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|Paul Newman||Ari Ben Canaan|
|Eva Marie Saint||Kitty Fremont|
|Lee J. Cobb||Barak Ben Canaan|
|Ralph Richardson||Bruce Sutherland|
|Peter Lawford||Maj. Caldwell|
|Felix Aylmer||Dr. Lieberman|
|Jill Haworth||Karen Hansen Clement|
|Alexandra Stewart||Jordana Ben Canaan|
|Sal Mineo||Dov Landau|
|Michael Wager||David Ben Ami|
The film is based on the events that happened on the ship Exodus in 1947 as well as events dealing with the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
Nurse Katherine "Kitty" Fremont (Eva Marie Saint) is an American volunteer at the Karaolos internment camp on Cyprus, where thousands of Jews - Holocaust survivors - are being held by the British, who won't let them go to Palestine. They anxiously wait for the day they will be liberated. Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), a Hagannah rebel who previously was a captain in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in the Second World War, obtains a cargo ship and smuggles 611 Jewish inmates out of the camp for an illegal voyage to Mandate Palestine before being discovered by military authorities. When the British find out that the refugees are in a ship in the harbor of Famagusta, they blockade it. The refugees stage a hunger strike, during which the camp's doctor dies, and Ari threatens to blow up the ship and the refugees. The British relent and allow the Exodus safe passage.
Meanwhile, Kitty has grown very fond of Karen Hansen (Jill Haworth), a young Danish-Jewish girl searching for her father, from whom she was separated during the war. She has taken up the Zionist cause, much to the chagrin of Kitty, who had hoped to take young Karen to America so that she can begin a new life there.
During this time, opposition to the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states is heating up, and Karen's young beau Dov Landau (Sal Mineo) proclaims his desire to join the Irgun, a radical Zionist underground network. Dov goes to an Irgun address, only to get caught in a police trap. After he is freed, he is contacted by members of the Irgun and is interviewed by Ari Ben Canaan's uncle Akiva (David Opatoshu). Before swearing Dov in, Akiva forces the boy to confess that he was a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz and that he was raped by Nazis. Due to his activities, Akiva has been disowned by Ari's father, Barak (Lee J. Cobb), who heads the mainstream Jewish Agency trying to create a Jewish state through political and diplomatic means. He fears that the Irgun will damage his efforts, especially since the British have put a price on Akiva's head. When Dov successfully bombs the King David Hotel in an act of terrorism, leading to dozens of fatalities, Akiva is arrested and sentenced to hang. Meanwhile, Karen's father has been found, but he is ill in hospital in Jerusalem and does not recognize her. Karen has gone to live at Gan Dafna, a fictional Jewish kibbutz near Mount Tabor at which Ari was raised.
Kitty and Ari have fallen in love, but uncle Akiva's imprisonment is an obstacle, and Ari must devise a plan to free the prisoners.
Dov Landau, who had managed to elude the arresting soldiers, turns himself in so that he can use his knowledge of explosives to rig the Acre prison and plan an escape route. All goes according to plan; hundreds of prisoners, including Akiva, manage to escape. Akiva is fatally shot by British soldiers while evading a roadblock set up to catch the escaped prisoners. Ari is also badly wounded. He makes his way to Abu Yesha, an Arab village near Gan Dafna, where his lifelong friend, Taha, (John Derek) is the mukhtar. Kitty is brought there and treats his wound.
An independent Israel is now in plain view, but Arab nationals commanded by Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, plot to attack Gan Dafna and kill its villagers. Ari receives prior warning of this attack from Taha, and he manages to get the younger children of the town out in a mass overnight escape. Karen, ecstatic over the prospect of a new nation, finds Dov (who was out on patrol outside the town) and proclaims her love for him; Dov assures her that they will marry someday. As Karen returns to Gan Dafna, she is ambushed and killed by a gang of Arab militiamen. Dov discovers her lifeless body the following morning. That same day, the body of Taha is found hanging in his village, killed by Arab extremists with a Star of David symbol carved on his body. Karen and Taha are buried together in one grave. At the Jewish burial ceremony, Ari swears on their bodies that someday, Jews and Arabs will live together and share the land in peace, not only in death but also in life. The movie then ends with Ari, Kitty, and a Palmach contingent entering trucks and heading toward battle.
Theatrical : 1960-12-15 : New York City
Theatrical : 1961-01-02 : Brazil
Theatrical : 1961-04-29 : Italy
Theatrical : 1961-05-03 : France
Theatrical : 1961-05-25 : Netherlands
Theatrical : 1961-07-22 : Japan
Theatrical : 1961-09-15 : Finland
Theatrical : 1961-09-18 : Sweden
Theatrical : 1961-10-05 : West Germany
Theatrical : 1961-11-03 : Denmark
Theatrical : 1962-01-25 : Hong Kong
Theatrical : 1962-07-12 : Sydney
Theatrical : 1962-09-03 : Madrid
Theatrical : Turkey
Theatrical : 1960-12-21 : Los Angeles
2012-05-08 : Switzerland