Behind bars, in prison, cut off from the outside world, what is it about being locked-up that’s so compelling? Why do we respond? What’s the appeal? Why do we keep returning to them? The popularity never dies. Some are even feel good movies. Any that stand out?
Don Siegel’s Escape From Alcatraz (1979). A penitentiary movie that lives on. Sparse, rough, ambiguous, and stuck in the ether of my memory. Larger than life prison, gruff inmates, that San Francisco setting, Alcatraz injects a nervy cocktail into your veins and one which lingers today.
Our December tradition is to watch this movie, and we’ve been doing it for over a decade. Seriously, such a great movie. And we find out something new about it each time, like the guy who plays Hoffy plays Leonard on Community, which I never would have guessed.
Not strictly incarcerated, but pretty close: Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, and the “remake” with Roy Scheider, called Sorcerer.
Similarly, Treasure/Sierra Madre.
Not actually locked up, but pretty close. Men in desperate circumstances who undertake some foolishness for no other reason than to escape their situations.
Prison movies that stand out? The Shawshank Redemption is pretty high on my list.
The Great Escape
Cool Hand Luke
There’s a whole BIG sub-genre starring Pam Grier!
How about one from Oscar-winning Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs)?
To End All Wars, a 2001 film starring Robert Carlyle and Kiefer Sutherland about WWII prisoners of war being forced to build the Burma Railway, was a very powerful and moving film. I definitely recommend it.