The first time I watched this movie was way back in highschool (about 15 years ago or so) when it was showing on TNT. Being that I never heard of this movie before at the time, I had the lowest expectation for it possible. But after watching it, I'd have to say it is the best non-action movie ever!!! It had it all, from great acting, great character development, and one of the best stories/plot I've ever seen.
The movie is about Andy Dufresne(A hotshot banker played by Tim Robbins) who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and gets a life sentence. Keeping to himself most of the time from the rest of the inmates in the beginning, he eventually befriends a group of them. But prison life is rough for him in the beginning until he one day helps out one of the prison guards, that happens to be the bully of the prison, with a financial problem. After getting on the good side of this prison guard, the rest of the prison guards comes to him for financial/tax solutions including the warden. But like all stories, things go south and he has a huge challenge for him to overcome once he realizes the warden's best interest is to keep him in prison.
This movie has one of the greatest ending I've ever seen. I've watched it many times and it always puts a smile on my face in the end. I just love how they start the movie with Andy Dufresne going to prison and being picked on and looking like he's gonna have a pretty shitty life in there (even for prison standards) and somehow he catches a break when he helps out that guard and gets him on his side somehow. He then starts projects in the prison that would lead you to think that he was gonna adapt to prison life and that the movie was about how a man with a life sentence survives in jail. But that all changes when things go south with him and the warden and it looks like a shitty life for him again. But the ending was so well done that I think anyone who watches this movie would have a nice big smile on his face in the end.
Another great thing about this movie is the bond between Andy and Red's(Morgan Freeman) friendship. The movie does a great job of character development and how close these 2 become during their time in prison together.
All in all, the 5 star rating doesn't do it justice. I consider this to be one of the top 3 movies of all time and that says a lot for a non action movie. Especially coming from me.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite lines ever that came from this movie, "Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies".