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S.D. Bob "Snake" Plissken is the main protagonist from the films Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.. He is portrayed by Kurt Russell (who also played Gabriel Cash in Tango & Cash, Jack O'Neill in the original movie version of Stargate and Santa Claus from The Christmas Chronicles duology), and created by director John Carpenter and screenwriter Nick Castle. He is a former Special Forces operator/war hero in World War III turned criminal. His apprehension and coercion by the United States Police Force to secure top-secret material from the ex-cities turned maximum security prisons of New York and Los Angeles.


Snake Plissken is a former U.S. Army First Lieutenant, serving under Special Forces Unit "Black Light", as stated by Hauk in Escape from New York, often misheard as Black Flight ("Gullfire" was the name of the glider Snake used). He has two Purple Hearts, and the youngest soldier to be decorated by the U.S. President for bravery during campaigns in Leningrad and Siberia in World War III against the USSR.

Some time later, he turned to a life of crime, probably due to the perceived betrayal of the United States government during the "Leningrad Ruse" (which were the events that caused him to lose the use of his left eye) and when his parents were burned alive in their home by the United States Police Force. He traveled with his war buddy and only friend, Bill Taylor. Snake took up with partners Harold Hellman (later known as "Brain") and Fresno Bob. In Kansas City around 1993, Hellman apparently let Plissken and Fresno Bob get cornered by police, at which time Fresno Bob was brutally tortured and killed by sadistic law enforcers within the United States Police Force.

Possibly as a result of the Kansas City incident, it was widely believed in the criminal community that Plissken was dead. This is a running gag in Escape from New York: "I heard you were dead" (a homage to the John Wayne film Big Jake). In Escape from L.A. the recurring joke is changed to "I thought you'd be taller."

Snake has a tattoo of a snake on his stomach, possibly as a reference to the Man with No Name, on whom Snake is partly based, who had metal snakes on the grip of his pistol in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy.


Snake is shown as being very cynical, most likely due to the hypocrisy of the American government, and appears to be willing to do anything to survive. He is short and stern in his speech, and holds nothing sacred or even important. He does, however, hold a loose code of honor.

Escape from New York

Snake was arrested in 1997 after breaking into the U.S. Federal Reserve in Denver, Colorado. He was sentenced to life in New York maximum security prison, the entire island of Manhattan, surrounded by an impenetrable wall and left in a state of anarchy. At this time, Air Force One was hijacked and crashed into Manhattan, and the President, played by Donald Pleasence, was captured by the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes), the de facto leader of the prisoners.

A Commissioner of the United States Police Force, Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef), offered Snake a full pardon for every criminal action he committed if he would go in and rescue the President. The President carried technical information that would allow the USA to be the dominant world power, but in 24 hours it would be useless. Hauk enforced the time limit by implanting microscopic explosive capsules in Plissken's carotid arteries, which would detonate at the deadline. Plissken rescued the President with the help of Harold Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) (now known as Brain, and working for the Duke of New York), Brain's "squeeze" Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau), and a taxicab driver nicknamed Cabby (Ernest Borgnine). Only Plissken and the President survived their escape. As the President began his broadcast speech, Plissken walked away, deliberately shredding the time-critical information tape.

The Adventures of Snake Plissken

Marvel released the one shot The Adventures of Snake Plissken in January 1997. The story takes place sometime between Escape from New York and before his famous Cleveland escape mentioned in Escape from L.A. Snake has robbed Atlanta's Center for Disease Control of some engineered metaviruses and is looking for buyers in Chicago. Finding himself in a deal that's really a set-up, he makes his getaway and exacts revenge on the buyer for ratting him out to the United States Police Force. In the meantime, a government lab has built a robot called A.T.A.C.S. (Autonomous Tracking And Combat System) that can catch criminals by imprinting their personalities upon its program in order to predict and anticipate a specific criminal's every move.

The robot's first test subject is America's public enemy number one, Snake Plissken. After a brief battle, the tide turns when A.T.A.C.S. copies Snake to the point of fully becoming his personality. Now recognizing the government as the enemy, A.T.A.C.S. sides with Snake. Unamused, Snake sucker punches the machine and destroys it. As A.T.A.C.S. shuts down, it can only ask him, "Why?" Snake just walks off answering, "I don't need the competition".

John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicles

Cover of John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicles. Snake Plissken appeared in John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicles, a four-part comic book miniseries released in 2003 that was published by CrossGen comics and Hurricane Entertainment. The story takes place the morning after the events in Escape from New York. Snake has been given a military Humvee after his presidential pardon and makes his way to Atlantic City.

Despite the fact the director's cut of the New York movie shows Snake was caught after a bank job, this story has Snake finishing up a second heist that was preplanned before his capture. The job is stealing the car JFK was assassinated in from a casino and then delivering it to a buyer on a yacht in the gulf. The job involves Snake's partnership with a man named Marrs who ends up double crossing him. Left for dead in a sinking crab cage, Snake escapes and is luckily saved by a passing fisherman named Captain Ron. When Ron denies Snake's request to use his boat in order to beat Marrs to the robbery, Snake decides to kill him. But when he ends up saving Ron from a Russian mob wanting money, Ron changes his mind and helps Snake. Once at the casino, Snake comes face to face with Marrs and his men who arrive at the same time, ending in a high speed shoot out.

Snake gets away with the car and its actress portraying Jackie Kennedy, leaving Marrs to be caught by the casino owner who cuts him a deal to bring his car back and live. After some trouble, Snake manages to finally get the car to the buyer's yacht with Ron's boat and is then attacked by Marrs. Following the fire fight the yacht and car are destroyed, Marrs and Captain Ron are dead, and Snake makes his escape in a helicopter with the 30 million credits owed to him for the job. The series is written by William O'Neill, Penciled by Tone Rodriguez and Edited by Jan Utstein-O'Neill.

Escape from L.A.

Sixteen years since his escape from New York, Snake is once again enlisted for a similar situation, as the story begins with a similar plotline as was used in Escape from New York. This time, Snake is forced to retrieve a disk for a remote control which controlled a series of EMP style satellites. These devices are positioned around the entire world. The disk was somewhere in Los Angeles. The city had separated from the mainland due to an earthquake in August 2000 and had become an island separate from the United States which had become a totalitarian theocratic police state. Snake had to retrieve a black box which the President's(Cliff Robertson) daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), went into Los Angeles with.

The President says he doesn't care if she is returned or killed, she is a traitor to his country. Snake initially refuses but once injected with the plutoxin 7 virus - which will lead to his death in ten hours - he agrees. Snake retrieves the box and seemingly returns it to the President. However, when the President attempts to activate it, he learns it is not the real box; Snake reveals that he switched the box with a fake, and promptly uses the code "666" to wipe out all technology in the world.

Cancelled projects

TV series

In the early 2000s, John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, and Debra Hill developed a proposed Snake Plissken television series that was ultimately turned down by all the major networks for being "too dark and bleak."

Chronicles project

Along with the comic book, other Snake Plissken Chronicles projects were announced. A Namco-produced video game was announced, but was later cancelled possibly due to the death of Debra Hill. Production I.G was also set to create an anime film based on the property, reportedly based on the Escape From Earth concept John Carpenter and Kurt Russell had conceived, but this also never materialized. Carpenter and Russell would have executive produced, and Russell would have provided the voice and likeness of Snake.

Escape from Earth

This was a proposed second sequel often mentioned by Carpenter and Russell in interviews prior to the release of Escape From L.A. The concept was that Earth was the only place left for Plissken to escape. After Escape From L.A. failed to attract much business, the project never materialized.

In August 2006, there was an Internet rumor circulating that the project was actively being pursued by Paramount at Russell's urging, but the rumor was revealed to be untrue.

Future appearances

Escape from New York (remake)

On March 13, 2007, It was announced that Gerard Butler would play the role of Snake Plissken in a remake of Escape from New York. Kurt Russell, as well as many fans, did not approve. As of June 2008 a rumor has been circulating that the project is proceeding with  Josh Brolin as Snake Plissken. However, the project ended up being in development hell. In 2010, according to New York Magazine, plans are back on track after a new rewrite from Allan Loeb, the man responsible for the Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps script.

References in other media

  • Snake Plissken is the main inspiration for the creation of Snake from the Metal Gear series, and he was referenced in the series. The main protagonist of the games, Solid Snake, is named after Plissken and like him, is a former special forces operative. In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Solid Snake names himself Iroquois Pliskin upon meeting with Raiden for the first time, Iroquois meaning 'Snake'. Naked Snake (Big Boss) and Solidus Snake also wear an eyepatch just like Plissken and Solid Snake comes to wear the pseudo-eyepatch 'Solid Eye' in the sixth entry of the series.
  • In Duke Nukem 64 on Level 3 (Death Row) it is possible to find the mutilated body of Snake Plissken. Upon doing so Duke mutters "I guess he didn't escape from L.A."
  • In Contra ReBirth, the humanoid snake-like character Pliskin is a homage to Snake Plissken. What's more, he makes a similar speech to the one Snake makes at the end of the film, refraining from killing his employer because he was 'too tired'.
  • In the music video "New Lands" by electronic artist Justice, Snake Plissken can by seen leading a 'young' team against the 'pros' in a sport that is a combination of football, baseball, roller derby, and others. Snake scores the winning point at the end of the game. (Released July 2012. Directed by Canada. Music by Justice.)
  • Hoss Delgado, a minor recurring character in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, is a lighthearted parody of Snake Plissken.
  • Snake Plissken is on the cover of the 2004 thrash metal EP, Tango and Thrash.
  • In Super Robot Wars, there is a character named Ingram Prisken, who is often believed to be named after Snake Plissken.
  • In the world of Mirage in the MMORPG Wizard101, a humanoid snake character named Snake Plizkin assists the player through Istanboa, one of the world's areas, after escaping from a prison.


In 2007 Scottish actor Gerard Butler was close to signing a deal where he would play Snake Plissken in a remake of Carpenter's movie. Neal Moritz was to produce and Ken Nolan was to write the screenplay which would combine an original story for Plissken with the story from the 1981 movie, although Carpenter has hinted that the film might be a prequel.

New Line Cinema (one-time video distributor of the original) acquired the rights to the film from co-rights holder StudioCanal, who will control the European rights, and Carpenter, who will serve as an executive producer and said, "Snake is one of my fondest creations. Kurt Russell did an incredible job, and it would be fun to see someone else try." Russell has commented on the remake and on the casting of Butler as Plissken, saying, "I will say that when I was told who was going to play Snake Plissken, my initial reaction was 'Oh, man!' [Russell winces]. I do think that character was quintessentially one thing. And that is, American." Len Wiseman was attached to direct but he dropped out of the project and rumors were that Brett Ratner would helm the film. Since Ratner has not formally committed to the new project, the identity of the director is as yet unclear. The studio has brought Jonathan Mostow in to rewrite, with an option to direct. In addition, Gerard Butler has bowed out of his role claiming "creative differences". Allan Loeb wrote currently the script for the New Line Cinema project. Breck Eisner has been announced as the director of the remake.

The film will not feature a post apocalyptic New York like the original did, rather the New York in the new film will have been built after the bomb. In November 2010, reports cited Jeremy Renner as being in talks to play Snake Plissken. In July 2011, Deadline Hollywood reported that New Line and Warner Brothers dropped the option to the remake film allowing other studios potentially option it. On March 18, 2013, Joel Silver and his studio company Silver Pictures has teamed with StudioCanal for the reboot as a trilogy, starting with an origin story in a fashion similar to the way Rise of the Planet of the Apes restarted that franchise. On March 24, 2013, British actors Jason Statham and Tom Hardy are in line to star as Snake Plissken.