Legendary Shawshank

There is a short list of movies that leave a distinct impression on me, to the point where I can recall whole scenes or remember what it was like the first time watching it. The Shawshank Redemption has been my favorite movie of all time for long while, along with the Usual Suspects.

There are plenty of reasons why Shawshank Redemption is at the top of the IMDB Top 250 Movies List: amazing cast, great writing, compelling plot, insipidously emotional, and of course, a great ending. if you haven’t seen it, make it the next movie you watch. Don’t let the name fool you, the title does not nearly describe how amazing this movie is. it stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (possibly where Freeman got his movie-narrating start?) as two inmates at Shawshank Prison. Freeman’s character, Red, has been incarcerated for his entire adult life. He meets Tim Robbins’ character Andy after Andy is found guilty of killing his wife and wife’s lover after catching them together. Andy and Red become acquainted as Andy makes a request from the man who “is known to locate things from time to time” (used in my other favorite TV show, How I Met Your Mother S4E16 “Last Words”) . Andy and Red begin a journey in Shawshank together, weaving in storylines of other prisoners. They share stories and celebrate minor victories within the prison walls, concluding with the “Redemption” part I will not spoil for those who haven’t seen it.


One of the big themes in this movie is contrasting Andy’s hope and Red’s hopelessness. This juxtaposition is constantly highlighted with Red’s realism of the dismal environment – which is constantly handed to Andy by the Sisters gang and the Warden being an ass. Red’s warning that “hope is a dangerous thing. hope can drive a man insane.” echoes the opinions of the inmates who have been “institutionalized” (I’ll get into Brooks Hatlen in the next section). Andy never seems to lose hope, telling the guys

“there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.”

This was right after Andy defied the warden by playing over the PA system a record of Mozart’s Figaro for the entire prison to hear, causing everyone to stop in their tracks and listen. Andy finds rays of hope by getting friendly with Red and his group of friends, tarring the roof together, and some of the perks of being the personal accountant of the warden.

I like the scene leading up to the escape, where you see Andy holding his rope – Tim Robbins makes you believe that Andy was losing it and was going to follow Brooks’ footsteps. When you see the quick scenes of Andy walking into the bank in Maine and making off with the Warden’s money, I remember being happy for him (stupid, right? to feel happy for a movie character?). The movie then takes the viewer back to Red, where he is sad:

Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

You kind of see Red getting back into the prison routine, but it seems all the thoughts of hope Andy inspired are left to the stories the inmates would tell about him. Red’s parole is granted and he goes to the halfway house Brooks was at, with the same job. It seems Andy’s lesson in hope wasn’t in vain. Red goes to the place with the stone wall leading up to an old tree, finds the black obsidian rock with a box indicating Andy was in Zihuatanejo – the mexican town they fantasized about in prison. A bus trip and walk in the sand later, the two friends are re-united, leaving the viewers with a renewed belief in hope.

As you can tell, the movie does a fantastic job of jockeying different emotions. The most heartbreaking part of the entire movie was Brooks Hatlen, a long-time inmate who was paroled and sent to live in a halfway house in the real world with a job bagging groceries. He grew increasingly depressed with his new living conditions and committed suicide, leaving behind a scratched message “Brooks was here”. This institutionalized man couldn’t make it on the outside anymore – he grew dependent on the prison system and even grew to call it home. this is one of the few scenes from a movie that has stayed with me, not so much for how depressing it was, but how it contrasted to Andy’s hope and optimism.

I think everyone would agree (especially if it was your first time seeing it) that the discovery of Andy’s escape tunnel was the best part of the movie. Where you see how he escapes in the pipeline of raw sewage to emerge into a brook free and with means (thanks to the greedy warden).

What keeps this movie fresh in my mind and always at the top of my personal favorites is that there are so many call backs and themes that are repeated in tv shows, other movies, and even in regular conversation.

After freaking out over his wedding, Marshall says he wants to “find that money under the rock by the tree and go live with the guys on the beach in Zihuatanejo”. (HIMYM S2E21 “Something Borrowed”)

The high angle movie shot where the actor is getting rained on, while looking up, arms spread (pic above) has been done in Pleasantville and Fools Rush In

Plenty of TV references: My Name is Earl, Family Guy, Glee, Modern Family, and many others.

What do you think? does Shawshank rank high on your top movies list?

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