Midnight Express movie poster

With Midnight ExpressOliver Stone made his name known to the world: he wrote the script of this prison drama directed by Alan Parker, winning his first Golden Globe Award. Midnight Express received eight nominations from the HFPA and won six Globes, including Best Film – Drama, Best Script (Stone), Best Supporting Actor, (John Hurt), and Best Original Score by Italian Pop Maestro Giorgio Moroder. Oliver Stone, in his career, would go on to receive seven Golden Globes nominations, winning four times as of today. The other four nominated films – drama, that year, were Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Days of Heaven and An Unmarried Woman. The first two would triumph at the Oscars (The Deer Hunter won as Best Picture), but Stone and Moroder confirmed their Globe victories with an Academy Award each. The 36th Golden Globe ceremony was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 27, 1979.

On October 6, 1970, while boarding an international flight out of Istanbul Airport, American Billy Hayes (Brad Davis – nominated as Best Actor; Jon Voight won for Coming Home), is caught attempting to smuggle two kilos of hashish out of the country, the drugs strapped to his body. It's the beginning of a nightmare in a Turkish jail, with a sadistic prison guard ruling the place, inflicting mental and physical torture on the prisoners. The film was shot mainly in Malta, at Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta, after permission to film in Istanbul was denied. Midnight Express (the title is prison slang for an inmate’s escape attempt) is based on the book by Billy Hayes; about his true vicissitudes in a Turkish prison. Many things in the book were later revealed as gross exaggerations.

Oliver Stone apologized to the Turkish government for this film in 2004, when he visited that country, regretting that he hadn’t done enough research on the “true story” of Billy Hayes before writing the script. Some said that this “hate-film” affected the relations between Turks and Americans, as well as Turkish tourism. One reviewer wrote: "Midnight Express, as a 'j'accuse' film is more violent than anything I can remember ... inflaming the audience’s worst fears, prejudices, and resentments'". And yet it became a “cult movie” and was revered by a generation of cinephiles.