The film stars Kurt Russell as the anti-hero 'Snake' Plissken. Set in a dystopian future of 1997, the island of Manhattan is serving as a maximum security prison. When the aircraft carrying the US president crashes on the island, convicted criminal and one-eyed one-time hero Plissken is charged with rescuing the president (played by Donald Pleasence) and a vital tape he carries from the hands of the leader of the inmates, the "Duke of New York" (Isaac Hayes). Plissken has only 24 hours in which to accomplish his task and is encouraged by the insertion of explosive charges into arteries in his neck.
Also in the film are Lee van Cleef as the prison chief, Ernest Borgnine and Harry Dean Stanton as erratically helpful inhabitants of Manhattan and also Adrienne Barbeau, at that time wife of the director.
Carpenter and Russell teamed up again for the belated sequel, Escape from LA (1996) set in 2013. Another sequel has also been proposed, but will not likely materialize due to the poor box office performance of LA.