The Shawshank RedemptionAFI Rank: #72 (10th anniversary ranking)
Year Released: 1994
Director: Frank Darabont
Actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bill Bolender, Larry Brandenburg, Brian Brophy
There are hundreds of reviews about The Shawshank Redemption in general, and its place as one of the finest movies ever filmed. This review of The Shawshank Redemption is specifically about its context in the American Film Institute's Top 100 listing.
The first release of the AFI Top 100 came out and while it covered movies through 1996 somehow it did NOT have The Shawshank Redemption on its list. This even though the list had a variety of other movies that even most casual film-watchers would consider far less worthy. I suppose one could launch a wide variety of conspiracy theories about why. Is it because there were practically no females in the entire movie? That in the entire, long 142 minutes of film lines I think we have 3 lines total by a female voice? That can't be true, because Patton was on the AFI list and I'm fairly sure it had NO female speaking role at all. Neither did Platoon, with the exception of a female villager who briefly spoke in Vietnamese.
OK, is it the rough prison atmosphere in general? I'd be hard pressed to say that was true. After all, they included A Clockwork Orange which has some pretty foul rape scenes in it. Pulp Fiction had bondage and male-rape scenes. So it's probably not that.
But in looking at the original AFI Top 100 listing, pretty much the *only* film which features a key black character is Guess Who's Coming to Dinner which squeaked in at spot #99. That was it. And the portrayal there was extremely banal. I do love the movie, don't get me wrong. But the character was as "squeaky clean" as they came. Heck, we had more Native Americans in the AFI Top 100 than we had blacks.
So then fast forward ten years, with everyone screaming about some of the choices they'd made with this first listing. Off went Guess Who's. And on came In the Heat of the Night. On came Do the Right Thing which in its wildest dreams didn't have anything even remotely close on the first list. And on came The Shawshank Redemption.
Absolutely I feel The Shawshank Redemption *should* have been on the AFI list in the first place. And I'm pleased that it vaulted right into the #72 spot in the new revised listing. But it feels odd the way that it happened. I wish it had always been on the list, and that it hadn't seemingly been part of some of this on-and-off behavior.
Still, with that all being said, clearly the movie is incredibly well done and well worth watching. Highly recommended.
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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100