As if regular prisons weren't bad enough (newsflash: they are), we have creative minds in Hollywood coming up with even worse ways to punish criminals. Do we need soul-sucking ghouls as prison guards? No, we do not, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Do we need magnetic boots to lock prisoners in place when need be? No, we do not, Face/Off. Do we need to build a giant wall around Manhattan Island and turn the whole thing into a massive, lawless prison? No, we do not, Escape from New York.
Get ready to pick the lock on those handcuffs and figure out an escape plan - we're running through the fictional movie jails that kick the basic premise of imprisonment up a notch.
- Photo: Superman: The Movie / Warner Bros.
If Arkham Asylum is DC Comics' reflection of actual human incarceration, then the Phantom Zone serves as DC's take on what a prison would look like if there were no restrictions on technology and/or reality. Viewers may not get much of a look at the actual Phantom Zone in Superman or Superman II, but everything you need to know is in its description. In the 1978 original, the Krypton Elder describes an isolation sentence in the Phantom Zone as "an eternal living death." So... that's not good.
The various versions of the Phantom Zone throughout the decades-long history of DC Comics see the parallel dimension serve as a prison for Superman's most dangerous foes. The cruelest facet of the Phantom Zone has to be that it generally exists outside of the natural space-time continuum. Would you like to be driven insane? Exist outside the traditional laws of space and time for a while. That'll do the trick quite well.
- 215 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
Leave it to the humanity of the future to find a barren planet out in space and turn it into a massive correctional facility. "There's no intelligent life on this planet... let's turn it into a prison!" If that isn't classic Weyland-Yutani Corporation stuff, we don't know what is. Of course, the entire planet isn't really the prison. It just houses the structure that Weyland-Yutani created to keep thousands of criminals away from the general population and a smelting facility for them to work at.
If an inmate managed to escape, they'd have to deal with nights that see temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and days that regularly get above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, and there is almost no vegetation on the planet at all, meaning there is just about nothing to eat. Couple all of that with having to find transport off-planet to truly escape, and you've got one hell of a prison setup. And this is all before a freaking Xenomorph shows up! Ellen Ripley really must have pissed someone off in a past life or something to get the kind of luck she does throughout the Alien franchise.
- Photo: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / Warner Bros. Pictures
Where do all the baddies from the Harry Potter franchise (that aren't He Who Must Not Be Named) reside? Azkaban, of course. The Azkaban of the films differs from the Azkaban of the books, but the basic idea remains the same: All the evil wizards and witches who reside in the United Kingdom are sent there. Being locked in a triangle-shaped building in the middle of the ocean seems bad enough, but the real fear should lie with the Dementors.
For what is ostensibly a fantasy series for children, the Dementors are about as serious as it gets. These horrifying ghouls serve as the guards of Azkaban, and their presence not only makes inmates incapable of experiencing happiness, but also forces them to relive their worst memories over and over again. Just why the Ministry of Magic felt it was a good idea to use the Dementors in any capacity is beyond us. As far as frightening movie prisons go, Azkaban has to be up there with the best of them. Or is it the worst of them?
- 420 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros.
Before American Graffiti signaled him as a director on the rise and Star Wars cemented his place in Hollywood history, George Lucas made his feature film debut with 1971's THX 1138. The dystopian sci-fi classic is directly at odds with the crowd-pleasing fare that would make up the rest of Lucas's career, as it focuses on a future where an android police force controls the human population with mandatory drugs. Fundamental facets of humanity like emotion, reproduction, and sex are things of the past, and there isn't much for human beings to do outside of existing and working.
The White Void that Robert Duvall's THX finds himself in after evading his drug regimen and having sex with Maggie McOmie's LUH proves that prisons don't have to be all that elaborate to be terrifying. Decked out in white prison garb, THX is sequestered alone in a massive white room where the only thing that sticks out is his skin color. Eventually, some of the robotic police show up and torture him a bit, but being forced into a huge room devoid of color is dastardly enough in itself. As you'd imagine, this doesn't do much for THX's mental state.