TIm Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

My Favorite Scene: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) “Rehabilitated?”

By turns brutal and beautiful; crude yet wise in a way few pieces of art ever attain, The Shawshank Redemption has grown and grown in popularity since it’s release over 20 years ago.  When it was released in 1994, it was overshadowed for recognition by “Gumpmania” as Forrest Gump took most of the glory that year, but over time the film has grown so in stature that it is now the highest rated film of all-time by users on the IMDB’s Top 250 Films (click here for a more in-depth look at the film).

The parole hearings were a recurring plot device to show both the changes that Otis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) underwent in his decades in prison and the passage of time.  This occurs at the very end of the film when a weary Red is dragged one more time in front of the parole board and with withering weariness delivers one of the best monologues Freeman’s ever gotten.  It’s the tired wisdom of an old man desperate to speak sense to his younger self, bereft of the hope that a future is possible.  Whatever Red says the final time, it sets him free and on a path to Mexico and a reunion with his best friend.

Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption

7 thoughts on “My Favorite Scene: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) “Rehabilitated?””

  1. This one scene makes me want to rewatch a movie I have already seen 15+ times. I never get tired of this film. I was bewildered that it failed back when it first came out. It’s still strange that one of film’s towering masterpieces, a perfect film really, was totally overlooked at first. I know it was overshadowed by Gump, but I hope its disastrous title… think about it, “Shawshank Redemption”… did not factor in. Sad if something that trivial had an effect, but I’m guessing it did, in a major way.

    I’ve always read Shawshank as a film about guilt. You just know that Andy was a horrible husband and pushed his wife into the other guy’s arms, and blamed himself for what happened. Hence, the entire concept of being imprisoned, being punished. I’m guessing that the ending of this movie produces such extreme joy and catharsis in people because most everyone relates to Andy on a deep, fundamental level.

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    1. Not just Gump but The Lion King also captivated the pop culture in 1994, so a prison film with a weird name just didn’t have a chance, and marketing was very different then. I don’t think they had any idea what they had. At least they didn’t keep the whole “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” title from the novella. It’s a film most people found on TV and it is kind of a paradox that a movie that is exceedingly dark is also one of the most rewatchable films, because it balances its dark with such joy; such relatable highs and lows, that you just can’t help not watch it if you run across it. Robbins and Freeman and Darabont and the film should have swept the awards. Hanks has three other times he should have won Best Actor and didn’t, and it probably would’ve helped his career overall to not have won back-to-back, because they’ll withhold that third Best Actor until his last film. You could certainly see guilt in Shawshank. I think this scene is about the weariness guilt wracks on the soul. After awhile, you get sick of being guilty. Decades pass, you can’t change your actions and you see the evolution of someone trying to make up for his sins to a person who knows he can’t, but has replayed that hypothetical conversation with his younger self every day in that boxy prison in Maine. Lots of films will be forgotten over the passage of time, but Shawshank will still be revisited 100 years from now, because at its core is such relatable humanity that no passage of time can affect its effect on the human spirit.

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      1. This was King’s best moment, except that his novella does not touch the movie, it is great don’t get me wrong but it is diffuse and not that dramatic and there is not very much to the finale. At leat that’s how I remember it. Darabont gets SO much more credit than King in my book. And after Green Mile and the Mist he’s the go-to King adapter, though in the future he might want to hold back on the devastating soul-crushing endings that make you want to curl up in a ball and wait out the rest of your life in that position, because life really is a cosmic joke, and it hates you, and you are the punchline.

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