13 user 17 critic

Riot (1969)

A riot in a state prison is staged to cover up an escape attempt, during which many inmates and guards are killed. Shot on location at Arizona State Prison.


Buzz Kulik


Frank Elli (novel), James Poe




Complete credited cast:
Jim Brown ... Cully Briston
Gene Hackman ... Red Fraker
Mike Kellin ... Bugsy
Gerald S. O'Loughlin ... Grossman
Ben Carruthers ... Surefoot
Clifford David ... Mary Sheldon
Bill Walker ... Jake
Jerry Thompson Jerry Thompson ... Fisk
Ricky Summers Ricky Summers ... Gravel Gertie
Mr. Gerri Mr. Gerri ... Queen #1
John Neiderhauser John Neiderhauser ... Queen #2
Frank Eyman Frank Eyman ... The Warden (as Warden Frank A. Eyman)


Cully Briston is serving a 5 year sentence in an Arizona prison. He's not getting along well with the Sergeant of the guards who, on finding a bottle of moonshine near Cully, sends him to the isolation block. Arriving there Cully discovers that inmates have taken over the block and have taken the guards as hostages to demand better living conditions. Inmate Red Fraker, leader of the revolt, has a secret plan to escape with a few other inmates and asks Cully to join them. Red explains there's an old tunnel under the prison auditorium of which prison staff is unaware. Cully plans to brew moonshine to get the other inmates drunk while the select few escape. Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Freedom ... by any means necessary. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The film is based on a non-fiction novel by Frank Elli. The novel described a real riot that took place in an Arizona state prison. See more »

Alternate Versions

An edited, "PG" rated version was released to theaters in 1970. Video version is the complete "R" rated version. See more »


Lyric by Robert Wells
Music by Krzysztof Komeda (as Christopher Komeda)
Sung by Bill Medley
See more »

User Reviews

Worth a look for fans of Hackman and Brown.
29 January 2021 | by Hey_SwedenSee all my reviews

"Riot" is a decent prison film, produced by William Castle (known as a director of things like "House on Haunted Hill") and directed by Buzz Kulik ('Brian's Song'). It stars Jim Brown, as cool as ever, as inmate Cully Briston, who realizes that the men of the isolation block have taken over that portion of the prison. Led by Red Fraker (Gene Hackman), they intend to pull off an escape, while pretending to the outside world to be petitioning for better conditions.

Ad copy may try to sell this as some kind of action film, but in truth it's more of a drama with some thriller elements. And it's NOT as violent as some people may fear, with some little bits of gore here and there. It doesn't attempt to show the lives of most of these inmates before their "riot". Cully has his misgivings about the whole thing, but gets caught up in it just the same, trying to talk some sense into Red.

The main asset of "Riot" is a degree of realism. It was based on a novel by Frank Elli, which was itself inspired by a real-life riot in a Minnesota prison. It features a number of inmates in supporting roles and bits, and even casts tough-as-nails real-life warden Frank Eyman to basically play himself. While it may not be truly action-packed, it has some great moments, especially the escape scenes near the end which are fraught with tension. The whole thing is professionally packaged, and nicely scored by Christopher Komeda.

Hackman is fun as the confident ringleader, while Brown remains highly watchable in his more even-keeled portrayal as a convict with some principles. Mike Kellin (who would return to the prison genre a decade later with "On the Yard"), Ben Carruthers (as the volatile, violent "Joe Surefoot"), and Clifford David (Beethoven in "Bill & Teds' Excellent Adventure") co-star as various inmates. Gerald S. O'Loughlin is good as a guard who's tried to dominate Cully for years, then turns weak after being used as a hostage.

"Riot" won't take a place as one of the great prison films, but it does entertain solidly for 97 minutes, which is all you can really ask for sometimes.

Seven out of 10.

0 of 0 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 13 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

12 May 1969 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Riot See more »

Filming Locations:

Eloy, Arizona, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed