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The best prison movies and series on Netflix

Unlocking tales of confinement: Netflix's must-see prison line-up.
By

Published onJanuary 4, 2024

orange is the new black - best prison movies and shows on Netflix

Prison. It’s one of those things many are intrigued by, but only from a distance. No one wants to experience it in real life.

We all love a good prison movie or series. From those that show life on the inside to daring prison escapes, there are a lot of great options out there.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best prison movies and series on Netflix you can stream right now!

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Note: We’ll continue to update this list as more prison movies and series on Netflix are released.

Best prison movies on Netflix

13TH

13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution that abolishes slavery but with a qualifying clause with regards to using it as a punishment for crime.

Cut to the horrifying truth of mass incarceration and the booming prison industry in the modern age.

Helmed by Ava DuVernay, this provocative documentary features numerous academics, activists, and politicians as they explore the realities of America’s justice system.

It’s definitely not an easy watch, but it is something that everyone should see. It’s one of the best prison movies on Netflix.

A 12 Year Night

A 12 Year Night is a haunting recount of the 12 years that three Uruguayan political prisoners spent in captivity during the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s.

Based on true events, the film is an intense exploration of the human spirit’s resilience and the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go to break it.

The trio’s nightmarish experience of isolation, torment, and sheer will to survive paints a somber picture of the era. Captivating performances and a poignant narrative make it one of Netflix’s standout historical dramas.

Operation Finale

Operation Finale focuses on a secret mission to apprehend Adolf Eichmann, a key orchestrator of the Holocaust.

The film follows a team of Israeli spies in the year 1960, led by Peter Malkin, while they pursue Eichmann in Argentina, intent on bringing him to justice.

With an impressive cast and a compelling narrative, it serves as a powerful statement about justice and is a recommended watch on Netflix.

On My Skin

Dramatizing the harrowing true events surrounding the last days of Stefano Cucchi, On My Skin is an Italian film that grapples with issues of police brutality, justice, and systemic failings. Cucchi, arrested for a minor crime, faced an unimaginable ordeal during his week in custody, leading to a tragic end.

The film skillfully balances the personal and the political, showcasing a devastating individual story while pointing to larger societal issues.

With its powerful performances, especially by Alessandro Borghi as Cucchi, and a gripping narrative, On My Skin stands as a poignant commentary on the state of justice, making it an essential watch on Netflix.

The Platform

The Platform is a Netflix Original and involves a dystopian prison of the future: prisoners are housed in vertical cells.

Lavish food descends from above, and inmates at the top have plenty, while those below are starving, and desperate.

Out of Spain, it’s twisted and gritty, available in Spanish with English subtitles, or dubbed into English and other languages. Strap yourself in for about 90 minutes of this dark thriller and one of the best prison movies on Netflix.

Best prison series on Netflix

Orange is the New Black

No list of Netflix prison series will be complete without Orange is the New Black.

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, the story revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who is sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison.

While the series remains about Piper at its core, it has grown into its beast, fueled by award-winning performances from its excellent cast. The series is currently finalized with seven seasons, so go catch up on all your episodes.

Wentworth

It would be easy to dismiss Wentworth as the Australian Orange is the New Black (many have done so). However, featuring women in prison is as far as the similarities go.

Wentworth is a much darker, grittier take on life in a maximum security female prison.

The story follows Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), who is sent to jail for attempted murder, and chronicles her life as she struggles to survive. There are currently seven seasons of the show on Netflix. An eighth season has already been commissioned.

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons

The name of this Netflix prison series is self-explanatory. Hosted by Paul Connolly (season 1) and Raphael Rowe (season 2, 3, and 4), the series explores some of the most dangerous prisons, and a couple of really nice ones, around the world.

The hosts go into these prisons as voluntary inmates to provide an inside look at what it’s like. Being in prison is never good, but this series showcases how much worse some people have it.

First and Last

First and last series on Netflix

This series documents the first few days of new prisoners and the final days of those being released at Georgia’s Gwinnett County Jail. It’s an interesting and emotional exploration of what is often the worst and the best day for an inmate and how being in jail can change you. The first season is six episodes long.

Girls Incarcerated

girls incarcerated
Netflix

Girls Incarcerated provides a candid glimpse into the world of young women in Madison Juvenile Center. It showcases their trials, aspirations, and personal growth in an extreme environment.

The docu-series gives voice to the often-ignored stories of these young women and the endeavors to help them change.

More than just a bleak depiction, the series focuses on the relationships they build, making it a great addition to Netflix’s documentary selection.


Some of these prison movies on Netflix are entertaining, others are sad and gruesome. Prison isn’t pretty, and with so many shows and documentaries around, we can see both sides of life inside.

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