The best-known prison flicks — The Shawshank Redemption, Papillon — center around guys. But there’s a distinct female side to the genre, consisting mostly of great seventies exploitation films, lurid fetish flicks, and (more recently) emotional porn for women. The two genres differ greatly, and, as with everything between the sexes, someone has to be the winner! So which gender does the prison movie best? The following breakdown will answer all your questions.
Any good women-in-prison movie has a title that grabs viewers with some combination of the words “cage,” “heat,” and “chain.” There’s Caged Heat, Chained Heat, Caged Fury, Caged Fear: you get the idea. No doubt the greatest women-in-prison movie ever would be named Hot Women of Chained Cages. Male prison movies opt for more diverse titles, but the word “escape” often figures prominently: Escape From Alcatraz, The Great Escape. The message: industrious men escape prisons. Women get caged and do hot stuff.
Winner: Women-in-prison movies. Shawshank‘s a great title, but you know exactly what you’re getting from Caged Heat.
Gratuitous nudity abounds in women-in-prison flicks. Not so much in their male counterparts. Sure, there are exceptions like Midnight Express, with its graphic man-on-man yoga, but most of the sex happening is brutal rape. On the other hand, naked ladies are the only reason anyone saw Caged Heat 3000. Yes, in a females-in-prison flicks you can count on strip searches, group shower scenes, naked prisoners doing hard labor, and plenty of lesbian shenanigans.
Winner: Women again. Sure, the sexploitation is misogynistic, but it beats watching Tim Robbins get raped.
Female protagonists are usually behind bars through little to no fault of their own: she’s falsely accused, killed in self-defense, or framed by a stranger like in Brokedown Palace. Men in prison? You can’t be sure. Red (Morgan Freeman) is guilty in Shawshank, and we don’t know about Andy (Tim Robbins). Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman)? Guilty too!
Winner: Men-in-prison movies. The thin moral line these guys walk just makes for far better characters than anything their female counterparts can muster.
Has there ever been a warden running a prison who wasn’t corrupt? Movies like Caged Heat and The Longest Yard both have wardens intent on enriching themselves. For the wardens of male prisons, it’s all about the money. In women’s prisons, it goes to the next (sexual) level — like the warden of Chained Heat forcing the prisoners into prostitution.
Winner: Men-in-prison movies. The wardens in women’s movies are too sleazy, even for prison.
The Grand Finale
Besides nudity, the most typical female-prison cliché is the wronged good gals winning. How? Riot! Whether planned or spontaneous, pure mayhem can be counted on to end the film. Male-prison movies are more subdued. Sure, in Shawshank and Escape From Alcatraz the heroes escape — but by digging, not rioting. And there are also the dramatic, deadly, and tragic endings of The Great Escape and Cool Hand Luke.
Winner: Men-in-prison movies. There’s real, touching, tragic, and thrilling drama that you’re not going to find in a movie called The Naked Cage.