The voters of IMDb, the International Movie Database (owned by Amazon), is a group of very discerning cinemaphiles with very high standards. Their list of top ten movies respresents the best in cinema spanning more than 55 years. At the top of the list (the film is also in Netflix’s top ten films) is a real modern cinematic gem, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994) based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayward and Shawshank Redemption. The novella caught Darabont’s attention early in his career: “[It] told the tall and gentle tale of a decades-long friendship between two inmates in a fictional Maine prison. It was a story that captured my imagination and sent my heart soaring.” The film is a modern day classic, in the tradition of great films like Casblanca and It’s a Wonderful Life — films that continues to grow on us as time passes by. It has all the right ingredients: superb cast (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman), script (Frank Darabont), editing (Richard Francis-Bruce), cinematography (Roger Deakin), and music (Thomas Newman). But best of all — it is a wonderfully warm, inspiring and very human story about friendship — little wonder it won seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and best screenplay. Chicago film critic, Roger Ebert wrote: “The key to the film’s structure is that it’s not about its hero, but about our relationship with him — our curiosity, our pity, our admiration.” As Ebert notes, it is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of home video, since the film found its real audience in the rental market rather than on the big screen (only $28 gross after its release in 1994 — a flop by today’s standards). Ebert continues: “Polls and rentals reflect popularity but don’t explain why people value Shawshank so fervently. Maybe it plays more like a spiritual experience than like a movie… Affection for good films often grows with familiarity. Some have said life is a prison, we are Red, [and] Andy is our redeemer. All good art is about something deeper than it admits.”
Interesting trivia about the film: the actor Brian Libby who plays Floyd has been in every film Darabont has made. “I think of him as my good luck charm,” explains the director.
For further reading: The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script by Frank Darabont, New Market Press (1996), Roger Ebert: The Great Movies by Roger Ebert, Broadway Books (2002). http://www.imdb.com/chart/top