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. Reel life is completely different, though. 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!
Best prison movies and series on Netflix
Best prison movies on Netflix:
Best Netflix prison shows:
Note: We’ll continue to update this list as more prison movies and series on Netflix are released.
Best prison movies on Netflix
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.
2. The Fear of 13
The Fear of 13 is a documentary following the story of Nick Yarris, who spent 22 years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of murder. He was released in 2004 after DNA evidence helped overturn his conviction. We may know how this story ends, but this documentary is full of twists and turns as it explores different events of his life.
3. The Stanford Prison Experiment
Some may be familiar with the Stanford prison experiment, and this 2015 drama brings that true tale to life. Philip Zimbardo, a psychology professor at Stanford, offers twenty random students the opportunity to take on roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison setting. The students lose themselves in their assigned roles, with the guards becoming more abusive, while the prisoners edge towards psychological breakdowns. It’s an interesting, albeit horrifying, exploration of the prison dynamic and the human condition.
4. Shot Caller
Shot Caller is more fictional, with the key role of Jacob Harlon, a Califonia stockbroker, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and highly recognizable from his Game Of Thrones days. The movie involves a fatal DUI accident sending Harlon, on his lawyer’s advice, to prison on a negotiated 16 months sentence. While incarcerated, he becomes involved with a violent white supremacist gang. The twist is prison violence keeps Harlon in much longer, and he spirals into a life of crime. It’s not exactly a brand new narrative but it’s fast-paced, if not disturbing, especially in these times. It’s definitely one of the best prison movies on Netflix you can watch.
5. 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.
Best prison series on Netflix
1. 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.
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.
3. 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 and 3), 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.
4. First and last
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.
5. Time: The Kalief Browder Story
This series documents the heart-breaking and horrifying tale of Kalief Browder. The high school student was accused of stealing a backpack at 16 and sent to prison because his family couldn’t afford the $900 bail. Despite never being convicted, Browder spent three years at Rikers Island, two of them in solitary confinement. This six-episode series is one that I highly recommend, even if it isn’t an easy watch.
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.