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

The film portrays Andy spending nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison, a fictional penitentiary in Mainemarker and his friendship with Red, a fellow inmate. Despite a lukewarm box office reception that was barely enough to cover its budget, The Shawshank Redemption received favorable reviews from critics and has since enjoyed a remarkable life on cable television, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray. The movie is also noteworthy for being the #1 ranked movie on IMDB's Top 250 list, ranking above The Godfather.


In 1947, a banker named Andrew "Andy" Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, based on strong circumstantial evidence. He is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine, run by Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). He is quickly befriended by Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), a fellow inmate serving a life sentence who has recently failed to gain parole. Andy finds Red has connections on the outside who can acquire contraband for the inmates, and first asks Red for a rock hammer in order to maintain his rock collection hobby, which he uses to fashion a home-made chess set. He later asks Red for a full-size poster of Rita Hayworth for his wall, replacing them over the years with ones of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch

During manual labor, Andy overhears Captain of the Guards Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) complain about having to pay taxes on a forthcoming inheritance. Andy risks punishment by explaining to Hadley how to circumvent the taxes legally; Hadley accepts Andy's advice and rewards his friends with a brief respite and beer. Andy's accountancy expertise is soon sought by other guards at Shawshank and nearby prisons, and Andy is given a space to work on their financial matters under the pretense of maintaining the prison library alongside elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore). Hadley delivers a brutal beating to inmate Bogs (Mark Rolston), leader of "The Sisters", after his gangs' attempt to sexually molest Andy puts Andy in the infirmary; Bogs is paralyzed while the remaining Sisters leave Andy alone. Andy is able to use his good will with the guards to help expand the library; when one donation to the library provides him with the opera The Marriage of Figaro, he plays it for all the inmates to hear, well-aware of the punishment of solitary confinement he will receive for the brief moment of bliss.

Warden Norton creates a scheme to use prison labor for public works, undercutting the cost of skilled labor and discretely receiving personal kickbacks for it. Norton has Andy launder the money under a false identity, in exchange for allowing Andy to keep his private cell and to continue maintaining the library. Brooks is soon freed on parole, but is unable to adjust to the outside, non-regimented world, and hangs himself; Andy dedicates the expanded library to Brooks. In 1965, Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) is incarcerated into Shawshank on robbery charges. Tommy is brought into Andy and Red's circle of friends, and Andy assists Tommy into getting his GED. Tommy reveals that one of his old prison-mates, Elmo Blatch (Bill Bolender) had claimed to have committed the murders for which Andy was charged. Norton, fearing that Andy may expose his illegal activities if he were released, puts him into solitary confinement and has Tommy killed by Hadley, claiming he was an escapee. When Andy is finally released from solitary, Norton threatens to burn down the library if Andy does not continue to launder the money for him.

Shortly after, Andy informs Red his dream to live in Zihuatanejomarker, a Mexican-Pacific coastal town, and instructs Red, should he ever be freed, to visit a specific hayfield near Buxton, Mainemarker to find something he had left there. The next day at roll call, Andy's cell is found empty. Norton, in anger, throws one of Andy's rocks at the poster of Welch; the rock tears through the poster, revealing a tunnel that Andy had dug with the rock hammer over the last decade that allowed him to escape Shawshank, along with a set of civilian clothes, his chess set, and the books he had kept for Norton, having swapped them for fakes the night before. Andy uses his false identity to withdraw all of Norton's money from the bank, at the same time, sending the evidence to a local newspaper. On the day the story runs, the police converge on the prison; Hadley is arrested while Norton commits suicide.

When Red finally achieves parole after serving 40 years of his sentence, he finds himself in the same bagging job at a grocery store as Brooks, and living in the the same apartment where Brooks committed suicide. Red decides to follow Andy's advice and visits Buxton. In the hayfield where Andy specified, he finds a cache of money and a note left by Andy, reminding him of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Red violates his parole and travels to Mexico; he eventually comes across Andy on the coast, and they happily reunite.


  • Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne: The main character of the film. Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen were each considered for the role when the script was circulated in Hollywood. Hanks turned it down because he was committed to Forrest Gump (which beat Shawshank at the Oscars), but he later worked with Darabont in The Green Mile. While studio favorites Cruise and Sheen were passed over for the part, Costner liked the script but turned it down because he was filming Waterworld.
  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding: The other main character and the film's narrator. Before Freeman was cast, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were each considered for the role. Although written as a middle-aged Irishman with greying red hair (as in the original novella), Darabont cast Freeman for his authoritative presence and demeanor, because he could not see anyone else as Red.
  • Bob Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton: The head of Shawshank State Prison and the primary antagonist. Norton has an obsession with the Holy Bible and appears to be a devout Christian and reform-minded administrator. Norton's liking towards the protagonist and love of the Bible makes him appear to be a "light in the darkness" type of character initially. Behind his religious side, however, he holds a darker and more sinister personality and his true nature is displayed in vicious fashion when he conspires to have Tommy Williams killed so Williams won't be able to prove Andy's innocence.
  • William Sadler as Heywood: One of Red's gang of long-sentence convicts. Sadler appeared in a supporting role as Klaus Detterick in Darabont's adaptation of The Green Mile and as Jim Grondin in Darabont's adaptation of The Mist.
  • Clancy Brown as Capt. Byron Hadley: Chief of the guards at Shawshank and the other main antagonist. Hadley is a vicious and intemperate guard who thinks nothing of delivering horrible beatings to the inmates to keep them in line — or just for the fun of it, including beating a new prisoner to death on Andy's first night. He effectively is the most villainous character in the story until halfway through, when Norton begins to show his darker side. When cast for the role, Brown declined the offer to study real life prison guards as preparation for his role, because he did not want to base it on any one person.
  • Gil Bellows as Tommy Williams: A young convict whose past experiences in prison hold the truth about Andy's innocence. This potential for Andy's freedom leads Norton to have a talk with Tommy outside the prison gates, where Hadley shoots him dead. Norton and Hadley cover their tracks by making it appear that Tommy was trying to escape. Brad Pitt was considered at one point for the role.
  • Mark Rolston as Bogs Diamond: The head of "The Sisters" prison gang and a prison rapist. He assaults Andy a number of times, but Hadley puts a stop to it by beating Bogs seriously enough to permanently paralyze him.
  • James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen: The prison librarian/trustee and one of the oldest convicts at Shawshank. Upon his release, he finds himself unable to cope with life on the outside, and soon commits suicide. Darabont cast Whitmore as Brooks because he is one of his favorite character actors.

Jeffrey DeMunn appears during the film's opening credits in a cameo role as the DA who convicts Dufresne. DeMunn appeared in the The Green Mile and The Mist.


Darabont secured the film adaptation rights from author Stephen King after impressing the author with his short film adaptation of "The Woman in the Room" in 1983. Although the two had become friends and maintained a pen-pal relationship, Darabont did not work with him until four years later in 1987, when he optioned to adapt Shawshank. This is one of the more famous Dollar Deals made by King with aspiring filmmakers. Darabont later directed The Green Mile, which was based on another work about a prison by Stephen King, and then followed that up with an adaptation of King's novella The Mist. Rob Reiner, who had previously adapted another King novella The Body into Stand By Me, offered $2.5 million in an attempt to write and direct the project. He aimed to cast Tom Cruise in the part of Andy and Harrison Ford as Red. Darabont seriously considered and liked Reiner's vision, but he ultimately decided it was his "chance to do something really great" by directing the film himself.

The Shawshank Redemption was filmed in and around the city of Mansfield, Ohiomarker, located in north-central Ohiomarker. The prison featured in the film is the old Ohio State Reformatorymarker 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 Richland Correctional Institute, but the Reformatory's Gothic Administration Building remains standing and, due to its prominent use in films, has become a tourist attraction. The real warden of the Richland Correctional Institute had a cameo appearance as the prisoner seated directly behind Tommy on his bus ride to prison and several other staff members from the nearby Mansfield Correctional Institution have small roles.

Several exterior scenes were shot at the Malabar Farm State Parkmarker, in nearby Lucas, Ohiomarker. The sequence in which Andy is parked outside his home contemplating murdering his wife was filmed at the Pugh Cabin within the park. The sequences representing the village of Buxton and the field where Red finds Andy's hidden letter were filmed on private land located opposite the park entrance on Bromfield Road. The oak tree is clearly visible from the roadside. The adjacent rock wall, which was constructed specifically for the film, is located on the far side of the hill away from the roadside. The wall is still standing, although it has been somewhat eroded. Other scenes were shot in Ashland, Ohiomarker, Butler, Ohiomarker, Upper Sandusky, Ohiomarker and Portland, Mainemarker. The two scenes in Mexico were filmed on the Island of St. Croixmarker in the U.S.marker Virgin Islandsmarker. The first scene where Andy was driving a convertible on a road along the Pacific Coast with the top down is route 73 on the north side of St. Croix between Salt River (where Christopher Columbus landed in 1493) and Cane Bay. The second scene was the last scene of the movie. Red was walking on a beach toward his friend Andy while he worked on repairs to a boat on the beach. That was filmed at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refugemarker on the southwest point of St.Croix.

The photo of a young Red on his parole forms is that of Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso. Alfonso 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.


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, and guards, with little integrity. Additionally, the film's dominant themes of hope, original sin, redemption, salvation, and faith in the afterlife have led some critics to interpret the film as a Christian parable. 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." Others have pointed out that the film's tidy dispatching of its principal antagonists—Hadley's tearful arrest, Norton's suicide, and Bogs' paralysis—would seem to have more to do with Old Testament retribution than New Testament redemption. In addition, Andy's destruction of a Bible to enable his escape hints at a more pragmatic outlook.

Angus C. Larcombe suggests that the film provides a great illustration of how characters can be free, even in prison, or unfree, even in freedom, based on one's outlook in life.

Critical reception


The score was composed by Thomas Newman, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1994, marking his first Academy Award nomination. The majority of the score consists of dark piano music, which plays along the main character's role at Shawshank. The main theme ("End Titles" on the soundtrack album) is perhaps best known to modern audiences as the inspirational sounding music from many movie trailers dealing with inspirational, dramatic, or romantic films in much the same way that James Horner's driving music from the end of Aliens is used in many movie trailers for action films. A central scene in the film features the "Letter Duet" ("Canzonetta sull'aria") from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

Real life imitation

In 2007, Union Countymarker Prison inmates Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt escaped the jail using similar techniques to those in the movie. The escapees were later recaptured.

See also


Further reading

External links

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