It is impossible to truly predict just how much audiences will like a film when it debuts. Some films initially make huge waves, only to fade from memory not long after. Others go unnoticed when they hit theaters, but over time continue to find their audience. Such is the case with The Shawshank Redemption. Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's story failed to ignite the box office, but is now widely considered to be among the greatest films of all time. Actor Tim Robbins played the iconic Andy Dufresne, and recently spoke about why the infinitely rewatchable film continues to resonate with audiences today, saying:
I think one of the reasons Shawshank continues to resonate is that it's one of the few movies about a loving relationship --- really a love story about two men --- that doesn't involve car chases or is a buddy comedy. It's about two people coming to know each other very well under very difficult circumstances. I also think its staying power has to do with the overall theme of the movie, which is that there is redemption in holding on to your dream and that regardless of the obstacles in your path, there is a Zihuatanejo for everyone somewhere.
Character and theme are what makes a film endure the test of time, and that's what Tim Robbins is speaking to here. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in advance of co-star Morgan Freeman's SAG Lifetime Achievement award, Tim Robbins makes an interesting point; the type of loving relationship between two men seen in The Shawshank Redemption is far from commonplace. In a film full of perfect moments, the friendship between Red and Andy is truly the heart of the film. Part of why we care so much about the protagonists is because of how much they care for each other. All friendships are important and they define our lives, but friendships forged under trying circumstances can mean even more. Red and Andy came to know and love one another while suffering the horror, evil, and indignity of life in Shawshank State Penitentiary. This type of bond is unbreakable, and is why it continues to resonate with viewers twenty plus years later.
As Tim Robbins says, the theme of The Shawshank Redemption is also a huge factor in its staying power. While Red worries about Andy throughout the film and discourages him from getting his hopes up, Andy's tale is ultimately one of triumph. Hope, perseverance and never giving in to despair are messages audiences can always find merit in, and apply to their own lives. This is timeless and universal, whether your Zihuatanejo is a town in Mexico or not. The Shawshank Redemption's theme is one that speaks to audiences and shows the value in never giving up hope and continuing to hammer away towards your dream.
It is never an exact science when trying to put your finger on what makes a movie so beloved and rewatchable. Shawshank is #1 all time on IMDb for what that's worth. But Tim Robbins' assessment of why The Shawshank Redemption continues to resonate seems as right as any. Spectacle fades and becomes less exciting as time goes on, but the relationship between characters and the emotional weight of a powerful theme are timeless. This is no easy thing, but every year we get plenty more films and with them the potential for another timeless classic. Check out this years films, big and small in our release schedule.