If there’s one thing about escape movies, it’s always the rush it gives your body. There is something about how you are kept at the edge of your seat, waiting for more and hoping the protagonist successfully escapes. If you feel like it’s an escape movie type of night, here are the 17 best prison escape movies you might want to watch.
1. The Great Escape (1963)
English, German, French, Russian, Spanish 2h 52m IMDb
Director: John Sturges
Stars: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough
This movie is set during World War II. While being held as prisoners of war in a German POW camp, soldiers decided to attempt an escape. Their goal is not only to get away but also to divert the attention of German forces from the front lines.
When the troops finally outwit their captors by building a tunnel, they realize the risks are far greater than expected. The movie’s visuals are incredible, even though this was created 56 years ago.
The picture boasts a stellar cast, a fantastic score, and a brilliant script. It’s exciting, heartbreaking, funny, and gripping. You won’t want to miss this film.
2. Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
English 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Don Siegel
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohanm, Roberts Blossom
This film follows the story of Frank Morris, a tough con artist who has been through prison escapes. Morris finds out that he will spend the remainder of his life sentence at Alcatraz: a widely known violent and inescapable prison.
Morris immediately recognizes the demoralizing effects of the institution and sparks a conflict with the warden. Exhausted, Morris and his two prison brothers carefully plot a breakout plan from the island.
This film is based on actual events and is a riveting thriller that will keep you captivated. It was precisely just what had to be revealed. There was nothing flashy or ridiculous about it. Thus it was a straightforward movie.
3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
English 2h 22m IMDb
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton
This film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a man who receives two consecutive life sentences in a high-security prison after killing his wife and her boyfriend. However, only Andy knows that he isn’t responsible for the crimes and is innocent.
He befriends Red, endures the harsh realities of prison life, learns to adapt, and eventually finds up aiding the warden during his 19 years behind bars.
The movie boasts excellent direction, amazing writing and screenplay, and magnificent performances from all of the cast. These components, when brought together, contributed to the making of one of the most iconic movies.
4. Swathandrayam Ardarathriyil (2018)
Malayalam 2h 18m IMDb
Director: Tinu Pappachan
Stars: Antony Varghese, Vinayakan, Chemban Vinod Jose
This movie follows the story of a manager at a large financial corporation who winds up in prison after attempting to assist a woman he loves evade charges.
The only way for him to succeed is to devise a plan to escape jail. Outstanding camerawork and cinematography. The movie’s relatively slow pace didn’t prevent viewers from being intrigued by what would happen next.
This movie accurately portrays what it would be like to spend time in jail. The plot moves along without any breaks, which makes it a very interesting movie to watch. It’s a film that will take you on a thrilling journey of teamwork, love, and resistance.
5. Papillon (2017)
English, Spanish 2h 13m IMDb
Director: Michael Noer
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Damijan Oklopdzic, Christopher Fairbank
This film tells the interesting story of Henri Charrière, also called Papillon, a safecracker in the Parisian underworld. Framed for murder, he is sent to spend the rest of his life in the renowned prison camp on Devil’s Island.
Determined to escape jail, he allies with a convicted fraudster named Louis Dega, who agrees to finance his escape on one condition: protection. This movie is moving and also as historically accurate as possible.
The two leads provided outstanding performances that depicted an inspiring story of bravery and resilience. Papillon is an eye-opening film that will keep you hooked to the screen.
6. Escape Plan (2013)
English, German, Arabic, Urdu 1h 55m IMDb
Director: Mikael Håfström
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent
This movie follows Ray Breslin, a hardened criminal skilled at breaking into prisons and getting out of them again. His most recent assignment turns out to be a double cross, trapping him in an advanced facility.
Fortunately, Ray befriends fellow convict Emil Rottmaye, who assists him in devising a plan to escape. However, their chance of escaping alive is foiled by the cruel warden. Intriguing and suspenseful events propel the plot of Escape Plan.
The rush and tension you feel will make it hard for you to blink. It’s full of exciting action sequences and effectively uses the jail environment.
7. Down By Law (1986)
English, Italian, French 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni
After being imprisoned in New Orleans, a disc jockey, an Italian immigrant, and a pimp end up sharing the same jail cell. The Italian immigrant devises a strategy to flee from his cell.
However, he first needs to convince his two fellow inmates to agree and come with him. The movie is clever and funny, and it keeps you locked in to discover what happens next.
For a movie of its age, it did a good job of delivering what was anticipated. The actors did a really good job of portraying their roles and had a lovely connection.
8. Escape from Pretoria (2020)
English, French, Afrikaans 1h 46m IMDb
Director: Francis Annan
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart
This film tells the story of two white South Africans who were arrested for their activities in service of the African National Congress. They have been housed in the infamous Pretoria Prison and have vowed to break out of the facility.
The film is based on a true story and is both fascinating and entertaining. The movie will keep you seated with its constant sense of dread.
On the surface, it appears to be a motivational tale of perseverance, defiance of oppression, and struggle against an unfair system. Still, in a broader sense, this movie reveals something even more profound. Indeed it’s a rush of electrifying drama with good performances.
9. The Next Three Days (2010)
English 2h 13m IMDb
Director: Paul Haggis
Stars: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson
This film tells the story of a married couple, John and Lara Brennan. Conflict starts when Lara is convicted and put in jail. However, she firmly insists on her innocence. Over the years, John has not stopped working to prove her innocence while juggling work and being a father.
When Lara’s last chance at parole is denied, she becomes desperate, and the worried John finds no choice but to bust her out of jail. Despite some implausible plotlines, the film remains a movie with nail-biting twists and turns. It manages to hold the audience’s attention throughout.
10. The Escapist (2008)
English 1h 42m IMDb
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Stars: Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes
Finding out that his daughter came dangerously close to overdosing on heroin, a father and a convict, Frank Perry, attempts to escape from prison. With the assistance of his other inmates, he starts excavating tunnels as a bridge outside.
During their operation, Frank must fend off trouble and danger at the prison. You instantly know within the initial minutes of The Escapist that you are in for a ride and won’t be leaving your seat until the end of the movie.
This movie holds its value and merits. It’s the kind of film you will want to watch more than once if you get the chance.
11. Victory (1981)
English, German, French 1h 56m IMDb
Director: John Huston
Stars: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pelé
The story starts with the head of a German POW camp setting up a game between Nazi players and the Allies being held there. The teams consist of the veteran British player John Colby who will lead an international team in the high-profile game.
The game was set up to promote the Third Reich’s goals. Meanwhile, while his team prepares for the game, Robert Hatch plans a risky mass escape from the camp.
This film combines the fun and thrill of sports and the art of escaping. The acting in this movie is great, and if you like stories involving sports, you should give this one a shot.
12. Stir Crazy (1980)
English, Spanish 1h 51m IMDb
Director: Sidney Poitier
Stars: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown
A disheartened pair realizes that the only way out of their predicament is to execute a successful escape plan. And so they put their heads together to devise a strategy.
At the annual inmates’ rodeo, one of them stumbles onto an incredible skill as a rodeo rider. Thus, the beginning of their plan to break out of prison commences. The two main characters in Stir Crazy are naturally humorous and have excellent chemistry.
Almost every scene is so funny you might want to prepare some tissues for when you cry out from laughing too much. This film is one of the classics and definitely worth the watch.
13. Rescue Dawn (2006)
English, Lao, Vietnamese 2h IMDb
Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies
This film follows an American pilot named Dieter Dengler and his struggles as a captive in Laos. He served in the Vietnam War and was captured when his plane was shot down over Laos.
Tortured and starving, he decides to plan for a jailbreak with his fellow inmates, Duane and Gene. As they make their way out, they soon discover that the thick and damp rainforest can be a dreadful jail.
The protagonist is excellently portrayed as a prisoner who is a beacon of hope despite the hardships. This nail-biting and compelling thriller film successfully communicates some harsh realities during the war.
14. Midnight Express (1978)
English, Maltese, French, Turkish 2h 1m IMDb
Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins
This film follows a young man from the United States who was apprehended by Turkish authorities as he attempted to transport hashish out of Istanbul. He is found guilty and sentenced to a prison term of four years.
His four years were tough as he was subjected to various forms of deprivation and cruelty. After his four years term, he finds out that the High Court has extended his sentence by an additional 30 years.
Completely discouraged, the only alternative left to him is to flee. This award-winning film’s script is excellent. The pacing is perfect, and the plot is compact and not confusing at all. It deals with some extremely delicate topics. Therefore viewer caution is suggested.
15. Escape from Sobibor (1987)
English 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Jack Gold
Stars: Alan Arkin, Joanna Pacula, Rutger Hauer
This film is about an underground resistance group during World War II at the Sobibor concentration camp. They are planning to stage an audacious rebellion and breakout.
While the organization is developing a strategy, they are compelled to deal with Nazi commanders and Ukrainian guards. Initially, the plan was to free only a handful of prisoners. However, they ultimately concluded that all 600 inmates ought to be freed.
This movie portrays the hard and brutal realities of these times. The acting was great, and the relationship between the captives mirrors hope for humanity and teamwork.
16. Le Trou / The Hole (1960)
French 2h 11m IMDb
Director: Jacques Becker
Stars: André Bervil, Jean Keraudy, Michel Constantin
In this movie, four prisoners devise a scheme to escape from prison. However, another prisoner is transferred into their cell as they hatch their plan. They take a chance by telling the newcomer about their strategy.
Three days after breaking through the floor, they begin executing the main part of the plan and pushing through the sewers. However, their escape is still far from certain. The film successfully draws the audience into the plot.
Much work made each scenario believable, and the actors performed well in their respective roles. As the movie progresses, there is much more to look forward to. You have to keep an eye out for everything that’s going on. The plot twists are also remarkable, so get ready.
17. A Man Escaped (1956)
French, German 1h 41m IMDb
Director: Robert Bresson
Stars: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock
This movie is an adaptation and storytelling of André Devigny’s account. Devigny was both a French Resistance fighter and a prisoner of war. Heat and anxiety start when Fontaine learns of his execution.
With the information, he directs his energy into devising a strategy for escaping. But when he gets a new roommate, his carefully laid plans are thrown off. Reluctant, Fontaine includes his new cellmate in his plan.
The movie’s storyline is based on true events, and not a single second of footage is wasted. The constant voice-over is beautifully poetic, and the tension is flowing. The director’s minimalist approach makes the movie even more iconic.
These 17 best prison escape movies will take you on a rollercoaster ride. Depending on the mood, you can choose from mind-blowing, gloomy, and funny options. While most of these films were released during the 90s, the storyline and performance quality is just excellent, and you would enjoy them as much as the new ones.