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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) feat. Chris Hood

Guest: Chris Hood (Digital Strategist and Host of That Digital Show/check out for more)

Plot Summary: In 1947 in Portland, Maine, banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at the Shawshank State Prison. He is befriended by Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), an inmate and prison contraband smuggler serving a life sentence. Andy’s sentence is more than life imprisonment as he has to also deal with Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton), a pious and cruel man, Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), a brutal and sadistic guard, and the other inmates.

Andy attempts to adjust but faces repeated sexual assault from "The Sisters" as well as abuse from the guards. Using his skills as a banker, he eventually ends up with responsibilities beyond that of a prisoner. Andy and Red are eventually forced to face the difficulty of their situation and the fear of becoming “institutionalized,” a condition rendering them unable to survive outside the prison walls. Ultimately, will Andy and Red achieve redemption from their situation?


  • Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne

  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding

  • Bob Gunton as Samuel Norton

  • William Sadler as Heywood

  • Clancy Brown as Byron Hadley

  • Gil Bellows as Tommy Williams

  • James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen

  • Mark Rolston as Bogs Diamond

  • Jeffrey DeMunn as the Prosecuting Attorney in Dufresne's Trial


  • The film was nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Morgan Freeman), Adapted Screenplay (Frank Darabont), Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Film Editing, Sound, and Score (Thomas Newman).

  • Despite its disappointing box-office returns, in what was then considered a risky move, Warner Home Video shipped 320,000 rental video copies throughout the United States in 1995. It went on to become one of the top rented films of the year. It was the seventh top video rental of 1995 in the United States.

  • Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting System had acquired Castle Rock in 1993, which enabled his television channel, TNT, to obtain the cable-broadcast rights to the film. According to Glotzer, because of the low box-office numbers, TNT could air the film at a very low cost, but still charge premium advertising rates. The film began airing regularly on the network in June 1997. Television airings of the film accrued record-breaking numbers, and its repeated broadcast was considered essential to turning the film into a cultural phenomenon after its poor box-office performance. In 1996, the rights to The Shawshank Redemption were acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures, following the merger of its parent company Time Warner with the Turner Broadcasting System.

  • By 2013, The Shawshank Redemption had aired on 15 basic cable networks, and in that year occupied 151 hours of airtime, rivaling Scarface (1983), and behind only Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). It was in the top 15% of movies among adults between the ages of 18 and 49 on the Spike, Up, Sundance TV, and Lifetime channels. Despite its mainly male cast, it was the most-watched movie on the female-targeted OWN network. In a 2014 Wall Street Journal article, based on the margins studios take from box office returns, home media sales, and television licensing, The Shawshank Redemption had made an estimated $100 million. Jeff Baker, then-executive vice president and general manager of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, said that the home video sales had earned about $80 million. While finances for licensing the film for television are unknown, in 2014, current and former Warner Bros. executives confirmed that it was one of the highest-valued assets in the studio's $1.5 billion library.

  • That same year, Gunton said that by its tenth anniversary in 2004, he was still earning six-figure residual payments, and was still earning a "substantial income" from it, which was considered unusual so many years after its release.

  • The film has been nominated for, or appeared on, the American Film Institute's lists celebrating the top 100 film or film-related topics. In 1998, it was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list, and was number 72 on the 2007 revised list, outranking Forrest Gump (76) and Pulp Fiction (94).

  • It was also number 23 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers (2006) list charting inspiring films. The characters of Andy and Warden Norton received nominations for AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list; AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes list for "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'"; AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs list for "Sull'aria ... che soave zeffiretto" (from The Marriage of Figaro); and AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores for Newman's work.

  • In 2005, the Writers Guild of America listed Darabont's screenplay at number 22 on its list of the 101 greatest screenplays, and in 2006, Film4 listed it number 13 on its list of 50 Films to See Before You Die.

  • In 2014, The Shawshank Redemption was named Hollywood's fourth-favorite film, based on a survey of 2,120 Hollywood-based entertainment industry members; entertainment lawyers skewed the most towards the film.

  • In 2017, The Daily Telegraph named it the 17th-best prison film ever made, and USA Today listed it as one of the 50 best films of all time.

  • In 2019, GamesRadar+ listed its ending as one of the best of all time.

  • It has been the number-one film on IMDb's user-generated Top 250 since 2008, when it surpassed The Godfather, having remained at or near the top since the late 1990s. In the United Kingdom, readers of Empire voted the film as the best of the 1990s, the greatest film of all time in 2006, and it placed number four on Empire's 2008 list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time" and their 2017 list of "The 100 Greatest Movies". In March 2011, the film was voted by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra listeners as their favorite film of all time. It regularly appears on Empire's top 100 films, was named the greatest film to not win the Academy Award for Best Picture in a 2013 poll by Sky UK (it lost to Forrest Gump), and ranked as Britain's favorite film in a 2015 YouGov poll. When the British Film Institute analyzed the demographic breakdown of the YouGov poll, it noted that The Shawshank Redemption was not the top-ranked film in any group, but was the only film to appear in the top 15 of every age group, suggesting it is able to connect with every polled age group, unlike Pulp Fiction which fared better with younger voters, and Gone with the Wind (1939) with older voters.

  • In 2015, the film was selected by the United States Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry.

Did You Know:

  • Darabont looked initially at some of his favorite actors, such as Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall, for the role of Andy Dufresne, but they were unavailable; Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman were also considered. Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Costner were offered, and passed on the role; Hanks due to his starring role in Forrest Gump, and Costner because he had the lead in Waterworld. Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, and Charlie Sheen were also considered for the role at different stages. Cruise attended table readings of the script, but declined to work for the inexperienced Darabont. Darabont said he cast Robbins after seeing his performance in the 1990 psychological horror Jacob's Ladder.

  • Cast initially as young convict Tommy, Brad Pitt dropped out following his success in Thelma & Louise (the role went to a debuting Gil Bellows).

  • James Gandolfini passed on portraying prison rapist Bogs.

  • Bob Gunton was filming Demolition Man (1993) when he went to audition for the role of Warden Norton. To convince the studio that Gunton was right for the part, Darabont and producer Niki Marvin arranged for him to record a screen test on a day off from Demolition Man. They had a wig made for him as his head was shaved for his Demolition Man role. Gunton wanted to portray Norton with hair as this could then be grayed to convey his on-screen aging as the film progressed. Gunton performed his screen test with Robbins, which was filmed by Deakins. After being confirmed for the role, he used the wig in the film's early scenes until his hair regrew. Gunton said that Marvin and Darabont saw that he understood the character, which went in his favor, as did the fact his height was similar to Robbins', allowing Andy to believably use the warden's suit.

  • The novella's original title attracted several people to audition for the nonexistent role of Rita Hayworth, including a man in drag clothing.

  • When Robbins was cast, he insisted that Darabont use experienced cinematographer Roger Deakins, who had worked with him on The Hudsucker Proxy.

  • To prepare for the role, Robbins observed caged animals at a zoo, spent an afternoon in solitary confinement, spoke with prisoners and guards, and had his arms and legs shackled for a few hours.

  • The oak tree, under which Andy leaves a note for Red directing him to Zihuatanejo, became a symbol of hope for its role in the film, and is considered iconic. In 2016, The New York Times reported that the tree attracted thousands of visitors annually. The tree was partially destroyed on July 29, 2011, when it was split by lightning; news of the damage was reported across the United States on newscasts, in newspapers, and on websites as far away as India. The tree was completely felled by strong winds on or around July 22, 2016, and its vestiges were cut down in April 2017. The remains were turned into The Shawshank Redemption memorabilia including rock hammers and magnets.

  • The prison site, which was planned to be fully torn down after filming, became a tourist attraction. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, a group of enthusiasts of the film, purchased the building and site from Ohio for one dollar in 2000 and took up maintaining it as a historical landmark, both as its purpose as a prison and as the filming site. A 2019 report estimated the attraction to be earning $16 million in annual revenue. Many of the rooms and props remain there, including the false pipe through which Andy escapes, and a portion of the oak tree from the finale, after it was damaged in 2011. The surrounding area is also visited by fans, while local businesses market "Shawshanwiches" and Bundt cakes in the shape of the prison. According to the Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau (later renamed Destination Mansfield), tourism in the area had increased every year since The Shawshank Redemption premiered, and in 2013 drew in 18,000 visitors and over $3 million to the local economy. As of 2019, Destination Mansfield operates the Shawshank Trail, a series of 15 marked stops around locations related to the film across Mansfield, Ashland, Upper Sandusky, and St Croix. The trail earned $16.9 million in revenue in 2018.

  • The significant and enduring public appreciation for the film has often been difficult for critics to define. In an interview, Freeman said, "About everywhere you go, people say, 'The Shawshank Redemption—greatest movie I ever saw'" and that such praise "Just comes out of them". Robbins said, "I swear to God, all over the world—all over the world—wherever I go, there are people who say, 'That movie changed my life' ".

  • In a separate interview, Stephen King said, "If that isn't the best [adaptation of my works], it's one of the two or three best, and certainly, in moviegoers' minds, it's probably the best because it generally rates at the top of these surveys they have of movies. ... I never expected anything to happen with it."

  • In a 2014 Variety article, Robbins claimed that South African politician Nelson Mandela told him about his love for the film. Gunton said he had encountered fans in Morocco, Australia, South America, Germany, France, and Bora Bora. Director Steven Spielberg said that the film was "a chewing-gum movie—if you step on it, it sticks to your shoe".

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying"; the audacity of hope versus circumstance.

Best Performance: Morgan Freeman (Red)

Best Secondary Performance: Tim Robbins (Andy)/Frank Darabont (Writer/Director)

Most Charismatic Award: Morgan Freeman (Red)/Bob Gunton (Warden)

Best Scene:

  • Fresh Fish

  • I Need a Rock Hammer

  • Meeting the Sisters

  • Can you get me Rita Heyworth?

  • Brooks' Release

  • Tarring the Roof

  • Andy Does the Guards' Taxes

  • Opera

  • Randall Stephens

  • Tommy Exonerates Andy

  • Andy Escapes

  • Buxton

Favorite Scene: Andy Escapes/Tarring the Roof

Most Indelible Moment: Andy Escapes

In Memorium:

  • Mort Sahl, 94, Comedian and Actor (All the Young Men, Johnny Cool, In Love and War)

  • Peter Scolari, 66, American actor (Newhart, Bosom Buddies, Girls, That Thing You Do), Emmy winner (2016).

  • We forgot Norm McDonald, 61, Comedian and Actor (Dirty Work, Billy Madison, Grown Ups, SNL)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Norton:[returning bible containing rock hammer back to Andy] Salvation lies within.

"Red": I'd like to think that 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.

Andy Dufresne: That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you...

Andy Dufresne:[in letter to Red] Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

"Red": They send you here for life, and that's exactly what they take.

Andy Dufresne: It's funny. On the outside, I was an honest man. Straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.

"Red": Get busy living or get busy dying. That's god damn right.

Brooks: The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.

"Red": Some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

"Red": In prison, a man'll do most anything to keep his mind occupied.

"Red": I mean, who ever really looks at a man's shoes?

"Red": Believe what you want. These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. After long enough, you get so you depend on 'em. That's "institutionalized."

Andy Dufresne: Fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free.

Andy Dufresne: Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget.

"Red": Forget?

Andy Dufresne: Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside... that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours.

"Red": What're you talking about?

Andy Dufresne: Hope.”

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 9

Impact/Significance: 7.83

Novelty: 7.33

Classic-ness: 9.33

Rewatchability: 9.58

Audience Score: 9.7 (96% Google, 98% RT)

Total: 52.77

Remaining Questions:

  • What did Andy do with all of that money? (*There's quite a lot of it. Adjusted for inflation, the $370,000 in 1966 would be $3.1 million)

  • What would a sequel look like?

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