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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 but 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 reveal 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 Zihuatanejo, a Mexican-Pacific
coastal town, and instructs Red, should he ever be freed, to visit a specific hayfield near
Buxton, Maine 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.