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The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time 

Ranker Entertainment
Updated November 15, 2019 861 votes 152 voters 41 items

List Rules Vote up the most entertaining prison films & shows, including streaming series.

If there's one thing nobody wants, it's to be thrown into a prison. Our desire to keep as far away from these places doesn't diminish our fascination with prison life and the people locked up inside. People have been locking away their problems for millennia, which may be the reason we are so fascinated with prison culture, but most people only have a passing understanding or association with it. Because of this, prison movies and television shows have long been regarded as exceptional entertainment.

The best movies about prison include classics like Clint Eastwood's daring Escape from Alcatraz alongside Paul Newman's need to escape his situation in Cool Hand Luke. The genre hasn't neglected the small screen, with TV shows like the recent addition from Netflix, Orange is the New Black, which explores the life of a woman who is imprisoned for crimes she committed at the very edge of the statue of limitations. Then you have the aptly named Prison Break, among plenty of other great prison shows. Whatever your interest in the genre, the very best prison TV shows and movies can be found right here.

Which movies and shows about prison deserve the top spots on this list? Help decide by giving your favorites a thumbs up and voting others down accordingly so fellow fans know what to watch. If you see a good series or movie about jail is missing from the list, feel free to add it!

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1
Oz is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Oz is an American television drama series created by Tom Fontana, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the series' 56 episodes. It was the first one-hour dramatic television series to be produced ...more

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2
Wentworth is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Wentworth is an Australian television drama series. It was first broadcast on SoHo on 1 May 2013. The series serves as a contemporary reimagining of Prisoner, which ran on Network Ten from 1979 ...more
3
The Shawshank Redemption... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and ...more

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4
The Green Mile is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy drama film directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel of the same name. The film is told in a flashback format and stars ...more

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5
Dead Man Walking is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
This film is a 1995 American drama film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, and co-produced and directed by Tim Robbins, who adapted the screenplay from the non-fiction book of the same name. ...more

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6
Sleepers is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Sleepers is a 1996 American legal drama film written, produced, and directed by Barry Levinson, and based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name.

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7
American History X is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and co-stars Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott ...more

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8
Prisoner is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Prisoner is an Australian soap opera, set in the Wentworth Detention Centre, a fictional women's prison. In the United States and United Kingdom it was billed as Prisoner: Cell Block H, and in ...more
9
Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
This series is an American documentary television series that premiered on Netflix in 2015. The ten-episode first season, written and directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, explores the ...more

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10
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
The Great Escape is a 1963 American WWII epic film based on an escape by British and Commonwealth POW from a German POW camp during WWII, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard ...more

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11
Escape from Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Escape from Alcatraz is a 1979 American prison film, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood. It is based on true events. It dramatizes possibly the only successful escape attempt ...more

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12
Prison Break is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Prison Break is an American television serial drama created by Paul Scheuring, that was broadcast on Fox for four seasons, from 2005 until 2009. The series revolves around two brothers; one has ...more

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13
Cool Hand Luke is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 American prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg, starring Paul Newman and featuring George Kennedy in an Oscar-winning performance. Newman stars in the title ...more

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14
Stalag 17 is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Stalag 17 is a 1953 comedy-drama war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is ...more

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15
Rectify is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Rectify is an American television drama series created by Ray McKinnon, and is the first original series from SundanceTV. It stars Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide ...more
16
Hogan's Heroes is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Hogan's Heroes is an American television sitcom set in a German prisoner during WWII. It ran for 168 episodes from September 17, 1965, to April 4, 1971, on the CBS network. Bob Crane starred as ...more

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17
Brubaker is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Brubaker is a 1980 American prison drama film starring Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto and David Keith. The film, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg, is a fictionalized account of a 1967 prison ...more

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18
Con Air is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Con Air is a 1997 American action film directed by Simon West and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of The Rock. It stars Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and John Malkovich. The film borrows ...more

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19
Women in Prison is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Women in Prison
Women in Prison is an American television sitcom created by Katherine Green which aired on Fox from October 11, 1987 to April 2, 1988.
20
Girls Incarcerated is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Girls Incarcerated (Netflix, 2018) is a coming-of-age documentary series about troubled girls who are are juvenile delinquents in Madison Juvenile Center.
21
Jail is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Jail is a reality television series that follows suspected criminals from booking through incarceration. The series was created and produced by John Langley and his son, Morgan Langley, who also ...more
22
The Last Castle is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
The Last Castle is a 2001 American action drama film directed by Rod Lurie, starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo and Delroy Lindo. The film portrays a struggle between inmates ...more
23
The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the ...more

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24
Papillon is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Papillon is a 1973 prison film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, based on the best-selling autobiography by the French convict Henri Charrière. The film stars Steve McQueen as Henri ...more

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25
An Innocent Man is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
philipdoris added
An Innocent Man, is a 1989 crime thriller film directed by Peter Yates, and starring Tom Selleck. The film follows James Rainwood, an airline mechanic sent to prison when framed by crooked ...more