Did Luc Besson’s “Lockout” Plagiarize “Escape From New York”? French Court Says So

Escape From New York vs Lockout
Escape From New York vs Lockout
A French court has ordered director Luc Besson’s Europacorp to pay director John Carpenter damages.

An article at The Guardian contains a recap of one of the most interesting legal rulings we’ve heard in the movie biz. Director John Carpenter sued director Luc Besson’s Europacorp production company, claiming that Besson’s 2012 film Lockout plagiarized Carpenter’s 1981 cult classic Escape From New York—and Carpenter won.

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The suit was brought in French court, which has ordered Europacorp to pay out €80,000 in total: €20,000 directly to Carpenter, €10,000 to Escape from New York co-scripter Nick Castle, and €50,000 to the film’s rights holder StudioCanal.

The Guardian quotes a summary of the ruling:

The court … noted many similarities between the two science-fiction films: both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero, sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration—despite his heroic past—who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held, after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission.

Taken in chunks, these elements seem to be pretty standard action fare—Europacorp, which is appealing, says they’re “common stock of cinema.” Added up, do they constitute plagiarism?

Here are the trailers for Lockout and Escape From New York:

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