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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

  Directed by: Frank Darabont
Written by: Frank Darabont, Stephen King
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins
Links: The Shawshank Redemption on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 10.00 (4 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 1st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is also mentioned in mino's review of Animal Factory (2000), em_fiction's review of Animal Factory (2000), mino's review of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), em_fiction's review of Chinatown (1974), timchuma's review of Prison on Fire (1987), mino's review of The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and em_fiction's review of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).

"Might as well join in the praise" - a review by em_fiction

These three guys have put out time to write reviews for this incredible film, so I might as well too. The Shawshank Redemption is a prison movie about Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a man being charged with the murder of his wife and her lover and is consequently sent to Shawshank prison on two life sentences. Year after year, Andy faces more and more adversity, victimised by ruthless prison guards and malicious inmates, but combining his mentality, courage, determination and spirit, as well as his close friendship with veteran inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), Andy's journey becomes an utterly unforgettable one.

Let me just go through The Shawshank Redemption's reputation from my own experience. I can remember as far back as Grade 4 in primary school, some footballers came to visit our school, and during question time I asked (not so surprisingly) "What is your favourite film?". I distinctly remember one of them saying The Shawshank Redemption. Three years later, in my first year of high school, I asked my homegroup teacher, just out of curiosity, what his favourite film was: "Well, I have two: Chinatown (1974) and The Shawshank Redemption." Just recently, my school started publishing teacher profiles in the weekly newsletter — the majority of teachers chose Shawshank as their favourite film. It currently sits at #2 in the IMDb Top 250, which is a mostly accurate, credible and respectable source in terms of the universal film audience. All the guys (so far) on nofreelist have given it a perfect score. I never got around to watching this until about half a year ago, but after watching it I don't believe it is humanly possible to not give it the highest possible score.

The reason Shawshank is so good is because it's so incredibly moving and powerful. Up until the very last minute, you're drawn tightly towards the screen witnessing, step by step, Andy's growth in Shawshank prison. The acting is sublime, the dialogue is intelligent, the story is inspirational, the cinematography is breathtaking and every other little detail is done to maximum superiority. Each and every character in this film is acted to perfection — Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give the performances of their careers (sorry I couldn't think of a lesser cliché). If I praised it any more, I'd just be repeating the other fellas, but you get the idea. I've realised one thing though: Stephen King's dramas and short stories tend to be much better adaptations (Stand by Me (1986), The Green Mile (1999), etc.) than the horror genre that he is known for (please tell me It (1990) and The Tommyknockers (1993) weren't the biggest pieces of shit).

If this film was watched in a cinema or at least on DVD or VHS, you'd basically get drawn in so tautly that it's almost like you were just thrown into Shawshank prison yourself and left to experience the journey alongside Andy. In other words, you forget where you are. The edited television version sadly ruins this effect, not severely, but enough to down the experience with the frequent commercial breaks. Please try to find a way to watch it without these interruptions, and may I stress you watch it in one sitting (you'll probably end up doing so anyway as it is incredibly engaging). It's definitely one of those lengthy gems that go by at the blink of an eye. Everyone has their own opinions and tastes, but somehow it is damn near impossible to find someone who doesn't love this film.

em_fiction gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review last updated on Tue 27 Jan 2004

"The best prison movie ever" - a review by andy-j

The Shawshank Redemption opens with the trial of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins). Found guilty of the double murder of his wife and the man with whom she was having an affair, he is to be imprisoned for the remainder of his life at Shawshank Prison. The story is told from the perspective of inmate 'Red' (Morgan Freeman), who recounts 20 years of prison life with Andy. Shortly after Andy arrives, he starts to build up a great trust with many of the prisoners through a selfless act. His honesty, humility and intelligence win him many allies, including the prison guards and even the warden. But Andy never forgets himself, maintaining his innocence of the crime he was charged with, and always looking out for number one.

What can I say about The Shawshank Redemption? It has just about everything I could want in a movie.. Let's see: a compelling premise. A wonderful story with a surprise ending. Complex relationships between the characters... the characters! They're are incredibly deep and wonderfully portrayed. We see Andy's deep awareness - he is a man who is confident in himself, is selfless, but still looks out for himself. He is totally unafraid of everything, determined to achieve whatever it is he sets his mind on, despite adverse conditions. He can read others like a book. He's the sort of person who attracts everyone and is impossible not to like (for both the prisoners and the audience). Tim Robbins has done a stellar job - he is totally believable and his character dominates every scene he is in. We get an insight into why Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), a particularly brutal guard, is so cruel to the prisoners. Instead of being branded as "just evil", we see another side to him that explains his behaviour. And we see Red, a man who, despite having a sense of humour, has no hope left. Andy helps him realise that there is still some fight left in him, and gives him something to hang onto. Morgan Freeman plays the role subtly and with great sensitivity.

It all comes together totally seamlessly, which gives us a perfectly-balanced film. The emphasis is not placed on morals or the characters, but these come shining through thanks to the incredible acting and the epic 20-year storyline. As the movie starts it is about one man, but as it moves along it encompasses more and more things. It is funny, emotional, moving, inspiring and powerful. There are some great metaphors, giving the film opportunity to be enjoyed on many levels. Now I'm running out of adjectives, so I'll close by saying that this movie offers so much. I get something new out of it every time I see it.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 17 Dec 2003

"Much, much better late than never" - a review by mino

I can still remember, rather vividly, being at school — my first year, I think, which we call ‘prep’ down here — and having a moment of total horror when I realised that everyone else in my class knew how to skip, and I didn't (‘skipping’, that is, in the sense of ‘a gait in which hops and steps alternate’, rather than ‘jumping over a piece of rope’). It's not like it was a hard skill to master, and it didn't take me long to catch up: it's just that, well, I'd never really had much cause to go anywhere using ‘a gait in which hops and steps alternate’; frankly, I don't think I had missed much. It wasn't exactly a major crisis, let's put it that way. But it was kind of weird.

Well, the feeling you have when you get to your first year of school and don't know how to skip is not at all dissimilar to the feeling you have when you get asked “You've never seen The Shawshank Redemption? As in, not ever?” for the seven hundredth time. You start to feel that, maybe, there's something badly wrong with you.

Anyway: problem solved.

You know that thing where heaps of people have told you to see a certain movie, or listen to a certain CD, or read a certain book, and you do, and it's probably really good, but you can't help but be disappointed, because they've built your expectations up way beyond what even the best film or CD or book could ever live up to? Well, Shawshank's not like that. Not one bit. Everyone tells you it's a great movie, because it bloody well is.

I won't explain the plot, because Nicole's already done a good job of that. Fundamentally, though, Shawshank is a prison movie, and it has many of the same old aspects as all the other prison movies you've ever seen. There's the kind-hearted lifer, the quiet newcomer, the brash ring-in, the vicious ‘screws’, and plenty of, uh, ‘prison lovin'’. However, even though Shawshank is not too unusual plot-wise, it's an absolute mile clear of anything else in the genre as far as quality goes, thanks largely to the acting from the two leads, and a humdinger of a script.

The rather enigmatic Tim Robbins is the nominal star of the film. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, the new kid on the block in Shawshank Prison, who has a big question mark over whether or not he should even be there. Robbins is great in the role, not least because the movie spans twenty years. Not only does Robbins age convincingly physically, but (more importantly) we really watch him age mentally as the years of prison life take their toll. His character matures a great deal during his stay in prison; not for a second do we believe anything other than that Robbins is actually living the prison experience, he handles the role so deftly.

Even better, though, is Morgan Freeman as ‘Red’, Andy's prison mentor. Freeman is truly a joy to watch, not least because he is obviously enjoying himself a great deal. You can tell that Freeman is one of those actors who really relishes a great script. When he's given a mediocre script to work with — Nurse Betty (2000), for example — he usually just looks bored, and it shows in the quality of the movie. With Shawshank, though, he's dealing with a very impressive script indeed, and he shines.

The script, based on a Stephen King short story, is absolutely inspiring. The film flits from comedy to tragedy absolutely effortlessly, and is absolutely brilliant at both. It's a morality play, a crime drama, a legal thriller, and escapist fantasy all at once; unlike most movies which try similar stunts, though, it's absolutely enthralling in all its aspects. Even Freeman's verbose narration, which would usually annoy me no end, works well in the context of the movie.

It's hard to find anything about Shawshank that's not to like; if anything, it can be a little predictable in parts, but that's just being picky. Yep, I've finally got around to seeing Shawshank, and I'm awfully glad I did.

You're next, Fight Club (1999)!

mino gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 1 Feb 2003

"It's really that good..." - a review by pearly

The Shawshank Redemption is the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a reasonably well-educated man who is sent to jail for the murder of his wife and her lover. Whilst in jail, he becomes friends with Red (Morgan Freeman), a "lifer" who has accepted that he will be in jail until he dies. After taking a risk and offering financial advice to one of the guards, Dufresne wrangles a position doing the jail's accounts, which, whilst it helps him to get through his jail-time with a minimum of fuss, might mean trouble when it comes to parole.

The Shawshank Redemption consistently rates well. On the IMDb, it's been near the top of the Top 250 movies (rated by users) for absolutely ages. There is a reason for this. The Shawshank Redemption is a wonderful film. It has a little bit of everything. Drama, certainly. Action, there's a little of that. Intelligence, most definitely. Suspense, youbetcha. A moral, I think there's multiple. Hmmm, actually I don't think there's any romance (except maybe in a jailbirds-getting-it-on kinda way).

I'm a little bit hot and cold with Morgan Freeman (as are many people, I think). I mean, he's great. When he plays the older and wiser guy helping out the younger, not-quite-knowing-what-he's-doing guy, he is incredibly believable. His intelligent monologues always work for me. But, the thing is, it's a pretty well-worn path for him. In this role, though, the character's inadequacies are creeping through, and that makes him all the more likeable. Tim Robbins was good, but Morgan really is the star.

So, the question is really "what is so good about this movie?". Well, I think the script has a hell of a lot to do with it. It manages to flawlessly weave a complex path of goings-on and twists and turns, in a more seamless way than quite possibly anything to come since. There are no leaps of faith whatsoever, and there are still sections which surprise and delight.

There's really not much more to say that hasn't already been said before. The thing is, I waited a long time before finally getting around to seeing this. And, if you're out there, not having seen it, well, there's really no question about it. You should go and get yourself a copy, and sit in front of it. It's as simple as that.

pearly gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 26 Aug 2002

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 4
Average rating: 10.00
Lowest rating: 10 (by em_fiction, andy-j, mino, pearly)
Highest rating: 10 (by em_fiction, andy-j, mino, pearly)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. Since no one has commented on this movie i will :) Now every AFL football players favorite movie seems to be the shawshank redemption. Wel it was for one week ne way. On channel ten a while ago ever footy player who got asked what there favorite movie was unconvincingly answered the shawshank redemption. A few days after all the interviews The shawshank redemption was on television. Do you think that network made high ratings? I certainly watched it to see what the big deal was about this movie. When the movie ended I thought to myself I have just wasted 2 and a half hours out of my life.

    Rating given: 4

    A comment from Melissa on Tue 18 Jan 2005 15:48 #

  2. This is the greatest movie of all time. I think by the end of this movie you will be on the biggest high. The book is also good, but the movie gives you better closure.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from mirislav klose ( on Thu 20 Jan 2005 01:06 #

  3. .............................
    I think this is a great movie with the message of Hope that truly Hope can set you free with determination and willingness you can over come all your problems, there is no situation that can not be over come... So if you think about it this movie is a real inspiration to all people struggling in thier lives.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Brett (zimbo man) on Tue 10 May 2005 21:03 #

  4. not bad

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from rupert on Thu 15 Mar 2007 06:56 #

  5. this is a truly moving film with great messages of hope and determination. you can achive anything if you put your mind to it. i strongly reccommend this film to anyone. great movie!!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from zippi on Mon 12 May 2008 20:04 #

  6. Brilliant film one of the best I've ever seen!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Sean Hughes on Fri 27 Nov 2009 05:08 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.83 (6 ratings)

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