Many things in this world get better with age. Films are no different in this regard. For many of us, certain films seem to get better every time we see them. With this thought in mind, I can’t help but notice one movie that has garnered more accolades and respect as the years go on, The Shawshank Redemption. Frank Darabont’s 1994 directing debut has gone on to become one of the most beloved and respected films of all time, but it did not start out that way.
The year Shawshank was released in a year that won’t soon be forgotten. With outstanding films like Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and Disney’s The Lion King, Shawshank at the time was left twisting in the wind. This is not to say that Shawshank didn’t receive its fair share of recognition. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Morgan Freeman. It walked away with zero awards that night, but it would not soon be forgotten.
Shawshank would make a mere 24 million at the box office in the US essentially making it a flop in the eyes of studio executives. But thanks to the video renting market it would go on to be the most rented movie of 1995, starting it on it’s way to becoming one of the most loved films of all time.
IMDb’s top 250 films list, which based on fans voting, ranks Shawshank number one above the first two Godfather movies. In 1997 The American Film Institute released it’s top 100 films of all time list. This list did not include a three-year-old Shawshank Redemption but did include Forrest Gump at number 71. Ten years later AFI released an updated list that could consist of films released during the ten years since it’s initial release. In 2007’s list Shawshank came in at number 72 while Forrest Gump dropped to 76.
What is the reason for such high praise thirteen years after it’s release? I don’t think anyone can say or pinpoint one or two exact reasons for this. The only explanation I could come up with is that it’s a movie that gets inside you and grows. It genuinely get’s better with every viewing. The incredible acting and dialogue never lose their perfection as can happen. We have all seen a particular movie and walked out of the theater loving the film and then given time and years removed we see a campiness to its delivery and it doesn’t strike the same chord it did initially.
Shawshank tends to have the reverse effect on many people, myself included. The heart of the film gets bigger every time. It never seems to lose its effectiveness. This is not to say that it’s not without its minor flaws and areas of believability, but they don’t distract from its intention and overall finished product.
What is it that keeps us coming back for more and making the film grow bigger and bigger? It’s undoubtedly superbly written and has a flow that never waivers or has a dead spot what so ever. The cast is one of the best assembled despite only having two major stars. The cast is full of real professional actors that deliver performances worthy of praise from the top to the bottom of the billing. There are a million things that need to go right for a film to be decent and prosperous and almost every one of these things happened with this movie.
Shawshank shows no signs of slowing down in its continuous rise as one of the most beloved movies of all time.