This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Shawshank Redemption, a film that stands the test of time as one of the best movies ever made. It is, far and away, still the best adaptation of any of Stephen King's work, and it's a solid display of the talents of both writer and director Frank Darabont (who would also adapt King's The Green Mile and The Mist later in his career) and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins.
The film, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and was criminally robbed in every category, is also full of great lines. Many of them were lifted directly from King's novella, but some of them were written by Darabont himself. Either way, they are inspirational, real, and usually delivered in a bluntyly beautiful way. These are the ten best quotes from The Shawshank Redemption.
10 "They send you here for life, and that's exactly what they take."
"The part that counts, anyway."
Watching The Shawshank Redemption, it's hard not to imagine yourself put into a situation like life imprisonment. It's possibly one of the worst things that can happen to a person, knowing that they'll never again set foot outside of the prison walls. This quote sums up the feeling perfectly. The prisoners in Shawshank aren't living inside the prison. The place has taken their lives from them, leaving them to do nothing but wait out their sentences.
9 "I’m telling you, these walls are funny."
"First you hate them. Then you get used to them. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalised"
Even still, a big part of the film's story is how the convicts in Shawshank have become so used to the idea of being in prison, that they can't really remember life outside of it. At one point in the film, Red makes a reference to the fact that prison life is all about routine, and for the prisoners of Shawshank, life has just become a routine of getting through one day and living to see the next one.
8 "Bad luck, I guess. It floats around."
"It's got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that's all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn't expect the storm would last as long as it has."
There is something poetic about this line that really rings true. The line, like much of the dialogue from the film, is plucked almost directly from Stephen King's original novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and it shows. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that King excels at. It's folksy, but there is an air of darkness to it, a lingering sort of melancholy about how even though the events that put Andy in Shawshank are seemingly random, it still felt like he was singled out, like all of that bad luck was meant for him and him alone.
7 "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."
One of the most endearing characters from the entire film is Brooks, the kindly old librarian who, by the time Andy arrives, has spent roughly 50 years behind Shawshank's walls. He's the first character we see being released back into the world, and for a man who went away in the 1900s, the world looks very different.
Seeing Brooks's life on the outside, coupled with the letter he sends to the guys still in prison gives the audience an idea of the obstacles still awaiting any of them, even once they are free. This line perfectly sums up the way the world changes fast, even if we don't always think it does.
6 "The funny thing is, on the outside I was an honest man."
"Straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook."
One of the most widely accepted ideas about the prison system is that anyone who goes into it will just learn how to be a better criminal by the time they are let out. Andy Dufresne goes in as an honest and law-abiding man, even if the state doesn't think he is, but it's inside the walls where he really learns how to be a criminal.
He takes on the task of laundering the Warden's dirty money, making sure that the government never has any clue. Of course, this all comes in handy once Andy makes his escape, and he has an available alias with several bank accounts in his name.
5 "Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of s*** and came out clean on the other side."
It's one of the most cathartic moments in The Shawshank Redemption, and it might also just be one of the most recognizable scenes in film history: Andy Dufresne, after making his harrowing escape attempt, stands in the pouring rain, removing his shirt, and lets the storm wash him clean.
It's Red's summation of this escape, as blunt as it is, that really rings true to life. Sometimes you have to crawl through some sewer pipes before you can make it to where you want to be.
4 "I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged."
"Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend."
This is one of the most heartbreaking and yet poignant lines in the film, and is taken almost verbatim from King's writing. There is so much truth in this statement. Sure, we can be happy when we let something beautiful go free, but there is still the sense of sadness knowing that when it is gone, your own life just feels like it is missing something.
3 "There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret."
"Not because I'm in here, because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone, and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that."
Throughout the film, we see Red go up for parole a total of three times. the first two times, he truly does his best to deliver what he thinks is the right answer, only to be denied, which is something he has unfortunately become very used to. His third and final time in front of the parole board, Red delivers an honest answer about how the regret he feels is more about how his life has passed him by, and all he is looking for now is not rehabilitation, but redemption.
2 "I hope I can make it across the border."
"I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."
The final lines of The Shawshank Redemption might just be the most beautiful in the entire film. Coupled with Thomas Newman's score, the moment that Red finally accepts hope back into his life is coupled with these lines written by King himself. Although the novella leaves the ending vague, the two friends really do reunite in the film, starting a brand new life.
After the harrowing experiences the audience is put through in Shawshank, the ending of the film delivers a cathartic moment of happiness, peace, and, as the title suggests, redemption.
1 "Get busy living, or get busy dying."
Of course, no list of quotes from The Shawshank Redemption would be complete without this gem. It might just be the one line that anyone, even people who aren't familiar with the film, have picked up since its release back in 1994. It's a line that will remain firmly in film history, along with "Here's looking at you, kid," or, "We're going to need a bigger boat."
The message of this line is clear: you either spend your life going through the motions and waiting around for something to happen, or you make something happen for yourself. Its poignancy cannot be understated. In the novella, it's Red who writes this line about breaking his parole and going to Mexico. In the film, it's about Andy finally taking his life back into his own hands. Either way, it's a powerful sentiment.