Good Prison Movies for the Recently Convicted

Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm

In these good prison movies for the recently convicted, we’ll take a look at films focusing on life behind bars. If you’re going to be sent up the river soon, these prison films should provide an instructive look at the world of shivs and shower rape. And don’t worry…Big Stan is not on the list.

  1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)Shawshank shows plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to go to prison: corrupt wardens, murderous guards, and a group of rapists known as The Sisters. But inmate Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) also has some uplifting moments, including playing opera on the prison loudspeaker, becoming pals with noble con Red Redding (Morgan Freeman), and digging an escape tunnel over the course of two decades. Released in theaters to little fanfare, it has since went on to develop an immense following. Just watch it once, and you’ll see why.
  2. Papillon (1973) – Wrongly convicted of murder, Papillon (Steve McQueen) gets a life sentence on Devil’s Island, a notorious prison located in French Guiana. While doing his time, he befriends fellow prisoner Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) and concocts a number of escape plans. During the next 10 years, he tries carrying them out, one by one. Sure, it’s long and depressing, but “The King of Cool” and weasel-faced Hoffman more than make up for the downer subject matter.
  3. Midnight Express (1978) – Caught trying to smuggle hash, U.S. citizen Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is sentenced to four years in a Turkish prison. Inside, it’s a constant struggle to fend off killers, rapists and general insanity. Billy later gets the not-so-good news that the courts have extended his sentence to 30 years, which prompts him to begin plotting his escape. Also starring John Hurt and Randy Quaid (who must’ve been imprisoned for skipping out on a Turkish hotel bill).
  4. Escape from Alcatraz (1979) – Clint Eastwood stars in this good prison film about the only three men to have (possibly) escaped from Alcatraz. ‘Ol Clint is in fine form as Frank Morris, and likable Fred Ward makes his debut in a major role as fellow escapee John Anglin. Patrick McGoohan–who known a little something about being a prisoner–also pitches in as the predictably rotten warden. Keep an eye out for a young Danny Glover making his big-screen debut as an inmate.
  5. Female Convict 701: Scorpion (1972) – In this lurid Japanese classic, Matsu the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji) becomes the 701st female prisoner in a facility run by ruthless and amorous guards. She was set up, of course, and this leads to an eventual escape and reckoning with those responsible. Filled with sex, violence and sadism, Female Convict 701: Scorpion was one of the many films that provided director Quentin Tarantino with the inspiration to make his Kill Bill films.
  6. Fortress (1993) – In a dark future, couples are allowed to have a maximum of one child. When John Henry Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife break that law, they’re both sent to a high-tech prison run by a sinister director named Poe (Kurtwood Smith). Determined to reunite his family, Brennick seeks the help of fellow convicts to make his escape. Christopher Lambert has starred in some bad movies, but this isn’t one of them.
  7. Cool Hand Luke (1967) – Among the best of good prison movies for the recently convicted, Cool Hand Luke makes you wonder just how someone can get sentenced to hard labor in a Florida prison camp for cutting the heads off of parking meters. But that’s what lands Luke (Paul Newman) inside, and he wastes no time in bucking the system and transforming into a legendary figure among his fellow cons. Newman, as always, gives a masterful performance, and Strother Martin also throws in a memorable speech that would later be immortalized by Guns N Roses.
  8. The Longest Yard (1974) – Burt Reynolds is Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a former NFL quarterback kicked out of the league for point shaving and later sentenced to 18 months in prison for supposedly stealing his girlfriend’s car. Under pressure from the (you guessed it) sadistic warden, Crewe eventually puts together a team of cons to play the prison’s semi-pro football team. The result is a string of memorable characters and wacky gridiron action. Got it? Got it!
  9. Reform School Girls (1986) – Female felons may enjoy this film, as it takes place at a girl’s reform school populated by lesbian guards, shotgun-wielding wardens (the busty Sybil Danning), and late punk legend Wendy O. Williams. Considered a cult classic due to the frequent nudity, hard-rockin’ soundtrack, and doses of dark humor.
  10. Stir Crazy (1980) – While it makes the list of good prison movies for the recently convicted, I wouldn’t suggest trying to re-enact the antics of stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor (unless, of course, you want to get shanked). The duo play would-be actors who get framed for a bank robbery and each receive a 125-year prison sentence. While on the inside, they match wits with the devious warden (Barry Corbin), befriend a mass murderer named Grossberger, and plan their escape during the annual prison rodeo. Pryor is at his best, especially when he learns of the incompetence of the prison’s medical staff.

So before you get hauled off to the big house, be sure to check out this list of good prison movies for the recently convicted. But why stop there? The following lists are also chock-full of cinematic goodness for your enjoyment.

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11 Responses to “Good Prison Movies for the Recently Convicted”

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January 5, 2010


Thank you for posting these, however I think you could do a little more research on some of these (Brute Force, Down By Law, Le Trou). And i think you could watch some of them again…Midnight express is completely outdated and not very good at all.

September 23, 2010


I’m trying to to find out the name of female prison movie (rated “R”) within the last 7-10 years.

The movie starred a predominately black female cast, and it involved a young black female who was sentenced to prison, and ended up in the same prison with her mother. Her mother was the toughest woman in the prison, and she showed her daughter how to survive prison life.

But there’s a HUGE Twist…

The woman that this young inmate grew to know as her mother, was actually the woman who KILLED her mother, and assumed her mother’s identity!!!

It was a VERY, VERY, good movie, but I can’t think of the name of the movie 🙁

would you happen to know what it is?



September 23, 2010


Sorry, I don’t know the answer off the top of my head. I did spend some time trying to find it on the web, but I didn’t have any luck. Do you know the names of any of the actresses who starred in the film (or other movies they might have appeared in)?

September 23, 2010


Thanks for the reply, Shane.

Unfortunately I don’t know the actress’ names, but I do remember that the actress who played the “mother” inmate recently starred in a movie as a cop.

Wouldn’t you know it, when I’m not thinking about it, the name of the movie will come to. However, I wanted to show it to my “Corrections Class” at the University, sometime this month.

I’ll keep trying to locate it, but it is very hard because I don’t know the actress’ names.

Thanks again.


September 24, 2010



Okay, maybe we’re getting a little closer. Do you remember anything else about the movie where the woman played a cop? Who else was in it, the basic plot, etc.? I’m not giving up on this mystery just yet.

October 20, 2010


Oh my goodness. I found these post because I am searching for the same movie and can’t remember the name. At first I thought the actress who played the daughter was Aisha Hinds but I checked her bio on IMDB and I did not find that movie listed. I will check and see if I can find the answer or see if someone else finds it.

November 27, 2010


i found this post by searching for the movie you guys were searching for….irony…

November 27, 2010


so this is really funny…i found the movie it is called stranger inside

November 28, 2010


Thanks for the help, kbug!


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