What’s your favorite prison movie?

Yesterday I was talking with one group about the best prison movies. The first one I thought of was “Escape from Alcatraz.” (Japanese title: アルカトラズからの脱出) It’s an old movie (1979), but a classic.


But then I thought of “The Shawshank Redemption,” (1994) which is really one of the best movies I’ve ever seen (Japanese title: ショーシャンクの空に). There are a few scenes that are kind of hard to watch, but if you haven’t seen it already, go out and rent it next time you have a couple of free hours. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed watching it.

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” (from “The Shawshank Redemption”)

And another movie that takes place at Alcatraz is “The Rock” (1996, Japanese title: ザ・ロック). This one has much more action and violence, but it’s an enjoyable couple of hours of rooting for the underdog.

And then there’s “Escape to Victory” (1981, Japanese title 勝利への脱出). This movie combines Sylvester Stallone, WW2 and soccer. It’s a little silly but it’s very enjoyable, especially seeing a much younger Pelé do his thing. Most of the players are not actors but professional soccer players. This movie shows up on cable TV a lot in Japan.

As for books, there is of course The Count of Monte Cristo, the classic 19th century French novel by Alexandre Dumas (also referenced in “The Shawshank Redemption” in a very funny scene, by the way). There have been several movies made out of it. The most recent, as far as I know, is the 2002 version starring Jim Caviezel (Japanese title: モンテ・クリスト伯), which was very enjoyable:

And on TV there was “Prison Break,” which I actually never saw, but it was very popular with students a few years ago.

Notice that most of these stories involve escaping from prison. Is that what makes a good prison movie?

Watching movies is a great way to get some English input and also learn some things about the culture of the country — and the era —  it portrays. Practicing your “language noticing” as you compare the English to the Japanese subtitles. You might even try a little shadowing, too.

I also like reading through the Trivia section of imdb after (or while) watching movies. Sometimes you can learn some interesting and surprising things. This is from “Escape to Victory”:

Victory trivia

2 thoughts on “What’s your favorite prison movie?

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