A prison film is a film genre concerned with prison life and often prison escape. These films range from acclaimed dramas examining the nature of prisons, such as Cool Hand Luke, Midnight Express, Brubaker, Escape from Alcatraz, The Shawshank Redemption, and Kiss of the Spider Woman to actioners like Lock Up and Undisputed, and even comedies satirizing the genre like Stir Crazy, Life, and Let's Go to Prison. Prison films have been asserted to be "guilty of oversimplifying complex issues, the end result of which is the proliferation of stereotypes". For example, they are said to perpetuate "a common misperception that most correctional officers are abusive", and that prisoners are "violent and beyond redemption".
Themes repeatedly visited in the action films include escape attempts, gang activities inside the prison, efforts of wrongly convicted persons to prove their innocence, and guard and management cruelty. An entire subgenre of films exists where the toughest prisoners are permitted (or forced) to engage in boxing matches or martial arts bouts, replete with high-stakes wagering on the outcomes. Another subgenre exists of sexploitation films featuring women in prison engaging in sexual activities. These various theme elements may be meshed together, where for example a prisoner forced to fight uses the occasion to plan an escape.