9 fictional prisons you definitely don't want to end up in


Midnight Express did more to curb drug smuggling out of Turkey than any government initiative ever could. Because once you’ve seen, on a 40ft screen, the kind of filth and torture you might endure if you tried something stupid, well, you’re just not gonna even try.

But the crime-deterring power of the movies doesn’t stop at mostly true stories of Turkish prisons. Ask Claire Danes. Or anyone who’s ever played a character who ended up in one of these nine awful fictional prisons.

Camp Holiday Wedlock

Camp Holliday

Imagine, if you will, that you’re an inmate at this fictional futuristic prison minding your own business, maybe getting in your afternoon shoulder workout, and out of nowhere, oh, hey look, my head just got completely detonated right in the middle of my third set of Arnolds. This is the risk you run at Camp Holliday, where they take the classic “exploding bracelet that detonates 100 yards from the prison” and attach it to not only your neck, but also the neck of some other poor schmuck who’s going to find himself in several pieces should you try to escape. 

Gulag Muppets Most Wanted


Muppets Most Wanted
OK, yes, it has an annual singing and dancing revue that’s choreographed by Kermit the Frog. And, yes, the warden is about as intimidating as Liz Lemon. OK, it IS Liz Lemon. But, let’s not forget, it’s still a prison in the middle of freaking Siberia, and  you know what they do to you if you break the rules? Oh, just stick you to a frozen wall in the middle of a Siberian wasteland for as long as they feel like sticking you there. Which, if you’re not a puppet covered in fur, is pretty much a death sentence.

Rura Penthe Star Trek

Rura Penthe

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Lithium batteries are apparently the license plates and freeway signs of the future, because running afoul of the law in the 23rd century will land you in this Klingon clink where you’ll spend your days wielding a pickaxe mining for lithium. Which wouldn’t be so bad (OK, it would) if it weren’t perpetually freezing cold. The name actually appears in Transformers as well, but both Sci-Fi flicks stole it from the way less special effects-friendly prison in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

The Phantom Zone Superman

The Phantom Zone

Superman/Smallville/DC Comics
So, wait, commit a heinous crime on Krypton and the punishment is to NOT AGE for your entire sentence? Hand me that Kryptonian rif… what’s that? But you exist in a separate dimension for hundreds of years where you can see the world around you but can’t interact with anyone? That’s like spending eternity in North Korea. Don’t you have some exploding neck bracelets or something?

No Escape


No Escape
You ever take a cruise past those fancy private islands in the middle of the Caribbean and think to yourself, “Hmmm… I wonder what’s going to happen to those islands in the dystopian future when money can no longer protect you”? Well, they’ll all be penal colonies owned by private corporations where inmates are allowed to do whatever they want, up to and including eating each other. Think that’s a little far-fetched? This 1994 movie’s inciting incident involves a botched 2011 military operation in Benghazi. 

The Fortress

The Fortress

Spend an afternoon watching "The Maury Show" and you’ll think this version of 2017 America -- where you’re only allowed to have one child per female under penalty of prison -- sounds like a fantastic idea. Except finding out who's Little Nevaeh's father is irrelevant: she'll still be taken by the ManTell corporation and turned into a cyborg prison guard, eventually running the private prison where the mother is spending the next 30+ years with something called an “intestinator” in her stomach --  a swallowed device that inflicts gastrointestinal pain and occasionally death as a form of penal mind control.

That exploding neck thing doesn't sound so bad right now.

Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum

Batman/DC Comics
You don’t ever see those "funny" signs around the offices of Gotham City’s most notorious mental asylum that say “You don’t have to be crazy to work here -- but it helps!” Partly because we assume people in Gotham are more original than that, but also EVERY DIRECTOR EVER in the history of this place has gone completely insane; a direct result of working at a place that has to be kept cold enough for Mr. Freeze to say alive, but warm enough so Killer Croc has somewhere to sun himself. This also might explain why it’s easier to escape from Arkham than from an afternoon sales meeting.

Robert Redford Brubaker

Wakefield State Prison

Just looking like a 1980 Robert Redford and finding yourself in prison is scary enough. But when that prison is a lawless gangland full of food that’ll give you ringworm, guards killing prisoners and burying them in unmarked graves, torture, and of course prison rape, it kind of has you wishing for intestinators. This story of a corrupt Arkansas prison is actually a fictionalized account of a 1967 Arkansas prison scandal, so while Wakefield is completely made up, what happens there is, terrifyingly, not.

Crematoria Triple Max

Crematoria Triple Max

Chronicles of Riddick
If you took Chicago's seasons and shrunk them down to 52 hours, you’d pretty much get a typical day on this prison planet, where the days are so hot and the nights so cold that you freeze or cremate on contact, save for maybe 20 minutes a day. Good thing Richard Riddick can escape a Slam in 20 minutes, or this might be a problem. Never mind that this is a triple-max security joint carved into the planet’s surface. That stuff is kid’s play.

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