Prison is no joke - if you want to survive in a block-and-barbed-wire setting, you've got to be tough. But it isn't always clear what the best way to go about this is - so if you're gearing up for a lengthy stay in stir, take a look at these eight movie prisoners who are no one's bitch. Remember: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  1. Dr. John Garth, "Before I Hang" Boris Karloff has a legendary acting range, and he puts it to the test in "Before I Hang." He plays a doctor who's been imprisoned for a mercy-killing, and his non-bitch status is cemented after he tests an experimental potion on himself that turns him into a murderous beast. It might be cheating to use a chemical to turn you into a badass, but there ain't no rules in prison (Except lights out by ten. No exceptions.)

  2. Joe Collins, "Brute Force" Probably all you need to know about prison you could learn for the world of film noir, and this probably the best prison noir ever. As played by Burt Lancaster, Collins is the natural leader type, typified by the way he rebels against a brutal and fascistic prison warden played by Hume Cronyn. His lead escape attempt may have gone badly, but Collins is still no one to be messed with.

  3. Cody Jarrett, "White Heat" It may seem tough for a badass to still seem credible after going into a seizure and whining about his mother, but James Cagney pulls it off in "White Heat." Besides: Does it really matter if the other prisoners are intimidated by you because of your power and threatening nature, or because you seem mentally unstable? Either way, you're nobody's bitch in the big house.

  4. Virgil Hilts, "The Great Escape" You could do worse behind the walls of a prison than emulating Mr. Steve McQueen. His irreverent atittude in "The Great Escape" would make a great reference point for any would-be badass. He even comes close to breaking out of the Nazi POW camp where he's imprisoned, in a motorcycle chase that's justifiably one of the most famous action sequences ever filmed. Just pray they let you have a baseball and catcher's mitt in prison, otherwise it can get boring.

  5. Luke Jackson, "Cool Hand Luke" Just because someone is no one's bitch in prison doesn't mean they can't indulge their softer side. Take Paul Newman here, who even finds time to play guitar while he's sitting in prison. He also earns the respect of his fellow chain-gangers by eating a bunch of eggs. Whatever works, man, it was the 60s.

  6. Ben Richards, "The Running Man" Here's an inmate who would probably see regular prison as a vacation. He's a military "criminal" in a police state where prisoners are forced to participate in a violent and deadly game show called "The Running Man." He has to fight a variety of colorful and dangerous gladiators, but Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course) defeats them all.

  7. Maurice Miller, "Out Of Sight" Don Cheadle cuts a truly intimidating figure in this modern crime classic. Sure, most of the people he has to deal with (both in and out of prison) are morons, but his frightening reputation is still impressive. And he earns it, too: Most memorably by shiving a fellow inmate and getting away clean, just to make a point. Doing violent things just to make a point is big in the prison community.

  8. Rorschach, "Watchmen" As tough as it is for regular criminals in prison, it's a million times tougher for superheroes, who have to coexist with a bunch of hardened convicts who are pissed at the person who put them in jail. Tougher, that is, unless you're Rorschach, who after scalding an attacker with some piping-hot prison mystery chili, utters the immortal line: "I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me!" Might be a good line to remember if you ever find yourself in jail, or at a boring family reunion.