Henri "Papillon" Chariere (Steve McQueen) and Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) are headed to prison. Their prison is in French Guiana. They are going by freighter and Dega is supposed to be holding money. When he was arrested and sentenced much of the money he stole was never recovered. Men on the freighter are wanting to cut him open and get the money they think he has hidden. In steps a man that goes by the name of Papillon. He tells Dega that he will help him for a price. One night the two men go after Dega but Papillon steps in. Papillon is shackled after the incident but Dega arrives safely to Islands.
When they arrive at the prison of St. Laurent they are told the rules. They are also given a show as to what happens when you break the rules. A prisoner was brought out and beheaded. This was not going to be any ole prison.
One day on work detail Papillon and Dega are told to go capture a crocodile with their bare hands. Though they do this with much hesitation they eventually run into a man who is going to help them escape. The prisoners help capture butterflies for the ink. The gentleman behind the table tells the two men that he can get them out. Money is paid and Papillon is set up. Dega did not go with him.
Papillon is taken to solitary and is going to be there for awhile. One day Papillon is given extra rations and it's from Dega. The guards find out and Papillon is given the full enclosure. Blacked out cells can do strange things to a man. Papillon is about to crack when his time is up. He is taken to medical wing and renews his friendship with Dega. Papillon also meets up with Maturette (Robert Deman) and Clusiot (Woodrow Parfrey).
Papillon will try another break out and actually gets to another Island but is finally turned in by some nuns. Papillon will do another 5 years in solitary and when he gets out looks like death. He will be taken to one of the Island camps where there really is no escape or is there. Watch the movie and see if he can do the impossible.