In 1994, Tim Robbins appeared in four movies, all of which sported awkward titles: I.Q., Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear), The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Shawshank Redemption. None of them did particularly well—presumably, because average moviegoers had no idea what any of those movies might be about. (Sadly, this includes I.Q.) But by the end of the year, The Shawshank Redemption had picked up enough traction to be nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. It lost all of them (while Forrest Gump won six awards). Later, after the invention of the Internet Movie Database, and its user-generated Top 250 Films list, The Shawshank Redemption started showing up at the top of the list, suggesting that viewers had finally caught up with it. It’s now a bona-fide cult classic, as well as a classic-classic.
Based on a Stephen King novella, it’s a long movie (142 minutes), and an inspiring tale, warm and beautiful and heartfelt, if also a little heavy. Robbins plays banker Andy Dufresne, convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He befriends “Red” (Morgan Freeman, the real star of the movie, who received an Oscar nomination), and learns to use his financial skills to navigate prison life. He also cooks up an escape plan, with the aid of a Rita Hayworth poster, somehow keeping his dignity intact for his entire stay. Writer/director Frank Darabont had written screenplays for horror sequels and remakes (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, The Blob, and The Fly II), and this elevated him to the “A” list. He’s now known as the developer of The Walking Dead for TV.