1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing shit they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell… and those bars slam home… that's when you know it's for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it.
The voice-over narration in The Shawshank Redemption is such a classic that Morgan Freeman has achieved this kind of deified, legendary status as a narrator. It’s just something about his voice… so soothing… mmm… anyway, if this film didn’t have voice-over narration, it would have been nigh on impossible to squeeze over two decades of important details into a film. Because of the large jumps in time, the gaps need to be filled, and that’s where the voice-over comes in handy. There are also a lot of details to prison life that a new “fish” would have to learn over time. And we don’t have that kind of time on our hands as an audience, so it helps to be quickly taught about the rules of prison life, what it’s like to be a “new fish”, and how to access contraband, etc. The Shawshank Redemption manages to include this voice-over narration without it seeming overly intrusive, and it has clearly been carefully constructed. Picking Red (Freeman) over Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) to narrate was also a good call, as it allows Dufresne to go about his business all stoic and mysterious, without giving too much away. And then of course there’s Morgan Freeman’s voice. Sigh.