The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
4,893 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
10/10
A classic piece of unforgettable film-making.
Justin M (kaspen12)10 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In its Oscar year, Shawshank Redemption (written and directed by Frank Darabont, after the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, by Stephen King) was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and walked away with zero. Best Picture went to Forrest Gump, while Shawshank and Pulp Fiction were "just happy to be nominated." Of course hindsight is 20/20, but while history looks back on Gump as a good film, Pulp and Redemption are remembered as some of the all-time best. Pulp, however, was a success from the word "go," making a huge splash at Cannes and making its writer-director an American master after only two films. For Andy Dufresne and Co., success didn't come easy. Fortunately, failure wasn't a life sentence.

After opening on 33 screens with take of $727,327, the $25M film fell fast from theatres and finished with a mere $28.3M. The reasons for failure are many. Firstly, the title is a clunker. While iconic to fans today, in 1994, people knew not and cared not what a 'Shawshank' was. On the DVD, Tim Robbins laughs recounting fans congratulating him on "that 'Rickshaw' movie." Marketing-wise, the film's a nightmare, as 'prison drama' is a tough sell to women, and the story of love between two best friends doesn't spell winner to men. Worst of all, the movie is slow as molasses. As Desson Thomson writes for the Washington Post, "it wanders down subplots at every opportunity and ignores an abundance of narrative exit points before settling on its finale." But it is these same weaknesses that make the film so strong.

Firstly, its setting. The opening aerial shots of the prison are a total eye-opener. This is an amazing piece of architecture, strong and Gothic in design. Immediately, the prison becomes a character. It casts its shadow over most of the film, its tall stone walls stretching above every shot. It towers over the men it contains, blotting out all memories of the outside world. Only Andy (Robbins) holds onto hope. It's in music, it's in the sandy beaches of Zihuatanejo; "In here's where you need it most," he says. "You need it so you don't forget. Forget that there are places in the world that aren't made out of stone. That there's a - there's a - there's something inside that's yours, that they can't touch." Red (Morgan Freeman) doesn't think much of Andy at first, picking "that tall glass o' milk with the silver spoon up his ass" as the first new fish to crack. Andy says not a word, and losing his bet, Red resents him for it. But over time, as the two get to know each other, they quickly become the best of friends. This again, is one of the film's major strengths. Many movies are about love, many flicks have a side-kick to the hero, but Shawshank is the only one I can think of that looks honestly at the love between two best friends. It seems odd that Hollywood would skip this relationship time and again, when it's a feeling that weighs so much into everyone's day to day lives. Perhaps it's too sentimental to seem conventional, but Shawshank's core friendship hits all the right notes, and the film is much better for it.

It's pacing is deliberate as well. As we spend the film watching the same actors, it is easy to forget that the movie's timeline spans well over 20 years. Such a huge measure of time would pass slowly in reality, and would only be amplified in prison. And it's not as if the film lacks interest in these moments. It still knows where it's going, it merely intends on taking its sweet time getting there. It pays off as well, as the tedium of prison life makes the climax that much more exhilarating. For anyone who sees it, it is a moment never to be forgotten.

With themes of faith and hope, there is a definite religious subtext to be found here. Quiet, selfless and carefree, Andy is an obvious Christ figure. Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) is obviously modeled on Richard Nixon, who, in his day, was as close to a personified Satan as they come. But if you aren't looking for subtexts, the movie speaks to anyone in search of hope. It is a compelling drama, and a very moving film, perfectly written, acted and shot. They just don't come much better than this.

OVERALL SCORE: 9.8/10 = A+ The Shawshank Redemption served as a message of hope to Hollywood as well. More than any film in memory, it proved there is life after box office. Besting Forrest and Fiction, it ran solely on strong word of mouth and became the hottest rented film of 1995. It currently sits at #2 in the IMDb's Top 250 Films, occasionally swapping spots with The Godfather as the top ranked film of all time -- redemption indeed. If you haven't seen it yet, what the hell are you waiting for? As Andy says, "It comes down a simple choice, really. Either get busy living, or get busy dying."
898 out of 1,018 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Tied for the best movie I have ever seen
carflo26 November 2003
Why do I want to write the 234th comment on The Shawshank Redemption? I am not sure - almost everything that could be possibly said about it has been said. But like so many other people who wrote comments, I was and am profoundly moved by this simple and eloquent depiction of hope and friendship and redemption.

The only other movie I have ever seen that effects me as strongly is To Kill a Mockingbird. Both movies leave me feeling cleaner for having watched them.

I didn't intend to see this movie at all: I do not like prison movies and I don't normally watch them. I work at a branch library and one day as I was checking The Shawshank Redemption out to one of our older patrons, she said to me, "Whenever I feel down or depressed, I check out this movie and watch it and it always makes me feel better." At the time, I thought that was very strange. One day there was nothing on TV except things I absolutely would not watch under any circumstance or things that I had seen too many times already. I remembered what she said, so I watched it. I have watched it many many times since then and it gets better with every showing.

No action, no special effects - just men in prison uniforms talking to each other.

The Shawshank Redemption and To Kill a Mockingbird are the best movies I have ever seen. I do not judge it by it's technical merits - I don't really care about that. I have read that Citizen Kane or The Godfather or this or that movie is the best movie ever made. They may have the best technique or be the most influential motion pictures ever made, but not the best. The best movies are ones that touch the soul. It takes a movie like The Shawshank Redemption to touch the soul.
2,283 out of 2,620 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Prepare to be moved
speedreid8 February 2001
I have never seen such an amazing film since I saw The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank encompasses friendships, hardships, hopes, and dreams. And what is so great about the movie is that it moves you, it gives you hope. Even though the circumstances between the characters and the viewers are quite different, you don't feel that far removed from what the characters are going through.

It is a simple film, yet it has an everlasting message. Frank Darabont didn't need to put any kind of outlandish special effects to get us to love this film, the narration and the acting does that for him. Why this movie didn't win all seven Oscars is beyond me, but don't let that sway you to not see this film, let its ranking on the IMDb's top 250 list sway you, let your friends recommendation about the movie sway you.

Set aside a little over two hours tonight and rent this movie. You will finally understand what everyone is talking about and you will understand why this is my all time favorite movie.
1,304 out of 1,514 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Shawshank Redeems Hollywood
weswalker27 August 2002
Can Hollywood, usually creating things for entertainment purposes only, create art? To create something of this nature, a director must approach it in a most meticulous manner, due to the delicacy of the process. Such a daunting task requires an extremely capable artist with an undeniable managerial capacity and an acutely developed awareness of each element of art in their films, the most prominent; music, visuals, script, and acting. These elements, each equally important, must succeed independently, yet still form a harmonious union, because this mixture determines the fate of the artist's opus. Though already well known amongst his colleagues for his notable skills at writing and directing, Frank Darabont emerges with his feature film directorial debut, The Shawshank Redemption. Proving himself already a master of the craft, Darabont managed to create one of the most recognizable independent releases in the history of Hollywood. The Shawshank Redemption defines a genre, defies the odds, compels the emotions, and brings an era of artistically influential films back to Hollywood.

The story begins with the trial of a young banker, Andy Dufrense, victimized by circumstantial evidence, resulting in a conviction for the murder of his wife and her lover. After a quick conviction, Andy finds himself serving a life sentence at Shawshank prison, with no hope of parole. He exists in this prison only in appearance, keeping his mind free from the drab walls around him. His ability to do this results in the gaining of respect from his fellow inmates, but most of all from Ellis Redding. Ellis, commonly referred to as Red, finds gainful use of his entrepreneurial spirit within the drab walls of Shawshank by dealing in contraband and commodities rare to the confines of prison. Andy's demeanor and undeniable sense of hope causes Red to take a deeper look at himself, and the world around him. Andy proves to Red and the other inmates that in the conventional walls of Shawshank prison convention will find no home in his lifestyle.

By creating the film's firm foundation, the meticulously chiseled screenplay paved the way for this film's success. Frank Darabont outdoes himself with the phenomenal adaptation of Stephen King's equally noteworthy novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. In this novella, King demonstrates that he can break free from the genre he dominates and still create a marvelous piece of modern literature. Though the film mirrors the novella in many ways, Darabont illustrates a focused objective of improving upon the areas where the novella came up short, resulting in one of the best book to film transitions ever.

While maintaining some of the poetic and moving dialogue of the novella, Darabont also proves that a film's score can generate a great deal of emotional response from its audience, as dialogue does. He employs the cunning Thomas Newman, son of the legendary Hollywood composer, Alfred Newman. Darabont shows recognition for the film's needs by employing Newman, who makes the gentle piano chords whisper softly to the viewer, as if a part of the scripted dialogue. Newman lends himself to individualism and tends to drive more towards the unique in the realm of score composition. His effort in Shawshank did not go unnoticed, as his score received an Oscar nomination in 1995. While unique and independent, Newman's score never once intrudes on your concentration or distracts from the film.

With work from vast array of talented scene designers, costume designers, composers, cinematographers, and various other Hollywood artists, the cast of The Shawshank Redemption had a strong foundation to work with. The marvelous cast of this film will dazzle you with some of the most convincing performances you will witness in a film. While both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman shine as Andy and Red, respectively, the true spectacle of acting lies within the plethora of amazing supporting actors who easily disappear into their roles. Most noticeable of these, the veteran film star James Whitmore, who portrays the elderly Brooks Hatlen. Brooks, a man incarcerated for an unmentioned crime for so long that he finds himself attached to the Shawshank and the daily life he has lead. Each of these actors show a true dedication to their art, and a focused purpose in their motivations, creating a convincing setting that never once caters to anything unbelievable.

With all of the aesthetic touches and attention to cinematic detail, the most beautiful part of the film lies within its thematic material, such as its focus on the human desires for the most abstract concepts, like hope and freedom. These themes, which concern things the human spirit undoubtedly yearns for, seem so intricately woven into the plot that it easily draws its audience in to its story. Though full of hardened criminals, your heart will go out to these men as they display the most basic of human emotions, and deliver some of the most quotable lines in a film to date. Like a great novel, this film manages to succeed at greater things than simply entertaining an audience. Darabont tells his story most masterfully, illustrating principles and inspiring his audience to think. He leaves us a poignant film with a powerful message of hope, and redemption, something we all seek.

This film manages to redeem Hollywood in the eyes of people who feared it long lost in a dark sea of clichés and predictability. Darabont shows us that artists still work in the Hollywood studios and production facilities. These artists show their capability to produce art; real art that inspires you to look at the deeper aspects of life and the world around you. The Shawshank Redemption delivers much-needed breath of fresh air for anyone who realizes the capability of film. It proves that masters of the craft still live on this earth, and still bless us with timeless masterpieces that we will never forget.
1,472 out of 1,717 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
This is How Movies Should Be Made
alexkolokotronis18 February 2008
This movie is not your ordinary Hollywood flick. It has a great and deep message. This movie has a foundation and just kept on being built on from their and that foundation is hope.

Other than just the message of this movie the acting was phenomenal. Tim Robbins gave one of the greatest performances ever. He was inspiring, intelligent and most of all positive. His performance just made me smile. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He is gets to life sentences but yet never gives up hope. In he becomes friends with Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding played by Morgan Freeman. Freeman who gives the finest performance of his career has unlike Robbins lost hope. He is in deep regret of the crime that he committed. His way of deflecting the pain away is by trying to not feel anything at all. With his friendship with Andy he learns that without our hopes and dreams we have nothing. Andy also becomes friends with the rest of Red's group. James Whitmore also gave a great performance as Brooks Halten who gets out of prison parole but in the words of Red he has been "institutionalized".

The directing by Frank Darabont was just magnificent. He kept this movie at a great steady pace along with the writing and great cinematography. He portrayed prison life in such a horrifying way, but not in terms of the physical pain but the stress and pain that wares mentally on the inmates, some of which deserve a second chance.

Whatever you do, don't listen to the people who say this movie is overrated because this is one of the most inspiring and greatest movies ever. It has everything you could possibly want.
473 out of 547 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Don't Rent Shawshank.
EyeDunno21 November 2005
I'm trying to save you money; this is the last film title that you should consider borrowing. Renting Shawshank will cost you five bucks... just plunk down the $25 and own the title. You'll wind up going back to this gem time and time again. This is one of few movies that are truly timeless. And it's entertaining and moving, no matter how many times you view it.

Forget about what others (including myself) might suggest you'll discover in "The Shawshank Redemption;" when you watch it, you'll identify something very personal in your own life with a scene, a character, or a moment in this uncomplicated movie. When you need hope, you'll look for Shawshank. When you want to believe in the will of overcoming even the greatest obstacles, Shawshank will uplift you in ways that you can't find in movies today.

Some liken the film to some kind of spiritual awakening. Of course, some can go to a church or mosque to find enlightenment and Faith in humanity, but most places of worship are open only certain days or times. But when you need affirmation of the lasting bond of friendships that prevail over the most dire circumstances, Shawshank will give it to you. It makes grown men (like me) cry, still. I wonder whether Shawshank was truly meant for viewing in the privacy of the home, because it is a personal experience that really makes you look inward. Nominated for seven, this is the best film that never one a single Oscar.

How ironic that an innocent man winds up being surrounded by the corruption of the legal system. Shawshank itself is similar to the character of Andy Dufresne. Prejudging this classic film, critics couldn't get past the title. The public followed suit, initially dismissing Shawshank, which failed in the box office just like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Citizen Kane." It could have just whithered away on the store shelves, like Andy Dufresne could have in his own cell. But the characters prevailed, because Andy -- And Shawshank -- stayed true. Now, these movies are right up there as the most popular films of all time.

Anyone who has yet to watch Shawshank may be so jaded of movies, or the film's title, or how a 2-1/2- hour movie set inside the walls of a prison can manage to tap the soul of such a wide range of people. Shawshank has not one explosion. I wonder if it even has a single special effect or digitally- enhanced frame.

But every aspect of Shawshank fit together. The acting from the top to the bit part. The musical score. The editing. The photography. The story, from opening credits to final scene. All involved, including the town of Mansfield, Ohio (where Shawshank was actually filmed) played their roles perfectly. Shawshank is a must- see, must- own title.
338 out of 394 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Some birds aren't meant to be caged.
Spikeopath24 July 2010
The Shawshank Redemption is written and directed by Frank Darabont. It is an adaptation of the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, the film portrays the story of Andy Dufresne (Robbins), a banker who is sentenced to two life sentences at Shawshank State Prison for apparently murdering his wife and her lover. Andy finds it tough going but finds solace in the friendship he forms with fellow inmate, Ellis "Red" Redding (Freeman). While things start to pick up when the warden finds Andy a prison job more befitting his talents as a banker. However, the arrival of another inmate is going to vastly change things for all of them.

There was no fanfare or bunting put out for the release of the film back in 94, with a title that didn't give much inkling to anyone about what it was about, and with Columbia Pictures unsure how to market it, Shawshank Redemption barely registered at the box office. However, come Academy Award time the film received several nominations, and although it won none, it stirred up interest in the film for its home entertainment release. The rest, as they say, is history. For the film finally found an audience that saw the film propelled to almost mythical proportions as an endearing modern day classic. Something that has delighted its fans, whilst simultaneously baffling its detractors. One thing is for sure, though, is that which ever side of the Shawshank fence you sit on, the film continues to gather new fans and simply will never go away.

It's possibly the simplicity of it all that sends some haters of the film into cinematic spasms. The implausible plot and an apparent sentimental edge that makes a nonsense of prison life, are but two chief complaints from those that dislike the film with a passion. But when characters are this richly drawn, and so movingly performed, it strikes me as churlish to do down a human drama that's dealing in hope, friendship and faith. The sentimental aspect is indeed there, but that acts as a counterpoint to the suffering, degradation and shattering of the soul involving our protagonist. Cosy prison life you say? No chance. The need for human connection is never more needed than during incarceration, surely? And given the quite terrific performances of Robbins (never better) & Freeman (sublimely making it easy), it's the easiest thing in the world to warm to Andy and Red.

Those in support aren't faring too bad either. Bob Gunton is coiled spring smarm as Warden Norton, James Whitmore is heart achingly great as the "Birdman Of Shawshank," Clancy Brown is menacing as antagonist Capt. Byron Hadley, William Sadler amusing as Heywood & Mark Rolston is impressively vile as Bogs Diamond. Then there's Roger Deakins' lush cinematography as the camera gracefully glides in and out of the prison offering almost ethereal hope to our characters (yes, they are ours). The music pings in conjunction with the emotional flow of the movie too. Thomas Newman's score is mostly piano based, dovetailing neatly with Andy's state of mind, while the excellently selected soundtrack ranges from the likes of Hank Williams to the gorgeous Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart.

If you love Shawshank then it's a love that lasts a lifetime. Every viewing brings the same array of emotions - anger - revilement - happiness - sadness - inspiration and a warmth that can reduce the most hardened into misty eyed wonderment. Above all else, though, Shawshank offers hope - not just for characters in a movie, but for a better life and a better world for all of us. 10/10
80 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Powerful
One of my all time favorites. Shawshank Redemption is a very moving story about hope and the power of friendship. The cast is first rate with everyone giving a great performance. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman carry the movie, but Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown are perfect as the Warden Norton and prison guard captain Hadley respectively. And James Whitmore's portrail of an elderly inmate Brooks is moving. The screenplay gives almost every actor at least one or more memorable lines through out the film. As well as a very surprising "twist" near the end that almost knocked me out of my chair. If you have not seen this movie rent it or better yet buy it. As I bet you'll want to see this one more than once.
707 out of 861 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Stephen King's best adapted movie
Dan Grant13 July 1999
Misery and Stand By Me were the best adaptations up until this one, now you can add Shawshank to that list.

This is simply one of the best films ever made and I know I am not the first to say that and I certainly won't be the last. The standing on the IMDb is a true barometer of that. #3 as of this date and I'm sure it could be number 1. So I'll just skip all the normal praise of the film because we all know how great it is. But let me perhaps add that what I find so fascinating about Shawshank is that Stephen King wrote it.

King is one of the best writers in the world. Books like IT and the Castle Rock series are some of the greatest stories ever told. But his best adaptations are always done by the best directors. The Shining was brilliantly interpreted by Kubrick and of course the aforementioned Misery and Stand By Me are both by Rob Reiner. Now Frank Darabont comes onto the scene and makes arguably the best King film ever. He seems to understand what King wants to say and he conveys that beautifully.

What makes this film one of the best ever made is the message it conveys. It is one of eternal hope. Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, has been sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. But he never loses hope. He never gives up his quest to become a free man again. His years of tenacity, patience and wits keep him not only sane, but it gives his mind and a spirit a will to live. This film has a different feel to it. There has never been anything like it before and I don't know if there will again.

I'm not going to say any more about this film, it has already been said, but just suffice to say that I am glad that Forrest Gump won best picture in 94. I would have been equally glad if Pulp Fiction or Shawshank would have won. It is that good of a movie and one that will be appreciated for years to come.
601 out of 733 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Two movies in one
Douglas-216 August 1998
Warning: Spoilers
The reason I became a member of this database is because I finally found a movie ranking that recognized the true greatness of this movie. There is nary a word or scene out of place in the entire thing. Every element comes together to form an exquisite story for cinema. I believe that one reason that this movie is under-appreciated is that people have not seen it multiple times. On first viewing it is the story of Andy Dufresne and his struggle to maintain hope despite his circumstances. However, this is really a movie about Red and his struggle to find meaning and purpose. The final segment of the movie testifies to the fact that the final resolution of the story comes about only when Red is faced with the same fearful situation as Brooks. Because of Andy, Red can find a different path-the path of freedom that is lit by hope. Who is your Andy Dufresne?
932 out of 1,156 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews