The 10 Greatest Movie Prisoners Ever


I’ve been watching a lot of Oz lately so I thought about writing a list of the best TV prisoners. Unfortunately when I was done it contained 4 guys from Oz, 5 guys from Prison Break and George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development.

I switched to movies and got a much more diverse array.

10. Il Duce (The Boondock Saints)


A relatively minor character compared to some on this list, the Boondock boy’s father was feared nationwide, and required nothing short of a small army to transport him place to place. But once he realized he was on the wrong side of things, quickly turned from a terrifying enemy to an invaluable asset. Here’s to hoping he’s back for the (finally getting made) sequel.

9. Cyrus the Virus (Con Air)


There was a whole plane full of prisoners to chose from here, but ultimately I decided on the film’s main villain Cyrus the Virus. Sure, Steven Buscemi was an excellent loony serial killer, and Nic Cage was well, Nic Cage (oh that hair!), but only Cyrus had the brains the brawn to orchestrate an elaborate mid-air prison bolt, and for that he deserves a spot on the list.

8. John Patrick Mason (The Rock)


The only man to ever escape from Alcatraz is enlisted by the government to something something something BOOM! BAM! EXPLODING HELICOPTERS! FERRARIS! Sean Connery may have not have been in tip top form as the escapee, but he was certainly the shining point of the Michael Bay-helmed explosionfest The Rock.

7. Derek Vinyard (American History X)


Usually we think of Nazis as the scum of the earth, but Derek Vinyard went from skinhead to upstanding citizen after his stay in jail for the murder (curbstomping!) of a black man. Sure the anal rape may have helped in his conversion, but however he got there, it’s one of the most profound prison reforms seen on film.

6. Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)


Probably the most normal out of any of the guys on this list, Andy Dufresne was a man wrongly accused, and for years he suffered in relative silence. But what no one else knew was that he had begun an excavation project, and after years of wrongful imprisonment, finally tunneled his way to salvation. Plus he had to hang out with that asshole Morgan Freeman all day, and you know that HAS to be a huge pain.

5. John Coffey (The Green Mile)


Another Steven King-written prisoner, Coffey and Dufresne were both wrongly accused, but the similarities stopped there. The titan of a man was somehow gifted with healing powers, which Tom Hank’s balls found completely delightful and refreshing. No he didn’t escape, but he left an impact well after he was gone nonetheless.

4. Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo)


I don’t think that anyone else on this list had worse living conditions than Edmund Dantes. You’ve seen “The Hole” in prison movies and shows before. A dark empty room made of stone with no interaction with others. It was for prisoners who had misbehaved. Well, because this was ye olden days, ALL prison cells were the hole, and Edmund had been framed by his best friend for treason so he could marry his girlfriend. That, my friends, is a sh*t hand in the game of life. But he took that hand and after escaping made his life a polar opposite what it was, finally getting ultimate revenge on the man who caused it all.

3. Luke (Cool Hand Luke)


Famous for escaping and egg-eating, Luke is one cool cat. Sure his spirit gets broken by some truly nasty guards, but it doesn’t matter, his heart shines through in the end. Luke was one of Paul Newman’s greatest roles, and helped to earn him a secure place as a film icon.

2. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)


I’d say Hannibal takes the cake for being the flat out most dangerous prisoner on the list. Yes, he will eat your liver for dinner. However, he’s also a master of mind****ery, and will use his surprisingly large amount of charm to get you just where he wants you. And then he’ll eat your liver for dinner.

1. Capt. Hilts “The Cooler King” (The Great Escape)


The only prisoner on this list to be inspired by a true story, Capt. Hilts helped 76 men escape from an SS-run POW camp during World War II. If that wasn’t badass enough, he himself tries to escape by jumping a motorcycle over a barbed wired fence. Sure he doesn’t make it, but plenty of style points awarded for trying.

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  1. By far Luke from Cool Hand Luke is the best prisoner on this list.

    However, if you can make an exception for mentally ill patients, Jack Nicholson is phenomenal in “One Flew Over…Next.” Probably the greatest male acting performance of our time.

  2. Where is Manny (Jon Voight) from Runaway Train?!

    “No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore I am no beast.”

  3. Ok,

    All aside Andy Dufresne is #2 and Red #1. John Coffey … give me a break! (uhhh … boss … I didn’t murder those girls … I tried to save them) Simply lame movie, should go hand to hand with Notebook for pathetic attempts at writing and acting. Well got off the point … RED #1!

  4. @james : he was being sarcastic about morgan …

    @sub-zero: awesome list. “learn2write” is a n00b. you’re hella funny. #8 especially made me laugh, I totally get where you’re coming from.

  5. Great list mate, But i think there is one guy missing, which is Billy Hayes from Midnight Express , I think actor Brad Davis did a great job in this role and he deserves to be here 😀

  6. Steve GOD DAMN McQueen in the upset victory

    but the guy McQueen played wasnt real (and the guy who wrote the book based on his experience said the motorcyle thing was totall bullshit)

    and it was that Brit that setup the great escape IRL and in the movie…

    but its still Steve McQueen….

  7. Well I suppose if you include Papillon then Steve Makes the list twice??

    It follows then that….Note only was he the number one actor for racing motorcycles and cars but that puts him at #1 Prisoner

  8. Christopher Lambert plays John Henry Brennick in Fortress. Where he escapes from the ultimate prison in the future. Then in the sequel… He escapes from a prison that’s in space! Not on an alien planet or even an asteroid! It’s a prison that’s just sitting in orbit around Earth!

  9. It may be based on a true story, but Steve McQueen’s inclusion wasn’t. At the time of the escape, there were no American prisoners being held at the camp. His character was invented simply so that the producers could make money from typically xenophobic American audiences.

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