10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

No prison can hold a truly awesome hero. To a great explorer of the unknown, a cell is just a puzzle to be unlocked, and guards are just obstacles to be eluded. Many of our favorite science fiction and fantasy stories include prison breaks, in which our hero proves that no cell can hold him or her.

Here are our 10 favorite prison breaks from science fiction and fantasy.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

10. Watchmen #8
Rohrschach is locked away in prison, and getting him out won't be easy — not only is there a full scale riot going on, but a ton of the prisoners have scores to settle. Including several who have a score to settle with Rorschach himself. He's trapped in his cell with Big Figure and a bunch of inmates trying to get at him, and meanwhile Nite Owl and Silk Spectre have to fly the Owlship right into the prison and try to reach him.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

9. The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold
When Miles Vorkosigan is tasked to rescue military genius Colonel Guy Tremont from P.O.W. camp, he gets himself captured in order to free Tremont from the inside. Unfortunately, the colonel turns out be catatonic and near death — and not so easy to get out. So Vorkosigian comes up with an alternate plan: organizing the camp's 10,000 prisoners via a food distribution scheme so they can be airlifted en masse via combat shuttle. Vorkosigan manages to do all of this naked, since he was robbed of his clothes upon entering the camp.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

8. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, "Born to Run."
Sort of an echo of when Sarah Connor escapes from the mental facility in Terminator 2 — here, she's in jail for all her crimes, real and imagined, when Cameron shows up to get her out. We get to see an entire prison full of guards and inmates coping with one very determined Terminator, with Cameron using only non-lethal force. While John Henry watches via surveillance cameras, and pitches in a little. I also love that Sarah's first words to Cameron are, "You look like hell. Can you keep up?"

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

7. The Chronicles of Riddick
Riddick gets himself captured in order to rescue Jack (now Kyra) from the prison planet Crematoria described as "hell on earth," where surface temperatures are blazing hot during the day and freezing cold at night, with the exception of a twenty-minute window each day. Riddick, Jack and some disposable inmates take advantage of the window to storm the surface and attempt to steal a spaceship, fighting off the prison guards but running into a horde of Necromongers along the way. Kyra is captured and Riddick left for dead (he's not) but both are free of Crematoria — so a successful breakout, overall.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

6. Chthon by Piers Anthony
After becoming dangerously obsessed with a siren-like "Minionette", Aton Five is sentenced to life in the
underground prison of Chthon. The prison is a garnet mine with the lesser criminals fashioning jewels in the upper levels and the more dangerous mining the rocks below. Escape is impossible from the upper
levels as all exits have been sealed, but there are rumored caverns below and Aton plots a way out. He manipulates his fellow inmates into revolting against the upper level, and when the food controlling criminals cut off the miners in retaliation, the entire group must attempt an escape through the labyrinths. One by one, the criminals are killed by a chimera, and the few survivors succumb to a will-sucking mucus transforming them into zombies. Aton, however, makes a deal with Chthon itself, which has achieved intelligence over time and creates the zombies to do its bidding. Chthon allows Aton to escape, hoping his quest to find the minionette will lead to mankind's destruction.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

5. THX 1138
George Lucas' first film, THX 1138 takes place in a dystopian underground civilization where children are grown in labs, sexual intercourse is outlawed and the masses are kept in line by mandatory drug consumption and omnipresent surveillance. When THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and his female roommate ditch the drugs, they fall in love and conceive a baby. In punishment, they are consigned to White Limbo, a prison where only fear constrains the inmates from escape. THX 1138 defies his captors by leaving anyway, stealing a police car and speeding through the tunnel network with motorcycle police-bots in hot pursuit. They chase THX 1138 up an escape ladder, but at the last minute allow him to escape as the cost of the pursuit has exceeded the budget. The movie ends with THX 1138 climbing onto the surface, seeing a bright red sun and birds showing that life is possible in this new world.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

4. Blindness by Jose Saramago
When a plague of blindness infects the world, the afflicted are sent to an overcrowded, fetid government prison where the inmates control the limited food supply via brutality and sexual assault. When the only seeing woman in the prison is raped (she is there to help her husband), she murders her blind attacker with a pair of scissors, initiating a riot between warring factions of inmates leading to a fire that kills most of the prisoners. The survivors venture out into the city where they realize they were no longer being guarded and could have left at any time — and that the world outside isn't quite how they remembered it.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

3. Batman: The Animated Series, "The Forgotten"
Bruce, undercover as Matches Malone, investigates the disappearance of Gotham's homeless, only to be captured (and given amnesia) by the villainous "Boss" Biggis, a morbidly obese and possibly cannibalistic slave driver. Essentially a remake of Cool Hand Luke, the episode involves Batman eventually regaining his memories and staging a revolt that involves Alfred flying the Batplane.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
It's hard to believe just how convoluted and over-complicated the Rebels' plan to spring Han Solo from Jabba's prison is — it involves Leia impersonating a famous bounty hunter, Lando infiltrating his palace undercover, Chewbacca getting captured, and R2 and 3PO's enslavement. Finally, Luke and friends say "screw it," and decide to get it over with and just kill everybody.

10 Great Prison Breaks from Science Fiction and Fantasy

1. Escape From New York
Snake Plissken is contracted to rescue the president from the island of Manhattan, which by 1997 has devolved into a supermax prison colony (Post WWIII, according to the novelization). He's given only 24 hours to complete his mission, or else microscopic explosives planted in his carotid arteries will detonate, blowing his head clean off. As part of Snake's rescue mission, he lands a glider on top of the World Trade Center, Fights Isaac Hayes and manages to befriend both Ernest Borgnine and Adrienne Barbeau along the way. After succeeding, he manages to humiliate the President on live TV.