10 Most Ominous Cinematic Prisons

From monsters to utter isolation, these places are hell epitomized.

The Dark Knight Rises Prison
Warner Bros.

Being imprisoned is one of those experiences that even cinema cannot and, frankly, should not glamorize. There is nothing enviable or alluring about losing one’s freedom, sometimes forever.

The concept of prisons often incites screenwriters to cut loose and employ extremes, imbuing proceedings with elements such as the lack of actual cells, surrealism and that trusty trope, one that never lets audiences down - the sadistic guard.

Viewers like getting lost in other people’s misery adventures, as has been proven by box office results over the decades, with films like Escape From New York making significant profit.

Various films have also shown that a prison is not always one kind of confinement. Works like A Clockwork Orange demonstrate what being captive to one’s mind can do to a person and those like Wedlock show futurism gone wrong.

The following films take the loneliness of incarceration to a new level of endurance for their characters. From human to alien monsters, from brutal inmates to the agony of losing one’s free will, these prisons offer a glimpse at out-of-control aspects of the human psyche.

10. Château D’If, The Count Of Monte Cristo

The Dark Knight Rises Prison
Buena Vista Pictures

Barren and devoid of human contact, this fortress is insanity personified.

Its only sound is the sea crashing against its rocks, forever and ever; its sole unholy purpose is to drive prisoners to madness. There is no escape from its loneliness and no escaping one’s wretched destiny if they manage to end up in this island dungeon.

Château d’If is a bad place to land, but turns out to be a great locale to plan revenge, as Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel) finds out.

When he is betrayed by his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce), Dantes is incarcerated at Château d’If for 13 years. By sheer chance, he meets a prisoner attempting to escape and, with his guidance, he begins changing his identity in order to avenge the crime. He escapes after his benefactor dies, by entering his body bad and being thrown into the sea.

It says a lot about a prison’s location and security if the only way to escape is to die. Sometimes you do what you have to do, though, particularly if you have been stripped of your life and sweet vengeance is your ultimate goal.


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