'm looking for my passport.

Harry, you'd better get rid of those grenades.

Get down.

-Name? -William Hayes.

-William... -Hayes.


-American? -That's right.

Yes, American. United States.


-Name? -Jesus...William Hayes.

-Name? -Hayes. H-A-Y-E-S.

Howdy, Billy. How are you doing? Okay?

I think these gentlemen have finished for the time being.

If you'd like to put your clothes on.

The officer wants to know if you're afraid.

No, I'm not afraid.

The officer said there's nothing to be afraid of.

Cooperate, and you'll be on the plane home.

Where did you get the hashish?

From a cab driver.

In the playing shop at the bazaar.

Would you recognize him again?

I think so.

You decided to fly at a bad time.

Guerrillas all over the place, blowing up planes and all.


Four planes in four days. Don't you read the newspapers?

There's been a shit storm over the flow of heroin from Turkey.

-I didn't have heroin. -A drug is a drug.

It was my first time. It was only two kilos.

It doesn't matter if it was two or 200 kilos.

Catching you shows the world Turkey is fighting the drug trade.

-Are you with the Consulate? -Something like that. Cigarette?

-What did you pay this cab driver? -$200. My last 200.

-How much did you figure to make? -I'd only sell it to my friends.

-I'm not a pusher. Honest. -It beats working.

-Have you got a family? -Mother, father, brother, sister.

-Long Island. -It'll be tough on them.

-Girlfriend? -Yeah, she was on the plane.

She didn't know anything about it. I didn't want her to.

Lucky girl.

-She used to say I was lucky. -Let's hope so, Billy.

You seem like a nice enough kid.

But you try it, and I'll blow your brains out.

Mom and Dad, this is the hardest letter I've ever had to write.

I hoped to get out of this quickly, so you'd never know about it.

But that just isn't possible now. I don't know what's going to happen.

What can I say to you? Will "I'm sorry" make a difference?

Will it ease the pain, the shame you must be feeling?

Forgive me, please.

Could I have a blanket?

It's cold. Could I have a blanket?

-A blanket! -Too late. Tomorrow.

He'll be here tomorrow, I think.


-Can you speak English? -Your cell is open.

Blankets, three cells down. You get me one.

I needed a blanket. I was cold.

William Hayes.

I needed a blanket, I was cold!


Come on, you must stand.

You'd better walk around, or your feet will swell up.

You've got to be crazy.

We all are. Smoke some of this, cool the pain.

You've been out for days, talking all kinds of shit.

We'll walk you down to the courtyard.

-How does it feel? -About as good as it looks.

Gecmis olsun. It's Turkish. It means, "May it pass quickly."

-It looks like a cheap hotel. -The room service is lousy.

I'm Jimmy Booth. This is Erich, something Swedish.

-Just Erich. -He cleaned you up.

Thanks. I'm Billy Hayes.

At least I used to be.

-Why peacocks? -The Turks use them instead of dogs.

They scream like mad if they're disturbed and they don't get rabies.

The old sultans used to use them to guard their harem.

Who are the kids?

Little fuckers. Thieves, rapists, murderers.... You name it, they do it.

Don't trust any of them. They tell Rifki everything.

He's the squeal around here. He sells tea...

...hash, blankets, anything for a buck.

-What are you in for, hash? -Yeah.

-Where? -At the airport, trying to get home.

That's heavy.

-You think so? -Yeah, I think so.

This ain't the good old USA.

In Turkey, it's a fucking accident if you're innocent.

-Nobody here is innocent. -Don't pay too much attention.

Anything is possible in Turkey.

He's talking about if they hit you for smuggling, it can be bad.

If they make it possession, you might even get bail.

If you make bail, you're free. Sneak across the border to Greece.

Sure, keep dreaming. See where it gets you. Like Max.

It's going to be a while before you taste a hamburger again.

You broke the law, and you got caught.

The law is sometimes wrong.

The law is never wrong, asshole.

The fucking law is.

People get on his nerves.

What's he in for?

Caught stealing from a mosque, that's heavy here.

-What did he steal? -Two candlesticks.

-That's all? -Jimmy has more balls than brains.

He was in for a year and a half before he even told his parents.

-What about you? -Hashish, like most foreigners.

-What did they give you? -12 years.

-How much you have? -I had 100 grams.

You've got to get a good lawyer. Talk to the Englishman. Max.

He's been in the longest.

-How long? -Seven years.


Stomach medicine.

It's got codeine in it. It's the best I can do around here.



Oh, yeah.

There's no straight lawyers in Turkey.

They're all bent.

Bent as hairpins. Occupational necessity.

They have special classes in corruption at night school.

If you're suspected of honesty, you're disbarred.

I knew a lawyer fellow once.

He got that Frenchman off. La Roche.

A big smuggler.

200 kilos.

He put enough bread in enough pockets. Got bail.


His name?


The lawyer.


Who got the Frenchman off.

Yesil is his name.

I don't know anything else about him.


The best thing to do is get your ass out of here.

Best way you can.

-Yeah, but how? -Catch the midnight express.

What's that?

It's not a train.

It's a prison word for...


It doesn't stop around here.

Dad, I'm sorry.

Forget it.

I'll punch you in the nose later.

We've got to get you out of here.

This is a suit I brought for you.

Smarten you up a little.

-Are you all right? -Yeah.

How's Mom?

Well, she's bad.

She couldn't make the trip. You know Mom. Her boy....

Susan told us before we got your letter.

She's saving to come back here.

Don't let her come.

How's Rob? How's Peg?

They're the same. You know.

We told the neighbors you were in a hospital in Europe.

This is Stanley Daniels. He's the American Consul here.

Hello, Billy, nice to know you.

I want you to know we're gonna do everything in our power...

...to get you out of here.

That's Necdit Yesil, the lawyer you asked for.

I know exactly what you feel, but you must not worry.

We'll get the right court and the right judge.

I'll arrange everything, just right.

I understand that if you get bail, it's easy to get across the border.

That's what we're shooting for. I've spoken to the State Department.

Right now, relations with the Turks aren't too good. Nixon upset them.

Our best bet is right here.

Dad, I'll pay you back for this. I promise.

Money doesn't matter, Billy. Not at this stage.

Where did you get that limp?

Nothing, I just twisted my ankle.

Where are you staying?

The Hilton.

How do you like Istanbul?

Interesting place.

The food is lousy. The crap they sell in the restaurants....

I had to run to the toilet. You should have seen the toilet.

I'm not taking any more chances.

I'll eat at the Hilton every night. Steak, french fries and ketchup.


Why did you do it?


I know you kids smoke that stuff and we drink booze...

...but taking it across the border, that's stupid.

I know.


Get me out of here.

I promise you. Just sit tight.

Let me work with Mr. Daniels and Mr. Yesil here.

We'll get you out, okay?

Hey, Billy.



-What did that prosecutor say? -It's not important.

Just technical.

We made our case. You spoke well. The judge liked you.

Mr. Hayes, the judge is coming back.

-Four years, two months. -Four years?

We'll appeal, you will see.

It'll be reduced for good behavior. It is only for possession.

The prosecutor wanted a life sentence for smuggling.

That is quite a difference, believe me.

To be honest, Mr. Hayes, it is a great victory.

With good time, it works out to about...

...three years.

And then there's the appeal.

Daniels and Yesil are all working for you.

We're trying to get you transferred to a State-side prison.

Daniels thinks there might be a political amnesty any month now.

All right, Billy.

I know it sounds tough...

...but we are going to get you out.

I promise you. Don't do anything stupid.

They could play with your sentence.

All right, now....

I'm putting $500 in the bank. Anything you need...

...you write.

There's food here, candy, writing paper...

...books, cigarettes, soap, toothbrush.

I've sold insurance for 30 years.

Now I've got to see my own son....


If I could be where you are...

...I'd be there.

I love you, Dad.

You take good care of my boy, or I'll have your fucking head!

Dear Susan, 1970 has now passed into 1971.

You can drift in here and never know you're gone.

You can fade so far out, you don't know where you are anymore...

...or where anything else is.

I find loneliness is a physical pain that hurts all over.

You can't isolate it in one part of your body.

You know. Right there. Right there.

To the Turks everything is "söyle böyle."

It means "like this, like that." You never know what will happen.

All foreigners are "ayip." They're considered dirty.

So is homosexuality. That's a big crime here.

But most of them do it every chance they get.

There are about 1000 things that are "ayip."

You can stab or shoot somebody below the waist but not above.

Because that's intent to kill.

So everybody runs around stabbing everyone else in the ass.

That's what they call "Turkish revenge."

I know it must sound crazy to you, but this place is crazy.

One day, one of the new kids was raped.

So they picked out four of the worst kids.

Then there's Rifki. The more I know of him, the more I hate him.

$10 for this shit? You pig.

There are no pigs in Turkey.

-This shit is shit. -No, it's good. Good shit.

-You big shit. -Yeah, me big shit.

You asshole.

What is it with you? Just what the hell is it, man?

You don't fuck with me, I don't fuck with you.

You fuck with me all the time. You make crummy tea.

-You rip us off on the hash. -I make special tea for you.

We have to live like brothers. We have to be in here together.

Shove it, Rifki. For all the money you've got, you've got nothing.

-You are American, you don't know. -Know what?

Dog eat dog.

You fuck other man before he fucks you. And you must fuck last.

Come on down. Come on.


Sodding cat.


Are you all right?

The new American Ambassador is following your case.

He says there is progress. You want a cigarette?

But there is another route...

...that is quite possible.

For a proper amount of money, it is possible...

...to convince the ten officials to lose track of your papers...

...before the High Court in Ankara confirms the sentence...

...of a lower court in Istanbul. You would not exist.

And you could be in Greece by the time the Turkish court...

...discover their stupid clerical mistake.

But I have to act before the official sentence is handed down.

And for that I must pay certain officials.

What's that?

-The blueprints. -To what?

To the prison, man.

There was this German architect in the hospital.

He was helping the Turks build some shit around the place.

I laid some bread on him and he let me copy them.

It's too bad you didn't have a Xerox machine.

There are two ways out of here.

One is over the roof, but that's kind of risky.

Maybe one person. Two at the most.

The other way, I'll need your help, and that is under.

A tunnel?

-Are you serious? -This is not Stalag 17.

That's where you're wrong. The tunnel is already built.

There's a basement where they used to keep weapons.

Beneath that are the catacombs the Christians built to bury their dead.

We're sitting right on top of it here.

The kraut says that there's a bunch of hollow shafts.

They're like dumbwaiters, all along these walls.

One of them is right next to our shower.

If we get in there, we can get down into the catacombs.

With three of us working, it shouldn't take too long.

Must be around here someplace.

I swear I heard a couple of dead Christians singing down there.

-You stop shitting me, man. Okay? -How do we get into the shaft?

We knock three times and say we're a friend of the deceased.

I'm getting this together and I don't need no gastro-head along.

You understand me?

-We go through the wall. -We go through the wall?

Go through the wall.

The kraut was right. I checked it out.

There's no reinforced steel in those shower walls.

It's real soft from underground seepage.

The water like weeps through the cement.

Twenty, thirty years. You can almost push it over.

All we have to do....

We only have to use your screwdriver to scrape the mortar out.

We pull out three stones and squeeze through....

Squeeze through, put them back, and get our ass down the shaft.

-It's a two-night operation. -What do we do in the catacombs?

What do you want, a door?

There's miles of them down there. Like a sewer system.

-You must be fucking crazy. -They've got to come up someplace.

You've had your ass stopped just one too many times.

You won't find any catacombs, you'll just finish up in section 13.

Billy. The tunnel or the roof?

Forget the wall. Rifki's always there.

-The roof is guarded. -Help me get into the shaft.

If we get caught, I'll get the shaft.

Now I'm facing another 20 months.

I'll be back up to three years again, maybe more.

Fuck it, then. You choose your own death.

I'll do this thing on my own. I'm taking the roof out of here.

No! I can't take it!

Dear Susan, Jimmy was caught and beaten badly.

He got a severe hernia and lost a testicle.

He's been in the sanatorium for months.

In comparison, my problems seem small.

But two and a half years have gone by.

The Turks are slowly draining my life away.

-Why do you keep your hair short? -To remind me.

-Remind you of what? -How much I hate it here.

Prison, monastery, cloister, cave.

Prison, monastery, cloister, cave.

Prison, monastery, cloister, cave.

Prison, monastery, cloister, cave.


-Okay. -I've been thinking about another way.

-Another way what? -Out of here.

Oh, yeah?

When I was in the sanatorium, there was only one guard on my ward.

-I could have got out of there. -Why didn't you?

As soon as I could walk, they threw me back in here.

-Lucky you. -I tell you, Billy....

Another ward in the sanatorium had no guard on it at all.

-Who was in it? -Three guys.

-What was wrong with them? -I don't know.

-I think they were dead. -It figures.

I've got to go. It's Daniels! Turkish justice has done it again.

They're going to let me off my last 53 days. Jimmy, I'm going home!

God! "I've got to go."

What's wrong?

Sit down, Billy.

I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.

-Is it Dad? Mom? -No.

-You're going to have a new court. -What do you mean?

The prosecutor objected to your sentence for possession.

He wanted a smuggling conviction. The Ankara court reviewed it.

It seems everyone wanted an example made. A scapegoat.


We've been notified that they rejected the sentence.

There were 35 judges in the court.

28 voted for a life sentence.

The lower court in Istanbul had to go along with the decision.

The judge likes you. He notified your dad.

What do you mean, life?

-Life for what? -Billy!

I have 53 days left! I have 53 days left! I have 53 days left!

You goddamn bastard! I have 53 days-- Let me go!

So now it's time for me to speak.

What is there for me to say?

When I finish, you'll sentence me for my crime.

So let me ask you now:

What is a crime?

What is a punishment?

It seems to vary from time to time and place to place.

What's legal today is suddenly illegal tomorrow...

...because some society says it's so.

What's illegal is suddenly legal because everybody's doing it.

You can't put everybody in jail.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong.

I'm just saying that's the way it is.

I've spent three and a half years of my life in your prison.

I think I've paid for my error.

If it's your decision today to sentence me to more years....

My lawyer-- That's a good one. He says, "Be cool, Billy.

Don't get angry. Don't get upset.

Be good. I'll get you a pardon, an amnesty, an appeal."

This has been going on now for three and a half years.

I've been playing it cool. I've been good.

Now I'm damn tired of being good.

Because you people gave me the belief that I had 53 days left.

You hung 53 days in my face, and then you took them away.

And you!

I wish you could be standing where I'm standing right now.

Then you would know something that you don't know.


You would know that the concept of a society...

...is based on the quality of that mercy.

Its sense of fair play and justice.

But I guess that's like asking a bear to shit in a toilet.

For a nation of pigs, it sure is funny you don't eat them.

Jesus Christ forgave the bastards, but I can't.

I hate.

I hate you.

I hate your nation and I hate your people.

I fuck your sons and daughters because they're pigs.

You're a pig.

You're all pigs.

My hands are tied by Ankara.

I must sentence you, William Hayes, to be imprisoned...

...for a term no less than 30 years.

May it pass quickly.

Got the old Istanbul blues Istanbul blues They give me 30 years Ain't got nothing left to lose We are going to get you out. I promise you.

Don't do anything stupid. They could play with your sentence.

I was busted at the border The best thing to do is get your ass out of here.

The best way you can.

Hey, I think I found it. Come here.

Listen to that. Do you hear anything?

I told you, you suckers. You didn't believe me.

Keep it down. Keep it down. Keep it down.

Look how soft this is. It'll be easy.

Go and get Rifki's poker, but don't wake him up.

Go on. Go on! Look how soft it is.

It's really soft. It's coming.

-Jimmy, it's coming. -Here, use this.

It's coming real easy. It's coming right out.

It's easier than I thought. It's a piece of cake.

It's coming.

Like butter.

Hey, Max. Rifki.

-Keep checking for Rifki. -It's okay.

-Watch it. -I thought you wanted out of here.

-They're loose. -Let's try.

-You wanna split your hernia again. -Fuck that. Let's just get this.

-Okay? You got it? -Yeah.

-That's it. -You see it?

It's the shaft.

It's coming.

It's okay.

-Let's go, Billy. -It's too late. We're not prepared.

-We'll go tomorrow. It's too late. -Let's go now.

It's too late. We'll go tomorrow.

Let's put them back. Help me.

Any fuck-ups and we should be back by dawn.

You got everything?

Maps, railroad, bus timetables.

Okay, let's do it.

-Can you see? -No.

Come on, Max, get your ass down here.

It's easy.

This way to Istanbul, baby.

Watch it. Mind how you go there.

Are you all right? Come down this pole and cross over.


-All right, it's a tunnel. -Let's go.

Come on, Max.

Fuck! What is that? Shit!

Shit! It's a dead end.

The Turks must have blocked it up.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!


What the fuck are we going to do? What time is it?


-Go back. -You must be fucking joking.

We go back, seal it up, and come back tomorrow.

Every night, until we get out.

There's got to be a way out.

Billy, they found it.

-Who? -Rifki.

No do, no do.

No! No! No!

Filthy little bastard.

This time I'm going to kick your brains all over your fucking kitchen.

Fine! Good. Man to man.

When we're finished, I'll bring Hamidou and he'll kick your ass.

Let's go, Max. Come on.

-I know what I'm going to do. -What?

-I'm going to cut his throat. -Whose?


What have I got to lose?

Anyway, I'd really enjoy it.

Why don't you sit down? You're in no shape to kill anybody.

-I want to cut his fucking throat. -It's already been cut.

Then I'll cut his balls off.

You know, if you really wanted to hurt Rifki....

His money. Steal that and you steal his life's blood.

Could you see his face if everything he had got snatched?

-If we only knew where he hid it. -I know where it is.


The money?

Them that hides can find, says I.

I've seen him, the big tit.

He looks at it, late at night.

Talking to it.


Max, where?

The money, where?

In his radio.

In the back of his radio.

That's why he never plays it.

-He never had one. -Soon he's back on the street.

No friends, no money, plenty of enemies.

-I'll drink to that. -Me, too.

-I've just got some news on Jimmy. -Really? What?

They sent him to the hospital. They ruptured his hernia again.

-Shit! -I guess he didn't talk.

Look at Rifki, wearing a suit.

Maybe he's got a new job.

Jesus! Not again.


You're kidding! Me?

I didn't sell him anything.

Rifki's lying. He's a liar!


Please, listen to me.

Excuse me, I've been wanting to speak to you. You're an American?

Yes, America. My name is Ahmet.

I studied philosophy at Harvard many, many years...

...though Oxford is my real alma mater.

I also studied in Vienna, and now I study here.

They put me here. They say I raped a little child.

I've been here a very, very long time.

They'll never let me go. They won't let you go, either.

They tell you they'll let you go, but in fact you stay.

You'll never go from here.

You see, we all of us come from a factory.

Sometimes the factory makes bad machines that don't work.

The bad machines don't know they're bad machines.

But the people at the factory know.

They know that you are one of the machines that doesn't work.

I think we've spoken enough for today.

I wish you goodnight.

My God!


What have they done to you?

Your family is fine.

Senator Buckley has made a special plea on your behalf.

They've called you a pawn in the game between Nixon and the Turks.

The letters are coming in. People do care.


Take it off.

-You'll just make yourself-- -Take it off.


I wish I could make it better for you. Please, don't.


-Susan. -Yes, Billy.

-I love you. -Oh, Billy.

I love you.

Your father gave me this for you.

There's pictures of your mom and dad, and Rob and Peg.

And in the back there's a picture of your old friend Mr. Franklin.

Remember him? From the bank.

He's over in Greece now. He bought a ticket.

I'll give it to them for you.

Don't count on them. Don't count on anyone but yourself.

You're running out of time. If you stay here, you'll die.

You've got to get yourself together. You've got to get out of here.

Good morning, my American friend.

There will be trouble if you go this way.

A good Turk always walks to the right.

Left is Communist. Right is good.

You must go the other way.

The other way is good.

Where are you going? Why don't you walk the wheel?

What is the matter, my American friend?

What has upset you?

A bad machine doesn't know he's bad machine.

You still don't believe you're a bad machine?

To know yourself is to know God.

The factory knows, that's why they put you here.

You'll find out.

-In time you'll know. -I already know.

You are a bad machine, that's why the factory keeps you here.

Do you know how I know?

I know because I'm from the factory.

I make the machines.




I'm going away.

I've come to say goodbye.

You see, if I stay here, I'm going to die.

You'll die. Don't die, Max.

Please, don't die.

I'm going to come back for you.

You hang on for me.

You're not taking me to the sanatorium! You're not taking me to the sanatorium!