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My Top Prison Movies

Updated on November 9, 2019

Top Prison Movies

As mentioned there are a ton of best prison movies lists out there but unfortunately they tend to repeat the same ten movies over and over again. During this particular hub page we are going to look at my favorite prison movies and yes you will definitely recognize some of them but hopefully a few will be a surprise. Lets get on with my list

Shawshank Redemption

Obviously Shawshank Redemption is going to make it onto any prison movie list as it may be the best in this genre ever made. Shawshank Redemption which stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman is based off of a short story written by horror master Stephen King titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank Redemption is about poor Andy Dufrense who is an innocent man who is sent to prison for the murder of his wife. Andy Dufrense must learn how to survive the violent landscape and at the same time keep part of himself. Through the decades spent in prison Andy is not a typical inmate and soon it is time for him to move on and escape Shawshank prison

The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards

Shawshank Redemption Trailer

Bad Boys

Before Will Smith and Martin Lawrence started their Bad Boys franchise there was a prison movie starring Sean Penn by the same name. This 1983 prison movie is about a young thug who is sent to a violent youth reformatory where he must learn to navigate dangerous waters and come to terms about his life. When someone from the past shows up Mick must decide between life and death

Bad Boys is still a favorite of mine some thirty plus years later. Sean Penn puts forth a strong performance that shows his chops as an actor. If you have not seen this particular prison movie add it to your short list

Bad Boys Trailer


Papillon is another prison movie that appears on the top prison movie list and it deserves to be there as it is strong in all areas. Papillon starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen is about a man named Papillon who is wrongly convicted and sent to the brutal French Guiana penal colony. The only thing on Papillon's mind is to escape the penal colony and get revenge for his wrongful conviction

Papillon has always been a favorite of mine as the main character is a man who never gives up no matter of the odds. I have read the book numerous time and even though there is controversy surrounding the novel in terms of accuracy at the end of the day its still a terrific story.

Papillon Trailer

Dog Pound

Dog Pound is a Canadian prison movie that is a remake of the British Scum movie. This particular film follows three young men who enter a juvenile detention center and the paths they take in order to survive. Dog Pound is a brutal realistic prison movie that is well done and never received the attention it deserved.

Dog Pound stars Adam Butcher best know for his starring role in Saint Ralph

Dog Pound Trailer

Escape From Alcatraz

In what may be the ultimate prison escape movie we have Escape From Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood. Escape From Alcatraz was released in 1979 was an instant hit and remains so to this day. Clint Eastwood stars as Frank Morris who along with the Anglin brothers are the only three men to successfully, maybe, escape the notorious prison.

Escape From Alcatraz is a strong prison movie in all areas. It shows the dangers of life in prison and adds the elements of planning and then implementing an escape

Escape From Alcatraz

Blood In Blood Out

Blood In Blood Out is not a traditional prison movie in the sense that the whole film takes place in a prison setting. Blood In Blood Out follows the lives of three cousins and the paths they take from youngsters to adults. When the movie is behind bars it is realistic and the acting is strong

Blood In Blood Out is compared to another prison movie American Me as there are aspects of each film are similar as it shows the creation of what is now known as the Mexican Mafia.

Blood In Blood Out Trailer

Midnight Express

Midnight Express should be shown on every plane heading to Turkey to remind that passengers that smuggling drugs from this country is a really bad idea. Midnight Express stars Brad Davies as young Billy Hayes who attempts to smuggle hashish from Turkey back to the USA. Unfortunately for Billy he is quickly caught and sent to the barbaric Turkish prison where drug use is rampant and the guards are abusive. After trying to escape through the crooked court system Billy Hayes is left with only two options, life or death

Midnight Express in my opinion is the strongest film in this niche within a niche category of prison movies

Midnight Express Trailer

Animal Factory

Another prison movie that did not receive a ton of attention is Animal Factory based off of the book of the same name by Edward Bunker. Animal Factory stars William Dafoe and Edward Furlong. This movie is about Ron Decker a middle class young man who is sent to prison for selling marijuana to his friends. Once inside of prison Decker is befriended by long time convict Earl Copen and he helps Ron navigate the dangers inside of prison while creating a bond between the two men

Animal Factory is a strong prison movie that deals with the day to day life inside a maximum security penitentiary. With strong performance by the lead actors plus those in minor roles such as Mickey Rourke and Tom Arnold

Animal Factory Trailer


Felon is a prison movie starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff which is about a family man who is sent to prison for killing a man who broke into his home. Once inside Dorff quickly comes to realize he is way out of his element and looks to long time inmate Kilmer for advice on how to survive. Just navigating prison life is difficult however the guards at this prison like to hold gladiator fights between gang members

Felon Trailer

The Green Mile

Another prison movie based off the writings of Steven King is The Green Mile. This particular prison movie that stars an amazing cast including multiple Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. The Green Mile is about life on death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary and the head guard Paul Edgecomb. When a new death row inmate comes to The Green Mile everything begins to change for guards and prisoners alike

The Green Mile is a popular prison movie as it is a great story. Some prison movie fanatics tend to look down on this film as it may be set in a prison but not really a prison movie. You just can't make some people happy

The Green Mile Trailer

What Is Your Favorite Prison Movie From This List

See results

Top Prison Movies Summary

Needless to say there are a ton of prison movies I could have added to this list such as Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker, The Great Escape and many more. I chose these particular movies as I have seen each one numerous times. Whether it was from a strong story line, to realism or the performances of the actors I love the movies in this list. Hope you found a movie or two you can enjoy the next time you sit down to watch a flick


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