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  • Adaptation Displacement: This film is far more well-known than the Stephen King novella it's based on.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: These days it's considered one of the greatest films ever made, but its original box office reception was lukewarm due to this; it's based on one of Stephen King's least famous stories and it's a gritty, realistic prison drama from a creator who's more known for fantasy and horror stories. It didn't appeal to the horror fans that generally enjoyed King's works, but its obscurity kept it from appealing to the overall mainstream.
  • Award Snub: One of the most notable examples. It was nominated for 7 Oscars, but ended up completely empty-handed, this being the year that Forrest Gump was released.
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    • Not only this, but Tim Robbins failed to receive a Best Actor nomination, and Frank Darabont was omitted from the Best Director line-up.
    • It was a great year for supporting actors, but Bob Gunton was noticeably snubbed for his role as Warden Norton, as was James Whitmore for his role as Brooks.
  • Awesome Music: The score is written by Thomas Newman. Beautiful music is a given. Also, the song (Taken from The Marriage of Figaro) that Andy plays to the entire prison while inside the warden's office.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Did you watch the movie before reading the novella? Well, good luck not hearing the whole thing as Morgan Freeman in your head.
  • Catharsis Factor:
  • Complete Monster:
    • Warden Samuel Norton seems like a stern but affable prison bureaucrat before he reveals the true extent of his immorality and corruption. Norton runs Shawshank as a place of horrible, soul-crushing conditions overshadowed by cheap Christian rhetoric, where a man is beaten to death on Andy's first day by Norton's corrupt guards and violent rape is allowed to occur within the system. Norton sets up cheap prison labor to blackmail desperate private contractors, using Andy's financial knowledge to launder the illegal money, and when a new inmate named Tommy has proof of Andy's innocence, Norton has him shot in the yard by Captain Byron T. Hadley and has the murder passed off as an escape attempt. Norton finally throws all rhetoric aside, intending to keep Andy under his crushing thumb forever; Norton throws Andy in solitary confinement for a month, threatens to destroy everything Andy's built to improve Shawshank over the past 20 years in prison and make sure that he'll be handed over to the rapists again, before giving Andy another month in isolation just to think about it.
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    • Bogs Diamond is the leader of a prison gang called "The Sisters", who prey on weaker inmates to rape them again and again for as long as they like. Bogs sets his sights on Andy and together with his gang makes repeated attempts to rape and brutalize Andy over the course of several years, succeeding about half the time. When Andy tries to fight off the latest attempt, Bogs threatens to shiv Andy through the skull if he doesn't give him and his buddy oral sex. When Andy talks him out of it by playing on his ignorance, he beats Andy straight into the infirmary for a month instead.
  • Ear Worm: The music that plays when the police are coming to get Captain Hadley and Warden Norton.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With, of all things, The Godfather. The two have been competing for the #1 spot on the IMDb Top 250 for years, though Shawshank is more frequently on the top spot. One of The Godfather's reigns at #1 was ended when fans of The Dark Knight tried to game the system and make their film #1, but only succeeded in putting Shawshank back at #1. Fans of The Godfather were not happy, but took their frustration out on Shawshank fans on IMDb forums.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In 2015, when inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility, their escape was compared to Andy's in this movie.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Andy is put on trial for the murder of his wife and lover. It was already serious, but it got a lot harder to watch after the OJ Simpson murder trial.
    • In 2018 Morgan Freeman was hit with eight accusations of sexual harrassment, and in stark contrast to the majority of other people swept up in the Me Too movement, he gave a contrite statement about regretting any pain he caused, unnervingly reminiscent of Red being the "only guilty man in Shawshank."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Hadley is played by Clancy Brown, who's best known to Western Animation aficionados as Lex Luthor in various DCAU productions. As of 2011, Mark Rolston, who played Bogs, is now Lex Luthor in a different universe. That's right - this movie features Lex Luthor beating up Lex Luthor.
    • Captain Hadley had to get some sound financial advice from Andy Dufresne in order to keep a cash windfall intact, the kind of advice that Mr. Krabs would know in his sleep. Krabs certainly wouldn't trust a banker with his money. More hilariously, Hadley first doubts Andy's advice on account he was "that smart banker who killed his wife."
    • Believe it or not, this wouldn't be the last time that Morgan Freeman played a character in a Stephen King adaptation who was originally Irish.
    • Heywood singing along to Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" 23 years before the Walmart Yodeling Boy.
  • Ho Yay: Andy and Red.
  • Hype Backlash: An interesting case, where some would argue that Shawshank went from being one of the more underrated films of its time to potentially being one of the more overrated. Holding the #1 position of "Greatest Film of All Time" on IMDB is the kind of thing that would put any movie under intense scrutiny.
  • It Was His Sled: Andy escapes from Shawshank prison using a plan he'd been preparing for nearly his entire sentence. He escapes by digging a hole behind a series of large posters he had with a rock hammer, smashing open a sewage pipe, climbing through "the length of five football fields" of shit, and spilling out into a muddy river in the middle of a storm, leading to his iconic Redemption in the Rain moment. The details of Andy's escape have been parodied and homaged several times, and the Redemption in the Rain moment is used in promotional materials, which even without context is not hard to guess the nature of.
  • Memetic Mutation: The scene where Andy plays opera music for the prison has been edited many times on YouTube. Said opera music has been replaced by various kinds of music, from pop music to heavy metal, and even by flea market ads. To be fair, the reactions of the prisoners and the warden made it pretty ripe for parody.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The Warden ordering the death of a recently transferred con (Tommy) who has evidence of Andy's innocence, so that Andy will be forced to continue assisting him in his money laundering scheme.
    • Also, Hadley crossed this when he threatened to throw Andy off the roof and pretend Andy fell off. Beating up the emotionally-overwhelmed inmate earlier on could be excused by claiming he did it to deter other prisoners from making noise, but his later threat has no excuse.
    • Bogs Diamond and The Sisters raping and brutalizing Andy over the period of several years.
  • Nausea Fuel: Three words: Sewage pipe escape. It's a rare example that's also oddly triumphant, considering that its sheer grossness makes what happens afterwards even more awesome as a result.
    Red: Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit-smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Elmo Blatch, the man who really killed Andy's wife, has less than a minute of screen time but makes every last second of it count.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Hope is a good thing.
  • Stoic Woobie: Andy of course, given what he goes through, and the point that he did not commit the double-murder he is in jail for.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Frank Darabont has yet to make another film as beloved as this and may never do it.
  • Values Resonance: It was a brief moment, but upon Red telling Andy about Bogs, the Sisters and their ways, Andy asks if it would help for him to explain to the vicious inmates that he was not a homosexual, to which Red replied "Neither are they; you have to be human first. They don't qualify." Even if it was to display how depraved they are, Red's comment was enlightening to hear in 1994 and rather rare to hear in the time frame the scene was set in, the 1940s. It's also notable for its clear-eyed understanding of the Sisters' crimes, and thoroughly averts the usual Hollywood depiction of male rape by showing that nothing about their crimes is remotely funny, nor is Andy depicted as any less of a man for not being able to fight them off. It's one of the best and most tasteful handlings of the subject on film as a result, even to this day.
  • Vindicated by History: Though the movie was warmly received by critics in 1994, it had a lot of competition that year. As a result, it failed to win any of the Oscars that it was nominated for (see Award Snub above), and barely managed to make back its budget at the box-office (even worse, word of mouth was spreading, and it was starting to do better business just as it was yanked from theaters). It has since come to be regarded as one of the finest films of the 1990's, and it has consistently been one of the highest user-rated movie on IMDb for nearly a decade. note 
  • The Woobie:
    • Tommy. Poor kid works his ass off to make something of himself and is more than eager to help Andy. Then he gets murdered by Hadley.
    • The other prisoners (the ones who aren't completely horrible people, which is most of them) tread the line between this and Jerkass Woobie. Including Red.
    • Fat Ass gets sent to prison and beaten to death on his first night there. Why? Because his crying was annoying Hadley.
  • What an Idiot!: A guy in prison for killing his wife walking up to a guard and saying apropos of nothing "Do you trust your wife?" rather than something actually useful? It's not surprising this almost gets Andy thrown off the roof.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?:
    • The warden keeps his safe and all the damning evidence therein under a needlepoint that reads "His judgment cometh and that Right Soon..."
    • Andy keeps the rock hammer that facilitates his escape hidden in the Bible, in the book of Exodus.
    • The Warden's favorite verse from the Bible is Jesus' line in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." It seems the warden thinks of himself in this manner, but the line better fits Andy, an innocent man sentenced to be punished for a crime he did not commit and helps bring light and hope to the prison.

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