Most prisoners aren't lucky enough to have Russell Crowe break them out of prison (as he does for Elizabeth Banks in 'The Next Three Days.') Your average prison break takes long hours of plotting, digging of tunnels and careful collaboration to pull off. Unless you're a badass like 'Watchmen's Rorschach and you can just wait for the first prison riot to make your move.

We rounded up some of the best movies ever made about breaking out of the big house and a few classic escape scenes (like Magneto's elegant exit from a plastic prison) that were too spectacular to be ignored.
7. 'A Man Escaped' (1956)
For those of you who like your prison escape films as close to reality as possible, this documentary-like, neorealist film from director Robert Bresson recreates the true life escape by a French soldier from a Nazi prison fortress where 7,000 of 10,000 men perished during World War II.

6. 'Brute Force' (1947)
Film noirs don't get much grittier than this one: Burt Lancaster stars as the leader of a group of inmates who stand up to a sadistic warden (played, unbelievably, by the usually sweet Hume Cronyn, later of 'Cocoon' fame). There's no turning back once their elaborate plan is set in motion. One of Lancaster's absolute best films, with an unforgettable final scene and chilling closing line.

5. 'Cool Hand Luke' (1967)
This film is best known for Paul Newman's egg-eating challenge and the line -- delivered by moviedom's most redneck lawman ever -- "What we have here is a failure to communicate." It's all lighthearted hijinks, like the arbitrary prank that lands Newman's character in jail, until you realize this is the spiritual precursor to 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'

4. 'The Great Escape' (1963)
If Steve McQueen had made only this one film, with just that one scene where he attempts to jump a high barbed-wire fence on his motorcycle, he'd still be an icon all these years later. 'Chicken Run' paid fond homage to McQueen's "Cooler King," who never stops trying to break out of a German POW camp, but let's not forget this is (loosely) based on a true story about a real mass escape from Stalag Luft III. Beloved by many but ouch, that ending!

3. 'Escape From Alcatraz' (1979)
Alcatraz, that lonely island prison in frigid San Francisco Bay, was supposedly inescapable, but in 1962, four men somehow made it out. This is the story of how those men managed to pull off the impossible, step by grueling step. Star Clint Eastwood is every inch as tough and immovable an object as The Rock. Watch a clip here.

2. 'Grand Illusion' (1937)
It's been called by many critics one of the greatest films ever made: Without Jean Renoir's half-whimsical, half-heartbreaking tale of World War I French prisoners' repeated escape attempts from the hands of the Germans, there'd be no 'Stalag 17.' Director Erich Von Stroheim plays the sympathetic Prussian commandant who understands, yet still must prevent, any attempt to escape from his mountain fortress. Watch a clip at

1. 'The Shawshank Redemption' (1994)
In movies, we often root for even the hardest criminals to break free because we can't stand to see someone caged, but when it's a wholly innocent man, like Andy (Tim Robbins), that long-awaited escape is even sweeter. Andy's jubilation when he finally feels the rain on his face outside is a thing of beauty. Here's the entire, brilliant escape sequence:

And, because we're just a little obsessed, we offer these unforgettable prison escape scenes:

5. 'Out of Sight' (1998)
When Jack Foley (George Clooney) breaks out of this jail, it's not that impressive: The place isn't exactly Fort Knox. No, this scene is memorable because he happens to scoop up a federal Marshall (Jennifer Lopez) on his way to his getaway car, followed by the sexiest stuck-in-a-trunk scene you'll ever see.

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4. 'Public Enemies' (2009)
When he's finally nabbed, there's no keeping John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) behind bars. His clever lawyer convinces the authorities to keep him in a local lock-up, instead of something a bit more secure, so his partners in crime have no problem busting out the FBI's most wanted.
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3. 'X2: X-Men United' (2003)
How to keep a mutant who can manipulate metal in jail? Build a prison cell made entirely of plastic. Of course, Magneto (Ian McKellen) finds a way around that, thanks to pal Mystique, who spikes the guard's drink with "too much iron."

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2. 'Face/Off' (1997)
In this loony but way too much fun John Woo action flick, good guy John Travolta and bad guy Nicolas Cage trade faces, landing Cage (who's really Travolta) in a prison where the inmates are kept in place by magnetized boots. The only time the boots come off is for shock therapy, so Cage starts a riot to land there. His escape is as out-of-control as the rest of the movie.

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1. 'Watchmen' (2009)
How does Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) get out of his cell without lifting a finger? Sheer smarts. And a bit of luck: The prison kingpin is so determined to get to Rorschach, he'll sacrifice his own thugs -- warning! the clip below is for mature audiences only. And so is the extended scene. When fellow superheroes come to rescue Rorschach, they find he's already free.
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