My top 10 prison movies

I can’t think of anything worse than being locked up and not getting to go and do what I want, which is possibly why I found prison movies so interesting and I don’t think I’m alone since some of the films on this list are some of the most highly rated films on IMDB….

The-Shawshank-Redemption-featured-imageThe Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton
Guilty?: Not even a little bit
Escape: One of the most epic cinematic escapes ever
“Andy Dufresne: Red. If you ever get out of here, do me a favor.
Red: Sure, Andy. Anything.
Andy Dufresne: There’s a big hayfield up near Buxton. You know where Buxton is?
Red: Well, there’s… there’s a lot of hayfields up there.
Andy Dufresne: One in particular. It’s got a long rock wall with a big oak tree at the north end. It’s like something out of a Robert Frost poem. It’s where I asked my wife to marry me. We went there for a picnic and made love under that oak and I asked and she said yes. Promise me, Red. If you ever get out… find that spot. At the base of that wall, you’ll find a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield. Piece of black, volcanic glass. There’s something buried under it I want you to have.
Red: What, Andy? What’s buried under there?
Andy Dufresne: [turns to walk away] You’ll have to pry it up… to see.

midnight-expressMidnight Express (1978)
Starring: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins
Guilty?: Yep
Escape: Violently in the nick of time
“Jimmy: So… Billy, what are you in for? Hash?
Billy Hayes: Yeah.
Jimmy: Where’d they get you?
Billy Hayes: The airport… trying to get home.
Jimmy: You go through customs?
Billy Hayes: Yeah, I was busted right at the plane.
Jimmy: Aw, man that’s heavy. That’s very heavy.
Erich: It’s bad if they get you for smuggling, but if they make it posession, the sentance is lighter. The best thing for you to do, Billy, is try to make bail. If you make bail, you’re free. You can easily get yourself a fake passport on the black market, or get yourself across the border into Greece.
Jimmy: Dream on, Erich. They’ll never grant bail to foreigners whom may be a flight risk.
Erich: But if you argue in court about you being innocent…
Jimmy: This ain’t the good ol’ USA! This is Turkey, man! It’s a fuckin’ accident here if you’re innocent! There ain’t nobody here that is innocent!

mean_machineMean Machine (2001)
Starring: Vinnie Jones, Danny Dyer, Jason Flemyng
Guilty?: He did it!
Escape: Eventual release
“[Watching the monk practice karate]
Doc: Apparently he killed 23 men with his bare hands.
Danny Meehan: Maybe I should take up karate.
Doc: That was before he took up karate.

green-mileThe Green Mile (1999)
Starring: Michael Clarke Duncan, Tom Hanks, David Morse
Guilty?: Total misunderstanding
Escape?: In a body bag 😦
Paul Edgecomb: What do you want me to do John? You want me to let you run out of here, see how far you can get?
John Coffey: Why would you do such a foolish thing?
Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?

Ewan-McGregor-and-Jim-Car-001I Love You Philip Morris (2009)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
Guilty?: As sin
Escape: Repeatedly
“Steven Russell: [introducing Arnie to prison] Anything you want from the outside, he’s the guy. Candy, cigarettes, drugs, whatever. He’s the guy. Just keep in mind, it’s gonna cost you a lot of money – or you could suck his dick. Your choice. You’re gonna catch a beatin’ any day now. That’s just the way it is. I lost three teeth, cracked a vertebra. Anyway, all you gotta do is fight back. Win or lose, just fight back – or you could try to suck the guy’s dick. Your choice.

d192f-sleepersSleepers (1996)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Renfro, Robert De Niro
Guilty?: Prank gone wrong
Escape: Eventual release
“Lorenzo: A number of the inmates, as tough as they acted during the day, would often cry themself to sleep at night. There were other cries, too. Diffrent from those full with fear and lonelyness. They were low and muffled, the sounds of pain and anguish.Those cries can change the course of a life. They are cries that once heard, can never be erased from the memory. On this one night those cries belonged to my friend John, when guard Ferguson paid him a visit.

CoolHandLuke_106PyxurzCool Hand Luke (1967)
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin
Guilty: Drunken misadventure
Escape: Failed with tragic consequences
“Captain, Road Prison 36: What we got here is… failure to communicate.

BronsonWallpaper-bronson-13760029-1280-853Bronson (2008)
Starring: Tom Hardy,  Kelly Adams, Luing Andrews
Guilty?: Progressively more so
Escape: Still banged up
“Charles Bronson: [Real Life Charles Bronson Quote] How would you feel, waking up in the morning without a window? My window is a steel grid, I ‘ave to put my lips against that steel grid and suck in air, that’s my morning… ’cause I got no air in my cell. I have to eat, sleep and crap in that room twenty-three hours of a twenty-four hour day. You tell me, what human being deserves that? Apart from the stinking paedophile or a child killer. I don’t deserve that, I done nothing on this planet to deserve that. My bed is four inches off the floor, it’s a concrete bed, my toilet hasn’t even got a seat on it or a lid, and I ‘ave to live like this month after month after month, and the way it’s looking it’s year after year after year. Now is that’s right then so be, but let somebody else ‘ave a fucking go at it, ’cause I’ve had twenty-six years of this bollocks and it’s time to come out, and I want the jury at my trail to come and see how I’m living. But I’m not living, I’m existing.

a-prophetA Prophet (2009)
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
Guilty?: Definitely the criminal element
Escape: Released
“Jordi: When you get out, what’ll you do?
Malik El Djebena: I don’t know. You?
Jordi: Same thing as in here, only bigger.
Malik El Djebena: Hash?
Jordi: Yeah, hash. I’ll move big loads. Marbella-Paris, three cars. Six hundred kilos each trip.
Jordi: Don’t believe me?
Malik El Djebena: No, I’m just trying to picture six hundred kilos.
Jordi: It’s like this.
[Jordi holds hash up to his eyes]
Jordi: You can’t see anything behind it.

4AmericanHistoryX1998m-720pBDRipx264-SC4RAmerican History X (1998)
Starring: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Ethan Suplee
Guilty?: Beyond a shadow of a doubt
Escape: Released for good behaviour
“Doris Vinyard: You think you’re the only one doin’ time, Derek? You think you’re here all alone? You think I’m not in here with you?”


  1. I haven’t seen a bunch of these, but those I have . . . all are very good. Especially American History X. So brilliant, that flick. Bronson and Shawshank are brilliant, too, of course.

    1. Abbi

      Some of my all time favourites in this list. Not sure why I love prison movies so much!

  2. jennypughuk

    I love Mean Machine! Nothing like a bit of Danny Dyer 😛

    1. Abbi

      He used to be really entertaining but he’s turned into a bit of a dick in my opinion. He says lots of unpleasant things about women.

      1. jennypughuk

        Oh no, really? I hadn’t realised 😦

  3. I think everyone loves a good prison movie. Have not seen a lot of these, and this sparked some interest in seeing Bronson, so may do that soon. American History X is something that I want to re-watch at some point as well. I loved it back in the day. A new prison movie called Raze is out, featuring woman forced to fight each-other. Very mixed reviews though!

    1. Abbi

      Bronson is EPIC! It’s what made me sit up and take notice of Tom Hardy. Might need to investigate Raze… sounds interesting.

  4. The first film that came to mind when I read the title to this post was “Shawshank!!!” – glad to see it’s #1 on the list 😉 Other than the Green Mile (and maybe American History X – can’t remember) haven’t seen any of the others, but thanks for the recommendations as usual.

    1. I forgot that I also saw I love Phillip Morris – what a great movie!

      1. Abbi

        It’s so underrated.

    2. Abbi

      You can’t go wrong with Shawshank! Hope you get to see the rest there are some great ones in there.

  5. I’ve only seen 1,5 movies of those! 😮 I should do a bit better.

    1. Abbi

      Which was the half? Lol!

      1. Shawshank, unfortunately. Quite a long time ago I catched it in telly or the final half of it and because I know what happens I haven’t been able to make myself to watch all of it.

        1. Abbi

          It’s one of the few movies that really does live up to its hype. If you get the chance you should give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. Great list, Abbi! Love Shawshank, Green Mile and AHX; didn’t love Phillip Morris and I really want to see Midnight Express and A Prophet.

    1. Abbi

      I loved Philip Morris! Lol! It definitely wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea though. Start with A Prophet. It’s brilliant.

      1. I will. I absolutely loved Audiard’s follow-up, Rust and Bone.

  7. This is a fantastic post with some of my favourite movies on it!

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! There really are a lot of excellent movies set in prisons. I guess because it’s a thrill to imagine what goes on there since most of us (hopefully) will never experience it.

abbiosbiston is listening...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.