The Prison Movie

Is there some sort of catharsis when watching a prison movie?  Safe in the knowledge that one has not broken any laws that would cause them to lose their liberty. Of all of the genres out there for film, I am always happy to be the voyeur when it comes to the prison or liberty lost genre. Let’s take a look at some of the prison movies out there that has captured the Ronin spirit…

Papillon (1973)

A man with a butterfly tattoo on his back has been wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a French penal colony.  He befriends Louis Dega and he makes many attempts to be free. Based on the true story of Henri Charriere. This film casts Steve McQueen plays the titular role with Dustin Hoffman as Dega.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Based on Stephen King’s short story ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’.  Another man wrongly convicted of murder.  The film chronicles Andy Dufresne’s (Tim Robbins) time spent at Shawshank prison and his friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman), whom he meets while there.

Escape Plan (2013)

Sylvester Stallone is Ray Breslin, somewhat of an expert in prison building security.  He has been set up and sent to a maximum-security prison, one he designed himself.  He needs to escape and figure out who has done this to him, by the way Arnold Schwarzenegger as Rottmayer, is in there too, in need of a bit assistance himself!.

The Green Mile (1999)

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.  It stars Tom Hanks as a death row corrections officer during the U.S. Great Depression who witnesses supernatural events that happen after an enigmatic inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan) is brought to his facility.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Paul Newman is the titular Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to submit to the system. A pop culture reference is the quote “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

A vigilante thriller that follows Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) driven to seek justice for his dead wife and daughter, not only from the killers, but those who were complicit in the corrupt criminal justice system. Most of the time he was in a prison cell which was pretty impressive.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

The inspiration is Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 of which 24 male students were randomly selected to be either prison guard or prisoner. This study was concluded after six days due to the students acting as prison officers became abusive. Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan star in this representation., with Billy Crudup as Zimbardo.

Con Air (1997)

So called because of the nickname given to the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System.

Eight years after being honourably discharged, Army Ranger Sergeant Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has been imprisoned for involuntary manslaughter, he has been paroled and is ready to meet his daughter for the first time. However, some fellow prisoners have different plans while onboard Con Air.

Death Race (2008)

Based on the 1975 film Death Race 2000 and in turn inspired by Ib Melchior’s 1958 novel The Racer.

The year is 2012 -The United States economy has collapsed and subsequently crime has increased which leads to privatised prisons. Like Teminal Island, who earns profits by broadcasting a vehicle combat racing series on the internet, starring Jason Statham.

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

A fictionalised biography adapted from Thomas E. Gaddis’ novel of the same name, follows Robert Stroud and his life spent with birds while in incarceration. Burt Lancaster plays the titular character.

Brubaker (1980)

Robert Redford plays a newly arrived prison warden attempts to clean up a corrupt and violent prison system. Based on Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal by Tom Murton and Joe Hyams which uncovers the 1967 prison scandal.

The Last Castle (2001)

Robert Redford again, but as a highly decorated US Army Lieutenant General that has been court martialled and sentenced for insubordination and he challenges the Warden (James Gandolfini) of the facility for his inhumane methods of dealing with the prisoners. The struggle resembles a chess match between the two men who have different views of leadership.

Scum (1979)

The British contribution to the prison genre. A study of Borstal, a detention system for young offenders, and the brutality within that system. It follows a young offender named Carlin (played by a very young Ray Winstone) as he arrives at the institutuion, and his rise to the top of the pecking order through extreme violence and self-protection.

It is controversial because of its graphic depiction of racism, extreme violence, rape, suicide,fights, and extremely strong language.

After watching any of these films, it is fair to suggest to stay on the right side of the law!

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