Forrest Gump beat ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ to win the Oscar for the Best Picture in 1995. Also, Tom Hanks beat Morgan Freeman and John Travolta to win the Best Actor in the same year.
Shawshank wasn’t initially a commercial or critical success. It may not have won in any year, unbelievably. Pretty crazy for one of the greatest movies ever.
Look at the competition. A movie about a prison break, one about a bunch of violent doped up criminals, and a feel-good story about a boy from a disadvantaged position somehow coming out on top. Who do YOU think was going to win? That last one has been the descriptor of quite a few Best Picture winners.
May be , one of the main reasons the ending of that movie has the impact that it has, is because for 90% of the movie it appears as though Forrest is simply reacting to the world around him. We watch his whole remarkable life unfold as he seems to just be matter-of-factly passing through it.
But then the last 10% of the movie we learn that he was not as oblivious as we thought. He wasn’t just wading through water and getting shot in the butt in Vietnam, he also looked up in awe at how grand the night sky was; he wasn’t just running across the country, he was admiring the beautiful sunsets. He had an appreciation for beauty and life’s fleeting moments, and that just hammers home the point that as naive and oblivious as he seemed, he really did “know what love is.”
You can say what you want about Forrest Gump as a movie (and it would definitely rate Shawshank higher overall) but that’s one of the only movie scenes in thousands of movies we’ve watched that made us actually shed some tears. Very few movies have made you feel for the characters the way Forrest Gump does.
“I am not a smart man, but I know what love is.”