No matter how much you hate them, despise them or outcast them, prisoners or criminals are a part of our human society. Yes, they must have done horrendous crimes for which they are punished to serve their sentences in the prison world.

Although most of these criminal serving their life in prison totally deserve it, there may be some who are wrongly convicted of the crimes they didn’t commit. We see a lot of people walking freely in our society whom we consider as deserving as those criminals to be sent to prison for the crimes they committed but didn’t get convicted due to lack of evidence or loopholes in our law system. These people range from a variety of backgrounds such as politics, entertainment, sports etc.

However, the article is not about those who aren’t convicted nor it is about who got convicted. Today, the article is about the movies that feature the life in prison and the prisoners. While most of these movies are fictional, some are based on true stories.

Movies on Prisoners and their life in Jail

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption film on prison escape

An innocent man, Andy Dufresne(Tim Robbins) is wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder and spends the next two decades in prison. The story of The Shawshank Redemption revolves around this man and the way he survives among the hardcore criminals and corrupt wardens. It also displays the strong bonding between Tim and his fellow inmate Red, a contraband smuggler. Shawshank Redemption is one of the best Movies about the Life in Prison.

Also Read: Best Motivational and Inspirational Movies Ever

Cool Hand Luke

prison life films cool hand luke

Cool Hand Luke is a film about a prisoner in the Florida prison camp who refuses to give into the system. The prisoner is portrayed by Paul Newman, who establishes himself as an anti-hero and plays a reckless, egoistic hothead, who is adamant against the prison rules and refuses to bow to the authority.

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

Starring Steve Mcqueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, The Great Escape is a film based on the true events concerning the escape of British Commonwealth prisoners of war from the German POW camp during World Ware II. Directed by John Sturges, the film is adapted from Paul Brickhill’s 1950 novel of the same name.

Birdman of Alcatraz

life inside the prison

Birdman of Alcatraz is a fictionalized film based on the life of Robert Stroud, a federal prison inmate, popularly nicknamed as the Birdman of Alcatraz, because of his fascination for birds. Although the title of the film states Alcatraz, the majority of the film is set in another prison called Leavenworth, where Stroud befriended his bird pets. However, when moved to Alcatraz, he wasn’t allowed to take the birds with him.

A Prophet

A Prophet movie on prison escape and life of prison

A Prophet is a French prison crime-drama film starring Tahar Rahim and is directed by Jacques Audiard. The film is about the life in prison and how a petty criminal Malik El Djebena, portrayed by Tahar Rahim, climbs up the ladder of the prison hierarchy and becomes a notorious drug trafficker and gets a nickname Prophet.

The Rock

The Rock 1996 film

Starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, and Ed Harris, The Rock is a not about prison life but is set majorly on Alcatraz Island, a tourist spot that used to be a strongly held prison for notorious criminals. When a group of rogue Marines takes thirty tourists as hostages, the FBI decides to rope in a federal prisoner John Mason, played by Connery, who is the only person to have escaped the highly secured Alcatraz prison and knows the in and out of the prison through uncharted underground tunnels.


life in the jail

Based on the 1981 Irish hunger strike, the Steve McQueen’s historical drama film, Hunger stars Michael Fassbender in one of his best character portrayals till date. The film is centered upon Bobby Sands, portrayed by Fassbender, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer, who starts a hunger strike in Maze prison in the 80s.

The Green Mile

The Green Mile prison life

The Green Mile is a 1999 American prison drama film starring Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey. Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Paul’s work as a death row corrections officer during the Great Depression in the United States and his special encounters with supernatural events.

Midnight Express

midnight express is one of the best films on prison breaks

Midnight Express is a British-American prison escape film based on the life of Billy Hayes and is adapted from his non-fiction book of the same title. The film is about the life of Billy Hayes in prison after he is caught trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. The film was highly criticized and both by Hayes and the screenplay writer Oliver Stone expressed their regret over the portrayal of Turks in the film.


life in prison

Papillon is a 1973 prison drama film adapted from the best-selling autobiography by the French convict Henri Charriere, mostly talking about his life in prison and the attempts to escape. The film also reflects upon Henrie’s true loyalty towards his friends in prison, his bonding with his close friend Louis Dega and most importantly his will to never give up.

Escape From Alcatraz

best film on prison escape

Escape From Alcatraz is a 1979 Hollywood prison Escape film starring Clint Eastwood in the lead role. Based on a J. Cambell Bruce’s non-fiction novel of the same name, the film is a dramatic version of the 1962 prison escape from the maximum security prison on Alcatraz Island.

Stalag 17

Stalag 17 film

Adapted from a Broadway play, Stalag 17 is a war film about a group of American airmen captured and held in a German World War II POW camp. The main plot of the film is centered on finding the mole within their own team after the suspicious leak of information. The film features a multi-star cast of William Holden, Don Taylor, Robert Strauss, Neville Brand, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves, and Otto Preminger.


Scum 1979 film

Directed by Alan Clarke, Scum is a 1979 British crime film and features the story of a young offender named Carlin, who is convicted to spend his time at a British Borstal for rehabilitation. The film focuses on the life of Carlin at the Borstal and his rise among the ranks at the top of the inmates’ pecking order highly aided by violence. The film tries to attract the attention of the authorities about the flaws in the Borstal system.


Sleepers 1996 film

Sleepers is a 1996 American crime drama film that is focused on the revenge plot by a group of four childhood friends on the guards at Wilkinson Home for Boys. When they were young, these childhood friends were held at the Wilkinson Home for Boys for a prank that got serious. While there, they are systematically abused and raped by the guards which lead to an emotional trauma for these kids and they plan to seek revenge on the brutality they faced using the same system and laws that initially led them to it.

Escape From New York

prison life

Escape From New York is a 1981 American dystopian era based film featuring the 1997 Manhattan Island of the New York City as a maximum security prison. The film is about finding and rescuing the President of the United States, who is held captive by the prisoners after the Air Force One crashes within the prison premises.


prison escape films

Bronson is a 2008 British fictionalized biographical drama film starring Tom Hardy in the titular role of Bronson. The film follows the life of notorious prisoner Charles Bronson, who in spite of being born to a respectable middle-class family turns to the world of crime and spends almost all his adult life in solitary confinement.


cube life inside the jail

Cube is a Sci-Fi psychological thriller movie directed as well as co-written by Vincenzo Natali. The film features a quest for the inmates, who find themselves trapped in a giant multi-roomed cube, where they need to overcome the new and inventive death traps in every section. The film is a part-horror, part murder mystery as the film gets more deadly for the prisoners who survive the initial death traps.

Escape Plan

Escape Plan film on prison escape

Escape Plan is the story of a Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone). He is a prison security expert and He breaks prison to check the security level of the prisons. In order to escape he use his knowledge skills and get help from the inside. Escape Plan is a prison Break film. It shows how Ray Breslin can break any prison and He can escape from any prison in the world.

The Experiment

The Experiment 2010 film

Based on the Stanford prison experiment of 2001, The Experiment is an American thriller starring Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace and Cam Gigandet in pivotal roles. The film is about a mock set up, where a group of 26 individual volunteers is chosen to play prisoners and guards, to study the prison life and psychology behind the violence within the prison worlds. The film gets exciting as both the groups try to intimidate each other to act in violence, so the other team wins.

The Longest Yard

The Longest Yard 1974 film

The Longest Yard is a 1974 American sports film starring Burt Reynolds as Paul ‘Wrecking’ Crewe. The film is mainly focused on a football game played within a prison, between the inmates and the prison guards. Owing to the popularity of the film’s plot and concept, it has been remade three times later on.

Con Air

con air film on Jail

Although not a prison movie entirely, Con Air is about the prison escape plan by a group of prisoners, while they are being transferred to another location by Jailbird, a C-123K transport prison aircraft. The group hijacks the plane through some pre-planned plays and take the guards as hostages. Now, everything depends upon the Former Army Ranger, Cameron Poe, who is among the prisoners being transferred but has no role in the escape plan. Whether he stops or gets along with the escape forms the rest of the story.

Your Turn! 

Now, share your favorite film about prisoners and life inside the prisons.