Subway (film)

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Subway affiche.jpg
French theatrical release poster
Directed byLuc Besson
Written by
  • Luc Besson
  • Marc Perrier
Produced by
  • Luc Besson
  • François Ruggieri
CinematographyCarlo Varini
Edited bySophie Schmit
Music byÉric Serra
Distributed byGaumont
Release date
  • 10 April 1985 (1985-04-10) (France)[1]
Running time
104 minutes
Budget$2.6 million[2]
Box office$22.3 million[2]

Subway is a 1985 French thriller film[3] directed by Luc Besson and starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert. The film is classified as part of the cinéma du look movement.[4]


Having stolen some compromising documents from a powerful and successful entrepreneur/gangster at a party, a man known as Fred escapes from the police and takes refuge in the underground world of the Paris Métro stations and tunnels. There he joins the dwellers and befriends several colourful characters, including others who are living under the subway to avoid police arrest. While the gangster's henchmen try to find Fred, he develops a romance with the gangster's young trophy wife, Héléna. She had originally invited Fred to the party featured at the opening of the film, and is bored with her gilded-caged life.

Fred forms a pop band with some of his friends, such as "The Drummer" and Enrico, who compose the songs. While Fred is working on this project, Héléna's powerful husband pressures the police to find the fugitive. One of Fred's sidekicks, The Rollerskater, who has been wanted by the police for a long time, is captured by Commissioner Gesberg. Fred and his friend The Florist rob a train carrying money; The Florist escapes, leaving Fred with the loot.

Fred uses money from the robbery to pay off a chamber-music ensemble scheduled to perform in the subway station. His new band replaces them but, at their performance, Fred is searched for by both the police and a henchman of Héléna's husband. The henchman shoots Fred while Héléna is running towards him to warn him of the danger. The film ends with Héléna kneeling beside Fred, who is lying on his back, looking content and singing along with the band. They are playing and being applauded by the audience in the background.



Subway was filmed partially on location in the Paris Métro and Paris RER, and partially on sets that were designed by Alexandre Trauner.[5] The opening car chase scene is said to pay homage to the 1971 film The French Connection, and the film's ending is based loosely on the ending of the 1960 film Breathless.[6]


Éric Serra's score and other musical pieces from the soundtrack, such as Fred's band's song, "It's Only Mystery" (also written by Serra), were released on vinyl and cassette in 1985. The soundtrack sold over 100,000 copies in France.[7] The soundtrack was released on CD in 1996.[8]


Subway was the third-most popular French film in France in 1986, after Trois Hommes et un Couffin and Les Specialistes. It attracted 2,920,588 cinemagoers.[2][9] The film grossed $390,659 at the box office in the United States.[2][10]

The film holds an 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on eight reviews.[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film's "highly energetic visual style" and "the sheer fun of staging domestic scenes, musical interludes and roller-skate chases in the underground" but added that "[the] characters and situations [are] so thin that they might as well be afterthoughts".[12]


Subway was nominated for the Foreign Language Film award at the 40th British Academy Film Awards.[13] The film was nominated for 13 César Awards in 1986, winning 3: Best Actor (Christopher Lambert), Best Production Design (Alexander Trauner) and Best Sound.[14]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD in the United States in November 2001. The DVD presents the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and contains both an English-dubbed version as well as the original French version with English subtitles. Aaron Beierle of DVD Talk gave the DVD 3 out of 5 stars for video quality, and 2½ stars for audio quality.[15] Jason Bovberg of DVD Talk gave the film 3 stars for both video and audio quality. Both reviewers gave the film only a ½ star for its extra features, noting only cast and crew biographies plus trailers for three of Besson's other films were included on the disc.[16] As well as having no special features, standard versions of the DVD only contain the English-dubbed version; this has significant dialogue differences from the French original, though both Lambert and Adjani performed their own English.

Both the UK[17] and French versions[18] of the Blu-ray were released in September 2009. Both only contained the film in its original French audio, though with optional English subtitles. awarded both 3½ out of 5 stars for both audio and video quality.


  1. ^ "Subway de Luc Besson (1985)". UniFrance. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "Subway". JP's Box-Office. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  3. ^ Spicer 2010, p. 31.
  4. ^ Austin 2008, p. 147.
  5. ^ Konstantarakos, Myrto (1 January 2000). Spaces in European Cinema. Intellect Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 978-1841500041.
  6. ^ Austin 2008, p. 151.
  7. ^ Hayward 2009, p. 43.
  8. ^ "Subway [Original Soundtrack]". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  9. ^ French Cinema - Powrie & Reader
  10. ^ "Subway". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Subway (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (6 November 1985). "Subway (1985)". The New York Times. p. 23.
  13. ^ "Foreign Language Film in 1986". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Palmares 2014 - 39th Cesar Award Ceremony". César Award. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2014. Note: Choose '1986' from the drop-down box.
  15. ^ Beierle, Aaron (9 November 2001). "Subway". DVD Talk. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  16. ^ Bovberg, Jason (18 November 2001). "Subway". DVD Talk. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  17. ^ "Subway Blu-ray". Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Subway Blu-ray". Retrieved 21 January 2021.


External links[edit]