15 Best Prison Movies Of All Time

POSTED BY Ahmad Raja Safeer, UPDATED ON November 9th, 2023
Best Prison Movies of all Time

Going to prison is not something anyone enjoys but prison flicks are one of our favorite types of films. So, we have compiled a list of what we think are the best prison movies of all time.


15. The Informer (2019)

The Informer 2019

The Informer follows the story of Pete Koslow an ex-con and special ops agent recruited by the FBI to go undercover to take down New York’s most powerful crime boss.

Pete is forced to return to prison because of a fatal sting operation failure. He must find a way to escape and save himself and his family from the criminal and the law.


14. Escape Plan (2013)

Escape Plan 2013

Ray Breslin (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone) is known for breaking out of prison. He checks the “breakability” of prisons undercover as an inmate. But everything changes when a woman claiming to be working for the CIA contacts him to break into a new high-tech facility. Ray is double-crossed and he is stuck in the facility with deadly prisoners.

A fellow prisoner secretly helps him to devise a plan to escape to freedom. The only problem is the sadistic warden who stands between them and their freedom. And, thus begins an interesting cat-and-mouse game.


13. Escape from Pretoria (2020)

Escape from Pretoria 2020

The story is based on the real-life prison break of two white South Africans. Tim Jenkin and his partner are imprisoned for working on behalf of the African National Congress during the tumultuous apartheid days of South Africa. The captives have to race against time to win their freedom. But the notorious Pretoria Prison is not easy to escape.

A movie that will move you to the core while giving insight into the historical, and social changes in South Africa.


12. A Prayer Before Dawn (2018)

A Prayer Before Dawn 2018 Movie

This movie is based on the life events of English boxer Billy Moore. The boxer gets addicted to Ya Ba and ends up getting arrested. He is sent to the Nakhon Pathom Prison.

Inside is a world of drugs and violence. Billy realizes his only chance at freedom is to fight his way out in the Muay Thai tournaments. This one’s a treat for boxing fans.


11. Get The Gringo (2012)

Get the Gringo 2012

A young lad helps a criminal sentenced to a brutal prison in Mexico survive the rough world inside. But time is running short for him as other inmates know about his loot and have a huge target on his head.

Will he manage to save himself and his money? Watch to find out.


10. Bronson (2009)

Bronson 2009

Bronson is based on a true story. Michael Peterson, aka Charles Bronson, is the toughest and most brutal prisoner in the English penal system. He is initially imprisoned for robbing a jewelry store, for which he gets sentenced to seven years behind bars. But his subsequent savage and cruel behavior in the prison lands him in hot waters with the guards and inmates.

Solitary confinement is the only place where he isn’t a threat to himself and others. He spends most of his time there. A movie that looks into the life of one of the UK’s most interesting prisoners of all time. Definitely worth a watch.


9. Papillon (2017)

Papillon 2017

Henri “Papillon” Charriere, a safecracker, is framed for murder and sentenced to a lifetime in a notorious prison. Inside, Papillon allies with a counterfeiter who agrees to finance his escape in exchange for protection.

An unlikely friendship we can all learn from.


8. Shot Caller (2017)

Shot Caller 2017

A stockbroker in California is arrested for driving under the influence resulting in a fatal accident. He takes a plea and gets 16 months in prison. Inside the prison, he gets involved with a white supremacist gang.

After his release, he is forced by his gang leaders to execute a major crime with a rival gang. He has to do what they say or his family may face repercussions for his refusal.

Will he find his way to redemption or ruin? Watch to find out.


7. Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

Undisputed III Redemption 2010

Part three of one of our favorite movie franchises “Undisputed” shows Yuri Boyka’s redemption as he is transferred to a Ukrainian facility to fight in a prison tournament.

You’ll love the champion fighter’s unique fighting style and accent.


6. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Escape from Alcatraz 1979

Based on a true story, the movie follows Frank Morris, an experienced con with a history of prison breaks. Sentenced for life in the infamously brutal and inescapable maximum security prison Alcatraz, he finds the prison environment dehumanizing.

He plans an escape from the prison with two convict brothers. A story written in time, a treat for Prison Break fans.


5. The Experiment (2001)

The Experiment 2001

A role-playing experiment offering a $1000 daily reward turns violent. The participants playing the role of prisoners find themselves at the mercy of the prison guards.

A great movie that shows how easily violence and cruelty can manifest in human behavior.


4. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand Luke 1967

A petty criminal, Luke Jackson gets two years in a Florida Prison. He has no plans to bow down to the sadistic warden or the yard’s top dog Dragline. Luke’s unbreakable will win him the respect of Dragline.

Luke’s boldness doesn’t’ fade away even after multiple stints in the prison’s solitary confinement, dubbed “the box”. This makes him the face of the rebel movement in the prison and a stingy bee for the prison staff. A classic prison film with great in-depth characters. This flick is ‘the one’ if you’re looking for a classic prison movie.


3. American History X (1998)

American History X 1998

Derek Vinyard, a neo-Nazi with a history of violence and racism, finally goes to prison for killing two black youths who tried to steal his car. Derek vows to change his ways upon release.

After he is released, he struggles to prevent his brother from following in his footsteps. While struggling to keep up with his own demons and watching his mother grow sicker, he wonders whether his family may ever overcome the vicious circle of hate. Great characters and a well-built plot.


2. The Green Mile (1999)

The Green Mile 1999

Paul Edgecomb had seen all kinds of convicts during his career but none were as mysterious as John Coffey. The giant black man was convicted for killing two young sisters. Though he had the power and physique to kill anyone, his demeanor was not that of a killer.

Coffey has a simple and naive nature; he fears the dark. But what stands out most about him is his prodigious, supernatural gift that allows him to cure others. Paul begins to question the conviction and starts investigating what truly happened to the two girls.

It might seem like another prison movie but the element of supernatural powers makes this one stand out.


1. Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Shawshank Redemption 1994

Not only the best prison movie but one of the best movies ever produced. The plot, characters, and storyline, everything is perfect.

Andy Dufresne is sentenced to two consecutive life terms for killing his wife and her lover. Andy knows he is innocent. During his 19 years in prison, he forms a friendship with Red, a fellow inmate, experiences and adapts to the brutal prison life, and helps the warden. He devises a plan with Red to escape the prison. This is a whole package of cinema experience in one movie.


Honorable mentions

  • The Longest Yard (2005)
  • Death Race (2008)

Please give us your feedback in the comments section after watching the best prison movies of all time mentioned above.

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