POW, MIA, and Prison. Incarcerated in Movies, Television, and Books.

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?

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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.

Stalag 17 is an all-time classic

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Featuring Otto Preminger as the Commandant. A canny touch of casting.

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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.

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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.

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Prison movies that stand out? The Shawshank Redemption is pretty high on my list.

Also:
The Great Escape
Cool Hand Luke
Carbine Williams

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There’s a whole BIG sub-genre starring Pam Grier!

How about one from Oscar-winning Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs)?

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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.

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