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Top 10 Must-Watch Prison Movies Of the 20th Century Like Shawshank Redemption

Updated on March 14, 2017
Sam Dreiberg profile image

A young software engineer passionate about being a writer, sharing thoughts, and spreading knowledge.

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 novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money-laundering operation.

The Shawshank Redemption garnered widespread critical acclaim from critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 66 reviews with an average rating of 8.2 out of 10. The critical consensus states "The Shawshank Redemption is an uplifting, deeply satisfying prison drama with sensitive direction and fine performances." The film also has a score of 80 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 19 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".The film has been critically acclaimed for depicting Jean-Paul Sartre's ideas about existentialism more fully than any other contemporary movie.

More such amazing movies just like The Shawshank Redemption are shared below.

The Great Escape (1963)

DIRECTOR:

John Sturges

WRITER:

Paul Brickhill, James Clavell

STARS:

Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough

PLOT SUMMARY:

Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POWs) are all put in an 'escape proof' camp. Their leader decides to try to take out several hundred all at once. The first half of the film is played for comedy as the prisoners mostly outwit their jailers to dig the escape tunnel. The second half is high adventure as they use boats and trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe.

The Green Mile (1999)

DIRECTOR:

Frank Darabont

WRITER:

Stephen King, Frank Darabont

STARS:

Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse

PLOT SUMMARY:

Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930's. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He's eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He's been accused of the murder of two children... and he's afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards - Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey's innocence and his true identity.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

DIRECTOR:

Stuart Rosenberg

WRITER:

Donn Pearce, Frank Pierson

STARS:

Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin

PLOT SUMMARY:

Lucas Jackson, natural born world shaker, someone with more guts than brains, a man who refuses to conform to the rules he has been given. Sent to a prison camp for a misdemeanor Luke soon gains respect and becomes an idol. He has some fun in jail doing things for the hell of it, after his mother dies the Bosses put him in the box afraid he might want to attend the funeral. When he gets out he runs and gets caught and runs and gets caught, the bosses try to break him but he just won't break.

The Hole (1960) - Le Trou

DIRECTOR:

Jacques Becker

WRITER:

Jean Aurel, Jacques Becker, José Giovanni

STARS:

André Bervil, Jean Keraudy, Michel Constantin

PLOT SUMMARY:

In 1947, in La Santé Prison in Paris, the inmate Claude Gaspard is transferred to the cell of Geo Cassine, Roland Darbant, Manu Borelli and Vossellin a.k.a. Monseigneur. Gaspard befriends the four cell-mates that sooner disclose to him that they have long sentences and they have plotted an escape plan from the prison. Gaspard joins the quartet, digging a tunnel through the sewage system. One the day that they are ready to go, Gaspard is called to the warden's office and learns that his wife has dropped her accusation against him. He stays for two hours with the warden and when he returns to the cell, his mates have serious suspicions about what he had talked to the warden.

Papillon (1973)

DIRECTOR:

Franklin J. Schaffner

WRITER:

Dalton Trumbo, Lorenzo Semple Jr.

STARS:

Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Victor Jory

PLOT SUMMARY:

Based on the true story of Henri Charriere, also known as Papillon, which is French for 'butterfly' (the character even sports a large tattoo of a butterfly). A petty criminal, Papillon is wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a French penal colony in 'Guiane' (French Guiana, South America). Papillon is determined to escape but attempt after attempt meets with difficulty, resulting in eventual recapture. He continues his attempts to escape despite incarcerations in solitary confinement as punishment.

Midnight Express (1978)

DIRECTOR:

Alan Parker

WRITER:

Oliver Stone, Billy Hayes

STARS:

Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins

PLOT SUMMARY:

On October 6, 1970, American college student Billy Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. The Turkish courts decide to make an example of him, sentencing him to more than 30 years in prison. The prison environment is inhospitable in every sense, with a sadistic prison guard named Hamidou ruling the prison, he who relishes the mental and physical torture he inflicts on the prisoners for whatever reason. Hayes has two opportunities for release: the appeals made by his lawyer, his family, and the American government, or the "Midnight Express

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

DIRECTOR:

Don Siegel

WRITER:

J. Campbell Bruce, Richard Tuggle

STARS:

Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom

PLOT SUMMARY:

The true story of three inmates who attempt a daring escape from the infamous prison, Alcatraz Island. Although no-one had managed to escape before, bank robber Frank Morris masterminded this elaborately detailed and, as far as anyone knows, ultimately successful, escape. In 29 years, this seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and "Birdman" Robert Stroud, was only broken once by three inmates never heard of again.

Brubaker (1980)

DIRECTOR:

Stuart Rosenberg

WRITER:

W.D. Richter, Arthur A. Ross, Thomas O. Murton, Joe Hyams, Bob Rafelson

STARS:

Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto, Morgan Freeman

PLOT SUMMARY:

Henry Brubaker is the new warden at Wakefield prison. He makes his entrance as a prisoner in order to get a convict's-eye-view of the real state of the institution. To his horror he finds all manner of abuse and corruption which, after disclosing his real identity, he sets out to correct.

Bad Boys (1983)

DIRECTOR:

Rick Rosenthal

WRITER:

Richard Di Lello

STARS:

Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Jim Moody

PLOT SUMMARY:

Chicago crime kid Mick O'Brien (Sean Penn) has been sent to a juvenile prison for vehicular manslaughter. Most unfortunately, the person he kills is the kid brother of his nemesis Paco Moreno (Esai Morales), who vows revenge by raping Mick's girlfriend (Ally Sheedy). Paco is caught and sent to the same prison where he reworks his revenge plan, and Mick has no choice but to defend himself.

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

DIRECTOR:

John Frankenheimer

WRITER:

Guy Trosper, Thomas E. Gaddis

STARS:

Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter

PLOT SUMMARY:

As an inmate at Leavenworth prison, Robert Stroud has a series of confrontations with the guards and with the other convicts. When Stroud kills a guard, he is sentenced to be executed, and only his mother's impassioned intervention gets his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, which he must serve in solitary confinement. As he serves out his sentence in boredom and despair, one day he finds a helpless baby sparrow in the exercise yard. Stroud soon takes a deep interest in caring for birds, which gives him a new purpose in life, but which also brings new conflicts with prison authorities.

Which of these amazing movies are you going to watch next?

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    • Sam Dreiberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Dreiberg 

      20 months ago from India

      Yes.. Shawshank is the best movie ever made... it's flawless..

    • Al Greenbaum profile image

      Al Greenbaum 

      20 months ago from Europe

      I loved "Shawshank". Faultless film. Engrossing story. Superb cast.

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