If you want to know how hard life in prison can be you should definitely watch our picks for the best Prison movies.

The following ranking focuses on movies that take place primarily in jail and deal with many problems prisoners can have inside their own society.


10. The Last Castle (2001)

Top 10 Prison Movies 2The Last Castle is an American action-drama thriller directed by Rod Lurie and starring a stellar cast of Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Delroy Lindo. The 2001 thriller is set in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth and portrays the struggle between twelve hundred inmates under a court-martialed general and a sadistic jail warden. The film was a box-office success, receiving massive acclaim from critics.

Action, Drama, Thriller | Director: Rod Lurie

Buy The Last Castle on Amazon: https://amzn.to/35wFME9


9. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Top 10 Prison Movies 3Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, and Tom Guiry, the 2017 criminal action-drama was directed, written and scored by S. Craig Zahler. The neo-noir revolves around the failing life of a hard-working man who turns to drug-dealing after losing his job, and then ends up in prison when a trade goes bad. In the prison battleground, he must right all his wrongs and choose between right and wrong.

Action, Drama | Director: S. Craig Zahler

Buy Brawl in Cell Block 99 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XLibge


8. American Me (1992)

Top 10 Prison Movies 4American Me is a biographical crime-drama released in 1992 that tracks the rise of power of the Mexican Mafia in the California prison system between the 1950s and 1980s. The movie is not only directed by Edward James Olmos, but also stars him in the leading role alongside William Forsythe and Sal Lopez. The plot takes us on a ride with an American Mexican Mafia lord that is released from prison, only to fall in love for the first time and re-evaluate his whole life.

Crime, Drama. Biography | Director: Edward James Olmos

Buy American Me on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rokGcx


7. Shot Caller (2017)

Top 10 Prison Movies 5The 2017 released crime thriller, Shot Caller, is directed and written by Ric Roman Waugh, known for his gang and prison themes, and stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lake Bell, and John Bernthal. Jacob, an average citizen, is sent to prison for causing an accident. But life behind bars doesn’t make it easy for him to hold on to his own integrity and morals. Faced with the decision to be a victim or a warrior, he has to pay a high price for acceptance. Will he break free?

Crime, Thriller | Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Buy Shot Caller on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2OjuYUb


6. Felon (2008)

Top 10 Prison Movies 6Felon is a 2008 American jail film written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh. The movie stars Val Kilmer, Stephen Dorff and Harold Perrineau. The film tells the story of Wade Porter, who kills an intruder and is sentenced to three years in prison for manslaughter. But it gets even worse when he is sentenced to another murder committed in prison. The story is predicated on events that happened in the 1990s in the infamous California prison, Corcoran. The movie has stunning stunts and fighting scenes that can be stylistically classified as mixed martial arts.

Crime, Drama | Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Buy Felon on Amazon: https://amzn.to/33ozJ3j


5. Papillon (1973)

Top 10 Prison Movies 7Obsessed with freeing himself, a man befriends a fellow criminal after they serve their sentence on the famous Devil’s Island. Papillon is a 1973 period drama prison movie directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. The script was written by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr. and was based on the 1969 life story of French convict Henri Charrière. The film stars Steve McQueen as Charrière (“Papillon”) and Dustin Hoffman as Louis Dega. The film’s title is French for “Butterfly,” referring to Charrière’s tattoo and nickname.

Crime, Drama, Biography | Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Buy Papillon on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2De7wkK


4. Blood In, Blood Out (1993)

Top 10 Prison Movies 8Taylor Hackford directed this pressing melodrama highlighting the realities of street crime, gangs, and jail life among the Chicanos of East Los Angeles. Based on the true life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, the film focuses on step-brothers Paco and Cruz, and their bi-racial cousin Miklo. The story shows us how a violent crime and the influence of narcotics alter their lives. They start out as members of a street gang in East Los Angeles, and as dramatic incidents unfold, their lives and friendships are forever changed.

Crime, Drama | Director: Taylor Hackford

Buy Blood In, Blood Out on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2OhEOGe


3. American History X (1998)

Top 10 Prison Movies 9American History X is a 1998 American crime drama film directed by Tony Kaye. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong in leading roles and tells the story of two Neo-Nazi brothers. Using black-and-white cinematography to portray flashbacks, the audiences watches as Derek Vinyard, who spent three years in prison for manslaughter of two Black people, changes in prison and realizes that his racism was wrong, but now has to keep his little brother from repeating the same mistakes that ruined his life.

Crime, Drama | Director: Tony Kaye

Buy American History X on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2OjYklu


2. The Green Mile (1999)

Top 10 Prison Movies 10For many years, circumspect chief supervisor Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks, leads the infamous Block E, also known as death row. One day, a tall, muscular Black man is handed over to him as a new prisoner. John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan, is accused of child murder and rape, but he has a mysterious gift, and Edgecomb for the first time doubts his job. The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy crime-drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based by a novel of Stephen King.

Crime, Drama | Director: Frank Darabont

Buy The Green Mile on Amazon: https://amzn.to/33jQ09w


1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Top 10 Prison Movies 11The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the 1982 Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The movie is the highest-rated film on IMDB and follows the story of a banker, who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his partner and her lover despite his claims of innocence. Starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman and Bob Gunton, the movie is definitely a must watch!

Drama | Director: Frank Darabont

Buy The Shawshank on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2qJOGj0



Do you agree with our list?

If you have any movie to add to this list please send us a mail to [email protected]

cTV Team

We love movies and series.

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