“Orange is the New Black” won’t be back for a few more months, but in the meantime here are some other prison-themed viewing options.
The next season of “Orange is the New Black” probably won’t come out for another six months, but here are some prison-related viewing suggestions to fill the void for everyone who can’t wait to get back to Litchfield:
“The Shawshank Redemption”
Starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, this 1994 flick is about as good as it gets for prison movies. It’s based on a Stephen King novella, but the film became a classic in a way the book never could have.
Set in the 1940s and 1950s, the movie follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a man wrongfully convicted of murder. Dufresne and fellow inmate Red become thick as thieves during their bid and ultimately find their redemption after escaping their caged hell in one of cinema’s most famous prison escapes.
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In fact, the escape was so well known that last summer two convicts in upstate New York decided to try it out in real life — with a considerably less successful outcome.
When Richard Matt and David Sweat decided to tunnel out of Clinton Correctional Facility, instead of living happily ever after on a Mexican beach, one ended up dead and the other was recaptured.
“The Green Mile”
Mix death row with random supernatural stuff and you get “The Green Mile.”
This revered prison flick is based on a Stephen King book of the same name and was released in 1996 with a star-studded cast, including Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan and James Cromwell.
The film is both dark and fascinating, as it tells the tale of a wrongfully convicted death row inmate with a supernatural healing ability.
With the main action set in the 1930s, the story is told as a flashback by Tom Hanks’ character, Paul Edgecomb, and it comes complete with a heartbreaking ending.
“Cool Hand Luke”
The Oscar-winning 1967 film features Paul Newman as the titular character in a Florida prison camp in the 1950s. Based on a book of the same name, the movie depicts the brutal conditions and treatment one might envision in a mid-century prison camp.
At the time of its release, it was viewed as an anti-establishment film — but in the late 1960s, that was a recipe for box office success.
Today, it’s still viewed as a classic piece of cinema and it has birthed some famous and quotable lines, including the prison captain’s drawling declaration: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
The 1974 Jonathan Demme film is unequivocally an exploitation film, but as it was released during the exploitation film era of the 1970s, it still amassed a cult following. The twisted plot involves a sadistic doctor, rape and electroshock experiments. It’s a much less subtle effort to fetishize female prisoners than the current fare.
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As cringe-worthy as the film is, it’s an important part of a regrettable genre — and it’s noteworthy enough that Piper references it in “Orange is the New Black” when describing what women’s prison is not like.
“A Clockwork Orange”
Based on an Anthony Burgess book of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime flick is a cinematic masterpiece.
The story follows the plight of budding sociopath Alex — played by a young Malcolm MacDowell — as he and his band of “droogs” commit random acts of “ultraviolence.”
Ultimately, the young nutjob ends up in prison, but even though he unequivocally deserves to be there the conditions of his release lead viewers to question at what point the punishment — even for a truly horrific act — might actually be worse than the crime.
The soundtrack by Wendy Carlos — especially the synthesizer-drenched version of “Funeral March for Queen Mary” used in the film’s opening scene — is memorable and well-placed and visually, it’s a fascinating film, with unexpected and colorful depictions of the dystopian world that was then the future.
Interestingly, the film opts for a darker ending than the original British release of the book did.
Ultimately, the Brit lit version ends with a final moment of redemption in the 21st chapter, but the initial American version of the book and also the film version omit that ray of hope.
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
A more rollicking film that most on this list so far, the 2000 Coen brothers film is set in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression. It stars George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson with supporting roles by John Goodman and Holly Hunter.
The film is a comedic retelling of “The Odyssey,” one that follows the tale of three convicts escaped from a chain gang instead of warriors trying to return home from battle. Clooney, of course, plays the Odysseus figure.
The 1957 movie starring Elvis Presley also featured a song of the same name, and it went on to become one of the biggest hits of the King’s career.
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Presley plays hot-tempered Vince Everett, a man who’s been sentenced to ten years in the pen for a manslaughter charge. His cellie, Hunk Houghton, teaches him how to play music and eventually Vince stars in the nationally televised prison talent show.
After his release, he goes on to become a singing success, but still struggles in his personal life.
Starring Shia LeBeouf and Sigourney Weaver, this 2003 Walt Disney film is about a boy who ends up in a kiddie prison camp due to a wrongful conviction resulting from a curse.
It sounds kind of hokey, but it’s based on a phenomenal and best-selling YA book of the same name.
Unlike the other items on this list, “Holes” is a kids’ movie, but it’s still a great story.
The 1973 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen is — like “Orange is the New Black” — based on a prison memoir. The book, originally in French, was released in 1969 and, like the film, it tells the story of Henri Charrière, a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to hard labor on Devil’s Island.
There are some differences between the film and the book, but they follow the same basic story line.
For anyone with a working knowledge of French, the title may seem unlikely for a prison film. Papillon means butterfly in French, and the book’s title comes from a chest tattoo Henri sports.
“American History X”
The very graphic 1998 crime drama featuring Edward Norton is an all-round great film about ideology, loss and reinventing oneself.
The main characters are a pair of neo-Nazi brothers, one of whom serves three years in the pen for manslaughter.
The film skips back and forth through time as one brother reinvents himself and tries to save his younger sibling from making the same mistakes he did. It’s a gut-wrenching film that’s definitely worth checking out.
In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo conducted a now famous psychology experiment, known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. The goal was to have some people volunteer to be inmates and guards and then construct a fake prison tp study the psychological effects of being an inmate or a guard.
The experiment famously went off the rails when the guards quickly become sadistic and the fake prison had be shut down after six days.
This 2001 film is based on that experiment — but it’s not the only film to memorialize the six-day debacle.
In 2015, Kyle Patrick Alvarez released a thoroughly researched filmic rendition of Zimbardo’s research titled “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” also well worth the two-hour viewing time.