3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Tim Robbins as Andy Dusfresne after escaping Shawshank Prison in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Another of the most beloved films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption surely needs no introduction. After Andy Dufresne is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he seemingly resigns himself to life behind bars. However, for years and years, he works at escape, eventually breaking free and disappearing to live happily ever after.

It’s not actually Andy’s escape that ends the film, though. After he steals his freedom, his closest friend Red is left behind in Shawshank. Despite having become institutionalized, Red is encouraged by Andy’s bid for freedom. Inspired to earn his parole and find his friend, the movie ends with the pair reunited, free men at last.

What makes The Shawshank Redemption‘s ending such a triumph is complicated. Andy’s actions have clearly inspired Red, but it’s more than that – his hope and his friendship has inspired him, too. Buoyed by Andy’s refusal to accept his sentence, Red finds his own will to be free, something he considered long-broken. It’s a conclusion designed to fill its audience with hope, and it’s about as poetic as they come.