Scroll To Top

13 Unforgettable Films and Shows About Queer Prison Life

13 Unforgettable Films and Shows About Queer Prison Life


As we revel in season three of Orange Is the new Black — busting out Friday morning on Netflix — let’s take a look at some other culture-defining LGBT prison moments in film and television.

13-unforgettable-films-and-shows-about-queer-prison-life-x968_0While Orange Is the New Black -- Netflix's prison drama with a bisexual protagonist and several other LGBT characters -- is loved by critics and audiences alike, most prison-themed entertainment has treated LGBT characters unevenly at best. For every Kiss of the Spider-Woman, there's a Girls in Prison. So while some films and shows have depicted what life is really like behind bars, others have just played to salacious fantasies. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't still love them. WARNING: Many of these trailers are NSFW, including their default images. (Above: Brad Davis in Midnight Express)

Locked Up

This racy prison film, released in 2004, follows the story of a new inmate named Dennis and an older one named Mike, who must face angry prison officials and fellow inmates who violently object to their budding romance.

Kiss of the Spider-Woman

Kiss of the Spider-Woman broke a lot of ground in 1985 -- taking home top honors at Cannes and becoming one of the first independent films to be nominated for all of the big Oscars. Also notably, William Hurt became the first performer to win Best Actor for playing a gay man. The story takes place in a South American prison where two male inmates begin a relationship.

I Love You Phillip Morris

Released in 2010, this dramedy follows the life of Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a once-conservative police officer who's married to a woman. After a car crash, Russell realizes he's gay and pledges to live life to the fullest. After several run-ins with the law, Russell is imprisoned, where he meets the love of his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).

Chained Heat

Chained Heat, released in 1983, is the story of a woman named Carol (Linda Blair), who accidentally kills a man in a car accident and is sentenced to 18 months in the clink. Upon her arrival, she gets acquainted with the inmates, most of whom are drug-addicted lesbians. Throughout the film, the women must learn to come together to fight the system or die fighting one another.


In this 1950 film, 19-year-old Marie Allen (Eleanor Parker) is sent to prison after participating in a botched robbery in which her husband was killed. Once Marie arrives in prison, a medical exam reveals she is two months pregnant. While the film was not overtly gay -- censorship would have prevented that at the time -- the lesbian undertones are hard to miss.

Women's Prison Massacre

This 1983 horror film follows Emanuelle, a reporter sent to prison on trumped-up charges. Once she arrives, she witnesses inmates being treated poorly and tortured by prison officials. The film leaves nothing to the imagination, including catfights, shower scenes, and lesbian love.

Black Mama, White Mama

There's no shortage of lesbianism in this exploitative 1973 movie starring Pam Grier and taking place in an exotic, war-torn location. Wrestling in the showers, women chained together, and, of course, catfights feature in this violent film that played at drive-ins across the country.



From 1997 to 2003, this one-hour HBO series defied countless taboos. The title is a nickname given for the Oswald State Correctional Facility in New York (the same state where OITNB is set!). The show follows the life of prison manager Tim McManus and his attempts to keep control over the inmates. The on-again, off-again relationship between Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergeson) and Chris Keller (Chris Meloni) was one of the series' most compelling story arcs.


The Farm (L Word spin-off)

The Farm was a spin-off of Showtime's lesbian drama The L Word, putting Alice (Leisha Hailey) in prison for the murder of her friend Jenny (Mia Kirshner). Because the pilot was never picked up for development into a series, The Farm, costarring Famke Janssen, Melissa Leo, and Laurie Metcalf,was the OITNB that never was. Since there are no clips from this pilot, here's a racy jail scene from The L Word.


Charlie's Angels

The 1976 episode titled "Angels in Chains" takes the bodacious Angels into a woman's correctional facilty. While there are not any moments of blatant girl-on-girl action, the episode features a lesbian guard and sapphic undertones. Watch a clip, dubbed in German, that includes the ladies in chains.


Midnight Express

This harrowing depiction of life in a Turkish prison -- based on a real story -- starred bisexual actor Brad Davis. While there were many scenes of horrific violence, there was a tender make-out sequence between Davis and another male inmate.



This Australian drama about a modern women's prison is a critical and commercial hit. Of course, many of the women look like supermodels, but no one's complaining, especially when they engage in make-out sessions.


Girls in Prison

This silly B-movie is about an attractive young woman sent to prison for robbery. She ends up jailed with other young, beautiful ladies, including one who makes a pass at her. Check out the movie's pulpy opening sequence below.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Erin Faith Wilson