Prisons

The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time  

Ranker Entertainment
567 votes 108 voters 39 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!

list ordered by
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
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
4
Dead Man Walking is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
The Green Mile is listed (or ranked) 5 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
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.
7
Prisoner is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
Rectify is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
Escape from Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 9 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
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
11
American History X is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
Cool Hand Luke is listed (or ranked) 12 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
13
Prison Break is listed (or ranked) 13 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
14
Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Midnight Express is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Midnight Express is a 1978 American-British prison drama film directed by Alan Parker, produced by David Puttnam and starring Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Paolo Bonacelli, Paul L. ...more
16
The Last Castle is listed (or ranked) 16 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
17
Papillon is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Arrested Development is an American television sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz, which originally aired on Fox for three seasons from November 2, 2003 to February 10, 2006. A fourth season of ...more
19
Buried is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Buried is a British television drama series, produced by World Productions for Channel 4 and originally screened in 2003. The programme starred Lennie James as Lee Kingley, who is serving a long ...more
20
Lockup is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Lockup is a prison documentary series, produced by 44 Blue Productions, which airs on MSNBC. The Lockup franchise also includes Lockup: Raw, Lockup: World Tour, Lockup: Extended Stay, Lockup: ...more
21
Bad Girls is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Bad Girls is a British television drama series that was broadcast on ITV from 1 June 1999 to 20 December 2006. It was produced by Shed Productions, the company that later produced Footballers' ...more
22
Banged Up Abroad is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Banged Up Abroad
Banged Up Abroad was a British documentary/docudrama television series created by Bart Layton that was produced for Channel 5 and that premiered in March 2006. Most episodes feature stories of ...more
23
Birdman of Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Birdman of Alcatraz is a 1962 film starring Burt Lancaster and directed by John Frankenheimer. It is a largely fictionalized version of the life of Robert Stroud, a federal prison inmate known ...more
24
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a 2000 adventure comedy film written, produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson, with ...more
25
Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Prison Shows & Movies of All Time
Alcatraz is an American television series created by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, and produced by J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot Productions. The series premiered on Fox on ...more