The Best Prison Movies  

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33.6k votes 5.5k voters 735.9k views 135 items

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
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
Escape from Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 2 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
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
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
The Green Mile is listed (or ranked) 5 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
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
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
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
Birdman of Alcatraz is listed (or ranked) 9 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
Con Air is listed (or ranked) 10 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
The Longest Yard is listed (or ranked) 11 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
The Dirty Dozen is listed (or ranked) 12 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
The Count of Monte Cristo is listed (or ranked) 13 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
Stalag 17 is listed (or ranked) 14 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
Law Abiding Citizen is listed (or ranked) 15 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
The Bridge on the River Kwai is listed (or ranked) 16 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
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is listed (or ranked) 17 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
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 18 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
American Me is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Prison Movies
oldguy07 added Edward James Olmos, William Forsythe, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
American Me is a 1992 biographical 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 the ...more
The Fugitive is listed (or ranked) 20 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
The Last Castle is listed (or ranked) 21 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
The Rock is listed (or ranked) 22 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
Brubaker is listed (or ranked) 23 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
Dead Man Walking is listed (or ranked) 24 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
The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 25 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