Prison Riot

Ready to fight to get what we need
Die on your feet or live on your knees
Yngwie Malmsteen, "Riot in the Dungeons"

A prison is a place for violent people, and usually with violent practices, so in fiction, riots are natural. If The Hero is placed amongst the populace, expect him/her to be the one to instigate it. Convicts and guards are usually Color-Coded for Your Convenience. Expect mattresses and toiletpaper (fire optional) to be thrown around in a modern setting. Truth in Television.

Riots are usually a cover-up for a Great Escape. Related to The Mutiny.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A huge one is organized by Emporio Ivankov in the Impel Down arc of One Piece, with prisoners from all levels joining him and Luffy to storm the guards of the place in a desperate attempt to escape.

  • Judge Dredd storyline "Purgatory" features a riot happening in the space prison Titan, which is reserved for incarcerated Judges. It leads to a massive breakout, and an all-out attack on Mega City One.
  • A crossover arc of Thunderbolts and Avengers Academy focused on a super powered prison riot in The Raft.
  • Watchmen: Nite Owl and Silk Spectre break out Rorschach during a prison riot caused by Rorschach killing a prisoner.

    Fan Works 

  • Frank Drebin in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult launches an improptu prison riot to divert attention from the escape plan of a gang he is infiltrating. Naturally for a comedy, it's for a completely silly reasons:
    Frank Drebin: Hey! You call this slop? Real slop has got chunks of things in it! This is more like gruel! And this Château le Blanc '68 is supposed to be served slightly chilled! This is room temperature! What do you think we are? Animals?
  • The montage of following Cameron Poe's imprisonment in Con Air shows him reading his daughter's letters amongst a prison riot.
  • After finding out that his mission has gone bust and his life has been taken from him, Sean Archer organizes one in order to escape Erehwon in Face/Off.
  • Runaway Train starts with the prison where the main characters are held in a state of riot.
  • Algrim starts one in the dungeons in Thor: The Dark World as a part of Dark Elves' plan to attack Asgard and collect the Aether from Jane Foster.
  • Climactic fight between Burke and Sandman in Death Warrant happens during a prison riot.
  • In The Hangover Part III, Chow creates one such riot to escape prison from a tunnel hidden behind a poster.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Roots, on the slaveship/Prison Ship.
  • Oz: Prison riots are a constant threat. One erupts in the first season finale "A Game of Checkers" when the prison gangs unite to take over Emerald City by taking the guards hostage. The prisoners establish a ruling council, but it's later revealed that everyone from the rioters to the prison administrators were being manipulated by Kareem Said from the start. He correctly predicted that Governor Devlin would refuse even the rioters' mostly harmless demands and take back Em City by force, causing enough deaths for public outrage to bring about real reform.
  • A prison riot is triggered as a cover for a murder in the Arrow episode "An Innocent Man".
  • Shane Casey triggers a riot so he can steal Hawkes' clothes and use the badge he had someone steal in order to escape in CSI NY
  • Parodied on Arrested Development. The Bluth Family holds a fundraiser at the prison where George used to be incarcerated. The prisoners participate and remain well behaved. But when it's revealed the fundraiser is for something that already has a cure, the guests riot.
  • Though it's not shown, the Sona prison in Season 3 of Prison Break is run by inmates, as a result of a huge riot that took place before the events of the show. Truth in Television, as it's based on a real-life Bolivian prison.
  • In the third season of 24, Jack starts a prison riot to break out drug kingpin Ramon Salazar. It almost backfires when some of the prisoners take them hostage and force them to play Russian Roulette.
  • The West Georgia Correctional Facility of The Walking Dead had this happen before the protagonists arrive. Survivors explain that the guards thought the Zombie Apocalypse was a standard issue prison riot initially. The main party finds the aftermath: one entire cell block worth of inmates were killed execution-style.

  • One desperate invidual must rape his way out of a prison riot in Laengthengurthe song "I Raped My Way Out of a Prison Riot".

    Video Games 
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Penal Colony of Belsalvis is suffering from a grand-scale one of these. Justified as Belsalvis is a Hell Hole Prison run by the Republic, obsensibly for "the worst of the worst" criminals, but they're even treating the descendants of the prisoners (who have done no crime at all) as maximum-security inmates! As an Imperial, you side with the prisoners (who are being experimented on with leftover Rakata tech, forced into deathmatch fights for "scientific research," and kept in hellish conditions) and the descendants who are justifiably pissed off at being punished for their ancestors' crimes. As a Republic player, you're helping the guards, against such wonderful captives as mass murderers, Imperial agents, and imprisoned Sith agents (to say nothing of the Esh-kha aliens, who even the Rakatan Infinite Empire saw fit to imprison). Don't expect a lot of good guys on either side.
    • The descendants of prisoners and other dependents aren't criminals per se — but the very existence of the prison, let alone its location, composition, etc., are top-level Republic secrets. The poor unfortunates who are born there can either live their lives in virtual imprisonment, or try to leave and thereby become actual criminals. (Or they can work for the Republic, I guess.)
  • Overlook Penitentiary in Silent Hill: Downpour was the site of a riot. The game suggests that it was instigated by Geroge Sewell in order to cover up the planned murder of Frank Coleridge by Murphy Pendelton.
  • In Splinter Cell Double Agent, Sam uses one as cover to escape from Ellsworth.
  • Can happen in Prison Architect if you aren't careful.
  • First mission in Watchmen: The End Is Nigh has Night Owl and Rorschach stopping a riot in Sing Sing by beating up everyone in it.
  • Not long after the Joker is placed among its populace, Blackgate in Batman: Arkham Origins is in full riot mode. Again.
  • The final level of The Punisher video game takes place in a prison. Frank has just been arrested, along with the game's main antagonist, Jigsaw. Jigsaw's Yakuza gang attacks the prison to free him, setting off a riot in the process. Frank actually suspected that this would happen, and he uses the opportunity to go after Jigsaw.
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death: Dredd stops an in-progress one at an offshore penitentiary. Unfortunately, during the ensuing chaos the Dark Judges manage to escape from their confinement.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has a level that happens during one.
  • In Fleeing the Complex, the fifth installment of the Henry Stickmin Series, Henry and Ellie start one when they release multiple, if not all, prisoners during their escape, leading to total chaos.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender's "Boiling Rock Part 2" has Sokka, Suki, Zuko, and Hakoda planning a riot as part of an escape plan. Hakoda tries to initiate it by approaching a larger, tougher prisoner and pushing him, hard. All this succeeds in doing is hurting the feelings of the other prisoner. Eventually, however, another prisoner named Chit Sang is able to start a riot merely by shouting, "Hey! Riot!" The fact that he picked up a prisoner and threw him at another prisoner immediatly afterwards probably helped. And honestly, Chit Sang could probably be a pretty good riot all by himself.
  • Valve, Gatlocke, Hunter Cain and No-Face in Generator Rex use a prison riot as a cover for their escape in "Enemies Mine". Rex, Six and Bobo have go into the prison to the quell the riot.
  • One episode of The Simpsons shows a prison riot happening while Sideshow Bob is trying to make a phone call, which naturally annoys him. Another episode has one going on while Drederick Tatum (A No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Mike Tyson) is calmly eating Jell-o in his cell. He tells them to shut up, and they all quietly go back to their cells.
  • Season four episode Deception of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a prison riot as a cover up for an escape. Obi Wan, disguised as a convicted bounty hunter, starts a prison riot as he, Moralo Eval, and Cane Bane, escapes their prison so they can kidnap the Chancellor.
    • Obi Wan stops the pair, of course.
    • Fun fact: Moralo hired a young Boba Fett, who was incarcerated from events earlier in the series, to start a scuffle with Obi Wan.