Women in Prison Films

Women in Prison (WIP) is an exploitation subgenre that began in the late 50’s but has it’s golden age in the early 70’s. Until today WIP continue to be made as a low budget films. And has influence directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez the biggest examples Grinhouse, Death Proof or Jackie Brown.

This genre usually feature sadistic lesbian wardens or brutal male wardens, an innocent girl being wrongfully sent to a pen, lesbian scenes, gratuitous shower scenes, cruel beatings and cat fights.

Here is a list of some of the most famous WIP films.

10. Women in Cell block  7 (1973)

Directed by Rino De Silvestro

Written by Rino De Silvestro and Jack Lyons

A woman goes behind bars in order to save her father’s life.


9. Chained Heat (1983) 

Directed by Paul Nicholas

Written by Paul Nicholas and Aaron Butler

Carol, a young woman who must serve 18 months in prison after killing a man (by accident). The prison turns out to be brimming with decadence, corruption and sleaze, where the other female inmates are sadistic crack-selling lesbian rapists and the guards and warden are no better. Racial tensions are high as the inmates is divided into two factions, blacks and whites, who must either join together against the management or kill each other trying.

8. Barbed wire dolls (1975)

Directed by Jesus Franco

Written by Jesus Franco and Christine Lembach

Maria who is jailed after killing her father who tries to rape her


7. 99 women (1969)

Written and Directed by Jesus Franco

As three women are sentenced to an island prison off the Panamanian coast, only to encounter torture, rape, and lesbianism. When sympathetic Warden Caroll replaces Diaz, the prisoners assume that conditions will improve, but their agony only worsens until they decide to escape.

6. Caged Heat (1974)

Written and Directed by Jonathan Demme

A girl is caught in a drug bust and sent to the hoosegow. The iron-handed superintendent takes exception to a skit performed by the girls and takes punitive steps, aided by the sadistic doctor who is doing illegal electroshock experiments and raping drugged prisoners. After a while the prisoners put away their petty differences and plan the Big Prison Escape.

5. Escape from Hell (1980) 

Directed by Edoardo Mulargia

Written by Sergio Chiusi

A women’s prison camp is located deep in the tropical rain forest. Sadistic guards and a warden from hell make life almost unbearable for the inmates, and any infraction of the rules is dealt with swiftly and savagely. The camp doctor is horrified at what he sees happening, and drinks heavily to push the horror away. Finally the inmates have had had enough, and they enlist the help of the doctor to try and escape.

4. Sweet Sugar (1972)

Directed by Michel Levesque

Written by Don Spencer

Prostitute Sugar is set up by a corrupt politician. She is convinced of the futility of appealing her case in the courts and signs on to a chain gang run by the notorious Dr. John who performs cruel medical experiments on the people who work for him.

3. Women in Cages (1971)

Directed by Gerardo de Leon

Written by David Osterhout and James H. Watkins


Carol ‘Jeff’ Jeffries is set up by her boyfriend who she doesn’t realise runs a ship-board prostitution, gambling and drug dealing empire. Thrown into a harsh prison she encounters Alabama, a sadistic lesbian guard fond of torture. Cell mate Stokes is a heroin addict who agrees to a plot involving Jeff, that will secure her more heroin. Another cell mate Sandy also agrees to a plot involving Jeff, that could secure her own release. Their other cellmate Theresa  is Alabama’s girlfriend.

Realising her boyfriend is not helping her, Jeff hopes to escape through the jungle, but learns that local poachers are paid to track and kill escapers – who inevitably become lost in the wilds surrounding the prison. When Theresa falls foul of Alabama and loses her privileged position in the cell block, escape becomes an attractive option to her. Theresa reveals that she knows the jungle well and can obtain outside help. Despite the fact that two of her three cellmates had previously agreed to covert plots involving Jeff, all three of her cellmates – Sandy, Stokes and Theresa – agree to accompany her on the escape.

 2. The Big Bird Cage (1972)

Written and Directed by Jack Hill.

A buxom bad girl named Blossom is the rough-and-ready girlfriend of a radical guerrilla leader named Django. But when Django’s mercenary friends itch for some female companionship, they devise a plan to liberate the inmates of a local women’s prison. With the help of another new inmate, Blossom and Django go up against a tyrannical warden to stage an explosive breakout.

1. The Big Doll House (1971)

Directed by Jack Hill

Written by Don Spencer

Collier enters prison, having been found guilty of killing her husband. She is introduced to the pulchritudinous companions of her cell, in for crimes ranging from political insurgency to heroin addiction. The women trade tiffs, which leads to their torture by sadistic guard Lucian. The torture ceremonies are viewed by an impassive cloaked figure.

Collier’s cellmates Alcott and Bodine plan to escape. Collier and another cellmate Ferina agree to go along. Assisting is their other lesbian cellmate Grear, though there are doubts Grear’s heroin addict girlfriend Harrad will be equipped to escape.

Ferina, Alcott and Bodine break from the solitary confinement sauna and take their revenge on Lucian. The escapers wield guns, attitude, and a vacillating feminist/submissive sexuality to free themselves.

During their escape they round up various personnel from the prison as hostages, taking elegant prison warden Miss Dietrich, sympathetic prison medic Dr Phillips, and two local men regularly allowed access to the prison to sell market produce.

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