“Shawshank Redemption”: Hope and Other Themes

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Andy, The Shawshank Redemption

A good bit of “movie therapy” could be had from watching The Shawshank Redemption (1994). When you’re feeling down or downtrodden, nothing beats an injection of hope, one of the main themes of the highest-rated film on IMDB’s top 250 and one of my own personal favorites. 

Shawshank Redemption. “Shawshank” is a prison in which Andy (Tim Robbins), an innocent man convicted of murder, bonds with Red (Morgan Freeman), an admitted killer. “Redemption” is what ultimately happens. You have to watch it to find out how.

Redemption, freedom, friendship, oppression, time, patience, loyalty, justice—and yes, hope. All are themes of this well-done and highly praised movie.

The trailer’s below:

Male friendship.

Ed GonzalezSlant calls it “…Beaches for straight men.”


Janet Maslin, New York Times: “Without a single riot scene or horrific effect, it tells a slow, gentle story of camaraderie and growth, with an ending that abruptly finds poetic justice in what has come before.”

Oppression and self-oppression.

Rita KempleyWashington Post: “A detailed portrait of the routine of cellblock life, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ might change a few minds about the usefulness of incarceration in terms of rehabilitation. Mostly, though, it reminds us of that we all hold the keys to our own prisons.”


Leonard Klady, Variety: “Ultimately, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is about the dominance of real justice. That element of the narrative keeps the movie from descending into abject resignation.”

Time, patience, loyalty, friendship, hope.

Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com: “‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is a movie about time, patience and loyalty — not sexy qualities, perhaps, but they grow on you during the subterranean progress of this story, which is about how two men serving life sentences in prison become friends and find a way to fight off despair…”


James Berardinelli, Reel Views:

[Andy’s] unwillingness to surrender hope wins him the admiration of some and the contempt of others, and allows the audience to identify with him that much more strongly…

The Shawshank Redemption is all about hope and, because of that, watching it is both uplifting and cathartic.

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