Brubaker [1980]

Through solid dramatic impact and global exposure on cable TV, Brubaker gradually joined the ranks of all-time best prison movies. While preparing to direct Ordinary People, Robert Redford brought his considerable star power to bear on his title role as a prison reform warden, in an unnamed Southern state, who poses as an inmate to expose corruption, violence, and administrative abuse in Wakefield, a prison farm where trustee inmates are armed and encouraged to shoot at would-be escapees. Originally developed for director Bob Rafelson and ultimately filmed by Stuart Rosenberg, this rugged exercise in social commentary has undeniable power, even if some its characters--including Redford's--seem more like stick-figure ethicists than real human beings. It's also got a dynamite supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto, Jane Alexander, and Morgan Freeman in one of his earliest films. Bolstered by his Oscar-winning directorial debut, Redford didn't star in another film until The Natural ended his four-year hiatus. --Jeff Shannon

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