The Green Mile (film)

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The Green Mile
The words Tom Hanks, a prison guard looking to the distance, below the words The Green Mile, in the middle of the words, a small silhouette of a big man and small man walking towards a light.
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byFrank Darabont
Produced by
Screenplay byFrank Darabont
Based onThe Green Mile
by Stephen King
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyDavid Tattersall
Edited byRichard Francis-Bruce
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 10, 1999 (1999-12-10) (United States)
Running time
189 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[2]
Box office$290.7 million[2]

The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy crime drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on Stephen King’s 1996 novel of the same name. It stars Tom Hanks as a death row corrections officer during the U.S. Great Depression who witnesses supernatural events that occur after an enigmatic inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan) is brought to his facility. David Morse, Bonnie Hunt and James Cromwell appear in supporting roles.

The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $290 million on a $60 million budget. It was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Duncan, Best Sound and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.


At a Louisiana assisted-living facility in 1999, the elderly Paul Edgecomb becomes emotional while watching the film Top Hat. His companion, Elaine, becomes concerned, and Paul tells her that the film reminded him of events in 1935, when he was a prison officer in charge of death row, also referred to as the "Green Mile".

In 1935, Paul supervises Brutus Howell, Dean Stanton, Harry Terwilliger, and Percy Wetmore at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, where Arlen Bitterbuck and Eduard "Del" Delacroix are incarcerated and awaiting execution. While most of the guards work well, both with each other and with the inmates, Percy is a sadistic young man who enjoys demonstrating his power and connections by harassing both prisoners and fellow guards, feeling disgruntled on the job.

While suffering from a severe bladder infection, Paul is introduced to John Coffey, a physically imposing but mentally challenged and gentle man who has been sentenced to death after being convicted of raping and murdering two little girls. After Bitterbuck is executed and another prisoner has arrived – William Wharton, a problematic murderer who is determined to cause as much trouble as he can – John begins demonstrating supernatural powers by curing Paul's bladder infection.

Percy continues his antics, particularly towards Del. Early in his stint, Percy breaks Del's fingers with his nightstick and later crushes Del's pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, although the animal is immediately resurrected by Coffey, without Percy noticing. When the time comes, Percy sabotages Del's electric chair execution by deliberately neglecting to soak the sponge used to conduct electricity to Del's head. This results in Del suffering much longer and a lot more painful death when his body catches fire from the electric currents. As the panicked onlookers attempt to flee the room, the guards realize what has happened and Paul forces a regretful Percy to watch. Del's corpse is charred beyond recognition.

Percy is later ambushed by the other guards, forced into a straitjacket, has his mouth taped shut, and locked in isolation to teach him a lesson. Percy is furious that the others locked him up for "no reason", but Paul hits Percy hard across the face, telling him to clean up his act or things will get worse for him. Percy reluctantly agrees to stop carrying out future heinous acts against the inmates.

Paul requests Coffey to use his powers to treat the prison warden's wife, who is terminally ill with a brain tumor. He arranges to lock Percy in isolation again and sedate Wharton, then takes Coffey to the Warden's house. In the process, Wharton briefly wakes up, reaches through the cell bars, and grabs Coffey's arm as he is being walked past before passing out again. This contact causes Coffey to experience Wharton's memories and learn that he is the actual killer of the two girls. Coffey was arrested as he had been at the scene unsuccessfully attempting to resurrect the victims. Although the Warden is reluctant to allow Coffey to approach his dying wife, he eventually consents and Coffey cures her. Returned to prison, a seriously ill Coffey transfers "the thing" he removed from the Warden's wife to Percy's mouth. As a result, Percy suffers a psychotic break, kills Wharton in an act of revenge for previously terrorizing him until he wet himself, and is admitted to the Briar Ridge insane asylum after entering a catatonic state. Ironically, Percy had previously arranged to resign from Cold Mountain and take a new job at the asylum following Del's execution. Coffey explains his actions by saying the two were "bad men".

Paul discusses with Coffey the possibility of an unlikely long term escape, as he does not wish to destroy what he believes to be a miracle of God. Although distraught over the notion of being executed for a crime of which he isn't guilty, Coffey tells Paul that he has been through enough psychical experience with humanity's cruelty and that he is ready to die. Mentioning that he has never seen a movie before, Coffey watches Top Hat with the guards as a last request. Later that night, when the guards escort Coffey to the execution room, Coffey asks that the customary hood not be placed over his head, as he is afraid of the dark. Paul himself commands the execution, and somberly shakes hands with Coffey before Coffey is executed.

The elderly Paul concludes his story by telling Elaine that Coffey's execution was the last one that he and Howell supervised; afterward, they both resigned from the penitentiary and took jobs in the juvenile system. Elaine realizes that Paul must be much older than he looks, as he had a grown son in 1935. Del's pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, is still alive, and is cared for by Paul. Paul explains that Coffey's healing powers (even though Coffey never intended for them to have such a long-term effect) had given him an extraordinary lifespan. Paul believes that his longevity is a punishment from God for executing Coffey, causing him to outlive his family and friends, including Elaine. Later, Paul attends Elaine's funeral and, realizing that Mr. Jingles has lived for six decades now, wonders how far his own life might extend.



Darabont adapted the novel into a screenplay in under eight weeks.[3]

The film was shot at Warner Hollywood Studios, West Hollywood, California, and on location in Shelbyville, Tennessee and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.[4]


Hanks and Darabont met at an Academy Award luncheon in 1994. Stephen King stated he envisioned Hanks in the role and was happy when Darabont mentioned his name.[3] Hanks was originally supposed to play elderly Paul Edgecomb as well, but the makeup tests did not make him look credible enough to be an elderly man.[5] Because of this Greer was hired to play the older Edgecomb.

Duncan credited his casting to Bruce Willis, with whom he had worked on the film Armageddon one year earlier. According to Duncan, Willis introduced him to Darabont after hearing of the open call for John Coffey.[6] Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal was considered for the role of John Coffey.[citation needed]

Morse had not heard about the script until he was offered the role. He stated he was in tears by the end of it.[3] Darabont wanted Cromwell from the start, and after he read the script, Cromwell was moved and agreed.[3]


The official film soundtrack, Music from the Motion Picture The Green Mile, was released on December 19, 1999 by Warner Bros. It contains 37 tracks, primarily instrumental tracks from the film score by Thomas Newman. It also contains four vocal tracks: "Cheek to Cheek" by Fred Astaire, "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby" by Billie Holiday, "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" by Gene Austin, and "Charmaine" by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and DVD on June 13, 2000.[7][8] The film earned $17.45 million in combined DVD and VHS rental revenue by June 18, 2000.[7]


Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 78% based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 6.83/10. The critical consensus states "Though The Green Mile is long, critics say it's an absorbing, emotionally powerful experience."[9] The film also has a score of 61 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 36 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Roger Ebert gave the film ​3 12 stars out of 4, writing "The film is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years."[11] Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a "'magic Negro' figure"—a term describing a stereotypical fictional black person depicted in a fictional work as a "saintly, nonthreatening" person whose purpose in life is to solve a problem for or otherwise further the happiness of a white person.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

2000 Academy Awards[13][14]

2000 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films

2000 Broadcast Music Incorporated Film & TV Awards

2000 Black Reel Awards

  • Won – Theatrical – Best Supporting Actor – Michael Clarke Duncan

2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards

  • Won – Favorite Actor – Drama – Tom Hanks
  • Nominated – Favorite Supporting Actor – Drama – Michael Clarke Duncan
  • Nominated – Favorite Supporting Actress – Drama – Bonnie Hunt

2000 Bram Stoker Awards

2000 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

1999 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Nominated – Best Supporting Actor – Michael Clarke Duncan
  • Nominated – Most Promising Actor – Michael Clarke Duncan

2000 Directors Guild of America

  • Nominated – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures – Frank Darabont

2000 Golden Globe Awards

2000 NAACP Image Awards

2000 MTV Movie Awards

2000 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Awards)

  • Nominated – Best Sound Editing – Dialogue and ADR – Mark A. Mangini, Julia Evershade
  • Nominated – Best Sound Editing – Effects and Foley – Mark A. Mangini, Aaron Glascock, Howell Gibbens, David E. Stone, Solange S. Schwalbe

2000 People's Choice Awards

  • Won – Favorite All-Around Motion Picture
  • Won – Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture

2001 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (Nebula Award)

  • Nominated – Best Script – Frank Darabont

2000 Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Nominated – Outstanding Performance by a Cast
  • Nominated – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role – Michael Clarke Duncan

4th Golden Satellite Awards

  • Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture — Doug Hutchison


  1. ^ "The Green Mile (1999)". IMDb. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Green Mile. The Numbers. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "About the Film". Archived from the original on November 8, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Darabont, Frank (Director) (December 10, 1999). The Green Mile (Motion picture). United States: Warner Bros.
  5. ^ "15 Things You Might Not Know About The Green Mile". May 14, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  6. ^ Doty, Meriah (September 4, 2012). "Bruce Willis helped Michael Clarke Duncan get his Oscar caliber role". Yahoo! Movies.
  7. ^ a b Mccourt, Judith (June 22, 2000). "Renters See 'Green' as Hanks Title Breaks Debut Record". Archived from the original on November 2, 2000. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Wolf, Jessica (April 27, 2001). "Retailers See a Hot Summer of Video and DVD Ahead". Archived from the original on June 20, 2001. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Green Mile (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Green Mile Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  11. ^ "The Green Mile". Roger Ebert dot com. December 10, 1999.
  12. ^ Mendez, Dawn (January 23, 2009). "The 'Magic Negro'". Forbes. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
  13. ^ "The 72nd Academy Awards (2000) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  14. ^ Lyman, Rick (March 28, 2000). "Oscar Victory Finally Lifts the Cloud for DreamWorks". The New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2011.

External links[edit]