Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

In director Frank Darabont's directorial debut film, a popular, highly-beloved, melodramatic adaptation of Stephen King's 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - it was an inspirational, life-affirming and uplifting, old-fashioned style Hollywood product that was a combination prison/dramatic film and character study.

Its tagline: "Fear can hold you prisoner, Hope can set you free," was exemplified by its patiently-told, allegorical tale (unfolding like a long-played, sometimes painstaking, persistent chess game) of friendship, patience, hope, survival, emancipation, and ultimate redemption and salvation by the time of the film's finale.

  • during the opening credits sequence, a scene outside a cabin was intercut with a courtroom trial scene; it was revealed that mild-mannered banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) was on trial for the murder of his wife (Renee Blaine), who was having an affair with Glenn Quentin (Scott Mann), the golf pro at the Snowdon Hills Country Club; she had been shot to death in the cabin in bed with him; tempted to seek revenge, Andy had been outside at the scene of the crime when he reached for his gun in his car's glove compartment, but then after a swig of bourbon, he decided against violence and threw his loaded gun in the river on his way home; the next day, Andy was arrested after the bullet-riddled bodies of Andy's wife and her lover were found in the cabin; he was sentenced to "serve two life sentences back to back - one for each of your victims"
  • in the next scene in the parole hearings room of maximum-security Shawshank Prison (in Maine), black lifer prisoner (#30265) Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) - the real hero of the story (who provided most of the film's memorable voice-over narration), had already served twenty years of his sentence and was up for review; although he asserted that he was "rehabilitated," his parole request was rejected - with a red-inked stamp; he was known as the prison's respected retriever - who sneakily passed contraband from hand to hand
  • a well-orchestrated, overhead helicopter/aerial shot, one of the most acclaimed shots in the film, followed the arrival of a drab-gray prison bus at the Shawshank Prison carrying Andy Dufresne; the shot also ascended the main tower of the prison, and peered down into the prison courtyard where ant-like prisoners scurried toward the fenced-in arrival area to gawk and jeer as the new arrivals disembarked; Red recalled (voice-over): "Andy came to Shawshank Prison in early 1947 for murdering his wife and the fella she was bangin'. On the outside, he'd been vice-president of a large Portland bank"
  • upon their arrival, the religiously-fanatical, pompous, self-righteous, Bible-carrying Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) delivered a speech to the inmates ("You are convicted felons. That's why they sent you to me. Rule Number One: No blasphemy. I'll not have the Lord's name taken in vain in my prison. The other rules you'll figure out as you go along"); he then summarized by stating what he believed in: Discipline and the Bible
  • during processing the new cons were hosed down, deloused with powder, given prison clothes, and marched naked to their cells in the three-storied cellblock of concrete and steel; the other inmates taunted and 'baited' the "fishees" or first-timers, trying to guess who would break down first; Red bet on Andy, but he lost his bet; a squeamish, fat man nicknamed 'Fat-Ass' (Frank Medrano), who was viciously beaten by the chief captain of the guard, Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), had to be taken to the infirmary and soon after died; Red recalled how he had misjudged Andy: "His first night in the joint, Andy Dufresne cost me two packs of cigarettes. He never made a sound"
  • at breakfast the next morning, Andy met elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore), the prison librarian who kept a baby crow (named Jake) as a pet nestled in the inside pocket of his droopy blue sweater; he also became acquainted with the prison's notorious Sisters (the prison's resident rapists), including a 'bull queer' inmate named Bogs Diamond (Mark Rolston) who took a liking to Andy
  • after about a month of keeping to himself, Andy's first request of lifer friend Red was a small rock hammer! - to resume his geologic "rock-hound" hobby from his "old life," although Red suspected it would be used for self-protection or to tunnel out of the prison (a good guess, although highly improbable)
  • one day in the laundry area where Andy worked, Andy was assaulted (gang-raped) in the stock-room by the sadistic Bogs Diamond and two other predatory men (the Sisters) who cornered him, taunted him and beat him senseless; Red observed over a few years' time: "I wish I could tell you Andy fought the good fight and the Sisters let him be...but prison is no fairytale world... The Sisters kept at him. Sometimes he was able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for Andy. That was his routine"
  • after a few years, Red and Andy were selected from volunteers to begin a week's work ("outdoor detail") to resurface the roof of the license-plate factory; during the job, when Andy heard Hadley complaining about having to pay taxes for an upcoming inheritance of $35,000, he boldly (with his expertise as a former banker) suggested that the money could be sheltered from the IRS as a one-time gift to his wife; in exchange for doing the paperwork, Andy suggested a few cold beers for the inmates during the tarring job; it was the film's most liberating, uplifting scene - the inmates sat and drank three beers each on the sunny rooftop and felt like 'free men' again, while the heroic Andy (who didn't drink) smiled off to the side in the shade; Red surmised: ("I think he did it just to feel normal again, if only for a short while")
  • while watching the movie Gilda (1946) one evening, Andy made another request of Red; he recalled that Andy had asked for "Rita Hayworth" (a wall poster of the pin-up Hollywood star)
  • when threatened to perform oral sex for the Sisters at knifepoint, Andy thought he had talked his way out of an attack by mentioning his strong bite reflex if he suffered a severe blow to his head; but he was brutally beaten and spent a month in the infirmary, while Bogs spent a week in solitary; once released, Hadley took it upon himself to protect his legal advisor Andy by pummeling the predatory Bogs and turning him into a cripple; Andy had no further problems with the Sisters after that

Andy Threatened to Be Raped by Bogs

Predatory Bogs Turned into Cripple by Hadley - to Protect Andy
  • the Warden decided to conduct a surprise inspection and search of Andy's cell for contraband, and to size him up; they exchanged meaningful Bible verses, and the Warden let Andy keep his Rita Hayworth wall poster; as the Warden left, he unwittingly told Andy as he handed him back his Bible: "Salvation lies within!" (meaningful in retrospect)
  • afterwards, the Warden also thought he would start to exploit Andy's accounting skills, and so did a number of cons who began to respect Andy as a financial planner: ("All Andy needed was a suit and a tie and a little jiggly hula gal on his desk, he would've been Mister Dufresne, if you please"); Andy was allowed to set up a little office area in the prison library, where he began to process the guards' and the Warden's income tax returns as well
  • in 1954 after being "institutionalized" for 50 years in prison, Brooks attempted to resist his parole release by attacking inmate Heywood; just before he departed the prison at dawn, Brooks released his full-grown pet crow/raven Jake at the library window: "I can't take care of you no more, Jake. You go on now. You're free"; he was transported to Portland, Maine where life was almost unbearable for the old con; he soon became lonely, afraid, melancholy, and disoriented in the outside world, working at a local grocery store as a bagger; during a tragic and sad suicide sequence, Brooks killed himself by hanging after carving "BROOKS WAS HERE" on the wooden arch above him
Brooks' Suicide by Hanging
  • after six years of writing letters asking for donations to the library and $200 in funds to support the prison, including books and phonograph records, Andy's persistent letter-writing efforts succeeded; in another redemptive act similar to the one on the rooftop, he placed a newly-received record Duettino: Sull'Aria on a phonograph player in the Warden's office, locked the doors and broadcast Mozart's opera "The Marriage of Figaro" on the P.A. system throughout the entire prison to share a moment of freedom, break up the monotonous routine, and make the prison walls dissolve; for his defiance, Andy was punished with two weeks of solitary confinement
  • Red was fearful that Andy (now nicknamed "Maestro") was becoming too hopeful: ("Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no use on the inside. You'd better get used to that idea"), and they had a disagreement between them
  • in 1957, Red had another parole hearing after 30 years in prison, and was again rejected as before; also at Andy's 10 year anniversary, he switched out his poster for one of Marilyn Monroe with her dress billowing above a subway grating in The Seven Year Itch (1955)
  • by 1964, Andy was honored for his fund-raising efforts and expansion of the library by the Warden during a public speech; however, the Warden was personally benefitting from the program's "river of dirty money" for different building projects by skimming off the top, and accepting bribes and kickbacks, while Andy supervised the laundered financial records for the Warden; Andy noted: "The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook"
  • after almost 20 years of Andy's incarceration, he had now adorned his wall with Raquel Welch as a fur-bikinied cavewoman from the film One Million Years, B.C. (1966)
  • a new side-burned prisoner Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) arrived, who began to receive "rehabilitative help" and education from Andy; he divulged a disturbing recollection to Red - in a flashback in Thomaston prison four years earlier, a high-strung, mad cellmate named Elmo Blatch (Bill Bolender) had admitted to murdering a golf pro and his lover; now with evidence that Andy was innocent, he knew that he could get a new trial, but the Warden wasn't convinced and didn't want to lose his valuable accounting assistant; for safe-keeping, the Warden put Andy in solitary for a month

Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) - New Inmate With Exonerating Information

Flashback: Elmo Blatch's Confession That He Murdered Andy's Wife and Lover

Tommy Shot Dead and Silenced by Guard Hadley
  • to keep Tommy from testifying on Andy's behalf, the Warden had Tommy killed by sniper Hadley, and then excused the murder by claiming he was trying to escape; in response, Andy refused to assist the Warden any further and was punished with another back-to-back month in solitary confinement
  • afterwards, as the two lifers sat slumped against the yard wall, Andy and Red discussed their yearnings for freedom; Andy described his pipe-dream of going to the town of Zihuatanejo in Mexico after getting out of prison ("the storm") and opening up a Pacific Ocean coastal beach hotel with a charter fishing boat; Andy yearned for freedom and was determined to fulfill his impossible dreams through his hopes, with the decision: "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'", although Red thought he was being completely unrealistic; Andy also advised Red to find something buried in a hayfield in Buxton, Maine; Red feared that Andy was becoming suicidal
  • the following morning, Andy's cell was empty; the Warden indiscriminately began throwing carved rock/chess pieces around, and one pierced through the poster and disappeared; to his shock, the Warden discovered Andy's escape hole in his cell - covered over by his poster of Raquel Welch

Poster Covering Escape Tunnel in Andy's Cell

The Warden's Shocked Discovery of Andy's Tunnel

Andy's Liberation in Rainwater After Being Expelled from Sewage Pipe
  • the film re-played Andy's meticulously-planned escape through the wall tunnel and sewage conduit; he took with him the incriminating accountant records; after climbing through the sewage pipe, he made an exultant pose with his arms raised up from his half-naked body to the sky during a cleansing rainstorm - twirling, victorious and liberated after the prison break in a Christ-like pose
  • the next day, Andy visited the Maine National Bank in Portland where he had deposited the Warden's ill-gotten money into an account: "Until that moment, he didn't exist - except on paper." Andy had "all the proper ID" and assumed the identity of the 'phantom' Randall Stephens that he had used in his many years of paperwork to fool the IRS; he withdrew and closed all his accounts and accepted a cashier's check, purportedly to live abroad; a final request was made to add his package of the prison's incriminating records to the bank's outgoing mail; then, he visited other local banks, and eventually ended up with a total of $370,000 dollars
  • soon after the package was delivered to the offices of the Portland Daily Bugle, the day's newspaper, the Daily Bugle reported the scandalous story of the Shawshank prison ("Corruption, Murder at Shawshank - D.A. Has Ledger - Indictments Expected"); as police sirens approached, the Warden glanced at the needle-point - reading prophetically: "His Judgement Cometh and That Right Soon...."; he found Andy's Bible in his office safe with the pages hollowed out, starting in the Book of Exodus (a story of liberation) in the shape of a rock-hammer; the DA arrested Hadley for the murder of Williams
The Warden's Suicide
  • the Warden sat at his desk as the police were about to arrest him; he took out a small gun and suicidally shot himself in the head; Red speculated: "I like to think the last thing that went through his head - other than that bullet - was to wonder how the hell Andy Dufresne ever got the best of him"; a postcard arrived from a border town in Texas, signifying that Andy had crossed into Mexico to fulfill his dream
  • for the third time in the film, Red attended another parole hearing after serving forty years of his life sentence - he bluntly told them: "I don't give a s--t"; he also wisely stated what "institutionalized" meant - followed by an emphatic rubber-stamped "APPROVED" on his file
  • he rode a bus to Portland and visited the hotel where Brooks had committed suicide; after deciding to not follow Brooks' path to self-destruction, Red hitchhiked to Buxton, Maine, as Andy had instructed and found the tree and stone that Andy had described; under the stone, he discovered a tin lunch box with an oceanliner on its front; inside was a a plastic bag with money in an envelope (a thousand dollars) and a letter directing him to "come a little further" - to share freedom at Zihuatanejo
Red's Reading of Andy's Letter to "Come a Little Further" and His Return Through Field
  • Red walked back through the field - grasshoppers sprung into the air all around, symbolic of the new-found liberation he was soon to experience; he had internalized Andy's words: "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. That's god-damn right"; breaking his parole, he carved "So was Red" next to Brooks' last words, took a bus to Fort Hancock, Texas and crossed into Mexico
  • the film concluded with Red walking bare-footed on the sand next to the Pacific Ocean toward an old wreck of a boat where he was reunited with Andy - with the film's last lines: "I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."
Reunion on a Mexican Beach - Andy and Red

Accused Murderrer Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) On Trial - Sentenced to Two Life Sentences

Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding's (Morgan Freeman) 20 Year Rejected Parole Request

"Red" - The Film's Observer (with Voice-Overs) and Prison Retriever: "I'm a regular Sears and Roebuck"

Drab-Gray Bus Approaching Shawshank Prison - Seen in Overhead Aerial View

The Bible-Carrying Warden Norton (Bob Gunton): Discpline and the Bible

Andy Walked Naked to His Cell After Admission

Red's Procurement of a Rock Hammer For Andy

Hadley Threatening Andy Until He Suggested Setting Up a Tax-Free Gift Inheritance For Him

Drinking Beers on the Sunny Rooftop

Self-Satisfied and Triumphant Andy After Acquiring Beers For the Roof Tarring Crew

Watching Gilda (1946) in Prison

The Warden's Surprise Inspection of Andy's Cell

Andy's Exultant Broadcast of Mozart's Opera to the Entire Prison

Red's Words of Advice to Andy About Hope: "Hope is a Dangerous Thing"

The Warden's Dishonest Speech to Press About Andy's Financing of Prison Building Projects

Andy: "I had to come to prison to be a crook"

Andy to Red: "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'"

Andy's Escape Through Wall Tunnel and Sewage Pipe

Red: "I don't give a s--t"

Red's "Approved" Parole Papers for Release

Red's Words Scrawled Next to Brooks' Last Words

Red's Bus Ride to Texas to Cross Into Mexico


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