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IELTS Vocabulary boost with my favourite movies

I explain EXACTLY why and how to watch The Shawshank Redemption to gain insights into vocabulary building, better pronunciation and improved word-choices - easily and effectively. Watch and learn!

Season 1, episode 15
20 min / Published

The Shawshank Redemption is an amazing movie for English language learners to watch. It has all the characteristics to help with improving vocabulary, pronunciation, articulation and building better conversation-skills. The dialogue, plot and cast all combine to create the ideal scenario for movie-based English learning. 

Show notes

Shawshank Redemption



The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence.


In 1947 Portland, Maine, banker Andy Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at the Shawshank State Prison. He is befriended by Ellis "Red" Redding, an inmate and prison contraband smuggler serving a life sentence.

English Language Learning Takeaways:

The story is masterfully told (or narrated) by veteran actor, Morgan Freeman. His silky-smooth voice, brilliant pronunciation and excellent articulation makes this movie (and its dialogue) easy to understand and simple to follow.

Freeman's character Ellis (Red) Redding explains every situation with care and precision. He speaks at a reasonable pace and allows the viewer the opportunity to appreciate every scene he describes before moving on to the next. He offers the viewers facts on every character in question, with an added anecdote related to something funny or ironic.

Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) have many conversations during the movie. Both actors speak clearly and at an relaxed pace. Andy's character makes use of a slightly more sophisticated vocabulary bank, compared to that of Freeman's character. The contrast between their word choices is an extremely good opportunity for English learners to learn more complex words, but also hear the definition of these words at the same time.

Different accents are also clearly distinguishable in this movie. The language learners have to apply themselves in cases like this, to be able to continue following the storyline. Robbins' character works very hard to bring education to his fellow inmates. When he starts working in the library, he makes mention of classic books written by well-known and legendary authors. Learners can spot something of themselves in the language-journey that the prisoners embark upon. Their vocabulary and word-choices grow just as the case should be with the students.

The movie has incredible dialogue and one could easily assume that the lines which the actors speak, were written with them specifically in mind. There are some brilliant one-liners in the movie that is relevant and fitting in many scenarios today. My favourite is "Get Busy Living, Or Get Busy Dying." It means that life is spent going through the motions and waiting around for something to happen, or something is made to happen.

I also love the quote “Every Man Has His Breaking Point.” Red says these words in the movie close to the very end when we understand exactly what Andy has been doing in his cell for the last 19 years...

This movie is a great example of a film that has it all – love, laughter, suspense, irony and even a giant plot twist near the end. It is a must see for language learners who need a little inspiration to grown on their English journey. Shawshank Redemption offers brilliant insights into life, hope, and freedom

Key Vocabulary:


the action of restoring someone to former privileges or reputation after a period of disfavour.


the release of a prisoner temporarily or permanently before the completion of a sentence, on the promise of good behavior.


person who has been convicted of a violent crime.


A hospital within a larger institution.


annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand, dim-witted.


generous, charitable, forgiving

halfway house

A center that helps former addicts, prisoners, and psychiatric patients acclimate to normal society.


the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.


incapable of reform or redemption


a ghost or ghostlike image of a person


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