The Power Of The Shawshank Redemption

Image of The Shawshank Redemption in the post The Power of the Shawshank Redemption
Andy and Red - surely one of the best on-screen friendships in the history of film

IMDB's Highest Rated Movie

The Shawshank Redemption holds the number one spot in the IMDB ratings and has remained an all-time favorite despite being released over two decades ago. The film was based on a novella by Stephen King and was directed by Frank Darabont. It pretty much flopped at the box office and failed to win a single Academy Award, but look at it now. As time goes by, the power of The Shawshank Redemption just grows stronger and stronger. 

The movie’s central story is that of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who was falsely accused of killing his unfaithful wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. Andy’s 19-year stay in the Shawshank Prison was narrated from the point of view of another prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), who was locked up long before Andy arrived. The film details prison brutality, friendship, and the consequences of being imprisoned for so long.

Convicts at The Shawshank Prison
Suds on the roof - life at Shawshank
Escape at the Shawshank Prison
The warden looking a tad confused


Before we delve into the subject of freedom, it is important to first talk about one of the most crucial subjects of the movie – institutionalization. Red talks about the prison walls at one point and says, “First, you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, you depend on them.” Watch the scene below:

It’s a different and eye-opening take on imprisonment. Whereas other prison films fixate on the desire to be freed, Shawshank Redemption sheds light on another perspective – one that is personified by Brooks. Brooks is an old man who had spent most of his life in prison and such life is the only one he knows. The Shawshank prison is the only world he know. That’s where his friends are and where his convictions are grounded upon. When he gets released after so many years spent in prison, the outside world is a scary and threatening place. All he wants to do is get locked up again.  

Imprisonment is a harsh form of punishment intended to help felons rehabilitate themselves and reintegrate into society. But is it really an effective method of reintegration? For some people, maybe not. Someone who has spent decades in prison would inevitably consider the cell to be his home. It’s what has become predictable to him – a safe space. Releasing that person after decades of being locked up is like releasing a domesticated pet into the wild. If they are not prepared for it, they will struggle to survive, if at all.

The Shawshank Redemption poster
The poster, for some reason, didn't market the film well

The Notion Of Freedom

The Shawshank Redemption shows that the concept of freedom means different things to different people. Andy’s definition is not the same as that of Red’s or Brooks’. The way that people define freedom depends on the circumstances that they are facing as well as on the community that surrounds them. The notion of freedom varies especially to people in an institution that deprives them of its basic sense – that of mobility and the right to be let alone. 

The film gives us a glimpse of the different things in which the inmates find their own sense of freedom. Some find it in cigarettes, games, a little bird to care for, books, movies, music, rocks to carve and other simple things that people who aren’t imprisoned might just take for granted. 

The Shawshank Redemption instills us with a sense of empathy for the inmates. More importantly, the film has a liberating effect. It forces the audience to take notice of the little pleasures in life and to see that freedom alone, at least in its physical aspect, is enough motivation to go on with life.

A Timeless Classic

The subject of hope is perhaps the most powerful theme explored in the movie. We see that hope can be dangerous, but ultimately, it is a good thing. The power of The Shawshank Redemption draws itself from the film’s ability to encourage the audience to keep hoping even and especially during the darkest of times.

What makes The Shawshank Redemption hard to forget is that the emotions I felt when I watched the film have stayed with me since then. It is not a typical drama that takes you on an emotional roller coaster and then you get over it. Instead, it’s one that makes you think and ponder whether or not you’re making the most out of your life and inspires you to do so if you realize that you aren’t. It’s one of those rare life-changing movies that is earning its right to be classified as a timeless classic. 

Watch the ‘hope is a good thing’ sequence below:

What are your thoughts on The Shawshank Rememption? Let me know in the comments section below.

For more cool things from the 90’s, read our full post, 10 Things That Make The 90’s Nostalgic.

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The Shawshank Redemption Gift Ideas

There is a lot of memorabilia out there, especially on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. Amazon is usually cheaper with more selection and so I’ve chosen them. And if you’re not super satisfied with what you’ve bought, their returns policy is really good.

With so much to choose from, where do you start? My focus has been on cool, fun and quirky items, all garnering decent ratings from well-priced sellers.

Please note that I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small compensation if you use my links, but it will not increase your purchase price. If you use my links, I truly appreciate it 😉

Dufresne Fishing Charters

Image of Dufresne and Redding Tee in the Shawshank Redemption blog post

A super cool Tee that references the most beautiful and hopeful sequence of the movie. 

Check it out on Amazon.

Shawshank Revealed

Delve deep into the making of the film and decipher why this is the most popular movie of all time.

Check it out on Amazon.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Read the novella that started it all. It’s a very unusual Stephen King story, but very engrossing as always. 

Check it out on Amazon.

6 thoughts on “The Power Of The Shawshank Redemption”

  1. This is one of my all time favourite movies. I have never read the book but I am going to make an effort to do so. It is interesting to talk about freedom and this brings me to thinking about all the tv programmes that I have watched recently about incarceration in the US. I am from the UK which is very far from being perfect and I have a fascination with crime-no-I am a fine upstanding citizen. I have been shocked recently watching so many programmes about the judicial system in the US, miscarriages of justice and even when people should be in prison – the facilities and the danger within those facilities is mind-blowing. 

    1. Wow, Sofia, you have a really deep understanding of the prison system in the US. And I can see why Shawshank Redemption is right up your alley. 

  2. Hey Murray, great article highlight the power of Shawshank Redemption!

    I remembering watching this movie several years back, I found it very to be very emotionally moving/heartbreaking and yet inspiring, as it revolved around a niche perspective on prison life for these characters. 

    Reflecting that even that the idea of prisons is a ‘protected place’ to rehabilitate those convicted to improve their outlook on life. Whereas. that is not really the case that prison life can change those inside to be better. This is referring to some of the prison characters for some of the plot lines and story elements in the movie.

    I found it to be very grounded in purpose, where the development of brotherhood amongst the inmates as they experienced hardships, abuse, etc in the movie. Brooks was one of the most pitiful characters in my opinion, that reflected on how he found humanity being in prison. After being in locked up for a long time, it became like a place where he called home, and society expects inmates to return to normal when they are released. 

    However, leaving prison after years may not be normal for some, especially when the world has changed. It was also saddening to see that it reflected on how society won’t attend to the elderly and involve them in this generation; in this case it was Brooks when he returned to the outside world. It sends quite a powerful message for the century.

    Overall, its an inspirational movie that has many messages to be found in-depth. Again, thanks for the read on the power of the Shawshank Redemption!

  3. I’m a fan of “The Shawshank Redemption”. I was surprised it didn’t do better at the box office and I always attributed that to its somewhat unfortunate name. I think people might have skipped it because a) they didn’t know what a “Shawshank” was, and b) “redemption” makes it sound like a religious movie. I appreciated the way the relationship between Andy and Red was shown to develop. From the beginning when Red lost a bet when he picked Andy to fold first among the “new fish” to Red’s decision to violate his parole to rejoin his friend, I thought the movie did a good job showing that development.

    1. You make an interesting point about the Shawshank Redemption having an unfortunate name. I’m sure that played a part at the time. Getting pitted against Forest Gump at the Oscars also didn’t help their trophy cupboard. I’m sure if it had been any other year, they would have picked up a few. 

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