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Film / The Green Mile

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"I do not see God putting a... gift like that, in the hands of a man who could kill a child."
"I guess sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not. Usually, death row was called 'the last mile'; we called ours 'the Green Mile' - the floor was the color of faded limes. We had the electric chair - 'Old Sparky', we called it. Oh, I've lived a lot of years, Ellie, but 1935 - that takes the prize. That year, I had the worst urinary infection of my life, and that was also the year of John Coffey and the two dead girls."
Paul Edgecombe

The Green Mile is a film adaptation based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, which was released on December 10th, 1999. It was directed by Frank Darabont. And like Darabont's previous King adaptation, The Shawshank Redemption, it was an Oscar charmer, if not a winner.

In 1935, Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) works as a corrections officer in Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row, which was given the nickname "The Green Mile" due to the color of the floor. His primary duty is to send off criminals to their final fate with the electric chair. When John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a gentle, towering black man, is found near the corpses of two girls, he is imprisoned and sentenced to the chair. This eventually leads Paul to discover the mysterious, supernatural powers that John possesses, even as time ticks closer towards the day of execution. Regardless, Paul's life will be irrevocably altered by John's miracles.

The Green Mile contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Though Paul's defense lawyer turns out to be wrong about John Coffey, his point about how people can be more dangerous than they appear to be turns out to be valid. Wild Bill was someone who the two girls knew personally.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Both Paul and Brutal admit Wharton's Moon Pie prank was pretty original after they put him in solitary confinement.
    • Even Percy can't help but laugh at Toot-Toot's comedy during the execution rehearsal.
  • Adaptational Late Appearance: In the novel, Del already had Mr. Jingles as his pet when John Coffey is brought onto the Green Mile (with the events of how the mouse came to be in Del's possession being told in a flashback chapter). In the film, Mr. Jingles doesn't appear for the first time until after John Coffey arrives.
  • Adaptation Name Change: A variation. In the novel, the mouse was referred to as "Steamboat Willie" by the guards until Del renamed him "Mr. Jingles". In the film, the mouse is unnamed until he becomes Del's pet, thus is only called "Mr. Jingles".
  • Adapted Out: The film omits prisoner Arthur Flanders, assistant warden Curtis Anderson, the abusive orderly Brad Dolan and the unnamed doctor who faints at Del's execution.
  • Adoring the Pests: This movie features Mr. Jingles, a mouse found running around the death row cells. They decide not to kill him, aside from the Jerkass Percy, because of his unusual behavior: fearless in the face of humans, accepts food only from the regular guards, and his searching of the cells as if he's awaiting for somebody. Mr. Jingles adopts Eduard Delacroix when he arrives and entertains all with his spool fetching trick, even performing a show for the guards on another block.
  • Age Lift:
    • In the novel, Paul Edgecomb was 40 when he met John Coffey and is 104 in the present. In the film, he's 44 in the past and 108 in the present. The fact that the film changed the year he met John Coffey from 1932 to 1935 is most likely why.
    • Wild Bill is 19 years old in the novel, but looks to be in his thirties in the film.
  • Age Without Youth: Downplayed. Paul Edgecombe looks to be 80 at most-but he really is 108, and outlived several nurses at the retirement home. Given to the pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, whom Jim Coffey brought back to life, which lived to 64 (mice seldom live over two years), Paul is most likely destined to live over 1,000 years.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Delacroix is guilty of a very heinous crime, but is actually well liked by the fellow inmates and guards and is genuinely sorry for what he did, which makes his horrible death even sadder. Contrasted by Wharton and Percy Wetmore, who John Coffey punishes because they were bad men. Still, even considering their contempt for him, the guards are more than a little creeped out by what happens to Percy.
  • Amoral Attorney: Downplayed with Burt Hammersmith. On the one hand, he is obviously bigoted toward black people and thinks they should be put down like mad dogs if they act out. On the other hand, he genuinely believes Coffey to be guilty of killing two girls, and his fear was born from the fact that his son was partly blinded by a dog.
  • Anachronism Stew: The film is set in 1935, but Louisiana did not start using the electric chair to execute criminals until 1940.
  • Angel Unaware: John Coffey, by virtue of his miraculous healing powers (up to and including resurrecting a dead mouse within seconds after the moment it has been killed), similarly strong powers of empathy, the sheer ambigouity of his past prior to ending up on the Green Mile, and his seemingly implied direct familiarity with angels and Heaven, may or may not be an angel (if he isn't Christ)..
  • A Rare Sentence: He infected you with life?
  • Arch-Enemy: John Coffey has Wild Bill Wharton, who raped and murdered two young girls, a crime for which Coffey was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Delacroix. While his death was indeed gruesome and drawn-out, he did brutally rape and murder a young girl. Further, several other people died in the fire he started in an attempt to cover up his previous crime. Deconstructed in by the time of his execution he had become genuinely remorseful of what he did as well as come to care about Mr.Jingles and the guards. As well as the fact his death is so horrific and brutal, that everyone watching it including the families of his victims as well as Percy who intentionally caused it are left more sickened and horrified by it than anything else.
    • Wild Bill Wharton is a psychopathic child rapist and murderer who not only killed the Detterick girls, but gloated about it to John Coffey and seems to be delighted with the fact that Coffey's getting blamed for his crime. John Coffey mind-controls Percy into shooting him because of it. Although the rest of the guards are disturbed by Coffey using Percy for the deed, no one disputes that the victim deserved it.
    • Non-lethal example with Percy, who is mind-controlled into killing Wharton, the process of which ends up destroying his mind.
  • Bait the Dog: William Wharton is a total asshole who causes chaos for the guards, but he's very outrageous and very amusing, so like the rest of the Death Row prisoners on the mile, you wonder whether he really deserves it. It doesn't hurt that he directs a large part of his bad behavior towards Percy. Turns out he's the worst of them by far, enough to make Percy look positively sympathetic by comparison, and the real killer of the Detterick girls.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Inverted. Percy promised that if he got to place the sponge on the prisoner's head and give the order to activate the electric chair, he'd put in for a transfer to the mental hospital and they'd "Be rid of him." This prompts the other guards to ask what would happen if they said no. Percy responds that he'll stick around and make a career of being an executioner. They comply with his request and the results are nothing short of disastrous.
  • Berserk Button: "Billy the Kid" Wharton does not care for it whatsoever when the guards call him "Wild Bill."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Before Del is executed, one of his victim's family members tauntingly remarks about how she hopes Del burns in hell for what he did. When Del's execution is sabotaged and he is literally being burned alive in front of them, the family members of Del's victims vomit in disgust at this and crowd towards the door in an attempt to avoid facing the horrific scene.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: John Coffey seems like the archetypal Gentle Giant, and he is. But boy, did Bill and Percy pay for their sins in overtime when John Coffey uses his powers and forces the latter to shoot the former, destroying Percy's mind in the process.
  • Big Bad: As much of an asshole Percy is throughout the film, William "Wild Bill" Wharton establishes himself as the true evil in the climax when it turns out he raped and murdered the two girls that John Coffey is on death row for, kicking the whole plot into motion.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Del when Percy steps on Mr Jingles.
    • Paul and the other guards when Percy shoots Wild Bill.
    • An interesting case with Paul at the end of the movie. While he doesn't actually yell out no, the silence right before he has to execute John conveys this sense.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Played for Laughs during the scene where John heals Paul's UTI. When John grabs him, Del begins hysterically screaming and calling for the other guards because it appears that John is trying to seriously hurt him. Even afterwards, when it's more than obvious that Paul is fine, he keeps screaming for help, but Paul tells him to shut up.
    Paul: "Del, for Christ sakes, shut up!"
  • Bitch Slap: After Percy starts demanding to be let out of his straightjacket as punishment for sabotaging Del's execution, Paul gives him a huge slap to shut him up; it works.
  • Blackmail: Percy is on the receiving end of this, regarding his failure to stop Wharton's assault and him sabotaging Del's execution to cover up being locked in the padded cell when they take Coffey to Hal's wife.
  • Blatant Lies: Despite being told beforehand that the sponge was integral to the execution, Percy says he had no idea that the sponge was supposed to be wet. Cue the most deserved punch in cinema history.
  • Book and Switch: While Percy is in the office, it looks like he's studying the hefty tome that is "Caring for Mental Patients", when he's actually reading Miss Lotta Leadpipe, a fictional Tijuana bible, hidden inside. It kind of tells you that he has no intention of doing his job properly once he's transferred.
  • Bound and Gagged: Wetmore with a straitjacket and his mouth stuffed with a handkerchief and sealed with duct tape when he's thrown into the padded cell.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The reference to Top Hat in the very beginning of the movie is actually recently released during 1935, and John Coffey especially wanted to see that movie as his last request.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Guess who actually committed the crime for which Coffey was wrongfully convicted? Wharton, who happens to be in the death row of the same prison at the same time as Coffey for an unrelated crime.
  • The Corpse Stops Here: Coffey is found holding the bloodied and raped bodies of two little (white) girls. The reason was that he tried to magically heal them back to life and failed.
  • Crucial Cross: As Tom Hanks' character wonders why God allowed two little girls to be murdered, his wife comes into frame and brings her cross necklace right into the center of the viewer's eye, almost as an answer to his question. Using the cross as an answer to evil foreshadows the nature of the aptly named John Coffey, a kind and gentle inmate on death row. John wants himself to be executed because he feels all the evils of humanity-he dies for our sins.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Del's horrifically sabotaged execution. Without the wet sponge, Del wasn't simply electrocuted with relative ease. He was slowly and painfully cooked. Even after bursting into flame, he takes almost another minute to actually die.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Paul and Mr. Jingles. Paul lies awake at night wondering how much longer he will live, considering that Mr. Jingles—a mouse; an animal that usually lives 1,000 days maximum—is now at least 64 years oldnote .
  • Cut the Juice: Del's execution in The Green Mile (book and film) goes horribly wrong when Percy Wetmore deliberately fails to soak a sponge in brine before putting it inside the electrode cap. As a result, Del catches fire in the electric chair and suffers a drawn-out, agonizing death. Paul Edgecombe orders his men not to shut off the current, as it would be even more cruel to have to do the execution all over again.
  • Death Row: The movie centers on the guards of the death row wing of a prison, and the condemned messiah they meet amid the usual inmates.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Wild Bill. He grabs Percy through the bars of his cell and creepily kisses him on the cheek before grabbing his crotch and threatening to rape him. Also, he raped and murdered Katie and Cora Detterick, the crime that John was framed for.
  • Dirty Old Man: Toot-toot, the obnoxious janitor.
  • Downer Ending: Affable Magical Negro Coffey is still executed even though he is 100% not guilty of his crime, but not before he accidentally gives Edgecombe possible everlasting life, cursing him to have to watch all his friends and loved ones die around him while he continues to survive.
  • Dramatic Irony: Katie and Cora's family denounces John Coffey as he raped and murdered their little daughters, unaware of the fact that the real perpetrator of the crime was punished days ago.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Paul's reaction to Old Toot's antics during the rehearsal of Arlen Bitterbuck's execution, to the point that he actually threatens to have the switch thrown for real. His reason is that he doesn't want any unprofessional behavior the following night, when it's a real execution.
    Brutal:: Arlen Bitterbuk, you have been condemned to die by a jury of your peers, sentence imposed by a judge in good standing in this state. Do you have anything to say before your sentence is carried out?
    Old Toot: Yeah. I want a fried chicken dinner with gravy on the taters, and I want to shit in your hat. And I've got to have Mae West sit on my face, 'cause I'm one horny motherfucker! Hahahaha...
    [all the guards except Paul begin laughing uncontrollably]
    Paul: Quiet. Quiet, shut up! SHUT UP!
    Van Hay: Sorry, boss.
    Paul: Toot, one more remark like that, I'll have Van Hay roll it on twonote  for real, and I'll have one less crazy old trustee in the world.
    Dean: It was pretty funny.
    Paul: That's why I don't like it. We'll be doing this for real tomorrow night. I don't want anybody remembering some stupid joke like that and gettin' going again. You ever try not to laugh in church when something funny gets stuck in your head? It's the same god-damn thing.
    Dean: I'm sorry, Paul, you're right. Let's keep going.
  • Due to the Dead: In addition to the examples from the novel, a scene is added in the cellar where Paul delicately arranges a necklace around John Coffey's neck before sending him off to be received by the Holy Spirit.
  • Dwindling Party: When the film starts, there are maybe four or five prisoners in the titular hallway that we get to know and sympathize with. One by one their execution date arrives. By the time it's all over the only people still in the mile are the guards.
  • Electric Torture: The botched execution by electric chair of Eduard Delacroix. Percy Wetmore, who insisted on being in charge of Del's execution and a sadistic asshole to the core, deliberately neglected to wet the sponge on his head which acted as a conductor, resulting in a prolonged and agonizing Cruel and Unusual Death in which Del was literally cooked alive. There's a reason the book in which this scene takes place is called "The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix".
  • Empathic Healer: John Coffey is able to heal illness and injury by inhaling it, in the form of a kiss with the afflicted person. This affects him negatively until he is able to exhale the sickness, in the form of white, moth-like entities that quickly dissipate. It's also shown that he can transfer the illness to another person, affecting them negatively.
  • Establishing Character Moment: John Coffey is introduced to the audience being led by the guards to the Green Mile, with everyone remarking and even slightly terrified by his massive size. His Gentle Giant status is established when he asks if they can keep the lights on, as he is scared of the dark.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Strongly implied. Despite all the horrible, loathsome things he does, Percy sheds a tear when John Coffey shows him Wharton's crimes, right before shooting him dead.
    • Explicitly during Del's execution, even though he’s the one who sabotaged it. Even he’s horrified by the results, though for purely selfish reasons. Interestingly, this is one of the rare cases of this trope that doesn't humanize him but instead frames him as worse- a coward who's perfectly willing to do awful things as long as he doesn't have to see them.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Despite the very blunt punishment they give Percy (and thoroughly enjoy doing so), all the guards are pretty horrified by Coffey's own form of karma towards him, even trying to forcibly stop him.
    • The audience that came to witness Del's execution is disgusted and horrified when Percy's sabotage gets Del roasted alive in front of them, including the family of his victims.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Every interaction between Del and Percy. At the beginning of the film, Percy breaks three of Del's fingers just for smirking at him. Subverted when Percy, having been assaulted by Wild Bill and soiled himself, stomps on Mr. Jingles as revenge for Del laughing at him about it, but John manages to use his powers to revive him. When Del is executed, Percy takes a moment while he's being tied to the chair to disclose that there is no such thing as "Mouseville", just to kill the one little reed of happiness Del still had. It is also believed that this is one of the reasons that Percy refuses to wet the sponge during Del's execution, simply to get back at him for laughing at him.
    • Wild Bill briefly dips into this after Coffey refuses to share the cornbread Paul's wife had made for him as thanks for curing Paul's UTI with him, while sharing it with Del and Mr. Jingles. Since he can't get back at Coffey directly (as they are locked in cells across from each other, though he does call Coffey a "big dummy nigger"), he settles for antagonizing the guards for refusing to make Coffey share with him; he urinates on Terwilliger's feet (and threatens to throw his feces on the guards) and spits a chewed-up Moon Pie in Brutal's face. Both of these incidents result in him being blasted with a firehose, straight-jacketed, and locked in the solitary padded room for several hours. After the second time, Wild Bill ceases his petty pranks due to fear of solitary.
  • The Executioner: This film centers on a team of these, tasked with executing convicts for the State of Louisiana. The actual executioner is Van Hay, who is The Faceless to the condemned and the witnesses thanks to a metal screen that conceals both him and the electric generator.
  • The Faceless: In-universe, the executioner Van Hay is concealed from the condemned and the witnesses behind a metal screen. This works both ways as it means he can't see the condemned (although he stands up and looks through the grille window when he realises that Delacroix's execution is going horribly wrong).
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: The botched execution scene. People who are executed by electric chair are supposed to have a wet sponge placed on their head so they are killed quickly. Paul and the other men notice that the sponge is dry, but by then it's too late to stop it, and Eduard Delacroix proceeds to die a truly Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Forced to Watch: When Percy sabotages Del's execution, the result is so horrifying that even he is sickened by the sight of Del burning alive and tries to look away. Paul is so enraged at what Percy has done that he makes Percy watch the whole thing and put out Del's flaming corpse afterwards.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Despite everything being done by the book, Arlen Bitterbuck doesn't immediately die in the electric chair and requires a second jolt, hinting that such executions don't always go cleanly.
    • In one of his first conversations with Warden Hal, Paul warns him that Percy's going to hurt someone badly someday if he doesn't shape up. He's right doublefold - first when Percy sabotages Del's execution with utterly horrific results, and second when he shoots Wild Bill Wharton.
    • There's a few hints that point to Paul's unnaturally long life:
      • Given that Paul looks around he's in his late thirties, early forties in 1935, it makes no sense for current Paul to look as relatively healthy as he does.
      • The fact that Jan and Paul have a college going son in 1935, when Paul is narrating his story.
  • Forgiveness Requires Death: After Arlen Bitterbuck is executed, Percy casually remarks that the deceased is burning in hell, but Brutal objects, insisting, "He's paid what he owed. He's square with the house again, so keep your goddamn hands off him!"
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • After the "Moon Pie" prank.
    Brutal: Hope your bags are packed.
    Wild Bill: My bags are packed! I'm ready to go! Where we goin'? Let's go!
    (Cut to Wild Bill screaming in protest as he's dragged back into solitary)
    • The screenplay has a dark example with Del's execution:
    Wild Bill: He's cookin' now! They cookin' him good! Near about done, I reckon!
    The next scene: Wrong. Del's nowhere near about done.
  • Gratuitous French: Paul introduces Mr. Jingles to his lady friend in the present day this way.
    Paul: Messieurs et mesdames. Beinvenue au cirque du mousey.
  • Groin Attack: Wild Bill gives one to Paul during his little brawl with the guards. Since Paul has a UTI, this is even more devastating and painful than kicking a guy in the 'nads usually is.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Percy is an arrogant guard acting as if he can do whatever he wants and is needlessly cruel and spiteful to the inmates. He has no redeeming features and isn't played for laughs in any way. Even Wild Bill is funny at times and it's telling that Del, who's guilty for rape, murder and arson, manages to be more likable than Percy.
    • Wharton avoids this trope initially due to being Laughably Evil however, when he's revealed to have raped and murdered the two girls John Coffey is on death row for while psychologically torturing them into going along with the rape, all the humorous traits disappear and Wharton becomes an absolutely despicable monster, enough to make Percy look like a saint compared to him. He easily earns his spot among Stephen King's most evil and despicable villains of all time.
  • Heaven Above: One of Paul's urination scenes ends with him struggling so much he has to lie on his back and look him to the sky and say, "Oh God, why?" It also foreshadows the weirder events from later in the movie.
  • Hollywood Tourette's: One character lapses into swearing fits in the last stages of a brain tumor. In the book, one of the other characters comments that it sounds like Tourette's Syndrome.
  • Humans Are Flawed: The reason Coffey accepts his execution. Coffey knows that not all humans are bad. That being said, he fully understands the pain and grief they cause each other on a daily basis (especially in the context of the film’s setting) that he’d rather just die than to take in anymore suffering.
  • Implausible Deniability: “I didn’t know the sponge was supposed to be wet.” No one’s buying it, Percy.
  • Insane No More: Bank robber and murderer "Wild Bill" Wharton is deemed mentally competent to stand trial for his crimes and is sentenced to death.
  • Irony: After getting Mind Raped by John, Percy is put into the same mental hospital he planned on working at.
  • Immodest Orgasm: The positive outcome of curing Paul's UTI.
  • Inelegant Blubbering:
    • Hal breaks down sobbing when John Coffey heals his wife.
    • While all of the guards are on the verge of tears, Dean is openly crying like a baby at John Coffey's execution.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Wharton forces the girls to stay silent as he takes them out of their house by saying that if one of them makes a sound, he'll kill her sister.
  • Karmic Nod: Paul Edgcomb accepts that even though he doesn't want to, he will live long enough to experience a lot more sorrow and loss, as a punishment for unwillingly executing John Coffey.
    Paul: Elaine — you'll die, too. And my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. It's my atonement, you see — it's my punishment for lettin' John Coffey ride the lightning. For killing a miracle of God. You'll be gone like all the others, and I'll have to stay. Oh, I'll die eventually; of that, I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death long before Death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already.
  • Kick the Dog: Percy does this to Del four different times.
    • Breaking his fingers just for smirking at him at beginning of the film.
    • Stomping on Mr. Jingles; this is, thankfully, subverted when John revives him.
    • Right before Del's execution when he reveals that Mouseville isn't real.
    • Right after that when he intentionally botches Del's execution by not soaking the sponge, causing Del to die by being cooked alive rather than simply electrocuted.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Immediately after pranking Delacroix with a Jump Scare so that he falls and hits his head, Percy gets grabbed and groped by Wild Bill, causing him to wet himself in a panic.
    • Wild Bill taunts John Coffey with the memories of killing their girls, seemingly just to taunt him. So John "uses" Percy as a weapon to fill Wild Bill with lead.
    • Percy ends up in a catatonic state, committed to the same institution where he was going to transfer, meaning that he will be at the mercy of the guards just as the inmates were at his mercy.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: The narrator of the film reiterates that this almost never happens — and, indeed, no pardon comes to save John Coffey, an innocent man, from the chair.
  • Last Request: Coffey receives his choice of dinner on the day of his execution as is standard, and Paul begs him to ask for other things, including a chance of escape to which he and the other guards would gladly turn the other way. John assures them that he is ready to die. Even earlier in the film, John tells them that he's never seen a "flicker show", so a projector is set up and he is allowed to watch the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film Top Hat.
    John: (watching, entranced) "They's angels... Angels, just like up in heaven!"
  • Let Them Die Happy: Paul and Brutal tell death row inmate Delacroix that they'll take his pet mouse Mr. Jingles to a place called Mouseville in Florida, where he'll become a circus mouse that people will pay to see perform. Cruelly subverted when Percy tells Delacroix that Mouseville isn't real moments before he sabotages his execution, forcing him to die a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Manchild: Two examples. Wharton, who’s on the psychotic end of the spectrum, and John Coffey, who is an innocent Gentle Giant. Percy acts like one too in some ways.
  • Manly Tears:
    • The chief when John Coffey is healing his wife
    • The three guards during Coffey's execution.
  • Mayfly–December Friendship: Paul Edgecomb has learned in his many days in the retirement home to avoid getting close to anyone. Ever since his contact with Magical Negro John Coffey while serving as a prison guard, Paul has outlived all his family, friends and acquaintances ... except one: a tiny mouse touched by Coffey.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: The main character and narrator turns out to suffer from this.
  • Meaningful Name
    • John Coffey, i.e. Jesus Christ- King even joked about how blatant it was in On Writing.
    • Percy Wetmore. Fitting, for the guy who talks a lot of talks but wets his pants in the face of trouble (and as the new guy, he's "wet behind the ears").
    • Inverted with Brutus "Brutal" Howell; despite being a rather intimidating powerhouse of a man, Paul acknowledges that he's really a very kind and noble person, who rarely uses his size and strength to intimidate or harm others... except for Percy and Wild Bill, who both deserve it. Could also be an averted case of Names to Run Away from Really Fast.
    • Paul Edgecomb: Who has the name of the Apostle Paul, tells us of John. Also, he "combs" the "edge" between life and death, making sure that the condemned die cleanly.
    • Eduard Delacroix: Delacroix means "of the Cross", with Delacroix fulfilling his role as the Penitent Thief being executed with the Christ-analogue of John Coffey. In contrast to Wild Bill's role as the Impenitent Thief.
  • Mercy Kill: What John considers his execution to be, despising all the hatred he feels in everyone around him.
  • Methuselah Syndrome: Mr. Jingles is a mouse that lived some 70 years. His long-life is a sign of the special gift imparted by him to John Coffey. Like Christ, Coffey healed Jingles and imparted the same gift to his prison guard, who went on to live for more than a hundred and nine years.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: John Coffey is sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.
  • Mood Whiplash: Paul intentionally invokes this to calm down Hal after Del's execution goes wrong. It works.
    Hal: WHAT IN THE BLUE FUCK WAS THAT? There's puke all over the floor up there. And that smell! I had Van Hayes open both doors but that smell's not going out for five damn years that's what I'm bettin'. And that asshole, Wharton, is singing about it. You can hear him up there!
    Paul: Can he carry a tune?
  • Morality Pet: Mr. Jingles acts as this for Del.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Paul taking the most epic piss anyone has ever taken after his urinary infection is cured.
  • Nepotism: Percy's uncle is the governor, and he's always using his family connections to get his way.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: After consummate Jerkass Percy taunts the corpse of a recently executed prisoner, he is angrily rebuked by a fellow guard, who says that execution for his crimes makes him "square with the house now".
  • Nostalgia Heaven: Just before his execution Arlen Bitterbuck expresses his hope that, if he is sincerely repentant, his afterlife in Heaven will be like this: That he will spend eternity reliving "the time that was happiest for him" (which in his case was being married at eighteen, spending summer in the mountains with his young wife, making love every night, and then talking, sometimes until the sun came up).
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Wharton does this initially, with nearly lethal consequences when he drops the façade and attacks the guards.
  • Oh, Crap!: Paul gets this reaction when he sees Percy stand outside Wharton's cell and reach for his gun.
  • Older Than They Look: Paul and Mr. Jingles. He is 108 when he tells his story to Elaine, doesn't look a day older than 80, and the mouse is at least 64 years old.
  • Once More, with Clarity: "You love your sister? You make any noise, you know what will happen." The first lines we hear in the film, it's only later that we find out who said it and when: Wharton, during his murder of the Detterick girls.
  • One-Steve Limit: We have the iate "Wild Bill" Wharton and Bill Dodge, a fellow guard.
  • Oscar Bait: A Magical Negro with healing powers and the gentleness of a saint becomes the victim of the Depression-era prison system, and the good man who enabled his execution must spend many, many years living with the guilt.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Paul's encounter with John Coffey granted him supernatural longevity (though not immortality), and as a result he has seen his friends and loved ones die, including his son.
  • Overly Long Scream: A rare example of this trope being played straight. Immediately when the switch is thrown during Del's execution, he begins screaming in ungodly agony, leading Paul to figure out that Percy didn't wet the sponge and Del is literally being cooked alive. He screams for the entire first half of the execution, and likely would have still been screaming right up until his death had his vocal chords not burned up.
  • Painful Adhesive Removal: Brutus Howell, as they go to untie Jerkass Percy Wetmore, advises that his mother said that if you remove the tape quickly it won't hurt as much. He notes that his Mother was wrong as Percy yelps in pain as they rip the duct tape off.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Try not to cheer for Percy when he shoots Wild Bill dead. Granted this tends to only happen on a second viewing because it is not yet revealed that he was the actual rapist and murderer of the girls that John Coffey was convicted for and Bill has only looked Laughably Evil up until this point.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Both Percy and Wild Bill qualify. Percy frequently calls Del a "faggot" and Wild Bill repeatedly calls John Coffey a "nigger."
    • Also, after his Moon Pie prank on Brutal, Wild Bill makes a joke comparing Brutal to "Little Black Sambo".
  • Potty Failure: When Percy Wetmore walks too close to William Wharton's cell one day, Wharton grabs him and threatens to rape him. Percy wets his pants out of sheer terror and threatens to get the other guards fired if they tell anyone.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Some of the more rational explanations in the book are turned into supernatural explanations in the movie. Instead of Paul figuring out who the actual killer was on his own, John Coffey gave him the information through his touch.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Harry Terwilliger gets his own back on Wild Bill after the latter urinates on him.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "What in the blue fuck was that?!" From Warden Moores, of all people, after Delacroix's horribly botched execution.
    • An old man scandalizes the other members of the retirement home by denouncing Jerry Springer:
      Elderly man: Why do we always watch this stuff?
      Elderly woman: It's interesting.
      Elderly man: "Interesting"? Buncha inbred trailer trash. All they ever talk about is fucking.
  • Prison Rape: Averted. Wild Bill threatens to rape Percy when he assaults him.
  • Prisoner Performance: Downplayed. As Eduard Delacroix doesn't have any family to visit him in prison on the day that the guards prepare for his execution, the guards arrange for a group of people to pose as members of the press and watch him demonstrate tricks that he had taught his pet mouse, Mr. Jingles.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: John Coffey is treated to a last meal before his execution by electric chair, including meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, okra and some of Mrs. Edgecomb's cornbread. In the novel, he also ordered peach cobbler.
  • Prophetic Name: Eduard Delacroix – "of the Cross" in French. His death is, to say the very least, excruciating.
  • Rape and Revenge: After learning that Wharton raped and murdered the two little girls, John uses his powers to force Percy to shoot Wharton dead.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Which is why Delacroix's crime was not mentioned in the film and why Wharton is such a disgusting character.
  • Resourceful Rodent: Mr. Jingles was trained by Eduard Delacroix to play fetch with a wooden spool.
  • Retirony: Percy ending up a patient at the Briar Ridge Mental Institution, after being "encouraged" to get a transfer there, with only a few years to live at most. Call It Karma.
  • Rodent Cellmates: Mr. Jingles, a mouse, becomes one for Eduard "Del" Delacroix, and later, John Coffey. After Coffey chooses to be executed despite being innocent, the mouse comes to live under the care of Paul Edgecomb for the next 64 years (when Mr. Jingles dies).
  • Say Your Prayers:
    • Delacroix can be heard muttering in his native French just before his execution. One of the words that can be made out is "Mary", suggesting that he is doing this.
    • A more lighthearted example is present during the practice execution, in which the Janitor pretends to pray.
      Toot-Toot: "Gettin' to my knees. Prayin'. The Lord is my shepherd and so forth and so on, sorry for all the bad shit I've done, all the people I've trampled on, I hope they forgive me, I won't do it again, that's for sure."
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The other prison officers can't do much to Percy because he's the nephew of the governor's wife.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: After Paul is cured of his UTI, the camera cuts to the outside of the bedroom window as Paul and Jan are having sex.
  • Sex God: After Paul is cured of his UTI. "Was your missus pleased?" "Several times."
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Or rather shoot out the clown! With Mr. Jingles having run away and Will Wharton shot dead by Percy and he himself incarcerted in an asylum, there's only the Downer Ending left to prepare for.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the nursing home, the insipid background music is identical to that played on the ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Paul's exchange with another resident is similar to Nurse Ratched's comments to Sefeld in Cuckoo's Nest.
    • In the care home, the residents are watching The Jerry Springer Show.
  • Soul Fragment: John gives a "part of himself" to Paul.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Mr. Jingles. In the novel, he finally dies of old age in the end. In the film, he's last shown sleeping in the modern day.
    • Dean Stanton isn't mentioned as having been murdered by another prisoner a few months later and isn't mentioned as being among the friends Paul has outlived (which could be significant given his relatively young age).
    • The description of Percy's eventual death in a nursing home fire is unmentioned.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: As Will Wharton is dead by the time Paul learns of John's innocence, there's no actual way they can prove the fact, and even if Paul himself goes up to say that he "saw" the vision proving the crime, it won't hold up in the court.
  • Survival Mantra: "Heaven... Heaven... I'm in heaven..."
  • Take Five: Early in the movie;
    Paul Edgecombe: Percy, they're moving house in the infirmary. Why don't you go see if they could use some help?
    Percy Wetmore: They got all the men they need.
    Paul Edgecombe: Why don't you go make sure?
    Paul Edgecombe: I don't care where you go, as long as it's not here at this moment.
  • Tears of Remorse:
    • Del has these right before his execution.
      Del: I'm sorry for what I do. I'd give anything to take it back, but I can't.
    • Double Subverted with John Coffey. When the police found him with the two dead girls, he was sobbing that "he tried to take it back", leading everyone to assume he raped and murdered those two girls. While it turns out that John is innocent and Wild Bill was responsible, it still counts as this trope because he did feel remorseful about his inability to bring the two girls back to life with his healing powers.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Invoked by John Coffey on himself: He insists on having his execution carried out as planned, despite Paul's reluctance to do so and desire to help him escape; his explanation for this is that being The Empath makes it so painful and exhausting for him to live in a world filled with pain and evil that he would like to die to escape from it.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Despite being often cited as the Trope Maker for the Magical Negro, this film does a lot towards deconstructing it as well. John Coffey isn't a wise elderly man who the white characters look to as a source of guidance, he's a middle-aged Manchild whom the main characters keep at arm's-length, him being a murderer of two children or so they think. In addition, his magic powers are shown to be agonizingly painful for him, to the extent that he willingly submits to being wrongfully executed because he's just so tired of living. He's just as capable of harming the white people as helping them, as shown when he brainwashes Percy into murdering Wild Bill, destroying Percy's mind in the process. And because of him, Paul has become immensely long-lived, but views it as just as much a curse as John Coffey felt about his abilities.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Paul remembers his son being grown during the events of the film, which he later realizes doesn't quite add up. He is an old man, after all; his recollection isn't what it used to be. Though given his Cursed with Awesome immortality and that he outlived his son, this may hold more water than initially thought.
  • Urine Trouble: Paul who suffers from a UTI.
  • Wham Shot: The reveal that Wild Bill was the Dettericks' hired hand, and thus the person actually responsible for abducting, raping, and murdering the two girls.
  • Wham Line: "I am 108 years now, Elaine. I was 44 the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile."
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Paul ends up outliving all his family and friends because he receives part of the life force of the death row-inmate John's healing power. He believes this is punishment from God for executing John. As a result he's very much alive in the present day and in fairly good health despite being over 100 years old. As he concedes remorsefully, though, he's not immortal; death will catch up to him eventually, but not for a very, very long time as seen with the mouse Mr. Jingles, who is at least 64 years old. And just for the record, mice normally only live less than four years. Mr. Jingles wound up living around 16 times longer than the average mouse. If this should happen to also apply to Paulnote , Paul would wind up living until at least the age of 976, which Paul could then note as breaking the Methuselah record (969).
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Seen right at the beginning of the movie.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Wild Bill would rape and murder two, actually. Delacroix's crime, which isn't mentioned in the film, involved the rape and murder of a young girl, followed by the accidental burning of a building to cover up his original crime, the additional casualties including two children.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Wharton fakes an epileptic fit in an attempt to escape spending a few hours in solitary confinement. The guards are wise to his schemes at this point, however, and it doesn't work.

"We each owe a death. There are no exceptions. But, oh, god... sometimes, the Green Mile seems so long."