War is hell. But sometimes even worse than open combat is being captured by the enemy and forced to live in a POW camp, waiting out the war in between escape attempts. These five prisoner of war movies will show you how life in a POW camp is no picnic, if for some reason you were operating under that delusion (or are just an idiot).

"Stalag 17"

One of the first Hollywood productions to take a look at the world inside a WWII POW camp, Billy Wilder's "Stalag 17" might seem a little cartoony and broad to modern audiences. And it's true that Wilder is going for laughs with about 50% of the movie, particularly the scenes involving the antics of camp cutup Animal. But the other half of the movie shows how harrowing life in a POW camp could be, with very little food and treachery and moral decay all around. Plus you have to deal with Nazis all the time, gross.

"The Bridge on the River Kwai"

But if there's one thing that makes a German POW camp seem tolerable, it's a Japanese POW camp. Out in the pacific region, instead of bitter cold, the prisoners have to deal with brutal tropical heat, giant insects, and horrible mistreatments by the prison guards (if you really want to know which is worse, you can ask William Holden-he stars in both films). That's the setting of David Lean's classic WWII thriller, which features Holden escaping from the brutal camp only to join a dangerous mission to go back and blow the titular bridge to pieces. It's total madness!

"The Great Escape"

Again, this is more of a rousing adventure tale than a harrowing look at being a prisoner of war, but it probably looks tough enough, especially to the modern iPad-and-Twitter-addicted viewer. The most tense scenes involve the real-life escape method of digging tunnels under the camp: They have an acute sense of claustrophobia and fear that is genuinely unnerving, even if you do have Steve McQueen there to cheer you up.

"The Deer Hunter"


Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken would probably have gladly traded places with any of the characters in the previous movies - at least they weren't forced at gunpoint by their captors to play Russian Roulette. It might not be a true-to-life portrait of the Vietnam War, but the Russian Roulette scenes in "The Deer Hunter" will make anyone fear battle, that's for sure.

"Rescue Dawn"

No one knows how to capture the savagery of the jungle better than Werner Herzog, who tells the true story of a US Fighter pilot captured by the enemy during the Vietnam War. The conditions the pilot, played by Christian Bale, is kept in are brutal and harsh, and things only get worse after a harrowing escape from the prison and back to the US.