The HBO series. I have to put this at number 10 because it's not a film. But you do watch it on a TV and it's my list so it's going in. This is possibly my favourite TV series ever. It's like a soap opera that takes place in prison. But unlike Eastenders people get bummed and murdered each week. It puts prison break to shame, You need to see it.
The highlander (Christopher Lambert) trapped in a futuristic underground prison for daring to have a second child. This film makes it into the list firstly because it adds a futuristic twist, secondly because you don't have to think whilst watching it and thirdly because i agree that you should be put into an underground maximum security unit from the future if you dare to have a second child.
7. Death warrant
Possibly my favourite Van Damme film. I was raised on ridiculous action films, so to this day, they are a guilty pleasure of mine. A prison film, merged with a martial arts film, with Van Damme, some transvestite inmates and the Sandman. What's not to like?
Not strictly a prison film as such, but the mental hospital definitely has the right feel and all the good elements of a prison film are there. This is such a well known cliche of a film, you don't expect it to be anywhere near as good as it actually is.
This is a serious rare epic telling the stories of three relatives who start out in an LA street gang, following their lives through dramatic intertwining journeys. I first saw this when i was about 10, it was quite hard to get hold of for a while and i almost forgot about it, but then i heard a few rappers referencing it in their lyrics so i looked it up again.
Ray Winston in prison beating the shit out of people. That's all you need to know.
Obvious choice, but still an epic classic. I would say Morgan Freeman's best film. It's basically a tale of great friendship between the two main characters. It has more or less every element you need in a good prison film. A naive guy walking in not knowing what to expect, conflicts between guards and inmates, unlikely friendships between two individuals, beatings/rapings, revenge for those beatings/rapings, escape attempts and strange or unusual inmates.
2.In the name of the father
Daniel Day Lewis is one of the best actors around, so you immediately know this is going to be good. Based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, in the name of the father tells the story of four people falsely convicted of the IRA's Guildford pub bombing. They serve 30 years or something for a crime they didn't commit. Its hard to watch a film about people being so tragically dealt out and not be affected by it.
The story of the Carandiru Penitentiary, the biggest most fucked up prison in Latin America. This is like City of God in Prison, i can't explain how good it is. There are so many colourful characters in this film, it's all told through the eyes of some AIDS doctor. You have to see this film. I would put this in my top 10 of all films. It's got subtitles, so don't watch it if you can't read.