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Alcatraz Island in popular culture

Alcatraz Island has appeared many times in popular culture. Its appeal as a picturesque film setting derives from its natural beauty, isolation and its history as a prison (now a museum) from which, officially, no prisoner ever successfully escaped.



Most appearances of Alcatraz island in popular culture are related to its former status as a federal prison. Both real life and fictional accounts of imprisonment on the island have been popular.

One of the best-known of Alcatraz's historic inmates was Robert Franklin Stroud, known as "The Birdman of Alcatraz". His biography was written by Thomas E. Gaddis and then adapted into a film in 1962, with Burt Lancaster playing the lead role.

The 1995 film Murder in the First depicts a man who spends three years in solitary confinement at the prison. One of the prisoners, Kyle Oberholzer, was charged with rape, murder and fornicating.

Portrayals in arts, media, and entertainmentEdit

Common fictional themesEdit

Escape attemptsEdit

Many films and television series have exploited Alcatraz Island's reputation as a prison from which it was almost impossible to escape. For example:

  • Brute Force (1947), starring Burt Lancaster, although inspired by actual events during the Battle of Alcatraz, is a highly fictionalized account of an attempted prison break. It was unusual at the time for the level of violence it portrayed.
  • Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), starring Burt Lancaster, briefly depicts a largely fictional version of the battle which, from the start, is portrayed as a full-scale riot rather than a discrete escape attempt. Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz", is given unwarranted credit for ending the conflict.
  • Don Siegel's thriller Escape from Alcatraz (1979) portrays both the conditions of life in the prison and the difficulty of escaping from it, and chronicles the story of Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin, who escaped from Alcatraz in 1962, although it is not known whether the three escapees survived. The film implies that the escape succeeded.[1]
  • Alcatraz — The Whole Shocking Story (1980) is a factually based TV drama of the events of the Battle of Alcatraz, incorporated into a larger narrative of the history of Alcatraz as seen through the eyes of its youngest prisoner, Clarence Carnes.
  • Six Against the Rock (1987), starring David Carradine as Bernard Coy, is based on the semi-fictional book by Clark Howard.
  • Alcatraz (2018), is an independent film depicting the Battle of Alcatraz.[citation needed]


Alcatraz's isolated and fortified image has meant that it has been used as a location for fictional hostage scenarios in various instances.

Safe havenEdit

Alcatraz has also been portrayed often as a safe haven or base of operations in post-apocalyptic fiction, such as the film The Book of Eli (2010).


Multimedia franchisesEdit

  • The Harry Potter franchise features a wizarding island prison called Azkaban which is partly based on Alcatraz.[2]



  • The focus of 1954: Alcatraz (released in 2014), a point-and-click adventure by Daedalic Entertainment, is split between two separate player characters: Joe, who has been sent to Alcatraz Prison for being involved in a robbery, and his wife Christine, who works on the outside in San Francisco trying to aid him in his escape
  • Alcatraz (video game), a 1992 sequel to the Infogrames game (the sequel to Hostages), involves US Navy SEALS infiltrating a terrorist-occupied Alcatraz and foil their plans
  • Alcatraz: Prison Escape (released worldwide on November 23, 2001), developed by Zombie Studios and published by Activision Value, is a computer game based on, but not directly referencing, some famous escapes from the prison facility
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, DLC "Uprising", a zombies map titled "Mob of the Dead" takes place in a twisted, nightmarish version of Alcatraz Island, inhabited by zombies; however, it is not the real Alcatraz; it is more like a purgatory for the four characters
  • In the Call of Duty: Black Ops III final zombie map, "Revelations", Alcatraz Island makes a cameo appearance
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018), Alcatraz is the setting for the zombies map "Blood of the Dead"
  • In Cause of Death, Alcatraz island appears in the last chapters of the first and fifth volumes
  • In the RTS video game Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge, Alcatraz is featured in the introduction video setting up for its single-player campaign. The villain, Yuri, former leader of Soviet Psychic Crops, had built a Psychic Dominator and power plant on Alcatraz Island, as part of his global mind-controlling device network. The Allied Harriers launched an air strike but failed. In the campaign, the player as commander must destroy the Psychic Dominator with the time shift by The Time Machine.
  • In Crysis 2, the name of the main character is Alcatraz
  • Escape from Alcatraz (2017), is a real time escape room game from EscapeSF in San Francisco, that replicates the environment with using original props and background electronics[3]
  • In Half-Life 2, The Combine Prison Nova Prospekt is heavily based on Alcatraz
  • In Homefront, during the mission on the Golden Gate Bridge, it is mentioned that US Navy SEAL Team Six has taken control of Alcatraz; it can also be seen in the distance
  • In Hulk, there are two chapters (five levels) that take place in Alcatraz
  • In the arcade game rail shooter L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines, a maximum security prison is established on Alcatraz Island in the year 2025, which falls under attack to the titular Rage of the Machines,[4] a robotic terrorist force that attempts to free a number of convicts in the process.[5] The player is tasked in thwarting the robots' assault, before taking on their leader, a larger amphibious robot named Xenophobia.[6]
  • The Albatross Island Prison in Lego City Undercover is based on Alcatraz Island.
  • In Manhunter 2: San Francisco, the player visits alien-occupied Alcatraz near the end of the game and frees captive mutants from the alien Orbs.
  • In Mean Streets, Tex Murphy visits Alcatraz at the end of the game, which houses the huge "Overlord" computer and then proceed to activate its self-destruct sequence.
  • In Operation 7, an online free to play first person shooter managed by Netgame, Alcatraz is a playable map popular for the demolition or survival modes. It features a realistic map based on the cell blocks, cafeteria, and basement of the prison, finished with music that provides a creepy tone.
  • The game RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 has a scenario setting on the island, some time after the prison was closed down and abandoned.
  • The game RuneScape sends the player to an "escape-proof" island known as The Rock.
  • Alcatraz also appears in Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA again using the same layout as San Francisco Rush: The Rock.
  • The Stilwater Penitentiary in Saints Row 2 is based on Alcatraz.
  • In the video game San Francisco Rush: The Rock, Alcatraz is the main setting. Players race cars on, above, and through the prison and the island.
  • In the Ghostlight video game Shadow Hearts: From the New World (developed in 2005), the party travels to Alcatraz to bust out Al Capone, who was formerly a real-life prisoner of the island.
  • In the simulation game SimCity 3000, players can build Alcatraz Complex as their city's landmark.
  • Sim City 4 (released in January 2003) used Alcatraz as an historical building. It was developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts.
  • In the game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3, several hostages must be rescued from Alcatraz Prison.
  • In the video game, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (2002), the island is featured as a playable level and has many features of the real Alcatraz.
  • The video game Urban Strike features Alcatraz as one of the secret bases of main antagonist H. R. Malone.
  • In the video game Watch Dogs 2, the player can walk around and visit Alcatraz Island.
  • In the MMORPG, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade there is a reference to Alcatraz through the Tempest Keep dungeon wing: The Arc
  • Saints Row 2



A number of books were written or co-authored by former Alcatraz prisoners, e.g.:

Other non-fiction books about AlcatrazEdit
  • Escape from Alcatraz (1963), by J. Campbell Bruce
  • Last Guard Out: A Riveting Account by the Last Guard to Leave Alcatraz (2008), ISBN 1434350770), by Jim Albright


  • Alcatraz, a Welsh rock band formed by members of Quicksand
  • Alcatrazz , a former American Heavy Metal band (1983–1987), notable for launching the careers of famed guitarists Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen; "Island in the Sun" (1983), the band's debut single, makes multiple lyrical references to Alcatraz Island
  • Alkatrazz, a former British heavy metal band (1981–1983)


  • Al Katrazz (born 1971), ringname of wrestler Brian Fleming


Television seriesEdit
  • Alcatraz (2012), the short-lived TV series on Fox, starring Sam Neill, Jorge Garcia, Parminder Nagra, and Sarah Jones, and produced by J.J. Abrams,[7] involves prisoners from Alcatraz - which was not closed due to budget reasons, but because all 302 residents mysteriously disappeared on March 20, 1963 - reappearing in the present day, requiring a makeshift task force to track down the inmates and prevent them from committing further crimes while also determining the reasons for their return
Television episodesEdit


  1. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (June 9, 2012), "Tale of 3 Inmates Who Vanished From Alcatraz Maintains Intrigue 50 Years Later", The New York Times, New York, NY, retrieved 9 June 2012
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Escape from Alcatraz". EscapeSF Room Escape Games. 26 June 2017.
  4. ^ SEGA AM3, SEGA AM4 (1998). L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines. Arcade, Wii. Level/area: Alcatraz Island Mission Briefing. SIFAT Computer: Request of assistance from Alcatraz military prison. Friendly forces are acquiring heavy damage. Please assist immediately.
  5. ^ SEGA AM3, SEGA AM4 (1998). L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines. Arcade, Wii. Level/area: Alcatraz Island. SIFAT Commander: We have report that [the terrorists] have taken one of [Alcatraz's] convicts with them. They're trying to escape by a hovercraft. Intercept!
  6. ^ SEGA AM3, SEGA AM4 (1998). L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines. Arcade, Wii. Level/area: Alcatraz Island. SIFAT Commander: Warning! Energy readings detected in the hovercraft's cargo!
  7. ^ "About - Alcatraz". FOX. FOX Broadcasting Company. 22 January 2012. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

See alsoEdit