20 Best Movies About Prison of All Time !

Are you looking for the best movie about Prison way to pass the time? Some movies about prison are amazing. You may think that they do not exist, but they sure do. These movies are good for kids and adults alike. They provide entertainment as well as education about what it is like to be in a real prison.

A good prison movie can induce several emotions. You might be horrified at the brutality, or teary-eyed at the emotional anguish, or even get a little scared. But you’ll be contemplating for a few hours. This list ranks the best prison movies ever made, with pictures and additional information about them when available. There are different prisons to explore, from Alcatraz to juvenile detention centers to maximum-security prisons. Celebrities like Edward Norton and Mickey Rourke have earned Academy Award nominations for their roles in some of these films. To determine the best prison movies, we looked at factors like popularity, awards and honors, and critical reviews.

There are some famous movies about Prisoners and a few movies about prison life. Many of the top movies about prison can be seen for free online. They are based on true events or fictionalized accounts of life behind bars.

Which is the best prison movie of all time streaming on Amazon Prime Video?

The Crime, Drama, Film-Noir 1947 movie Brute Force is the best prison movie that streams on Amazon Prime with 94% Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Is there any good prison movies available on Netflix?

Cool Hand Luke (1967) is the best prison movie on Netflix with 100% Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

So, here is a record of the top 20 best movies about prison.

20. Animal Factory (2000)

Director:Steve Buscemi (Hubie Halloween)
Genre:Crime, Drama
Cast:Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Danny Trejo
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:83%

Animal Factory is a 2000s drama movie directed by Steve Buscemi. Animal Factory is a famous movie about prison that has garnered the attention of viewers and viewers worldwide throughout the years. The movie stars Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Danny Trejo, and John Heard. Set in San Quentin, the film is about life in prison. This movie is based on the book of the equivalent name by Eddie Bunker, who plays Buzzard in the film. The plot of Animal Factory revolves around three characters: Earl, Ron, and Vito, whose lives are intertwined with incidents of getting involved in gang wars while incarcerated on a prison farm.

19. The Hurricane (1999)

Director:Norman Jewison
Genre:Biography, Drama, Sport
Cast:Denzel Washington, Vicellous Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:83%

The Hurricane is a 1999 prison drama based on the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly convicted of murder. One of the most critically acclaimed films directed by one of Hollywood’s most famous and powerful black directors, The Hurricane, is a hard-hitting boxing drama written by two award-winning writers that focus on the controversial theme of racial inequality. The Hurricane tells the true story of a promising athlete wrongfully imprisoned for murder for 19 years due to his ethnicity and political beliefs. In this Prison Break boxing movie review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the award-winning prison film from a narrative analysis perspective and discuss why it’s known as one of the best movies about prison ever made.

18. American History X (1998)

Director:Tony Kaye
Cast:Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:83%

The American History X is a 1998 movie about Prisoner directed by Tony Kaye and stars Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, and Fairuza Balk. The film explores the true story of two brothers. One is a Neo-Nazi leader, and the other is black. While one brother turns away from the Neo-Nazi lifestyle and tries to improve his life, the other continues on his path of destruction. The film gives us a look into how racism has destroyed countless lives in America over the years.

17. Con Air 1997

Director:Simon West
Genre:Action, Crime, Thriller
Cast:Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:56%

Con Air is an American action thriller movie written by Scott Rosenberg and directed by Simon West in his directorial debut. It stars Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich (Space Force), and John Cusack and is set on board an aircraft transporting a group of convicts in the middle of the Nevada desert. The movie revolves around Cameron, a wrongly convicted prisoner who will be released when other criminals hijack his plane. While they seize command of the plane, he strives to wrest control and return home. You can watch this movie about Prison on Disney Hotstar too.

16. Sleepers (1996)

Director:Barry Levinson (Dopesick)
Genre:Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast:Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:73%

Sleepers 1996 is one classic that has stood the test of time. It’s still a favorite among many Prison movies, but did you know that this film is based on a true story?  Sleeper is a movie based on a real-life story that occurred in the early ’80s. In 1981, 4 young boys were run over by two men, who then buried their bodies in a hole. However, two of these boys survived, and when put on trial, the accused claimed that they had no recollection of events due to being under the influence of alcohol. The convicted were soon paroled from prison, and years later, the two survivors came forward with evidence proving what had happened to them. The movie is based on the book “Sleepers” which was written by Lorenzo Carcaterra and originally published in 1996.

15. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Director:Terry Gilliam
Genre:Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast:Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:89%

12 Monkeys is based on a screenplay by David Peoples and Janet Peoples. Released in 1995, it was directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil). The 1995 Canadian thriller film 12 Monkeys is a great example of a prison movie with an ensemble cast with impressive performances from the stars and smaller appearances by talented actors still working in Hollywood. The film was based on Chris Marker’s 1962 short flick La Jetee. It’s been praised numerous times over the last couple of decades by critics, including Empire magazine’s Mark Dinning, who called it “one of the most intriguing films in recent years.”

14. Dead Man Walking (1995)

Director:Tim Robbins (Castle Rock)
Genre:Crime, Drama
Cast:Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:95%

This American drama film is about the spiritual journey: Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon), who establishes a special relationship with Matthew Poncelet (Penn), a character based on convicted murderer Elmo Patrick Sonnier and Robert Lee Willie. The movie was adapted from the best-seller by Sister Helen Prejean and directed by Tim Robbins. The film received positive reviews and multiple awards. With excellent performances all around and an extremely powerful script, this film is heartbreaking, emotional, and even inspiring – but not only for its message of hope for humanity in general but also because it deals so realistically with issues like capital punishment. It is an amazing movie about prison life.

13. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director:Frank Darabont
Cast:Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman (The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard), Bob Gunton
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:91%

This 1994 American movie about Prison is based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It shows the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is condemned to live in Shawshank State Coops for the killing of his wife and her lover, notwithstanding his claims of honesty. Over the following two decades, he encourages a fellow prison inmate, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). He becomes instrumental in a money-laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton).

12. In the Name of the Father (1993)

Director:Jim Sheridan
Genre:Biography, Crime, Drama
Cast:Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Alison Crosbie
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:94%

In the Name of the Father is a 1993 drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson, set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during The Troubles. The film was directed by Jim Sheridan and written by Terry George. It was based on the book entitled Proved Innocent by Gerry Conlon. It is based on the lives of the Guildford Four—Gerry Conlon, Pete Postlethwaite, Gareth Peirce, and Paul Hill — who were falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings in England.

11. American Me (1992)

Director:Edward James Olmos
Genre:Biography, Crime, Drama
Cast:Edward James Olmos, William Forsythe, Sal Lopez
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:70%

The American Me is a great prison movie, written and directed by American Edward James Olmos. The film focuses on the life of Montoya Santana (Edward James Olmos), who is in high school and runs into a street gang which escalates into a more serious activity – crime. This movie about prison was produced in 1992 and endured mixed reviews from critics, but it won the grant for Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival. This rendered a superbly made story in which gangsters, violence, struggles, hopes, and faith were combined into this masterpiece.

10. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

Director:Hector Babenco
Cast:William Hurt (Black Widow), Raul Julia, Sonia Braga
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:87%

The Kiss of the Spider Woman is a flick released on September 9, 1985. Hector Babenco directed the film and the cast included William Hurt, Raul Julia, and Sonia Braga. Although it was less successful than the previous two films in the trilogy about real people behind bars, Kiss of the Spider Woman is still considered one of the best prison movies of all time. This 80s flick won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Interesting facts are given about both characters and their relationship, which leads to increased curiosity from the customer to purchase the product to find out what happens next – what are their crimes? Are they guilty? Is it possible to find out they are not guilty?

9. Bad Boys (1983)

Director:Rick Rosenthal
Genre:Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast:Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Jim Moody
Currently streaming on:JustWatch, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:89%

Bad Boys (1983) is another good movie about prison that you can enjoy on Netflix too. This movie will take you to a juvenile prisoner’s life. Teen delinquent Mick O’Brien (Sean Penn) is shipped to juvenile hall after inadvertently killing the more youthful sibling of a rival gang leader, Paco Moreno (Esai Morales), a drug-deal con gone wrong. Prison life proves even more harsh than the streets when Mick is bound to face off against reigning prison toughs Viking (SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run cast- Clancy Brown) and Tweety (Robert Lee Rush). Worse yet, on the outside, Paco is approaching to take vengeance on those close to Mick — including his girlfriend (Ally Sheedy).

8. Stir Crazy (1980)

Director:Sidney Poitier
Genre:Comedy, Crime
Cast:Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:67%

Stir Crazy, a 1980 prison comedy, stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor as unemployed friends given 125-year prison penalties after being framed for a bank burglary. While in prison, they encourage other prison inmates. The film joined Wilder and Pryor, who had appeared beforehand in the 1976 comedy thriller film Silver Streak. The flick was announced in the United States on December 12, 1980, to mixed critical reports and was a major financial benefit. It is one of the best prison movies on Netflix.

7. Brubaker (1980)

Director:Stuart Rosenberg
Genre:Crime, Drama
Cast:Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto, Morgan Freeman
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, JustWatch
Rotten Tomatoes:75%

Brubaker 1980 is a great prison movie to watch. This movie was introduced in 1980. Many characters in this movie are torrents, such as Henry Brubaker, Yaphet Kotto, and Jane Alexander. With a remarkable cast, storyline, and numerous funny moments, this movie is worth watching again more than once. In the story, a prison warden infiltrates the facility disguised as a convict to wipe out the corruption that has seeped into it. With great direction from Stuart Rosenberg, the acting stands out as excellent. An enjoyable movie for the whole family or a long night by yourself you still won’t want to miss it.

6. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Director:Don Siegel
Genre:Action, Biography, Crime
Cast:Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:96%

Escape from Alcatraz (1979) movie about prison follows the story of Frank Morris, who, along with John Anglin and Clarence Anglin, escapes from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in June 1962. The film chronicles how Morris, who was convicted to serve a 20-year long sentence for robbing $2.5 million worth of banknotes from The United States Mint in San Francisco, and the two brothers became one of the most dangerous prison escape teams on Alcatraz. The fact that 23 documented attempts were made to get off this island prison fortress is amazing. It makes it a little bit understandable why Hollywood made a movie about this event in 1979.

5. Midnight Express (1978)

Director:Alan Parker
Genre:Biography, Crime, Drama
Cast:Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:93%

Midnight Express (1978) is the best prison movie on Netflix too. It is directed by Alan Parker, produced by David Puttnam, starring Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Paolo Bonacelli, Paul L. Smith, Randy Quaid, and John Hurt. The screenplay by Oliver Stone was based on Billy Hayes’ 1977 non-fiction book Midnight Express. It tells of Billy Hayes, an “international drug smuggler,” sentenced to sixty years in a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle out of Turkey. The whole movie depicts the life of prisoners very well.

4. The Longest Yard (1974)

Director:Robert Aldrich
Genre:Comedy, Crime, Drama
Cast:Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:79%

The Longest Yard 1974 is a prison movie directed by Robert Aldrich, written by Tracy Keenan Wynn, and Albert S. Ruddy’s novel. It stars Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, and Mike Conrad in the lead roles. Burt Reynolds in the title role as Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a former professional football player. He is sent to prison for drunk driving. Once there, he realizes the inmates all look up to him, so he becomes the football team’s coach in their annual game against the guards. The film was shot at California’s San Joaquin Valley State Prison and its actual football stadium, “Prison Bowl.”

3. Papillon (1973)

Director:Franklin J. Schaffner
Genre:Biography, Crime, Drama
Cast:Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman (Kung Fu Panda), Victor Jory
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:79%

A Blob on Papillon is one of the best prison movies starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Franklin J. Schaffner and screenplay directed by Dalton Trumbo. It is also the best prison movie of the ’70s! We could say that it is one of the best of all in the prison genre! In this Bob Style movie, we follow Henri Charriere (Steve McQueen), Nicknamed Papilio, falsely accused of murdering his wife. He is sentenced to death row at Papillon, a notorious island prison, along with Prince Talleyrand. Will he survive or not?

2. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Director:Stuart Rosenberg
Genre:Crime, Drama
Cast:Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin
Currently streaming on:Netflix, Amazon Prime Video
Rotten Tomatoes:100%

This 1967 American movie about prisoner life is about the chain gangs, their lifestyle, and why they take up this occupation. The characters in this movie have little or no respect for the law, making the movie interesting to watch. Luke is an antihero whose rebelliousness leads him to become an outsider to the rest of the characters. He is portrayed as an antagonist in the movie because he is not following the moral code set by society. The movie is inspirational, but it also depicts how much crime is prevalent in society. Many of the criminals are forced into doing what they do out of economic necessity.

1. Brute Force (1947)

Director:Jules Dassin
Genre:Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast:Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford
Currently streaming on:Amazon Prime Video, JustWatch
Rotten Tomatoes:94%

Brute Force is a 1947 American movie about prison, directed by Jules Dassin. This black and white movie screenplay is based on an original story idea by Richard Brooks. The movie starred Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, and Charles Bickford. The film is based on the fact that a real revolt took place in Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on April 1, 1945. Matter-of-fact and violent, Brute Force builds to a critical climax that shows the terms men will go to when struggling for their freedom and asks the question of who society’s real brutes are.


The movies about prison that we have discussed above are some of the best and popular movies that have been produced so far for this specific topic. This list can be of huge help if you want to watch movies about prison and get an idea about the prisoner’s life. We hope that it might be helpful if you are looking for something similar.

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