20 Best Prison Films (Part 1 of 2)

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20- Alien 3 (1992)

Directed by David Fincher

After Ridley Scott’s atmospheric Alien and James Cameron action thriller Aliens, anticipation was high for the third instalment of the franchise and so it is no surprise that fans and critics were disappointed at the time. But given the studio interference and several rewrites from nine screenplay writers, David Fincher, at 29, makes a feature-directing debut that goes beyond the sleek panache he showed in his Madonna music videos and delivers a movie that is if anything thoroughly entertaining. Fincher gives the images new resonance, creating a provocative fusion of suspense and an atmosphere that is suitably dark and dreary.

19- In the Name of the Father (1993)

Directed by Jim Sheridan

Based on Gerry Conlon’s autobiography, “Proved Innocent”, Jim Sheridan’s In The Name Of The Father tells the wrenching tale of a man wrongfully imprisoned in 1974 for the bombing of a London pub. Daniel Day-Lewis proves here once again that he is one of the most talented and interesting actors of his generation and director Sheridan takes a controversial subject but manages to sharpen his focus on the individuals rather than the bigger historical tapestry giving the film a wider appeal.

18- Animal Factory (2000)

Directed by Steve Buscemi

For his second film as a director, actor Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge) brings ex-convict Edward Bunker’s poignant jail drama to the screen. Buscemi’s directing blends hard-hitting visual qualities with great emotional energy while giving the impression at times that he’s making a docu-drama. Look out for a performance from Mickey Rourke as the transvestite Jan the Actress.


17- 25th Hour (2002)

Directed by Spike Lee

25th Hour is both thoughtful and exciting, a movie that shifts tones casually and deceptively, building to its powerful finale. Solid direction, an astounding cast and a superb performance by Edward Norton make 25th Hour Spike Lee’s best film since Clockers. Be patient, because the deliberate pace leads to a rewarding payoff.

16- The Green Mile (1999)

Directed by Frank Darabont

I think it is safe to say that Frank Darabont is the best director when it comes to adapting the work of Stephen King. Despite the clichés and stereotypes, The Green Mile is a solidly crafted film with a satisfying, if bittersweet, emotional finale that continues to resonate long after the credits roll.

15- Dead Man Walking (1995)

Directed by Tim Robbins

An absorbing, surprising, technically superb picture that expresses a heartfelt opinion on the death penalty without seeming either preachy or one-sided.

14- Bad Boys (1995)

Directed by Rick Rosenthal

A highly regarded teen drama. This gritty, assured, dark, movie captured with an extremely confident camera boasts strong performances from the cast, especially Sean Penn, who is electrifying throughout in one of his earliest powerhouse performances.

13- Papillon (1973)

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Based on the memoirs of Henri Charriere, the only man to have successfully escaped from Devil’s Island, this rousing drama of endurance, opportunism and friendship under fire features a half a dozen iconic and unforgettable scenes. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman are right at home in their roles and Jerry Goldsmith delivers one of his best original scores.

12- The Great Escape (1963)

Directed by John Sturges

John Sturges’ dramatization of the true story of a group of British, American, and Canadian POWs who successfully escaped from Stalag Luft III in Upper Silesia in March 1944 is arguably one of the best World War II adventure films ever made. A tense, action-packed adventure pitched by a dream-team cast which includes Steve McQueen (at his image-making and motorcycle-zooming peak), Charles Bronson, James Garner, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, David McCallum, and Donald Pleasance.

11- American History X (1998)

Directed by Tony Kaye

This uncompromising piece of filmmaking wields undeniable power, discussing and demonstrating racism, prejudice, and human blindness and compelling the viewer to look further and become involved. A work of impressive scale and craft. Intelligently written with assured direction, stunning black and white cinematography and Edward Norton delivering a disturbing, heartfelt and ultimately heartbreaking performance. American History X is a must see!

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