The 20 Best Women in Prison Movies

7. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)

Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion

Nami (Meiko Kaji) is set up by her boyfriend Sugimi, a corrupt cop working for the Yakuza crime syndicate. After being raped by drug dealers, she attempts to kill Sugimi, but is sentenced to a women’s prison and is given the number 701.

A sadistic warden with sleazy male guards run the prison and force the women to walk around naked. Nami aka Scorpion befriends a couple inmates, while on the outside, her ex-boyfriend and the Japanese mafia plot to orchestrate 701’s death by accident.

Based on Toru Shinohara’s comic, “Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion” is the first in series of revenge films directed by Shunya Ito and featuring Meiko Kaji in the lead role. The original Japanese version is eighty-seven minutes, while the French release had four minutes trimmed. In July 2016, a Blu-ray DVD box set will be released with all four films, which include “Jailhouse 41”, “Beast Stable” and “Grudge Song”.


8. Caged Heat (1974)

Caged Heat (1974)

Jacqueline (Erica Gavin) is brought up on drug charges and sentenced to serve time. In the prison, she and her fellow inmates perform a skit that the warden McQueen (Barbara Steele) takes contempt with.

Meanwhile, the doctor performs illegal electroshock experiments and rapes prisoners who are drugged up. Eventually, the convicts decide to rise up against all the oppressive forces and conspire to break out.

Written and directed by Jonathan Demme (in his debut), “Caged Heat” aka “Renegade Girls” was released by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. The feature brought something more novel to the genre by infusing liberal politics, feminism and social consciousness, rather sticking to strictly exploitative elements. Former member of the Velvet Underground, John Cale, composed the soundtrack.


9. Jackson County Jail (1976)

Jackson County Jail (1976)

Los Angeles advertising agent Dinah (Yvette Mimieux) catches her boyfriend cheating and decides to quit her job to head to New York for a new beginning. While riding a rural highway, she picks up two hitchhikers who rob and beat her.

When cops from Jackson Country arrives, they arrest her for not having any identification. While in her cell, a cop rapes Dinah, who retaliates by killing him. Along with another convict, Coley (Tommy Lee Jones), they form a bond and attempt to flee town.

Directed by Michael Miller and a script by Donald E. Stewart, “Jackson County Jail” is a cult classic of the drive-in circuit. Released by Roger Corman’s New World Productions, it was presented as “based on a true story”, but is strictly fictional. Due its underground success, the subgenre of Hixploitation was born and features the likes of “Deliverance” and “Gator Bait”.


10. Nazi Love Camp 27 (1977)

Nazi Love Camp 27 (1977)

When WWII breaks out, a Jewish woman Hanna (Sirpa Lane) is taken to a concentration camp. She and another captive are gang raped by SS soldiers, then the latter dies while attempting to escape. Because of Hanna’s blonde hair and blue eyes, she is forced to work in a “love camp” to service Nazi troops and breed babies for the Third Reich.

The commandant develops a fondness for her and they become lovers, but is then made a Madame of a brothel. Meanwhile, Hanna’s former boyfriend, Klaus, who is also a Nazi soldier, is searching for her.

Directed by Mario Caiano (William Hawkins), “Nazi Love Camp 27” is an Italian Nazisploitation film that plays like a thought provoking drama, but with excessive violence and nudity. Caiano was known primarily for directing westerns and horror films, but ventured into this territory with the success of the American film “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” and many other titles released mainly in Italy during the late 1970s. The genre remains a guilty pleasure that only a sorted few can admit to having a fetish for.


11. Ilsa/Greta/Wanda, The Wicked Warden (1977)

The Wicked Warden (1977)

Ilsa/Greta/Wanda (Dyanne Thorne) is a sadistic warden of a psychiatric hospital for women. Without her knowledge, Abby (Tania Busselier) is a new patient who is searching for her sister, Rosa.

What she isn’t aware of is that Ilsa uses the women create pornography by forcing them to have sex with the male inmates. Before long Abby is sexually pursed by Juana (Lina Romay) who is also one of the warden’s lovers and the leader of the hospital’s inmates.

Directed by Jesus “Jess” Franco with a script co-written with Erwin C. Deitrich, “Wanda, The Wicked Warden” is the third film in a series of four “Ilsa” features, with Dyanne Thorne. Originally released in Germany as “Greta: Haus Ohne Manner”, but was subjected to multiple titles, script re-writes and English dubbings in order to benefit commercially.

All of the films (“She Wolf of the SS, “Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks”, “Wicked Warden” and “Tigress of Siberia”) were considered to be Video Nasties and heavily censored.


12. Human Experiments (1979)

Human Experiments (1979)

A country singer, Rachel (Linda Haynes), travels alone on the road. After resisting the advances of a bar owner, she hops into her car, speeds off and has a crash. Wandering into what she believes is an abandoned house, Rachel discovers the aftermath of a gruesome multiple murder perpetrated by a disturbed little boy.

The bar owner’s brother who is the sheriff finds the innocent musician, arrests her and is promptly committed to a psychiatric prison. The chief doctor has developed radical techniques in order to cure the criminally insane.

Written, produced and directed by Gregory Goodell, “Human Experiments” was one of the original 72 Video Nasties. Although the film passed uncut, it has still never been made available in the UK. As for Goodell, it would be his only theatrically released sexploitation film. Ever since 1986, all of his work as a writer, director and producer has been for tame made-for-television features.


13. Bare Behind Bars (1980)

Bare Behind Bars

In a Brazilian women’s prison, corruption and control are part of the Warden Sylvia’s way of keeping the inmates in line. All but one of the guards are sadistic. Antics range from murderous to orgiastic and underwear is prohibited in an effort to prevent contraband.

The warden pimps out the inmates to lesbians who are wealthy. Barbara, the insane nurse, and three of the convicts devise a plot to escape via a carnival with the hopes of never being discovered.

Written and directed by Oswaldo de Oliveira, “Bare Behind Bars” was known as “A Prisao” in its home country of Brazil. Banned in the UK, but overturned in 1994, two versions exist: eighty-seven minutes for the Netherlands and ninety-five minutes for the US release.

Many consider this to be “the mother of all WIP” films for its wall-to-wall nudity, graphic violence and exploitive escapades. Not for all tastes, but one not to be missed.