The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption
Directed by Frank Darabont
Produced by Niki Marvin
Written by Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stephen King (original novella)
Starring Tim Robbins
Morgan Freeman
Bob Gunton
Clancy Brown
William Sadler
Gil Bellows
James Whitmore
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (later Warner Bros. Pictures)
Release date(s) September 10, 1994
Running time 142 minutes
Language English
Budget $25,000,000
IMDb profile

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 movie, written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The film stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Ellis "Red" Redding.

The plot of Shawshank revolves around Andy Dufresne's life in prison after being convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover. Despite a poor box office reception (partially due to competition from the commercial success of films such as Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and Speed), Shawshank received favourable reviews from critics and enjoyed a remarkable life on cable television, home video, and DVD. It is consistently ranked amongst the finest movies of all time.

Darabont secured the film adaptation rights in 1987 from Stephen King after impressing the author with his short film adaptation of "The Woman in the Room" in 1983. This is one of the more famous Dollar Deals made by King with aspiring filmmakers.


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The movie spans over 20 years, and begins with Andy Dufresne ( Tim Robbins) on trial for the murder of his wife and her lover, a crime of which he claims to be innocent in spite of what seems like overwhelming evidence. He is sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank, a fictitious prison in Maine.

The action shifts to the prison where Red ( Morgan Freeman) attempts to persuade a parole board that he has been rehabilitated by his time in prison, but he fails as he has at every previous hearing. Andy arrives in a busload of new prisoners, and the other inmates gather around the bus as it arrives, cheering in glee to make the new arrivals uncomfortable. A group of inmates place bets on which new prisoner will be the first to break down that night, and Red bets on Andy Dufresne.

Warden Sam Norton ( Bob Gunton) gathers the new arrivals and tells them only one rule ("No blasphemy."), and then stands idly by as the captain of the guard, Byron Hadley ( Clancy Brown), abuses a new arrival who asked a trivial question. The inmates are marched naked to their cells, and one new arrival breaks down and is publicly beaten for it. It is found out the next day that the arrival died in Intensive Care, because no one was around to take care of him.

In Shawshank Andy keeps to himself until he wants to acquire some contraband. He befriends Red, who has connections to obtain contraband, and several other prisoners including Brooks Hatlen, played by James Whitmore. In his first few years in prison, Andy endures repeated beatings, gang rapings, and gang rape attempts by a group of aggressive inmates known as the sisters, led by Bogs ( Mark Rolston).

Red arranges for himself, Dufresne, and others to have their names chosen for work tarring the roof of a prison building. As they work, Dufresne overhears Captain Hadley complaining about his taxes; he has received a large amount of money and is afraid that the IRS will take it away from him. When Dufresne steps away from his crew, Hadley threatens to throw him off the roof. Dufresne, however, merely recommends that Hadley trust the money to his wife, because the IRS cannot do anything about a gift to a spouse. Andy volunteers to help Hadley with his taxes, in exchange for three beers for each man working; Hadley complies, and the prisoners get their beer on their second to last day on the job.

Andy's former life as a banker and his knowledge of accounting and income taxes eventually come to the attention of every guard in the prison, and, finally, the Warden. His financial knowledge earns him freedom from mistreatment by other prisoners, but he also becomes deeply involved in Norton's illegal money-laundering operations.

The Warden keeps a safe behind an embroidered plaque by his wife, reading "Thy Judgement cometh, and that right soon." When working for the Warden, Andy creates a false identity - a ' phantom', as he puts it - so the Warden can hide the money laundered. All information about the scandal is kept behind the Warden's safe.

Time passes. Brooks's parole is approved, but he doesn't want to leave prison and threatens to kill another inmate in order to stay at Shawshank; however, Andy persuades him to let the other man go. The old man is eventually released from prison, but after spending over 50 years behind bars, the elderly convict finds that the normal world is no place for him, and, in a letter to his friends at the prison, declares that he's tired of being afraid all the time; "I've decided not to stay," Brooks closes. Having carved the phrase "Brooks was here," into the wall in the half-way house, he hangs himself.

Andy has made repeated letters once a week to a nearby library to get books sent to the prison; finally, they receive hundreds of books and several records just so they could get him to stop writing. While getting the books organized, Andy comes across an opera record and begins to play it. He locks all doors into the room and turns on the intercom and all settings available; the music fills the entire prison, including the prisonyard, workshops, and the Warden's Office. When the Warden shouts at Andy to turn off the record player, Andy cranks up the volume to its maximum setting. Hadley then busts the door's window, unlocks the door, and apprehends Dufresne; Andy is then sent to solitary confinement.

A young prisoner, Tommy ( Gil Bellows), enters Shawshank in the 1960s, and Andy helps him try to get a G.E.D. Tommy tells Andy that he has met the man that actually killed his wife and her lover; this could be used to free him, or at least get him a new trial. It is only at this point that it is made totally explicit that Andy is in fact innocent of the murders, as he has maintained. Andy approaches the warden for help, but the warden is unwilling to lose Andy's financial assistance with his illicit schemes or risk being exposed and sends Andy to solitary confinement for a month, which is longer than the prisoners seem to know of. While Andy is in solitary, Tommy passes his G.E.D. with a C+, but the warden has him killed before he can pass on any information. The Warden then gives Andy another month in solitary.

After his release from solitary confinement, Andy's disposition is visibly changed; he is now more sullen than before. He tells Red that, if he ever makes parole, to go to a field in Maine and look for a rock made of volcanic glass in a granite stone wall. After this, he orders a length of rope, stirring worry among his friends that he will kill himself. That night, he works with the Warden's illegal financing, and is ordered to clean a suit and shine a pair of dress shoes.

The following day, Andy doesn't come out of his cell for morning roll call. When an officer goes to check, Andy has disappeared. The Warden has no knowledge of this absence until he finds Andy's ragged shoes in place of the dress shoes; as soon as he finds them, the siren sounds, signaling Dufresne's escape. While questioning Red, the Warden blasphemes, breaking his very own rule, and begins throwing Andy's whittled stones around the room. However, when he throws one at a poster of Racquel Welch on the wall, it passes through, rather than bouncing off of the stone wall. The Warden rips the poster away, revealing a hole in the wall just large enough for a man to fit through.

At this point, how Andy escapes is revealed; from his first night with the rock hammer, Andy has chipped away at the wall. When the hole began to get suspicious, Andy put up the poster of Rita Hayworth to hide it. The night of his escape, Dufresne secretly replaced the Warden's records of finances with something else, placing the duplicates in the Warden's safe. He wore the suit underneath his clothes as he came back to his cell, and switched his own shoes out. He wore them into his cell, but no one bothered to look at his feet. After placing the records, the suit, and a chess set into a watertight plastic bag, Andy crawled through the hole and found himself in the prison plumbing system. He broke his way into the sewage pipe, timing his strikes with thunder outside so as not to be heard. Then, he crawled for five-hundred yards down the sewage pipe into a nearby run-off stream. All the authorities found were a bar of soap, his old clothes, and the rock hammer, nearly worn away.

After his escape, he assumed the identity of the phantom - wearing the Warden's suit - and took $370,000 out of the Warden's accounts. He also forwarded the stolen paperwork and information on Tommy's murder to the local newspaper, which quickly printed a news story on the front page and notified authorities.

The Warden reads the story and quickly opens the safe. Inside - rather than his real records - is Dufresne's bible. A note from Andy is scrawled in the cover; "You were right; salvation lay within." Further in, fittingly beginning in the book of Exodus, pages are cut in the shape of a rock hammer, where Andy had hidden it. The Warden watches as police arrest Hadley, but he has other plans. As the police come up to arrest him, he loads a revolver and stands ready to fight. However, at the last minute, he puts the gun to his own neck and shoots himself.

At Red's latest parole, the entire board has been replaced. Rather than eagerly asking for parole, Red remarks that he doesn't care what happens to him. When asked if he has been rehabilitated, he says rehabilitated "is a bullshit word". His parole is approved, and he is sent to a halfway house, to the same room where Brooks had died. After working as a grocery store employee, he remembers what Andy had asked for him to do. Red goes to the field in Maine, digs under the volcanic glass rock and finds a box, hidden by Andy, that contains enough money for him to leave Maine and join Andy in Mexico.

Before leaving for Mexico, Red carves into the wall next to Brooks' final message, "So was Red." The final shot shows Red meeting Andy once again on the Pacific shoreline.

Cast and crew

Morgan Freeman as Red and Tim Robbins as Andy


  • Tim Robbins: Andy Dufresne
  • Morgan Freeman: Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding
  • Bob Gunton: Warden Samuel Norton
  • William Sadler: Heywood
  • Clancy Brown: Captain Byron Hadley
  • Gil Bellows: Tommy Williams
  • Mark Rolston: Bogs Diamond
  • James Whitmore: Brooks Hatlen
  • Jeffrey DeMunn: District Attorney (1946)
  • Bill Bolender: Elmo Blatch
  • Dion Anderson: Head Bull Haig


  • Director: Frank Darabont
  • Producer: Niki Marvin
  • Screenwriter: Frank Darabont
  • Art Director: Peter Lansdown Smith
  • Casting: Deborah Aquila
  • Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
  • Composer: Thomas Newman, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Costume Designer: Elizabeth McBride
  • Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
  • Production Designer: Terence Marsh
  • Set Decorator: Michael Seirton
  • Story: Stephen King



Roger Ebert suggests that the integrity of Andy Dufresne is an important theme in the story line, especially in prison, where integrity is lacking. Andy is an individual of integrity (here referring to adherence to a code of morality) among a host of criminals with little integrity.

Christian interpretations

Some critics have interpreted the film as a Christian parable, and indeed some Christian reviewers have referred to it as a film "true to Christian principles."

In the director's commentary track on the tenth anniversary DVD, Darabont denies any intent to create such a parable and calls such interpretations of the film "fantastic."

Critical Reaction

In 1999, film critic Roger Ebert listed Shawshank on his "Great Movies" list, and in reader polls by the film magazine Empire, the film ranked 5th in 2004 and 1st in 2006 on the lists for greatest movie of all time. The film has also repeatedly been voted by the registered users of the Internet Movie Database as one of the greatest movies ever made. According to the database's list of "Top 250 Movies of All Time", it is one of only two movies with a 9.1 average rating (the other being The Godfather), and it has the most votes of any of the movies on the list. At times, it was the highest rated film on IMDB and the Yahoo movies database.

In the 1994 Academy Awards the movie was nominated for seven awards ( Best Picture, Best Actor– Morgan Freeman, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound) but, in the shadow of 1995's big winner Forrest Gump, failed to win a single one.


  • The novel appears in Stephen King's Different Seasons, which also contains The Body, which was made into the film Stand By Me, and Apt Pupil, which was also made into a film by the same name. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption appears under the Spring section of the book under the heading "Hope springs eternal," which is also the name of a documentary on the special edition DVD. Darabont also went on to direct The Green Mile, based on another work by Stephen King.
  • Shawshank was filmed in and around the city of Mansfield, Ohio, located in north-central Ohio. The prison featured in the film is the old, abandoned Ohio State Reformatory immediately north of downtown Mansfield. The Reformatory buildings have been used in several other films, including Harry and Walter Go to New York, Air Force One and Tango and Cash. Most of the prison yard has now been demolished to make room for expansion of the adjacent Mansfield Correctional Facility, but the Reformatory's Gothic-style ("Castle Dracula") Administration Building remains standing and, due to its prominent use in films, has become a tourist attraction. Several scenes were also shot in Portland, ME. The real warden of the Mansfield Correctional Facility had a cameo appearance in Shawshank as the prisoner seated directly behind Tommy on his bus ride to prison.
  • The young photo of Red on his parole forms is of Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso, who also is seen in the yard when Andy's load of prisoners is first dropped off, shouting enthusiastically "Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish" whilst reeling in an imaginary line. Alfonso later played a parody of his father's character, Red, in a short spoof titled The Sharktank Redemption, available on the second disc of the 10th anniversary DVD.
  • To escape, Andy crawls through five hundred yards of a sewage pipe that lead to a small river outside of the prison. Red describes five hundred yards as the equal of five football fields and 'just shy of half a mile.' While five hundred yards does equal five football fields, it is not even one-third of a mile.

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