10 Best Prison Escapes Movies Of All Time
• The Great Escape (1963)
Director: John Sturges
Based on the book by Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape is the true story of Allied prisoners plotting to break out of the Nazi detention camp. Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) is a British officer who masterminds the escape. Out of 250 prisoners, only 76 manage to escape, and the number soon dwindles to two dozen. Hilts (Steve McQueen) and the company must get through Nazi-occupied territory, which is the premise for most of the film. McQueen rides a motorcycle through heavy gunfire in a spectacular action sequence to avoid certain death at the hands of the enemy. James Garner, Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn also star in this exciting, suspenseful action-adventure. Although he had appeared in other previous films, this is the one that brought superstar status to Steve McQueen. The handsome, brooding actor performed all his own stunts in the action sequences in the type of action-adventure film that became McQueen’s trademark.
• Cube (1997)
Director: Vincenzo Natali
A group of strangers awakens to find themselves placed in a giant cube. Each one of them is gifted with a special skill and they must work together to escape an endless maze of deadly traps.Cube is a 1997 Canadian independent science-fiction horror film directed and co-written by Vincenzo Natali. A product of the Canadian Film Centre’s First Feature Project, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson and Maurice Dean Wint star as individuals trapped in the titular cube as they cross industrialized cube-shaped rooms, some rigged with various traps designed to kill.
• The Way Back (2010)
Director: Peter Weir
Directed by six-time Academy Award (R) nominee Peter Weir, THE WAY BACK is an epic story of survival, solidarity and indomitable human will. Written by Weir and Keith Clarke, the film is Peter’s first since 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. It is inspired by the acclaimed book The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, as well as first-person accounts and anecdotes as told to, and researched by Weir and executive producer Clarke.
• Stalag 17 (1953)
Director: Billy Wilder
One night in 1944 in a German POW camp housing American airmen, two prisoners try to escape the compound and are quickly discovered and shot dead. Among the remaining men, suspicion grows that one of their own is a spy for the Germans. All eyes fall on Sgt. Sefton (William Holden) who everybody knows frequently makes exchanges with German guards for small luxuries. To protect himself from a mob of his enraged fellow inmates, Sgt. Sefton resolves to find the true traitor within their midst.
• O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
In the Depression-era deep South, three escapees from a Mississippi prison chain gang: Everett Ulysses McGill, sweet and simple Delmar, and the perpetually angry Pete, embark on the adventure of a lifetime as they set out to pursue their freedom and return to their homes. With nothing to lose and still in shackles, they make a hasty run for their lives and end up on an incredible journey filled with challenging experiences and colorful characters. However, they must also match wits with the cunning and mysterious lawman Cooley, who tracks men, bent on bringing the trio back to the prison farm.
• Papillon (1973)
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
The autobiography of Henri Charriere, one of the few people to successfully escape from the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island, served as the basis for Papillon. Steve McQueen plays the pugnacious Charriere (known as “Papillon,” or “butterfly,” because of a prominent tattoo), incarcerated–wrongly, he claims–for murdering a pimp. He saves the life of fellow convict Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman), a counterfeiter who will later show his gratitude by helping Charriere in his many escape attempts, and by smuggling food to Charriere when the latter is put in solitary confinement. One breakout, which takes Charriere and Dega to a leper colony and then to a native encampment, is almost successful, but Charriere is betrayed (allegedly because he stopped for an act of kindness) and back the prisoners go to French Guiana. Years later, Dega is made a trustee and is content with his lot, but the aging, white-haired Charriere cannot be held back. A tribute to the unquenchably of the human spirit, Papillon brought in an impressive $22 million at the box office.
• Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Director: Don Siegel
No one can escape from Alcatraz, right? Try telling that to lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood). This Donald Siegel-directed nailbiter is a reenactment of Frank Morris’ 1962 attempt to bust himself and two other cons out of The Rock. Eastwood, as Morris, tilts with nasty warden Patrick McGoohan for a while, befriends several fellow prisoners, and picks the guys with whom he’ll make his escape. Among his break-out buddies are the Anglin Brothers (Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau), with whom he’d served in other lockups, and several others who’ve got their own special reasons to despise the sadistic McGoohan. Filmed on location at the newly renovated Alcatraz, Escape From Alcatraz was another box-office winner for the Eastwood/Siegel combo.
• The Escapist (2008)
Director: Rupert Wyatt
A career criminal seeks redemption for himself, his family, and his friends by busting out of a penitentiary in this intelligent thriller. Frank (Brian Cox) is a criminal who was forced to leave his wife and six-year-old daughter behind when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Frank openly acknowledges he was guilty and has made his peace with life behind bars, but when he learns that a drug overdose has left his daughter seriously ill, he feels a powerful need to reconnect with his family, and his only option is to escape. Knowing he can’t do it alone, Frank assembles a team from various factions of the prison population, including Viv (Seu Jorge), who makes and deals drugs from his cell; Lenny (Joseph Fiennes), a wiry tough guy who doesn’t speak if he can avoid it; and Lacey (Dominic Cooper), Frank’s new cellmate who is a white-collar criminal not cut out for prison life. Frank soon realizes if his plan is to work, he’ll have to bring aboard some of the more dangerous and unpredictable members of the prison’s community, including vicious and corrupt brothers Rizza (Damian Lewis) and Tony (Steven Mackintosh). The Escapist was the first feature film from writer and director Rupert Wyatt.
• The Defiant Ones (1958)
Director: Stanley Kramer
Convicts Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape from a chain gang. Curtis’ character, John “Joker” Jackson, hates blacks, while Poitier’s character, Noah Cullen, hates whites. However, the men are manacled together, forced to rely on each other to survive. Captured at one point by a lynch-happy mob, the convicts are rescued by Big Sam (Lon Chaney Jr.), himself a former convict. The men are later sheltered by a lonely, love-hungry widow played by Cara Williams, who offers to turn in Cullen if Joker will stay with her. By the time the two men are within hailing distance of a train that might take them to freedom, they have become friends. The script for The Defiant Ones is credited to Harold Jacob Smith and Nathan E. Douglas. The latter was really Nedrick Young, a blacklisted writer, whom producer Stanley Kramer hired knowing full well that Young was using an alias (when “Douglas”‘ credit appears onscreen, it is superimposed over a close-up of a truck driver — played by Nedrick Young). Both the script and the photography by Sam Leavitt won Academy Awards. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the actor playing Angus is former Little Rascal Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, making his last screen appearance. The Defiant Ones was remade for TV in 1986, with Robert Urich and Carl Weathers in the leads.
• The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Director: Frank Darabont
In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He’s sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), picks him as the new recruit most likely to crack under the pressure. The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden (Bob Gunton), sadistic guards led by Capt. Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), and inmates who are little better than animals, willing to use rape or beatings to insure their dominance. But Andy does not crack: he has the hope of the truly innocent, which (together with his smarts) allow him to prevail behind bars. He uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for Norton’s illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red. Based on a story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption was the directorial debut of screenwriter Frank Darabont.