It seems that every once in a while prison becomes a “thing” in popular culture. Recently there have been a couple of high profile escapes and Orange is the New Black is one of the most popular shows out there. Other shows like Prison Break and Oz were America’s prison fix during their respective runs. There are several other “reality” shows about prison, Breakout, I Escaped: Real Prison Breaks, and Lockup which take viewers on the inside to get a first hand glimpse of prison life. For me, landing in prison is one of my biggest fears, second only to alligators. After listening to the Serial podcast I make sure I keep the GPS tracker on my phone all the time and try to have a brief conversation everywhere I go. You always need a strong alibi and I try to make sure I’ve got that. You never know when you’re going to end up the slammer though, and for such an occasion you need to make sure you’ve got a proper plan for getting out. To help you make these preparations here is a list of some of the best prison escapes in pop culture history. (Spoiler Alert: Spoilers for all movies to follow) (Disclaimer: These are not guaranteed to work, you should make sure you get a good lawyer so you don’t need to try these out)
Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
Of course this would be on this list. Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank is an iconic moment and the following retribution he had set up is perfect. From his patience, he was in Shawshank 19 years, to his masterful planning, Andy’s escape sets the bar for all would-be prison escapees. Using the rock hammer he procured to make a chess set, Dufresne tunneled through the walls of Shawshank to the sewer. Once in the sewer, Dufresne crawled through the waste in the sewer and came out the other end a free man. The lesson here is to have patience when planning your escape. Also make sure that upon your escape you are able to have enough evidence and resources available to bring down the corrupt officials running the prison you were stuck in.
Magneto, X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past
Magneto is one of Marvel’s best villains. As such, he occasionally found himself behind bars, plastic ones at that. In these two films Magneto found himself in a specially constructed prison which did not have any metal, due to his ability to manipulate it. In X2, Magneto breaks out due to the guard’s increases iron content in his blood. In Days of Future Past he is whisked out by Quicksilver with the help of Charles Xavier and Wolverine. As powerful as Magneto was, he still needed help to escape. The lesson here is to make sure you have friends willing and able to assist in your breakout, especially if you have friends with special powers.
Edmond DantÃ¨s, The Count of Monte Cristo
After being betrayed by his best friend, Edmond DantÃ¨s finds himself locked up in the ChÃ¢teau d’If, a prison fortress located by a cliff on an island. After meeting a fellow prisoner who had tunneled in the wrong direction, DantÃ¨s spent years trying to tunnel out of the prison. After the other prisoner dies, DantÃ¨s replaces him in the body bag and is then carried out of the prison and thrown over the cliff into Mediterranean Sea. Prior to being thrown, however, a ball and chain had been fixed. DantÃ¨s grabs the keys from the warden, pulling him over the edge with him. Once in the water and freed, DantÃ¨s kills the tortuous warden and embarks on an epic quest of revenge against those who conspired to put him in prison. The lesson here is to befriend an old friend while on the inside so you can take their place in the body bag when they die. Make sure this friend has a secret treasure which can bankroll your extravagant revenge. You also may want to double check that the prison you’re in does in fact dispose of dead bodies the same way an early 19th century prison fortress did.
Allied POW’s, The Great Escape
For those of who are more socially oriented and want to make more than one old friend in prison, this is the escape plan for you. In The Great Escape, a group of prisoners organize to escape from a Nazi POW camp believed to be escape-proof. Throughout the movie the group attempts to dig three tunnels for the proposed escape, but are rebuffed several times. Eventually they complete one of the tunnels and 76 escape and begin their dash to friendly borders to complete their escape. The ending is not exactly happy, as most of the escapees do not reach freedom, but the run for freedom is one of the more exciting sequences I’ve seen. The lesson in The Great Escape is to be organized and persistent in your escape efforts.
Frank Morris, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, Escape from Alzatraz
Like the previous film, Escape from Alcatraz is based on the true story of an escape from one of the most notorious prisons in America. Morris, the Anglin brothers, and Charley Butts devise a plan to tunnel through the weakened concrete in their cell walls and escape through the walls of Alcatraz, then using homemade rafts to cross the water to their freedom. To buy them time while they escape, paper mÃ¢chÃ© heads are made and placed on their bunks to look like the men sleeping. On the night of the escape, Butts’ is unable to get through his tunnel so Morris and the Anglin brothers go on without him. The movie does not show whether they crossed the bay and reached their freedom, however an implicit clue is left which suggests they succeeded. The lesson here is to become adept at random hobbies such as paper mÃ¢chÃ© and homemade raft making so that you can utilize these new skills in your escape plan.
Tony Perkis is a mildly sadistic fitness freak who takes ownership of Camp Hope, a camp for overweight children. For years Camp Hope was a fun place for everyone (I’m still looking forward to actually jumping on “the blob” someday). Perkis takes over and turns the camp into a true weight loss camp, using shame and embarrassment as motivators. After being forced on a hike, the campers rebels against Perkis, and take him prisoner. Perkis disables the electric fence holding him in, then fashions a fake Hershey Kiss wrapper out of some aluminum foil. Using the fake chocolate, Perkis lures his captor to the fence then grabs him and breaks out. The lesson here is to study your guard so you can exploit there weaknesses in your escape.