Top Ten Prison Films

With the release of Lockout this weekend, and my attempt to not head down the Guy Pearce route, since I feel like I’ll only embarrass myself, I’ve decided to round up my favourite films set in prison (in other words, embarrass myself). So please bear with me as I know this list will highlight a lot of films that are currently residing on my list of shame…

10. The Rock (1996) (dir. Michael Bay)

Here’s the movie that I go to when I’ve had my fill of art house cinema and need to be reminded what a blockbuster is really like. When I started formulating this list I wanted the prison to be integral to the story and to really be the meaning of the film. So here I go immediately breaking everything I could think of by picking a film with no meaning at all other than an excuse to have Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery be badasses breaking into Alcatraz.

9. Chicago (2002) (dir. Rob Marshall)

I’m a lover of musicals, I thought you knew this, and this I felt was the first film to revive that love of musicals for me. When it was first released I couldn’t stop watching it over and over on TV. So it’s fitting to have the film which didn’t quite reinvent the film musical, but definitely brought it back to the forefront of Hollywood’s mind.

I still can’t get the “Cell Block Tango” piece out of my head.

8. I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) (dir. Glenn Ficarra & John Requa)

Here’s a film where Jim Carrey uses his physical comedic talents to create a drama so funny it’s amazing that I can fit it all into on sentence. Watching his comings and goings to and from prison as the master con artist in love with Phillip Morris, a film has never been able to make me go from laughing to crying as quickly as this one does.

7. The Hurricane (1999) (dir. Norman Jewison)

While everyone shouts and screams certain expletives for Denzel‘s snub regarding his performance in Malcolm X I actually prefer him in this movie (not saying Malcom X is bad, just a notch lower on the pole for me). For some reason this movie stayed with me and I’m almost afraid to revisit it only to find out that the relationship with Denzel‘s character and the boy who reaches out to him will come off a bit too cheesy for my memories to handle it. But this movie knocked me for a ringer back when I first saw it and I love how easy it is to watch how this time transformed Rubin Carter over the time of his incarceration.

6. Escape from New York (1981) (dir. John Carpenter)

I guess I just couldn’t resist. This is probably the closest film “brother” it would seem (based on marketing) for Lockout.

Between it starring Kurt Russel and Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York with upside down chandelairs attached to a Cadillac I don’t know what more you could want from a John Carpenter movie.

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  • Allan

    cell 211

  • Andrew Robinson

     That’s actually one I’ve yet to see. Haven’t heard much about it to be honest though.

  • Mamachell

    Love this list. There are actually 2 on here that I don’t know Un Prophete and Bronson… You reminded me of some Ive forgotten. Nice list. I really do need a refresher

  • Andrew Robinson

     well…. definitely see Un Prophete. It’s amazing.

    Bronson I think you’d like to see for some classic Tom Hardy (you like him right?), but it is a warped film that is very dark.

  • Steven Flores

    Any list with Un Prophete, Bronson, and Cool Hand Luke in the top 5 of prison films is a win for me!

  • Andrew Robinson

    Thank you sir… those are definitely the highlights of the genre for me.

  • ceejay

    what …why no blood in blood out

  • damgino

    You put shawshank 2nd to un prophete?…Are you kidding me? Shawshank is a cinematic masterpiece.. can you honestly say that un prophete is a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination?