What the Best Movie of All Time Has Taught Me

ShawshankCoverTwenty years ago, on September 23, 1994, The Shawshank Redemption was released into theaters. If you are somehow unfamiliar with the film, here’s the description from Wikipedia: “Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, the film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends 19 years in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.”

And The Winner Goes To…

While it didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture that year, losing to Forrest Gump, for me it wins Best Picture of all time (Forrest is #2 on my list).  Though I detest television and think it turns your brain to mush, if I come across Shawshank, the channel stays put.  This is despite owning it on DVD and VHS.  It may even be recorded on my cable box DVR.  If you haven’t seen it, then I recommend you try to catch it on cable TV.  I think it’s shown there almost daily, and they show a  PG-13 version, not R.


Lessons Learned

So what makes it so special?  For me, it boils down to this: Shawshank Redemption is the ultimate perseverance triumphs movie.  It also has numerous life lessons to tell:

  • If you wind up in a bad place and its not your fault, don’t play a blame game.  Make a plan and work to get out.
  • Sometimes carrying out that plan can take a long time.  What gets you there is persistence and incremental progress. Andy didn’t tunnel out in one night.  He carved away a bit each night for nineteen years.
  • You may have to give up a bit of sleep to accomplish your plan.  Andy could only dig at night after the lights were out.
  • Don’t necessarily broadcast your plans.  What do you think would have happened if Andy had told Red what he was doing?  Red may have tried to talk him out of it or even given it away by accident.  Be careful who you tell your plans.
  • Not everyone watching out for you has your best interests in mind.  The warden only made Andy’s life easier to benefit the warden.
  • Don’t be Brooks.  After 50 years inside, Brooks was finally paroled.  Unfortunately, the only life he knew was the prison.  Once released, he couldn’t handle it and hung himself. If you have a goal to get out your current situation, keep this in mind.  Sure the status quo may seem more comfortable, but is it where you should be?
  • Finally,  sometimes the final obstacle is the worst.  Don’t get so close to your goal and let something like a little “foulness” stop you. Once Andy tunneled out of the cell block, he still had to crawl through the sewage pipe:

In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I used to think it would take six-hundred years to tunnel under the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty. Oh, Andy loved geology. I guess it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time. That, and a big god-damned poster. Like I said, in prison a man will do anything to keep his mind occupied. It turns out Andy’s favorite hobby was totin’ his wall through the exercise yard, a handful at a time. I guess after Tommy was killed, he decided he had been here just about long enough. Andy did like he was told, buffed those shoes to a high mirror shine. The guard simply didn’t notice. Neither did I…I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a mans shoes? Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of sh** smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards…that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.


Did I miss anything?



5 thoughts on “What the Best Movie of All Time Has Taught Me

  1. Ever read the novella?

    I have a postcard correspondence from the author from late 1981 in which he told me he had a new book coming out called “Different Seasons,” which was to be released in Spring 1982.

    I bought a first edition of that book in 1982, boxed it up and shipped it to the author who signed it and sent it back to me.

    In addition to “Shawshank” that book spawned the movies “Stand By Me” and “Apt Pupil.”

    1. I have not read the novella. It’s on my to-do list. That’s really cool about the autograph. Guess that’s about the time you tried to get me to read The Stand. I eventually did read that montrosity.

      I am trying to get back into reading more fiction these days. I want to go back and read Salem’s Lot. It was always my favorite SK novel. Misery was pretty awesome, too.

      1. The Stand is a monster of a book – and that’s not even talking about the extended version of it at 1152 pages.

        BTW – The Stand is currently in pre-production as a new three-hour movie. Matthew McConaughey is being looked at to be Randy Flagg, the walking dude.

  2. Nice piece! I love how you break down the lessons from this movie … it really is a wonderful one. The copywriting exercise must have worked, because this piece is nicely stripped down to its essentials.

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