Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Elvis may not have been the greatest of actors, but when essentially playing himself he pulls it off – and he does that here, as a man thrown in the county jail for manslaughter, discovering his prodigious musical talents while in the joint and deciding to make a life as a star when he gets out. Rags to riches meets rock ‘n’ roll!
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
There’s a lot of wrongful imprisonment occurring in our list, and here’s one of the most famous fictional examples, as an innocent man is betrayed by his best friend over a woman – and sent to an horrific island prison for 13 years as a result. Ably adapted from Dumas’ novel, this story then becomes one of the great revenge tales, as Jim Caviezel’s Dantes forms an elaborate plot to get back the girl and settle the score with the wicked Mondego (Guy Pearce).
More revenge going on, as four New York boys wind up in a juvenile detention centre and are abused by the sadistic guards, only to get a chance opportunity for payback many years later. Sleepers’ all-star cast and intriguing moral questions make it well worth two hours of your time.
Take the Money and Run (1969)
While not regarded as one of Woody Allen’s better films – it’s his first as a director – Take the Money and Run is presented as documentary about the life of an inept, neurotic criminal (played, naturally, by Allen himself). A hundred real life convicts from the notorious San Quentin jail were drafted in as extras for the prison scenes.
The Great Escape (1963)
Based on the real life mass escape attempt from German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III (although Steve McQueen’s iconic “Cooler King” is sadly a work of fiction), The Great Escape works as a taut boys’ own thriller – perfect post-Christmas Dinner fodder – but its tragic ending lingers long in the memory.