#1 The Shawshank Redemption

#1 – The Shawshank Redemption

To become to the most popular film of all time, you need to appeal to a broad audience, the epitome of mainstream. Alas, the biggest selling films of all time are therefore Avatar, Titanic and The Avengers. To become the greatest film of all time is something entirely different. You need fantastic cinematography, soundtrack, acting, storyline, pacing, editing, character development even lighting. Shawshank manages to do all. Whilst Avatar, the biggest selling film of all time, was sold entirely on the special effects, James Cameron and the fact 3D was about to make the biggest comeback since the big man himself in 36AD.

The Shawshank Redemption manages to appeal to a broad audience by riding the prison drama genre to new heights by also telling the emotional stories of a diverse set of characters. Starring Tim Robbins (War of the Worlds, Mystic River) and Morgan Freeman (Se7en, Bruce Almighty) it tells the stories of Andy Dufresne & Ellis Redding as they bond over a number of years and their similar moral compasses whilst imprisoned inside Shawshank. Frank Darabont, way before his days of creating The Walking Dead, directed and developed the storyline from a short story written by Emperor of fiction Stephen King. Although it is written by Mr King, it is clearly an entirely different tact to Stephens usual focus on shock and gore horror fiction. Shawshank is a much lighter affair in gore but full of heart wrenching themes from redemption itself, to corruption, hope and loss. You have got to be pretty stone cold to not feel for either intense hatred or sympathy for each character.

Eighteen years ago, The Shawshank was released to nothing but a lukewarm reception. Critical acclaim, extended VHS sales and numerous TV repeats has allowed it to develop into a beast that many become shell shocked when you admit you haven’t seen it. Parodied by the heavy weights of Family Guy, Robot Chicken and the infamous YouTube scenes, Shawshank has displayed an incredible cultural impact with scenes almost akin to The Sixth Sense level of twists.

Morgan Freeman has gone on to flourish in a career playing, Lucius Fox in the Batman Nolanverse, God himself in Bruce Almighty and Detective Somerset opposite Brad Pitt in the thriller Se7en. Let alone developing the most  recognised voice in the western world. Tim Robbins has reaped less of the rewards but has experienced a career of differing roles from the crazed maniac in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds to The President in Austin Powers and a brief cameo in the Tenacious D’s cinema outing. Sadly actor James Whitmore,  runaway performance of the film as Brooks, died in 2009 aged 87 after an acting career which began in 1949. Frank Darabont went on to direct The Green Mile and The Mist before moving on to developing The Walking Dead for television audiences.

The Shawshank Redemption should be enjoyed on multiple viewings and matures every time. Achieving the top voted film of all time is a mean feat and Shawshank has done this by appealing to a wide variety of emotions with focuses on hope and loss throughout a two and a quarter hour long journey. Whilst viewing the audience really feel for each character as they develop over their stay in Shawshank and you either cheer for each to get early release or the electric chair. Emotion is Shawshank’s strongest aspect and it brings lorry loads to the table. In a period of cinema full of action, adventure movies pushing back character development for the next car chase, Shawshank shone through to prove cinema is at its strongest when representing interesting characters and not aliens, explosions and SFX sinking ships.


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