- In 1916 Kafka read the story out loud in the Galerie Goltz in Munich. An observer wrote, "The listener, too, was dragged into this hellish torment, he, too, lay as victim on the seesawing torture-bed, and each new word carved as a new spike the slow execution into his back. A muffled thud, confusion in the hall, people carried out a lady who had fainted. ... The rows of listeners began to thin. Some fled at the last moment, before the vision of the poet could overwhelm them. Never have I witnessed a similar effect of spoken words."
- In 1969 the story was adapted as a play by Steven Berkoff who also played The Officer.
- In 1999 Charlie Deaux wrote and directed the short avant-garde film Zoetrope, which is loosely based upon the story.
- In 2000 composer Philip Glass wrote a chamber opera, In the Penal Colony, based on the story.
- A 24 minutes film adaptation by Turkish-born Canadian filmmaker Sibel Guvenc was released in 2006.
- In 2009, young Iranian filmmaker, Narges Kalhor, showed her short film adaptation at the Nuremberg Film Festival
- In July 2011, the ShiberHur Theatre Company of Palestine presented a new version of In the Penal Colony, adapted by Amir Nizar Zuabi, at London's Young Vic.
- In 2012 Egyptian independent theatrical group Warsha performed an Arabic language adaption in Cairo directed by Hassan El Geretly.
- A 40 minute film adaptation created by filmmakers in Las Vegas, Nevada, was completed in 2013 and released on Vimeo in 2014.
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