Unspeakable Crimes The Best Prison Movies  

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List Rules Films set in prison or jails or that star prisoners or convicts.

Best prison movies is a list of the top jail films of all time. These are movies that take place within or around a penitentiary. This prison movies list also includes escape movies, as the plot sometimes revolves around a convict's escape attempt.

Jails create an interesting setting for filmmakers. Since prisons are self-encapsulated, prisons tend to form their own societies with their own rules, hierarchies, and etiquette. As such, the prisons become a veritable island for the prisoners inside.

The prison films on this list are some of the best, so there is bound to be at least one on here that you will enjoy. Make sure to vote for what you think is the greatest prison film ever and add your favorite movie set in jail if it's not on the prison movies list.
list ordered by

1
2,075 250
The Shawshank Redemption is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Morgan Freeman, Rita Hayworth, Tim Robbins Released: 1994 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

2
1,494 337
The Green Mile is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sam Rockwell Released: 1999 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

3
808 288
Cool Hand Luke is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Paul Newman, Dennis Hopper, George Kennedy Released: 1967 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

4
612 226
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Prison Movies
mrblond added Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner 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

5
843 202
Escape from Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Clint Eastwood, Danny Glover, Patrick McGoohan Released: 1979 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

6
891 205
American History X is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly DAngelo 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

7
546 236
Papillon is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen, Vic Tayback Released: 1973 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

8
502 243
Midnight Express is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Prison Movies
John Hurt, Randy Quaid, Brad Davis Released: 1978 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

9
600 213
The Longest Yard is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Lon Harris added Burt Reynolds, Bernadette Peters, Ray Nitschke The Longest Yard is a 1974 American sports comedy film directed by Robert Aldrich. Written by Tracy Keenan Wynn based on a story by producer Albert S. Ruddy, the film follows inmates at a prison ...more

10
535 223
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Prison Movies
George Clooney, John Goodman, Holly Hunter 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

11
301 212
Birdman of Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Prison Movies
ryanmcw added Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas, Karl Malden 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

12
569 188
Law Abiding Citizen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Prison Movies
wiabux added Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 American thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer and stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. Law Abiding Citizen was released ...more

13
364 209
Dead Man Walking is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black Released: 1995 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

14
380 171
American Me is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Prison Movies
oldguy07 added Edward James Olmos, William Forsythe, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa American Me is a 1992 biographical crime drama film produced and directed by Edward James Olmos, his first film as a director, and written by Floyd Mutrux and Desmond Nakano. Olmos also stars as ...more

15
292 190
The Last Castle is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Prison Movies
KimBrownsey added Robert Redford, Mark Ruffalo, Robin Wright 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

16
295 166
Sleepers is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Prison Movies
GS69 added Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman 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.

17
207 155
Stalag 17 is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Prison Movies
bojanthebest added William Holden, Peter Graves, Otto Preminger Stalag 17 is a 1953 film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German WWII prisoner camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is an informant. It was adapted ...more

18
250 158
The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Lon Harris added Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Rod Steiger 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

19
202 170
Brubaker is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Nicolas Cage, Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford Released: 1980 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

20
603 198
Con Air is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi 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

21
221 156
Stir Crazy is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Craig T. Nelson Released: 1980 Stir Crazy is a 1980 American comedy film directed by Sidney Poitier and starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor as down-on-their-luck friends who are given 125-year prison sentences after being ...more

22
116 163
Hunger is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Prison Movies
PeteBoyle added Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham Released: 2008 Hunger is a 2008 film directed by Steve McQueen.

23
382 207
The Longest Yard is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Adam Sandler, Courteney Cox, Chris Rock Released: 2005 The Longest Yard is a 2005 American sports comedy film, a remake of the 1974 film of the same name. Adam Sandler plays the protagonist, Paul Crewe, a disgraced former professional quarterback ...more

24
361 171
Bad Boys is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Sean Penn, Ally Sheedy, Clancy Brown Released: 1983 Bad Boys is a 1983 crime drama film written by Richard Di Lello and directed by Rick Rosenthal.

25
173 131
In the Name of the Father is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Tom Wilkinson In the Name of the Father is a 1993 Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, ...more

26
136 161
A Prophet is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Prison Movies
erwan added Leïla Bekhti, Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup A Prophet is a 2009 French prison drama film directed by Jacques Audiard from a screenplay he co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri and Nicolas Peufaillit. It stars Tahar Rahim in the ...more

27
201 54
The Fugitive is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Prison Movies
doremifasola added Julianne Moore, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones This film is a 1993 American action film based on the 1960s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. The film was directed by Andrew Davis and stars Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee ...more

28
225 161
Death Race is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Prison Movies
PeteBoyle added Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez Released: 2008 This film is a 2008 American science fiction action thriller film produced, written, and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and starring Jason Statham. Though referred to as a remake of the 1975 ...more

29
274 72
The Rock is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris The Rock is a 1996 action film that primarily takes place on Alcatraz Island and in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was directed by Michael Bay, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and ...more

30
135 163
Jailhouse Rock is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Prison Movies
azzy_roth added Elvis Presley, Dean Jones, Gloria Pall Jailhouse Rock is a 1957 American musical drama film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Elvis Presley, Judy Tyler, and Mickey Shaughnessy. Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and dramatized ...more

31
182 129
Bronson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Prison Movies
PeteBoyle added Tom Hardy, Amanda Burton, James Lance Released: 2009 Bronson is a 2008 British fictionalised biographical psychological drama film co-written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Tom Hardy. The film follows the life of notorious ...more

32
258 127
Felon is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Val Kilmer, Anne Archer, Sam Shepard Released: 2008 Felon is a 2008 American prison film written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh. The film stars Stephen Dorff, Val Kilmer and Harold Perrineau. The film tells the story of the family man who ends ...more

33
228 116
Life is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Eddie Murphy, Poppy Montgomery, Martin Lawrence Released: 1999 Life is a 1999 American comedy-drama film written by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone and directed by Ted Demme. The film stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. The supporting cast includes ...more

34
150 50
The Dirty Dozen is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Prison Movies
doremifasola added Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 film directed by Robert Aldrich, released by MGM, and starring Lee Marvin. The picture was filmed in England and features an ensemble supporting cast including Ernest ...more

35
129 125
Brokedown Palace is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Kate Beckinsale, Claire Danes, Paul Walker Released: 1999 Brokedown Palace is a 1999 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, and starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman and Lim Kay Tong. It deals with two American friends ...more

36
155 109
Murder in the First is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, William H. Macy Released: 1994 Murder in the First is a largely fictitious 1995 film, directed by Marc Rocco, about a petty criminal named Henri Young who is put on trial for murder in the first degree. The film also stars ...more

37
209 92
Escape from New York is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Prison Movies
BushWanker added Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter. The film is set in a then near-future 1997 in a distopian United States ...more

38
171 61
Scarface is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Prison Movies
doremifasola added Michelle Pfeiffer, Al Pacino, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Scarface is a 1983 American crime drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone. A remake of the 1932 film of the same name, Scarface tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony ...more

39
137 55
The Count of Monte Cristo is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Prison Movies
doremifasola added Henry Cavill, Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce The Count of Monte Cristo is a 2002 adventure film directed by Kevin Reynolds. The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, père and stars Jim Caviezel, Guy ...more

40
169 33
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Prison Movies
GilWhiteley added Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more

41
154 123
Undisputed is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Wesley Snipes, Master P, Peter Falk Released: 2002 Undisputed is a 2002 American sports film written, produced and directed by Walter Hill. The film stars Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames. The film was released in the United States on August 23, ...more

42
116 57
Tango & Cash is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Prison Movies
doremifasola added Sylvester Stallone, Teri Hatcher, Kurt Russell Tango & Cash is a 1989 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, although Albert Magnoli took over in the later stages of filming, and starring Sylvester ...more

43
177 92
Holes is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette Released: 2003 Holes is a 2003 American comedy-drama adventure film based on the 1998 novel of the same title by Louis Sachar, with Shia LaBeouf as the lead role of Stanley Yelnats IV and also starring Khleo ...more

44
87 96
The Defiant Ones is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis, Lon Chaney The Defiant Ones is a 1958 black and white film which tells the story of two escaped prisoners, one white and one black, who are shackled together and who must co-operate in order to survive. It ...more

45
108 128
Get the Gringo is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a 2011 action-drama film directed by Adrian Grunberg.

46
96 113
Cell 211 is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Prison Movies
srjthnk added Luis Tosar, Carlos Bardem, Alberto Ammann "Daniel Monzón's Cell 211 is a gripping, suspenseful thriller, as well as a political commentary on the situation in Spanish jails today. While the film hits several notes popular to ...more

47
90 109
Animal Factory is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong Released: 2000 Animal Factory is a 2000 crime drama film about life in prison, set in San Quentin. The film was directed by Steve Buscemi, and stars Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Danny Trejo, John Heard, ...more

48
71 40
The Bridge on the River Kwai is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins 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

49
165 110
Lock Up is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Prison Movies
Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, Tom Sizemore Released: 1989 Lock Up is a 1989 American prison action film directed by John Flynn. The film stars Sylvester Stallone and Donald Sutherland. The film was released in the United States on August 4, 1989.

50
91 113
Runaway Train is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Prison Movies
AdrianDanga added Jon Voight, Rebecca De Mornay, Eric Roberts Runaway Train is a 1985 American action-thriller film, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. The screenplay by Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel and Edward Bunker was based on an original screenplay by ...more