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The Best Prison Movies and TV Shows on The Criterion Channel

Finding a good Prison movie and TV show to watch can be hard, so we've ranked the best ones and included where to watch them. Check out our list of the best Prison movies and TV shows of all time streaming on The Criterion Channel.

VIEW: best
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1. We Need to Talk About Kevin

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.5/10
Reelgood Logo
83/100
Released: 2011Rated: R
Drama, Mystery

What it's about: After her son Kevin commits a horrific act, troubled mother Eva reflects on her complicated relationship with her disturbed son as he grew from a toddler into a teenager.

Where to Watch: Available to watch free online (Tubi, Plex, Vudu & 2 others), stream on a popular subscription service (Prime Video, Hulu, The Criterion Channel & 2 others) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 6 services (iTunes, Google Play & 4 others).

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kanopy

2. La Strada

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.0/10
Reelgood Logo
83/100
Released: 1954
Drama

What it's about: When Gelsomina, a naïve young woman, is purchased from her impoverished mother by brutish circus strongman Zampanò to be his wife and partner, she loyally endures her husband's coldness and abuse as they travel the Italian countryside performing together. Soon Zampanò must deal with his jealousy and conflicted feelings about Gelsomina when she finds a kindred spirit in Il Matto, the carefree circus fool, and contemplates leaving Zampanò.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy).

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3. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
Reelgood Logo
82/100
Released: 2005Rated: R
Crime, Drama

What it's about: After a 13-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a 6 year old boy, beautiful Lee Guem-ja starts seeking revenge on the man that was really responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow inmates and reunited with her daughter, she gets closer and closer to her goal. But will her actions lead to the relief she seeks?

Where to Watch: Available to watch free online (Tubi & PopcornFlix) & stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy).

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4. Night and Fog

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.6/10
Reelgood Logo
81/100
Released: 1956
Documentary, Independent

What it's about: Filmmaker Alain Resnais documents the atrocities behind the walls of Hitler's concentration camps.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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5. Down by Law

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.8/10
Reelgood Logo
81/100
Released: 1986Rated: R
Comedy, Crime

What it's about: A disc jockey, a pimp and an Italian tourist escape from jail in New Orleans.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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6. A Man Escaped

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.3/10
Reelgood Logo
80/100
Released: 1956
Drama, Thriller

What it's about: A captured French Resistance fighter during World War II engineers a daunting escape from prison.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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7. Hunger

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
Reelgood Logo
80/100
Released: 2008
Biography, Drama

What it's about: The story of Bobby Sands, the IRA member who led the 1981 hunger strike in which Republican prisoners tried to win political status. It dramatises events in the Maze prison in the six weeks prior to Sands’ death.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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8. Le Cercle Rouge

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.0/10
Reelgood Logo
79/100
Released: 1970Rated: R
Crime, Drama

What it's about: When French criminal Corey gets released from prison, he resolves to never return. He is quickly pulled back into the underworld, however, after a chance encounter with escaped murderer Vogel. Along with former policeman and current alcoholic Jansen, they plot an intricate jewel heist. All the while, quirky Police Commissioner Mattei, who was the one to lose custody of Vogel, is determined to find him.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 3 services (iTunes, Google Play & YouTube).

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9. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.1/10
Reelgood Logo
77/100
Released: 1943
Drama, Romance

What it's about: General Candy, who's overseeing an English squad in 1943, is a veteran leader who doesn't have the respect of the men he's training and is considered out-of-touch with what's needed to win the war. But it wasn't always this way. Flashing back to his early career in the Boer War and World War I, we see a dashing young officer whose life has been shaped by three different women, and by a lasting friendship with a German soldier.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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10. A Short Film About Killing

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.1/10
Reelgood Logo
76/100
Released: 1988
Crime, Drama

What it's about: Jacek climbs into the taxi driven by Waldemar, tells him to drive to a remote location, then brutally strangles him, seemingly without motive.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel & Kanopy).

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11. Insiang

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
Reelgood Logo
75/100
Released: 1976
Drama

What it's about: A young woman raped by her mother's new boyfriend finds a new way to exact revenge.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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12. Brute Force

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.6/10
Reelgood Logo
75/100
Released: 1947
Crime, Drama

What it's about: Timeworn Joe Collins and his fellow inmates live under the heavy thumb of the sadistic, power-tripping guard Captain Munsey. Only Collins' dreams of escape keep him going, but how can he possibly bust out of Munsey's chains?

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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13. The Human Condition I: No Greater Love

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.5/10
Reelgood Logo
74/100
Released: 1959
Drama, History

What it's about: A Japanese pacifist and socialist, unable to face the dire consequences of conscientious objection, is transformed by his attempts to compromise with the demands of war-time Japan.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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14. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.3/10
Reelgood Logo
74/100
Released: 1983Rated: R
Drama, History

What it's about: Island of Java, 1942, during World War II. British Major Jack Celliers arrives at a Japanese prison camp, run by the strict Captain Yonoi. Colonel John Lawrence, who has a profound knowledge of Japanese culture, and Sergeant Hara, brutal and simpleton, will witness the struggle of wills between two men from very different backgrounds who are tragically destined to clash…

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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15. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.0/10
Reelgood Logo
73/100
Released: 1989Rated: R
Comedy, Crime

What it's about: Recently released from a mental hospital, Ricky ties up Marina, a film star he once had sex with and keeps her hostage.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a popular subscription service (HBO MAX, The Criterion Channel & Kanopy) & rent or buy from $3.99 on 2 services (iTunes & Prime Video).

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16. Le Deuxième Souffle

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.9/10
Reelgood Logo
71/100
Released: 1966
Crime, Drama

What it's about: A gangster escapes jail and quickly makes plans to continue his criminal ways elsewhere, but a determined inspector is closing in.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $2.99 on 3 services (iTunes, Google Play & Vudu).

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17. The Count of Monte Cristo

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.5/10
Reelgood Logo
66/100
Released: 1934Rated: PG
Action & Adventure, Drama

What it's about: After greedy men have Edmound Dantes unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for innocently delivering a letter entrusted to him, he escapes to revenge himself on them.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel, Fandor & Kanopy).

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18. The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
8.8/10
Reelgood Logo
64/100
Released: 1961
Drama, History

What it's about: His ideals challenged by life as a conscript in war-time Japan's military, a pacifist faces ever greater tests in his fight for survival.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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19. Five Corners

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
6.2/10
Reelgood Logo
60/100
Released: 1987Rated: R
Drama, Crime

What it's about: A psychotic young man returns to his old neighborhood after release from prison. He seeks out the woman he previously tried to rape and the man who protected her, with twisted ideas of love for her and hate for him.

Where to Watch: Available to watch free online (Tubi, Plex & Crackle), stream on a popular subscription service (Prime Video & The Criterion Channel) & rent or buy from $0.99 on 1 service (Prime Video).

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20. The Young Master

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.2/10
Reelgood Logo
58/100
Released: 1980Rated: PG-13
Action & Adventure, Comedy

What it's about: Youthful martial arts master Lung is searching for his missing brother, when he is mistaken for a criminal on the run. He must prove his innocence by solving the case himself, while local lawmen and merciless mercenaries are hot on his trail.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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21. Gods of the Plague

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
6.5/10
Reelgood Logo
52/100
Released: 1970
Crime, Drama

What it's about: A man is released from prison and finds the society on the outside less than appealing. With several women as well as the police on his tail, he sets out to find an old friend.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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22. A Man There Was

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.4/10
Reelgood Logo
52/100
Released: 1917
Drama

What it's about: Terje Vigen, a sailor, suffers the loss of his family through the inflexibility of another man. Years later, when his enemy's family finds itself dependent on his benevolence, Terje must decide whether to avenge himself.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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23. The Thick-Walled Room

IMDB LogoIMDB Star
7.1/10
Reelgood Logo
39/100
Released: 1956
Drama

What it's about: A group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers are jailed for crimes against humanity, themselves victims of a nation refusing to bear its burdens as a whole.

Where to Watch: Available to stream on a subscription service (The Criterion Channel).

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