Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order.
#4 – The Shawshank Redemption
This is the top twenty. These are in order.
Why is it here:
This movie was a reward for me. Having read Stephen King since I was seven or eight years old I’d suckered up each and every time for one of his books or movies, and while the page often spoke deeply to me the screen was often filled with empty promises. Even the great movies were great because they veered far enough from the source to have their own life. Different Seasons was a book for the non-Stephen King fan. Still burdened with horror but of the real life sort, and other than the Bible I can’t imagine one text having birthed so many films. Stand By Me. Apt Pupil. This. Impressive stuff.
The Shawshank Redemption is not only another in a long line of movies that tanked at the box office only to find glory in later years but the number one movie that I cannot see a frame of without watching the whole thing. There’s a warmth to it, a true pinpoint perfection to it, that is impossible to deny. There’s something about the period, the casting, the music, the dialogue, and the harrowing journey to bliss that just connects on a level deeper than celluloid should ever try to aspire to. It’s transcendence. And I know I’m not the only one who felt it. This movie’s pull and magic is so strong it made people flock to The Green Mile just for another taste of it and while that film is far less than this there’s still a little of that sparkle in it. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are perfect. Clancy Brown and Bob Gunton are as well. William Sadler kills it. Jeffrey DeMunn and Gil Bellows as well. Mark Rolston’s work here still makes me scared of him even when he’s playing a hero. As far as prison movies go, it’s the best. As far as Stephen King adaptations, the same. It’s just a warm apple pie in the window of a movie, one that despite the grim nature of much of it, shines a light that will forever lure new people in. And to imagine me and my buddy Brian were there on opening night with maybe six other people wondering “what the fuck is wrong with people?”
Moments to savor:
Fuckstick. “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish.” Brooks Hatlin, bittersweet and blackly comic. The healing power of music. “What are you a fuckin’ geologist?” The best use of a Bible since ever and ever since. Redemption indeed. Roger Goddamn Deakins.
Can you imagine if they cast a pale, red-haired person in Freeman’s role? How different this film would be and how less powerful? Frank Darabont became an unmissable director in this one film. Astounding stuff.