Action/Adventure, Best Movies, Classics, Crime/Mystery, Drama, Foreign-Language, War

The Best Prison Movies Of All-Time

“What are the best movies about or taking place in Prison?” We looked at 109 of the top Prison films and ranked them so we could answer that very question!

The top 29 films, all appearing on 4 or more “Best Prison” movie lists, are ranked below by how many times they appear. The remaining 75+ movies, as well as the sources we used, are in alphabetical order on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 29 Best Prison Movies



29 .) Con Air (1997) directed by Simon West

	Con Air (1997)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Games Radar
  • IMDB 2
  • List Challenges
  • Ranker

When the government puts all its rotten criminal eggs in one airborne basket, it’s asking for trouble. Before you can say, “Pass the barf bag,” the crooks control the plane, led by creepy Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom. Watching his every move is the just-released Cameron Poe, who’d rather reunite with his family.



28 .) Escape From New York (1981) directed by John Carpenter

	Escape From New York (1981)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Indie Wire
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • The Guardian

In 1997, the island of Manhattan has been walled off and turned into a giant maximum security prison within which the country’s worst criminals are left to form their own anarchic society. However, when the President of the United States crash lands on the island, the authorities turn to a former soldier and current convict, Snake Plissken, to rescue him.



27 .) Felon (2008) directed by Ric Roman Waugh

	Felon (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB 2
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2

A family man convicted of killing an intruder must cope with life afterward in the violent penal system.



26 .) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) directed by Joel Coen

	O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • IMDB
  • List Challenges
  • Ranker

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them. On their journey they come across many comical characters and incredible situations. Based upon Homer’s ‘Odyssey’.



25 .) The Escapist (2008) directed by Rupert Wyatt

	The Escapist (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Inmate Survival
  • List challenges 2
  • Sabatage Times
  • The Cinemaholic

Frank Perry is an institutionalized convict twelve years into a life sentence without parole. When his estranged daughter falls ill, he is determined to make peace with her before it’s too late. He develops an ingenious escape plan, and recruits a dysfunctional band of escapists – misfits with a mutual dislike for one other but united by their desire to escape their hell hole of an existence.



24 .) The Hurricane (1999) directed by Norman Jewison

	The Hurricane (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Gunaxin
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • Ranker

The story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder, and the people who aided in his fight to prove his innocence.



23 .) The Longest Yard (2005) directed by Peter Segal

	The Longest Yard (2005)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • Ranker

Pro quarter-back, Paul Crewe and former college champion and coach, Nate Scarboro are doing time in the same prison. Asked to put together a team of inmates to take on the guards, Crewe enlists the help of Scarboro to coach the inmates to victory in a football game ‘fixed’ to turn out quite another way.



22 .) The Rock (1996) directed by Michael Bay

	The Rock (1996)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Games Radar
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2

FBI chemical warfare expert Stanley Goodspeed is sent on an urgent mission with a former British spy, John Patrick Mason, to stop Gen. Francis X. Hummel from launching chemical weapons on Alcatraz Island into San Francisco. Gen. Hummel demands $100 million in war reparations to be paid to the families of slain servicemen who died on covert operations. After their SEAL team is wiped out, Stanley and John deal with the soldiers on their own.



21 .) Law Abiding Citizen (2009) directed by F. Gary Gray

	Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • IMDB 2
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker

A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family’s killers free. He targets not only the killer but also the district attorney and others involved in the deal.



20 .) Sleepers (1996) directed by Barry Levinson

	Sleepers (1996)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

Two gangsters seek revenge on the state jail worker who during their stay at a youth prison sexually abused them. A sensational court hearing takes place to charge him for the crimes.



19 .) Stalag 17 (1953) directed by Billy Wilder

	Stalag 17 (1953)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indie Wire
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker

It’s a dreary Christmas 1944 for the American POWs in Stalag 17. For the men in Barracks 4, all sergeants, have to deal with a grave problem – there seems to be a security leak. The Germans always seem to be forewarned about escapes and in the most recent attempt the two men, Manfredi and Johnson, walked straight into a trap and were killed. For some in Barracks 4, especially the loud-mouthed Duke, the leaker is obvious: J.J. Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who doesn’t hesitate to trade with the guards and who has acquired goods and privileges that no other prisoner seems to have. Sefton denies giving the Germans any information and makes it quite clear that he has no intention of ever trying to escape. He plans to ride out the war in what little comfort he can arrange, but it doesn’t extend to spying for the Germans.



18 .) The Experiment (2010) directed by Paul Scheuring

	The Experiment (2010)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN

20 men are chosen to participate in the roles of guards and prisoners in a psychological study that ultimately spirals out of control.



17 .) The Longest Yard (1974) directed by Robert Aldrich

	The Longest Yard (1974)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Inmate Survival
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker

In this rough-and-tumble yarn, actually filmed on-location at the Georgia State Prision, the cons are the heroes and the guards are the heavies. Eddie Albert is the sadistic warden who’ll gladly make any sacrifice to push his guards’ semi-pro football team to a national championship.



16 .) Bronson (2008) directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

	Bronson (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2

A young man who was sentenced to 7 years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending 30 years in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter ego, Charles Bronson.



15 .) In the Name of the Father (1993) directed by Jim Sheridan

	In the Name of the Father (1993)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

A small time thief from Belfast, Gerry Conlon, is falsely implicated in the IRA bombing of a pub that kills several people while he is in London. He and his four friends are coerced by British police into confessing their guilt. Gerry’s father and other relatives in London are also implicated in the crime. He spends fifteen years in prison with his father trying to prove his innocence.



14 .) Bad Boys (1983) directed by Rick Rosenthal

	Bad Boys (1983)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Games Radar
  • Gunaxin
  • IMDB
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker

Mick O’Brien is a young Chicago street thug torn between a life of petty crime and the love of his girlfriend. But when the heist of a local drug dealer goes tragically wrong Mick is sentenced to a brutal juvenile prison where violence is a rite of passage and respect is measured in vengeance.



13 .) Brubaker (1980) directed by Stuart Rosenberg

	Brubaker (1980)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • Indie Wire
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker
  • Sabatage Times

The new warden of a small prison farm in Arkansas tries to clean it up of corruption after initially posing as an inmate.



12 .) Dead Man Walking (1995) directed by Tim Robbins

	Dead Man Walking (1995)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Gunaxin
  • IMDB
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

A justice drama based on a true story about a man on death row who in his last days forms a strong relationship with a nun who teaches him forgiveness and gives him spirituality as she accompanies him to his execution.



11 .) A Prophet (2009) directed by Jacques Audiard

	A Prophet (2009)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • The Guardian

Sentenced to six years in prison, Malik El Djebena is alone in the world and can neither read nor write. On his arrival at the prison, he seems younger and more brittle than the others detained there. At once he falls under the sway of a group of Corsicans who enforce their rule in the prison. As the ‘missions’ go by, he toughens himself and wins the confidence of the Corsican group.



10 .) Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) directed by John Frankenheimer

	Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Games Radar
  • Hub Pages
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

After killing a prison guard, convict Robert Stroud faces life imprisonment in solitary confinement. Driven nearly mad by loneliness and despair, Stroud’s life gains new meaning when he happens upon a helpless baby sparrow in the exercise yard and nurses it back to health. Despite having only a third grade education, Stroud goes on to become a renowned ornithologist and achieves a greater sense of freedom and purpose behind bars than most people find in the outside world.



9 .) Hunger (2008) directed by Steve McQueen

	Hunger (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

The story of Bobby Sands, the IRA member who led the 1981 hunger strike in which Republican prisoners tried to win political status. It dramatises events in the Maze prison in the six weeks prior to Sands’ death.



8 .) American History X (1998) directed by Tony Kaye

	American History X (1998)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Games Radar
  • Gunaxin
  • IMDB
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker

Derek Vineyard is paroled after serving 3 years in prison for killing two thugs who tried to break into/steal his truck. Through his brother, Danny Vineyard’s narration, we learn that before going to prison, Derek was a skinhead and the leader of a violent white supremacist gang that committed acts of racial crime throughout L.A. and his actions greatly influenced Danny. Reformed and fresh out of prison, Derek severs contact with the gang and becomes determined to keep Danny from going down the same violent path as he did.



7 .) The Great Escape (1963) directed by John Sturges

	The Great Escape (1963)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB
  • Indie Wire
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • Ranker
  • The Cinemaholic
  • The Guardian

The Nazis, exasperated at the number of escapes from their prison camps by a relatively small number of Allied prisoners, relocates them to a high-security ‘escape-proof’ camp to sit out the remainder of the war. Undaunted, the prisoners plan one of the most ambitious escape attempts of World War II. Based on a true story.



6 .) Midnight Express (1978) directed by Alan Parker

	Midnight Express (1978)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • IMDB
  • Indie Wire
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • The Cinemaholic
  • The Guardian

Billy Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. The Turkish courts decide to make an example of him, sentencing him to more than 30 years in prison. Hayes has two opportunities for release: the appeals made by his lawyer, his family, and the American government, or the “Midnight Express”.



5 .) The Green Mile (1999) directed by Frank Darabont

	The Green Mile (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • The Guardian

A supernatural tale set on death row in a Southern prison, where gentle giant John Coffey possesses the mysterious power to heal people’s ailments. When the cell block’s head guard, Paul Edgecomb, recognizes Coffey’s miraculous gift, he tries desperately to help stave off the condemned man’s execution.



4 .) Papillon (1973) directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

	Papillon (1973)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • The Cinemaholic

A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.



3 .) The Shawshank Redemption (1994) directed by Frank Darabont

	The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • The Cinemaholic
  • The Guardian

Framed in the 1940s for the double murder of his wife and her lover, upstanding banker Andy Dufresne begins a new life at the Shawshank prison, where he puts his accounting skills to work for an amoral warden. During his long stretch in prison, Dufresne comes to be admired by the other inmates — including an older prisoner named Red — for his integrity and unquenchable sense of hope.



2 .) Escape from Alcatraz (1979) directed by Don Siegel

	Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • Sabatage Times
  • The Cinemaholic

Escape from Alcatraz tells the story of the only three men ever to escape from the infamous maximum security prison at Alcatraz. In 29 years, the seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and “Birdman” Robert Stroud, was only broken once – by three men never heard of again.



1 .) Cool Hand Luke (1967) directed by Stuart Rosenberg

	Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Criminal
  • Gunaxin
  • Hub Pages
  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indie Wire
  • Inmate Survival
  • Irish Times
  • List Challenges
  • List challenges 2
  • MSN
  • Ranker
  • The Cinemaholic
  • The Guardian

When petty criminal Luke Jackson is sentenced to two years in a Florida prison farm, he doesn’t play by the rules of either the sadistic warden or the yard’s resident heavy, Dragline, who ends up admiring the new guy’s unbreakable will. Luke’s bravado, even in the face of repeated stints in the prison’s dreaded solitary confinement cell, “the box,” make him a rebel hero to his fellow convicts and a thorn in the side of the prison officers.



 


The 75+ Additional Best Movies Set In Or About Prison



 

# Movies Directors Lists
30 A Man Escaped (1956)   Indie Wire
MSN
The Cinemaholic
31 Get the Gringo (2012) Adrian Grunberg IMDB
IMDB 2
List challenges 2
32 Kiss of the Spider Woman   Gunaxin
Indie Wire
MSN
33 La Grande Illusion (1937) Jean Renoir IMDB
MSN
The Cinemaholic
34 Scum (1979)   Irish Times
List challenges 2
The Guardian
35 Starred Up (2013)  
Games Radar
Indie Wire
MSN
36 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) David Lean IMDB
Indie Wire
List challenges 2
37 The Hill (1965) Sidney Lumet IMDB
Sabatage Times
The Guardian
38 Alien 3 (1992)   Gunaxin
Inmate Survival
39 American Me (1992)  
List Challenges
Ranker
40 Animal Factory (2000) Steve Buscemi IMDB 2
Sabatage Times
41 Cell 211 (2009) Daniel Monzón IMDB 2
List challenges 2
42 Chopper (2000)  
List challenges 2
MSN
43 Death Race (2008) Paul W.S. Anderson IMDB 2
List Challenges
44 Down by Law (1986)  
List challenges 2
MSN
45 Escape Plan (2013) Mikael Håfström IMDB 2
Inmate Survival
46 Fortress (1992)  
Inmate Survival
Slash Film
47
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)
 
List challenges 2
Slash Film
48 Le Trou (1960) Jacques Becker IMDB
Indie Wire
49 Lockout (2012) James Mather IMDB 2
Inmate Survival
50 Oz (1997–2003) Ernie Hudson IMDB 2
Inmate Survival
51 Prison Break (2005–2017) Dominic Purcell IMDB 2
Inmate Survival
52 Rescue Dawn (2006)  
Games Radar
Indie Wire
53
Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  Hub Pages
Inmate Survival
54 Stir Crazy (1980)  
List Challenges
Ranker
55 Take the Money and Run (1969) Woody Allen IMDB
List challenges 2
56 The Last Castle (2001)  
List Challenges
Ranker
57
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
  Hub Pages
Irish Times
58 Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing (2006 Video) Isaac Florentine IMDB 2
List challenges 2
59 Undisputed 3: Redemption (2010 Video) Isaac Florentine IMDB 2
List challenges 2
60 Army of Shadows   Indie Wire
61 Big Stan (2007) Rob Schneider IMDB 2
62 Blood In, Blood Out (1993) Taylor Hackford IMDB 2
63 Blow (2001) Ted Demme IMDB
64 Bound by Honor (1993)  
List challenges 2
65 Brokedown Palace (1999)  
List Challenges
66 Brute Force   Indie Wire
67 CAGED (1950)   Irish Times
68 Carandiru   MSN
69 Chicago (2002) Rob Marshall IMDB
70 Cube (1997)  
List challenges 2
71 Das Experiment (2001)  
Games Radar
72 Dog Pound (2010)  
List challenges 2
73 Escape to Victory (1981)  
List challenges 2
74 Gridiron Gang (2006) Phil Joanou IMDB 2
75 Half Past Dead (2002) Don Michael Paul IMDB 2
76 Half Past Dead 2 (2007 Video) Art Camacho IMDB 2
77 Holes (2003)  
List Challenges
78 I Love You Philip Morris (2009)  
Games Radar
79 I Want To Live!   Slash Film
80 In Hell (2003) Ringo Lam IMDB 2
81 Into the Abyss   MSN
82 Jailhouse Rock (1957)  
List Challenges
83 Lady Vengeance (2005) Chan-wook Park IMDB
84 Let’s Go to Prison (2006) Bob Odenkirk IMDB 2
85 Life (1999)  
List Challenges
86 Malcolm X (1992) Spike Lee IMDB
87 Maximum Conviction (2012) Keoni Waxman IMDB 2
88 Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence   Indie Wire
89 Murder in the First (1995)  
List Challenges
90
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
 
The Guardian
91
Orange Is The New Black (tv show)
 
Inmate Survival
92 Scarface (1983)  
List Challenges
93 Schindler’s List (1993)  
List Challenges
94 Star Trek: The Motion Picture   Slash Film
95 Stone (2010) John Curran IMDB 2
96
THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1955)
  Irish Times
97 The Count of Monte Cristo  
List challenges 2
98 The Dirty Dozen (1967)  
List Challenges
99 The Experiment (2001) Oliver Hirschbiegel IMDB 2
100 The Fugitive (1993)  
List Challenges
101 The Grand Illusion   Indie Wire
102 The Hole (1960)  
The Cinemaholic
103 The Secret In Their Eyes   Slash Film
104 The Silence of the Lambs   MSN
105 The White Ribbon   Slash Film
106 Toy Story 3   MSN
107 Un Prophète   Slash Film
108 Undisputed (2002)  
List Challenges
109 White Heat   MSN

 


17 Best Prison Film Sources/Lists



Source Article
Criminal Best Prison Movies of All Time
Games Radar The 30 best prison movies
Gunaxin The Fifteen Best Prison Movies
Hub Pages Top 10 Best Prison Movies
IMDB The 25 Best Prison Movies of All Time
IMDB 2 Top 25 prison movies
Indie Wire 25 Essential Prison Movies
Inmate Survival Top 25 List: Best Prison And Jail Movies (Films) + TV Series Shows
Irish Times Top 10 prison films to watch: Donald Clarke picks his favourites
List Challenges Ranker’s 40 Best Prison Movies
List challenges 2 Top 50 Prison Movies – How many have you watched?
MSN Best Prison Movies of All Time
Ranker Best Prison Movies
Sabatage Times Five Unsung Prison Movies It’s Worth Enduring Solitary To See
Slash Film The Best Prison Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen
The Cinemaholic Prison Escape Movies
The Guardian The 10 best prison films

You Might Also Like