Loved Escape Plan? 10 Similar Prison Movies You Will Like

A popular film in the prison action thriller genre, Mikael Håfström’s ‘Escape Plan’ is the very first film that stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as co-leads. The 2013 movie follows former prosecutor Ray Breslin as he is imprisoned in one of the world’s most secure prisons and his bid to break out from there with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer. While Breslin is in search of answers, Rottmayer brings with him secrets of his own.

As the two face all sorts of expected and unexpected hurdles along the way, they decide to stick together and make a daring escape from the prison, before time runs out and they get transported to a place unknown. With its blend of action, thrill, and mystery, the film manages to keep viewers intrigued right till the end, making one want to know more about movies like ‘Escape Plan’ that are capable of invoking similar emotions.

10. Midnight Express (1978)

Helmed by Alan Parker and adapted by Oliver Stone from Billy Hayes’ 1977 memoir, ‘Midnight Express’ is a 1978 Turkish-American prison thriller. The title of the film is a prison slang for Billy’s escape attempt. The narrative follows Hayes (Brad Davis), a young student who is detained in a Turkish prison for attempting to smuggle hashish out of the country. The film traces Billy’s journey from choosing to surrender to life behind bars to eventually planning an escape of the ages. The movie is unapologetically raw in its use of realism and will have viewers wondering about the harrowing experiences of the prisoners and the hardships endured. If a prison thriller like ‘Escape Plan’ has caught your fancy, then ‘Midnight Express’ is surely worthy of a watch.

9. Escape from Pretoria (2020)

Co-written and directed by Francis Annan, ‘Escape from Pretoria’ is an Australian prison film based on escaped prisoner Tim Jenkins’ 2003 book, ‘Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Prison.’ The film is an actual story of a prison break that occurred in 1979 and was carried out by three political prisoners, the roles of whom are essayed by Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, and Mark Leonard Winter. While two of the prisoners were protesters actively voicing against anti-apartheid, while the other was a longtime prisoner.

Despite their desire to bring along several other prisoners, the trio had to leave alone, but their exoneration left a significant impact as a year later, apartheid was abolished. While the escapees in ‘Escape from Pretoria’ were fighting a social battle, unlike the protagonists of ‘Escape Plan,’ the main characters in both films, leave a significant impact in the amount of struggle they endure in trying to break free.

8. Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

Mark Robson’s ‘Von Ryan’s Express’, which is considered one of Frank Sinatra’s most successful films, is based on David Westheimer’s 1964 novel of the same. It depicts the efforts put in by captured US Army Air Corps pilot, Colonel Ryan in trying to convince several British prisoners of war to perform a daring mass getaway by seizing a cargo train filled with POWs and making an escape to Switzerland through German-occupied Italy. Both the films, ‘Von Ryan’s Express’ and ‘Escape Plan’ will leave viewers thrilled to look at the courage of the leads in a do-or-die situation, and leave one anxious knowing how one small mistake will end up making or breaking their lives.

7. The Colditz Story (1955)

‘The Colditz Story’ is a British prisoner of war film based on Pat Reid’s 1952 autobiographical work of a British Army officer getting imprisoned in Germany’s Colditz Castle, during World War II. Helmed by Guy Hamilton, the film follows two British officers, Pat Reid and Richmond, as they are arrested and taken to the impassable German castle, from where they rally the other prisoners to locate an escape route. While the similarity between ‘Escape Plan’ and ‘The Colditz Story’ is seen in the place where the protagonists were held as prisoners, the latter being a war autobiography, manages to enhance the real experiences dealt with, manifold.

6. Rescue Dawn (2007)

‘Rescue Dawn’ is adapted from the film writer and director Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary film, ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’, and is based on the life of German-American pilot Dieter Dengler. The narrative follows Dengler (Christian Bale) as his airplane is shot down, leading him to get captured by the villagers during the Vietnam War. The critically acclaimed film traces Dengler’s time in captivity, as he tries to come up with and execute a plan that will help him escape along with five deranged prisoners. Both films show the teamwork involved in getting a favorable outcome, despite the innumerable obstacles that come their way every time they get close to succeeding.

5. The Great Escape (1963)

Dealing with sub-themes of suspense and adventure, John Sturges’ critically acclaimed ‘The Great Escape’ is based on Paul Brickhill’s book of the same name. The film is set during World War II and follows the mass escape of a group of British Commonwealth prisoners of war from the notorious Stalag Luft III, a German POW camp. To enhance its overall commercial appeal, the film was heavily fictionalized. It had a stellar cast that included the likes of Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, and James Garner essaying prominent roles. Unlike ‘The Escape Plan,’ which is set in a modernized world, ‘The Great Escape’ takes place during World War II, but despite the difference, both films show the protagonists engaging in intricate planning to put together a successful escape plan, despite all odds being stacked against them.

4. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Set in the 1950s, the Paul Newman starrer ‘Cool Hand Luke‘ is based on Donn Pearce’s 1965 novel of the same name. Helmed by Stuart Rosenberg, the film follows gutsy World War II veteran Luke, as he finds himself sentenced to a prison camp that’s run by a stern warden and a quiet rifleman. While minor violations are given extreme punishments, Luke chooses against conforming to the orders, leading to a power struggle between the prison authorities and Luke till one of them eventually breaks. Both films have dealt with grit and determination in the face of extreme adversity while showing the characters choosing to fight back for their freedom.

3. Papillion (1973)

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, the historical prison drama ‘Papillon’ is based on the autobiographical work of French convict Henri Charrière. Shot in remote locations, the film has two prominent actors; Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman essaying the titular roles. The narrative follows Henri Charriere (Papillon), as he is sentenced to imprisonment in the French Guyana, where he comes across a forger named Louise Dega and the two decide to concoct a plan to escape from the prison. Like ‘Escape Plan,’ ‘Papillon’ also shows the two protagonists coming together for personal gains and to help each other escape from the notorious prison houses.

2. The Grand Illusion (1937)

Jean Renoir’s ‘The Grand Illusion’ is a French war film that follows two French soldiers; Maréchal and Boëldieu, as they attempt to encroach into German airspace and are captured and incarcerated as German prisoners of war. The story follows their subsequent plot to make an escape bid. ‘The Grand Illusion’ captures the true essence of human relationships, amidst the turmoil of World War I and has been lauded by critics for its anti-war message and its depiction of class differences in Europe, being praised as a French cinematic masterpiece. Like ‘Escape Plan,’ ‘The Grand Illusion’ looks into two people in similar situations yet being different from each other trying to work out a plan that will help free them.

1. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Directed by Don Siegel, ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ follows Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood), who has managed to escape from every prison facility, as he gets sent to the most notorious and fearful prison of Alcatraz. Morris, unwilling to get deterred like the ones before him, decides to hatch a plan to escape from there too. The film is an adaption of J. Campbell Bruce’s book of the same name and is based on the famous 1962 prison escape from Alcatraz Island. Much like ‘Escape Plan,’ ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ is also based within a high-security prison, from which escape seems impossible until someone like Morris, Rottmayer, and Breslin decide to step up to the challenge.

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