Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair

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Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair
Voyage of Terror- The Achille Lauro Affair.jpg
Written by Alberto Negrin
Sergio Donati
Directed by Alberto Negrin
Starring Burt Lancaster
Eva Marie Saint
Robert Culp
Joseph Nasser
Theme music composer Ennio Morricone
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Cinematography Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Running time 180 min
Original release April 29, 1990 (1990-04-29)

Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair (1990) is a television action-drama film starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Marie Saint and is based on the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. The film was directed by Alberto Negrin.[1][2]


1985, Alexandria. A group of Palestinian terrorists of the PLO embarks on the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro with the purpose of reach Haifa and perform a suicide mission against Israel. However, when they're found out during the trip, they decide to hijack the ship and take all passengers in hostage: among them are Mr. Leon Klinghoffer (Burt Lancaster), a disabled Jewish-American, and his wife Mrs Marilyn Klinghoffer. Given the situation, the terrorists change their purposes, asking for the liberation of almost 50 other Palestinian terrorists detained in Israel, but both Egypt and Israel refuse to negotiate.

Plus this, when even Syria refuses the entrance of the Achille Lauro in Tartus, the terrorists' leader Molqi (Joseph Nasser) kills Klinghoffer in retaliation and forces two sailors to throw his body overboard.

To solve the situation, the PLO leader Yasser Arafat orders to one of his man, Abu Abbas (which however is even the mind behind the failed suicide mission against Israel) to act as a negotiator for the Egyptian Government, and thanks to him the terrorists accept to let the ship and the hostages free in exchange for a safe return to Palestina.

However, immediately after Abbas and the terrorists have left for Tunis aboard of an Egyptian plane, Klinghoffer's execution is discovered by the authorities (since Molqi had forced the Achille Lauro's Captain to lie about the murder in front of the negotiators, since the condition for negotiate was his word that all of the passengers were alive), and at that point President Reagan orders to a couple of F-14 and a Delta Force's division led by General Daevis to intercept the plane, force it to land in the Sicilian NATO base of Sigonella and then arrest the terrorists.

Unfortunately, when the plane successfully lands in Sigonella, the Italian Army, by order of the Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, refuses to hand over the terrorists to the Americans, since the base is located on the Italian soil and the murder itself has happened aboard of an Italian ship.

For an entire night the tension rises, with the Italian Carabinieri and the American Delta Force that almost reach the point to shoot each other, but at the end President Raegan has no choice but accept the Italian jurisdiction over the terrorists. Molqi and his three companions are then taken in custody by the Italians, while Abu Abbas is left free to leave the Country, despite the American request to arrest him too, since there are not enough proofs of his involvement in the hijacking.

The terrorists will be sentenced by seventeen from thirty years of prison, while Abu Abbas will be arrested in 2003 in Iraq and will die in prison in US one year later in strange circumstances.


Actor Role
Burt Lancaster Leon Klinghoffer
Eva Marie Saint Marilyn Klinghoffer
Robert Culp Gen. Davies
Renzo Montagnani De Rosa
Rebecca Schaeffer Cheryl
Brian Bloom Antonio
Dominique Sanda Margot
Bernard Fresson Pierre
Joseph Nasser Molqi
Yossi Ashdot Assadi
Maurizio Benazzo Michele
Jochen Horst Helmut
Saïd Amadis Abul


  • The filming of the movie was completed on the actual Achille Lauro cruise ship. The film was originally shown as a two-part mini-series and later released as a three-hour film.[2]
  • The film was dedicated in memory of Rebecca Schaeffer that was killed a short time after the end of shooting.


  1. ^ Terrorism in American cinema: an analytical filmography, 1960–2008, by Robert Cettl
  2. ^ a b New York Times: Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair (1990)

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