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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame: The Shawshank Redemption

Submitted by on February 20, 2015 – 9:12 AM31 Comments
Photo: Castle Rock Entertainment

Photo: Castle Rock Entertainment

That’s goddamn right.

Well, I think you all know my vote here. It’s kind of shocking that we’re only just now getting to Shawshank; I guess I was too busy acting out the entire movie, including non-speaking parts and rocks and bars and whatnot, to put the nom through?

Anyway, Readers E. and Kate make the case (with the support of a half-dozen others who were like, “I would nominate it but I’m sure someone beat me to it”):

“I can’t remember when I first saw the movie, but I do remember the millions times I’ve seen it since. I own the VHS, the DVD, and have a permanent copy saved on my ipad. I can watch this movie anytime it’s on TV, and from any point in the movie. In my opinion, it’s also one of the few movies that is better than the book (novella).” – E.

  • lengthy? 142 minutes.
  • familiar/frequent? “At one point I’m pretty sure it was the only movie shown on TNT” – E.
  • classic/award-winner? “Nominated for 7 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes and 2 SAG awards, plus 1 Grammy” – Kate. [“And won none of these, somehow. This was the Forrest Gump/Pulp Fiction year, which may explain it but is no excuse.” – SDB.]
  • “Greetings, Professor Falken” (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)? “Dufresne escaped by crawling through raw sewage, ends up living the good life in Mexico with his best bud, and screws over the nasty warden and violent guard on his way out of town” – Kate.
  • “Wanna have a catch?” (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)? [“Both readers point to ‘Brooks was here’; the ones that get me are Brooks hoping Jake will come visit, ‘but: he never does,’ and Red’s ‘I hope’ montage towards the end. Cue swell of strings. …Um, anyone have a Swiffer? Little dusty in here all of a sudden.” – SDB.]
  • quote-fest? [“‘Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin” noted by both (and tattooed on Mr. Stupidhead’s leg; now THAT’S a lasting quote), plus the ‘only guilty man in Shawshank’ and the ‘Count of Monte Crisco/Alexandree Dumbass’ exchange, but they’re myriad. Mine are all little throwaways like ‘next thing I know, out come the knifes,’ ‘Red, I do believe you’re talking out of your ass,’ ‘woman can’t bake for shit,’ and ‘easy peasy, Jap-a-nese-y.'” – SDB]
  • caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie? “Andy and Red’s relationship in the prison seems to be an island of stillness and peace for both of them, in contrast to the harshness they’re surrounded with” – Kate.
  • “forget you, melon farmer” (you own it, but will still watch bowdlerized TV verzh) [“Strong ‘duh’ from both.” – SDB.]

Kate compares the movie to a “comfy sweatshirt,” and I have to agree. Stephen King translates well to the screen, i.e., as good as or better than the source material, only bout 40% of the time, but Shawshank expiates every The Dark Half and Pet Sematary right down the line.

In the Platonic cave of Poppy-Fields Movies, this one’s gently stirring the coals with a rock hammer. I doubt this one’s much of a fight, but let’s hear from everyone else. (“Holsters, too.”)

[Update, 3/7/15: This one’s got every business being in the Maine hayfield that is the Couch Of Fame.]

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame is here. To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. If I use your entry, free loot shall be thine.




  • Lisa says:

    Count me in the “I would nominate it but I’m sure someone beat me to it” camp. The number of times I have gotten sucked into watching whatever part of the movie is left when I flip past it on cable is almost embarrassing. And I watch most of my cable TV at the gym, so people are probably starting to wonder about me. I’m a yes vote for sure.

  • Martin Hoffmeier says:

    First ballot Hall of Famer. No Question.

  • attica says:

    “Willfully obtuse” became part of my everyday usage because of this flick.

    I’m with you: I normally don’t start crying until the last “I hope” but I never don’t cry at that. Like right freaking now.

  • Maryse42 says:

    Resounding yes!

  • bristlesage says:

    Should get more support than Seaver in his HOF campaign, yep.

  • sam says:

    Also add me to the pile of, “I should nominate this, but I’m sure it’s already been done” list.

    “He crawled through a river of sh*t and came out clean on the other side”.

    I agree that King doesn’t always translate well to film, but that particular book (Different Seasons) was a bounty of good stories. It also gave us “The Body”, which became “Stand by Me”.

    This is the book (and the film) I point to when people make fun of me for liking King, and accuse him of being “merely” a genre writer or a hack.

    The man can tell a damn fine story when he sets to it.

  • Sophie says:

    “Willfully obtuse” and “What say there, Fussy Britches” are in my regular vocabulary, too. This is the definition of a PFM.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    waitwaitwait, it’s not FUZZY britches?

    Come on, Sophie, you’re holdin’ up the show.

  • Angie says:

    I get a little misty when Andy plays the aria for the whole prison, too, but then there’s the beatdown, which is a super bummer. My vocabulary also includes William Sadler’s Heywood pronouncing it “Alexandree Dumb-ass.” Heywood is such a good side character, and there are so many of them! Also, I was afraid of Clancy Brown for YEARS after this movie (and still am a bit, honestly.)

    Perfect, love this movie, definitely poppyfields.

  • Beanie says:

    My love for this movie, and Morgan Freeman in it, knows no bounds.

    Also believe that this is the best Stephen King adaptation out there, although Stand By Me runs a close second.

    And every time I see the part with the opera being broadcast to the inmates, my heart swells. Every. Single. Time.

  • Deanna says:

    Mind you, I HAVE NEVER said this to my children and I WILL NEVER say it in their hearing.


    I have muttered “I’m not gonna to count to three. I’m not even gonna count to one. You will shut the fuck up or I will sing you a lullaby” under my breath climbing the stairs to put a halt to after-bedtime shenanigans more than once.

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    Count me in the “can’t believe it isn’t already in the HOF” camp. A classic, and the definition of a PFM.

  • Lis says:

    I have to say yes to this, because even though it is one of those movies that makes me sob so hard I look a mess the next day I can’t help but watch it to the end no matter where I start.

    I guess I start welling up when Red finds the box… then it’s a bit harder when he reads the letter but when we get to the VO where he says “I hope to see my friend and shake his hand” I start really crying… it isn’t a little cute welling up in the eyes cry. It’s an ugly, people are staring, there’s something wrong with me cry. Every.Single.Time. I really love this movie.

  • RachelG says:

    Chalk me up as another “I would have nominated it but I’m sure 11,000 people beat me to it”. I love this movie. It is absolutely one of the few movies that I will stop and watch no matter where I come in, and continue all the way to the end. 100% PFM HOF.

  • bluesabriel says:

    YES. I think this is the only movie my husband may love more than Back to the Future. Or at least as much. Such a perfect PFM.

    @Deanna- Oh, man. As a parent of a two-year-old, thank you for that.

  • Kat says:

    I think I may in fact did put the words “I’m sure you’ve received hundreds of nominations for Shawshank” in a PFM submission I did for another film.

    This movie has to be at the very top of the Poppy Field Movie Hall of Fame list.
    I too quote this movie on the regular, and still laugh uncontrollably whenever I hear William Sadler’s Heywood say, “Alexandree DUM-ass”.
    It is also the only reason several years ago, I decided to treat myself for my 35th birthday and took myself to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. It was beautiful, just like Andy said.

  • Sandman says:

    I’m with Beanie. It doesn’t hurt that the aria comes from what is probably my favourite opera. But Red’s speech here

    I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

    is one of the moments I wait for, every time the movie comes on. Tell me it’s overwritten, tell me it’s sentimental: I CARE NOT. Yes. 100% PFM HOF.

  • Sandman says:

    @Angie: Who isn’t, really?

  • Cdc says:

    Every time the PFM has come up, I’ve wondered why Shawshank hasn’t been nominated yet. Yes, and a thousand times yes!

  • StatMom says:

    This movie defines the category, IMO. Around here we often refer to the “pressure and time” bit. And I’ve always heard it as “fussy britches.”

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    But she’s in a fur onesie, no? Which is fuzzy?

    …If it’s “fussy,” I can’t use it on the cats. Well, not both the cats.

  • Sophie says:

    She’s definitely wearing fur unmentionables, but I always thought “britches” was metonymy (or is it synechdoche?) Like, she, herself, is a giant hot-and-bothered nether region. No?

  • Susan says:

    I always thought it was “fuzzy” britches because she is wearing fur underwear or fur “britches” as the my grandmother might say.

  • StatMom says:

    Hm, the Interwebs mostly agree that her britches are indeed “fuzzy.” I guess I just assumed it was some regionalism for fancy clothing, which the warden was using sarcastically. Either way, it’s a great phrase and a great read of the line.

  • Emma says:

    @Sars: Closed captioning definitely thinks it is Fussy Britches, for what that is worth.

    When I want to reread a book that is an old old friend, sometimes I just let it fall open to a random page and start there. Starting in media res lets me view the plot with fresh eyes even if I know it by heart. Watching Shawshank on TV is kind of like that. I don’t think I have ever seen the entire thing from a broadcast. It always happens when I am idly flipping channels and suddenly hey, there’s a bunch of dudes fixing a roof, or there’s that guy from Ally Mcbeal getting shot in the back, or ooh, Morgan Freeman just riding a bus. No matter where I stumble into the story I always stay until the end.

    Now that I think on it, I am not sure I have EVER seen the very start of the film. Surely I must have, at some point? But I don’t think I could tell you at gunpoint what happens in the first ten minutes, other than probably Andy goes to jail? It doesn’t matter, because the rest of the film is so perfectly engrossing.

    “I hope the Pacific is as blue as my dreams. I hope.” Darnit, who started chopping onions in here? *snift*

  • Josh says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s “fuzzy britches”. But the only solution is the fire up the blu-ray and make sure…I’m willing to take that hit for the team!

    This one is the epitome of the Couch of Fame for me. Hits every category down the line and still sucks me in every time no matter how many bazillion times I’ve seen it (or at least parts of it). And still gets me a little irrationally angry that it never won anything and freakin’ Forrest Gump goddamn did.

    They handled the reveals really well in this movie. You don’t actually know that Andy didn’t kill his wife until late, but they play it straight. It’s easy to believe that he’s deluding himself the whole time/lying to everyone. (and I love the “You mean he’s innocent innocent?” bit). The tension when Andy doesn’t come out of his cell at the end is something I can still feel even though I’ve seen that reveal a million times.

    The casting is really terrific, too. there isn’t a miss in the bunch and when does that ever happen?

  • scout1222 says:

    I thought it was fussy as well.

    This is the poster child for this. If it didn’t get voted in I might have to quit the entire internet. God, I love this movie.

  • Cat_slave says:

    Dammit, I have to see this again. I’ve read the book often enough. I remember that the first time I saw it I was a little miffed about Red being, well, not red, because I remembered the line about his red hairline receding. Five minutes in? I had completely forgotten. Didn’t matter.

  • E says:

    It’s “fuzzy” britches according the script on

  • cinderkeys says:

    I read the novella first and liked it very much. I was surprised by how much more I liked the movie. A visual medium served the story better. No matter how well you write about the moment where they discover how Andy escaped, it can’t match the effect of watching the little rock go through the poster instead of bouncing off.

    And then there was Morgan Freeman’s narration …

  • Emily says:

    100% yes. This is an archetypal PFM!

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