Film

The Best Prisoner of War Movies 

Ranker Film
Updated August 8, 2019 137 votes 25 voters 31 items

The best prisoner of war movies keep you on the edge of your seat. Most of them have some sort of historical basis, so they can be a little educational in addition to being intense. WWII POW movies are the most common, but others have been set amid different conflicts. There are Vietnam POW movies, as well as some set during the Civil War and the French Resistance. In this type of film, you will find a nice mix of true stories and historical fiction. Rescue Dawn is a great Christian Bale POW movie and it is based on a true story.

Use this list to vote for the top POW films of all time. If there's a prisoner of war movie that you think is among the greatest and isn't included here, add it to the list. Then check back to see how other users are ranking your choice.  

list ordered by
1
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner

Released: 1963

Directed by: John Sturges

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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2
Empire of the Sun is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, John Malkovich

Released: 1987

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, ...more

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3
The Bridge on the River ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins

Released: 1957

Directed by: David Lean

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 WWII epic film directed by David Lean, based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the ...more

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#18 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #127 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
Paradise Road is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Cate Blanchett, Glenn Close, Julianna Margulies

Released: 1997

Directed by: Bruce Beresford

Paradise Road is a 1997 war film which tells the story of a group of English, American, Dutch and Australian women who are imprisoned by the Japanese in Sumatra during World War II. It was ...more
5
Stalag 17 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
William Holden, Peter Graves, Otto Preminger

Released: 1953

Directed by: Billy Wilder

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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#57 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #22 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Unbroken is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Jack O'Connell

Released: 2014

Directed by: Angelina Jolie

Unbroken is a 2014 American biographical drama film, produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, and based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, ...more

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#198 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #114 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #10 of 22 The Greatest Lost at Sea Movies Ever Made

7
Rescue Dawn is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies

Released: 2006

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Rescue Dawn is a 2006 American drama film directed by Werner Herzog, based on an adapted screenplay written from his 1997 documentary film Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The film stars Christian ...more

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#232 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #106 of 235 The Best Movies Based On True Stories #18 of 24 Brutal War Movies That Absolutely Got It Right

8
The Way Back is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Ed Harris

Released: 2010

Directed by: Peter Weir

The Way Back is a 2010 epic drama film directed by Peter Weir, from a screenplay by Weir and Keith Clarke. The film is inspired by The Long Walk, the memoir by former Polish POW Sławomir Rawicz, ...more

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9
King Rat is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
George Segal, John Mills, Denholm Elliott

Released: 1965

Directed by: Bryan Forbes

King Rat is a 1965 WWII film adapted from the James Clavell novel King Rat. The film was directed by Bryan Forbes and starred George Segal as Corporal King and James Fox as Marlowe, two WWII ...more

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#292 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #132 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #1,242 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

10
The Colditz Story is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
John Mills, David Yates, Theodore Bikel

Released: 1954

Directed by: Guy Hamilton

The Colditz Story is a 1955 prisoner of war film starring John Mills and Eric Portman and directed by Guy Hamilton. It is based on the book written by Pat Reid, a British army officer who was ...more

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#91 of 105 The Best Prison Movies #28 of 29 The Best 50s War Movies

11
A Man Escaped is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
François Leterrier, Jacques Ertaud, Maurice Beerblock

Released: 1956

Directed by: Robert Bresson

A Man Escaped or: The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth is a 1956 French film directed by Robert Bresson. It is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance held ...more

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12
Andersonville is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
William H. Macy, Thomas F. Wilson, William Sanderson

Released: 1996

Directed by: John Frankenheimer

Andersonville is a 1996 American television film directed by John Frankenheimer about a group of Union soldiers during the American Civil War who are captured by the Confederates and sent to an ...more

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#222 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #139 of 179 The Best Historical Drama Movies Of All Time, Rankedlisted on Civil War Movies List

13
Escape from Sobibor is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Alan Arkin, Rutger Hauer, Joanna Pacuła

Released: 1987

Directed by: Jack Gold

Escape from Sobibor is a 1987 British made-for-TV film which aired on CBS. It is the story of the mass escape from the extermination camp at Sobibor, the most successful uprising by Jewish ...more
14
Escape to Victory is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Sylvester Stallone, Pelé, Michael Caine

Released: 1981

Directed by: John Huston

Escape to Victory, known simply as Victory in North America, is a 1981 film about Allied POW who are interned in a German prison camp during WW II who play an exhibition match of Association ...more

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15
The Grand Illusion is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Erich von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio

Released: 1937

Directed by: Jean Renoir

La Grande Illusion is a 1937 French war film directed by Jean Renoir, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak. The story concerns class relationships among a small group of French ...more

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#178 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #175 of 334 The Greatest Movies in World Cinema History #10 of 100 The Best French Movies That Are Absolute Masterpieces

16
Hart's War is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard

Released: 2002

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

This film is a 2002 American thriller drama film about a WWII POW camp based on the novel by John Katzenbach. It stars Bruce Willis as Col. William McNamara and Colin Farrell. The film co-stars ...more

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#266 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #107 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #108 of 304 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

17
Little Dieter Needs to F... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Dieter Dengler, Werner Herzog, Eugene Deatrick

Released: 1997

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a 1997 documentary film made for German television, written and directed by Werner Herzog, produced by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion. The film was released to DVD in ...more
18
Merry Christmas, Mr. Law... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
David Bowie, Beat Kitano, Ryuichi Sakamoto

Released: 1983

Directed by: Nagisa Oshima

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 Japanese-British film directed by Nagisa Oshima, produced by Jeremy Thomas and starring David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano and Jack ...more

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#192 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #477 of 557 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time #181 of 334 The Greatest Movies in World Cinema History

19
The Captive Heart is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Michael Redgrave, Gordon Jackson, Mervyn Johns

Released: 1946

Directed by: Basil Dearden

The Captive Heart is a 1946 British war drama, directed by Basil Dearden and starring Michael Redgrave. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.
20
The Deer Hunter is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken

Released: 1978

Directed by: Michael Cimino

The Deer Hunter is a 1978 American epic drama film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American steelworkers and their service in Vietnam. The film stars Robert De ...more

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21
The Great Raid is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
James Franco, Sam Worthington, Connie Nielsen

Released: 2005

Directed by: John Dahl

The Great Raid is a 2005 film about the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon, Philippines during WWII. It is directed by John Dahl and stars Benjamin Bratt, Joseph Fiennes, James Franco, ...more

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#160 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #70 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #58 of 82 The Best Movies Based on Non-Fiction Books

22
The Hanoi Hilton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Jeffrey Jones, David Soul, Michael Moriarty

Released: 1987

Directed by: Lionel Chetwynd

The Hanoi Hilton is a 1987 Vietnam War film which focuses on the experiences of American prisoners of war who were held in the infamous Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi during the 1960s and 1970s and the ...more
23
The McKenzie Break is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Brian Keith, Ian Hendry, Jack Watson

Released: 1970

Directed by: Lamont Johnson

The McKenzie Break is a 1970 British war drama film directed by Lamont Johnson, starring Brian Keith as Jack Connor, an intelligence officer investigating recent disturbances at a German ...more

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#122 of 136 The Best Prison Movies #30 of 46 The Best 70s War Movies

24
The Password Is Courage ... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Dirk Bogarde, Nigel Stock, Ed Devereaux

Released: 1962

Directed by: Andrew L. Stone

The Password is Courage is a 1962 film based on John Castle's 1954 Second World War memoir of the same name. It was written, produced and directed by Andrew L. Stone and stars Dirk Bogarde, ...more
25
To End All Wars is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Prisoner of War Movies
Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Strong, Robert Carlyle

Released: 2001

Directed by: David L. Cunningham

To End All Wars is a 2001 war film starring Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland and Sakae Kimura and directed by David L. Cunningham.