Based on the real-life efforts of former prison administrator Thomas O. Murton to reform Tucker and Cummins Prison Farms in Arkansas in 1967-68. The film was based on the 1969 book, "Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal" by Murton and Joe Hyams. Murton also served as a technical adviser for the film.

Making his film debut, Nicolas Cage appears as an extra. This was also the first credited film of Morgan Freeman.

The "warden impersonating a prisoner" story element, was fictionalized, and was not derived from Thomas O. Murton's experiences. It has been suggested, that this plot device was inspired by Sing Sing Prison Warden Thomas Mott Osborne, who, in 1913, under an assumed name, had had himself committed to New York's Auburn State Penitentiary.

Over 6,500 people applied to be extras in the movie, while the film itself features up to 1,000 prisoners at any one time. The movie features several retired prison guards from various jails, including the formerly active Junction City Prison, where the film was shot. When casting, the production contacted half-way houses, employment offices, and parole officers to find newly released ex-cons. Stuart Rosenberg was keen to use as many real-life ex-convicts as possible, because he maintained that they move and talk a particularly way, and that was usually very cautiously.

Second prison picture of Stuart Rosenberg, who had directed Cool Hand Luke (1967).

This film was made and released eleven years after its source book "Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal" by Thomas O. Murton and Joe Hyams was published in 1969. The film is a fictionalized version of the book, and was also based on Murton's true-life prison system experiences. It was made and released twelve to thirteen years after the events of the Arkansas prison scandal, which had taken place around 1967-1968.

The real-life prison, used to play the fictitious Wakefield State Penitentiary, was the Junction City Prison Farm in Junction City, Ohio, which was about fifty miles outside of Columbus. The prison was built in 1904, and had been decommissioned two years prior to filming, and had had its own history of riot and rebellion. The film's Wakefield Penitentiary, is based on both the Tucker and Cummins State Prison Farms, in Arkansas.

One of two Robert Redford movies released in 1980 that were Oscar-nominated. This film was an Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay, while the other movie Ordinary People (1980), received six Oscar nominations.

The punishment, conditions, corruption, and violence within the prison, depicted in this film, based on the Tucker State Prison Farm and Cummins State Prison Farm prison scandal, became the subject of the common law case of Holt v. Sarver (Arkansas) where it was determined that the Arkansas Prison System violated inmates constitutional rights.

Robert Redford was offered three million dollars to play the role of Brubaker.

Bob Rafelson started as director, but was replaced by Stuart Rosenberg.

This film's shooting schedule went over-time, and consequently Robert Redford had to start work on his directorial debut Ordinary People (1980), with very little time between projects.

Final theatrical feature film of actor Richard Ward who portrayed Abraham Cook.

At the height of his career and at just 43 years of age, Robert Redford would stay off the big screen for the next 4 years, returning for " The Natural ".

One of the final films of Murray Hamilton.

Morgan Freeman has appeared in a number of other prison movie, including The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Attica (1980), and The Execution of Raymond Graham (1985).

Second of three collaborations of Wilford Brimley and Robert Redford. The others were The Electric Horseman (1979) and The Natural (1984).

The name Brubaker used while he was posing as an inmate was Stan Collins.

First of two prison movies for Robert Redford; the second was The Last Castle (2001).

The character played by M. Emmet Walsh, has the last name of Woodward. Perhaps a nod to Redford's character Bob Woodward in All the President's Men (1976), a film also co-starring Jane Alexander and John McMartin.

Actors Morgan Freeman and Robert Redford would co-star again in An Unfinished Life (2005) which debuted around a quarter of a century or twenty-five years later.

One of two movies first released in 1980 that were set in prisons and featured actor Morgan Freeman. The pair of penitentiary pictures are Attica (1980) and Brubaker (1980).

The film's closing epilogue states: "Two years after Henry Brubaker was fired - 24 inmates, led by Richard "Dickie" Coombes, brought suit against Wakefield Prison. The court ruled that the treatment of prisoners at Wakefield was unconstitutional, and ordered the prison be reformed and closed. The governor was not re-elected." In real life, the Arkansas prison scandal became the subject of the common law case of Holt v. Sarver, filed by inmate Lawrence J. Holt against Robert Sarver, Arkansas Commissioner of Corrections. In 1969, the courts ruled that the punishment, conditions, corruption, and violence at Tucker and Cummins State Prison Farms violated inmates' constitutional rights. However, the two prison farms were not closed, and both are still used as prisons today. Also, Winthrop Rockefeller, the Arkansas governor involved in the scandal, was re-elected in 1968, but was defeated for re-election in 1970 following the Holt vs. Sarver ruling.