The 10 Most Hellish Movie Prisons

By  · Published on April 25th, 2013

by David Christopher Bell


Prison sounds like hell. You’re locked in one room, barely going outside while you are forced to sit around all day and like… read and watch TV and shit. I hear there are movie nights and exercise equipment as well. You’d probably get really fit, and hell – you’d be socializing for once in your life.

Okay, when I describe it like that, prison sounds all right. In movies it varies, especially when the film doesn’t exactly take place in our own reality. They cane be comedic, nightmarish and, in some cases, musical. They can also be like hell.

Here are the ones that look like the biggest pains to reside in – places where, in a world where you have to either get busy living or get busy dying, the latter would probably be best.

10. Manhattan Island in Escape From New York

Manhattan only barely makes the list here. Why? Because even though it’s now a penal colony, it’s still freaking Manhattan. Sure, it’s filled with dangerous criminals, insufficient living area and low quality of life, but that’s city life for ya. Why not make the best of a bad situation? Australia did it.

There has to be some order to this world – after all, we only see it when Air Force Freaking One crashes into it – of course it’s going to be an off day. But if there’s people like Ernest Borgnine and his cab making an honest living, than they must have figured out that it’s better to just play town than play war.


9. Fiorina 161 in Alien 3

Fiorina’s real problem is that it looks shittier than it is. When you take into account that pretty much everything in the Aliens universe looks like a high school basement, the prison doesn’t seem half bad. It’s actually more spacious than a lot of what we’ve seen in the franchise. Heck, as we see in a deleted scene, it even has a beach. Sure – it’s a pretty dismal shoreline, but so is New England and people still live there.

Anyway, death – that’s kind of the big problem that makes this place not so great. When you have no guns, armor, or even hair and you’re facing off against a xenomorph playing grabby with anyone hanging around an open duct, things go sour pretty quick.


8. The Rura Penthe Mines in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Is it just me or does everything the Klingons build look like a goth night club? Rura Penthe was the Hoth of the Star Trek universe. The planet is warm and volatile on the inside, frozen solid on the outside – kind of like a reverse Hot Pocket. As a prison it’s pretty standard, only with bigger things that could kick your ass or, lord forgive, have their way with you.

That said, there was a lady there… sort of. Actually, it was almost better than a lady, it was a shapeshifter. Just imagine how popular one of those would be is prison.

7. Erewhon Prison in Face/Off

Funny, for a prison with magnetic boots, no-bullshit punishment, miles of water surrounding it, and a freaking torture chair, you’d think it wouldn’t suck so much. Seriously now, they dump John Travolta wearing Nicolas Cage’s face in this mother – Cage being public enemy number one – and he’s able to get out in about a day. Isn’t this supposed to be the best prison in the nation or something like that?

This speaks more to why this place sucks than the harshness of the environment; it’s one thing being trapped in a hellhole of constant physical violence, but it’s a whole other thing when your captors are a bunch of clowns. How often do you bet they just straight up forget to feed people in this place? If they can’t even hold onto a prisoner (which is like, their one job), how do they manage to fix simple problems like plumbing or basic medical care?

6. The Pit in The Dark Knight Rises

It’s barbaric when you think about it – what kind of monster would stick people in a prison that only gets one TV channel set to the news for a city on the other side of the world? Did Bane have to set something up with Direct TV for that or what? How does the pit of despair hook up its cable?

Anyway, that place is such a shit hole they probably only have a VCR hooked to that thing. I can just picture the VHS shelf now with like, a bunch of National Geographic docs and maybe a copy of The Aristocats and Death Becomes Her or something like that. God it’s worse than hell.


5. Azkaban Prison in the Harry Potter Franchise


Here’s a question – they must take their wands at Azkaban, right? Otherwise they could like… turn them into shivs or, you know, magic their way out of there or whatever. But do they even need wands to magic stuff? Harry lets a snake out of his cage in the first one wand-free, and there’s like tons of other occasions like that in the series. So how do you hold magic people in cells? I guess the answer is: not very well.

After all, Azkaban is yet another case of a scary prison that is run terribly. It’s in the middle of the ocean guarded by death clones and yet people just keep bouncing from it left and right. Kind of makes you think that place sucks in general.


4. Crematoria in The Chronicles of Riddick

You know… what with the giant alien dog monsters, the horrible jagged surfaces, gang violence, cup-related injury, and systematic and ritualistic inmate-lowering process, it’s almost as if the people at Crematoria don’t want you to rehabilitate.

What sucks about Crematoria is that even if you get out, you’re still pretty much out of luck. The planet is an asshole and super-cooks anything stupid enough to be outside, so there are pretty much no natural resources. It’s like South Dakota. In a story about a ghost race of alien invaders with a H.R. Giger fetish, this prison is the worst part.


3. The Phantom Zone in Superman


The Phantom Zone is a perfect example of how badly Kryptonians can blow things off. In the films it seems like a last-minute writing decision, but it actually exists in the comics as well. It was a mysterious dimension that they actually discovered and then created portals to. Then they decided the best way to use this discovery was to throw prisoners in it, which is not unlike us discovering a time portal and using it to dump our old beer cans. Seriously, why was prison the first thought for this place?

Anyway, from what we see it looks like pretty much nothing is going on in there – which sounds unbearable to the core. It’s just a big… place… or something like that. And then it gets tossed into space or whatever. Hell, you don’t even have to be that bad to get in there – if you remember Superman II, Non’s only stated crime is that he’s a dumbass. They just say, “Non you’re stupid, get in the space hole” and that’s that.

2. The Private Prison in Oldboy

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”


While the Phantom Zone is a big empty space, there’s really nothing than a tacky hotel room with basic cable. The prison in Oldboy relies on the simple punishment of repetition and environment, not unlike dishwashing at Denny’s.

While the gentle lighting and shag carpet seems more inviting than most cells, it’s actually what makes the situation way worse. With a cell, you have an excuse to grow stronger – you have fellow inmates to interact with, variety in your day. The prison in Oldboy is designed to swallow you up like a big dingy cocoon. Still, it’s better than 100% of college dorm rooms.

1. The Storage Facility in Ghostbusters

It’s funny how, until the Ghostbusters came along, there was no threat of apocalypse. It kind of makes you think that they might have been the problem after all. In fact, why would it not piss off the afterlife to have a bunch of guys sliding down poles trapping ghosts and putting them all together in some paranormal containment unit – can you even imagine what it’s like in there?

Look at the ghosts – they range from innocent jogger to Titanic victims to giant-mouthed ghouls. Is there any sense of separation once they all get stuck in that big red machine, or is it just a phantom battle royale? When you think about it, the Ghostbusters basically created a second-hell. A man made one. That’s why the paranormal keeps coming after them, because the devil doesn’t like competition.

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