Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Time Well Spent Watching Prison Movies

Just as I started watching “Cool Hand Luke” for the umpteenth time Monday evening Gilda called me in to an early dinner. I set the DVR to watch it at a later date but it prompted me to put together a list of favorite films with prison-themes or important incarceration scenes.

Another communication from Gilda, however, has concerned me. She sent along a column from The Washington Post that lamented the loss of cultural touchstones among younger generations (make sure you read some of the comments, as well—https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/cultural-references-keystone-cops/2021/07/25/d9b11bf8-ebe1-11eb-ba5d-55d3b5ffcaf1_story.html).

As many of the movies I recommend are from decades 50-60-70-80 years ago, I worry that many of you have no touchstone to identify with them. To me, a black and white movie such as “Brute Force” (1947) or “Three Came Home” (1950) represents cinematic excellence. Sadly, Turner Classic Movies is often the only outlet that broadcasts them.

You’ll have to work hard to view my complete selection. Keep in mind the list is restricted to movies I have seen that have made, and continue to make, lasting impressions on me. 

That’s life. With that as our mutual sentence, here’s my list of films, involving jail, prison or any form of incarceration. As usual, I welcome some of your favorites:

The Shawshank Redemption

Midnight Express



A Face in the Crowd

Cool Hand Luke

Escape from Alcatraz

The Way Back

The Deerhunter


Life Is Beautiful

Schindler’s List

Escape from Sobibor

I Want to Live

12 Monkeys

Modern Times

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Brute Force

Birdman of Alcatraz

The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)

Captain Blood

The Seahawk

Passage to Marseille

A Tale of Two Cities


Empire of the Sun

Stalag 17

The Great Escape

In the Name of the Father

The Producers

Bridge on the River Kwai


Three Came Home

The Hill

Each Dawn I Die

White Heat

Silence of the Lambs