The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet

The Shawshank Redemption

Written and Directed by Frank Darabont
Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Running time: 139 minutes
Year: 1994


The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Basic Story Map

PROTAGONIST: Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife.
CHARACTERIZATION/MAIN MISBEHAVIOR: Guilt-ridden; unable to let go of the past
EXTERNAL GOAL: To adapt to prison life / To break free of prison life
INTERNAL GOAL: To find hope within himself and free himself from the guilt of his wife’s death
THEME: You can find self-worth in your most hopeless hours.
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Andy break free of Shawshank?
ENDING: Andy escapes Shawshank to Mexico with the Warden’s dirty money.
ARC: Andy goes from a Shawshank inmate, guilt-ridden over his wife’s death, to a free man able to start anew.


The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Story Engines


Andy is found guilty for the murder of his wife and her lover, and is thrown into Shawshank for life. He attempts to adapt to prison life by picking up a hobby chiseling rocks.


Andy finds friends and enemies within the prison walls.


Andy discovers hope through literature and music, sharing with his fellow inmates. When the Warden discovers his talents as a banker, he uses Andy to launder dirty money. Andy mentors a young inmate who could prove his innocence, but the Warden silences it.


Andy decides to break out of Shawshank — “get busy living or get busy dying.” He escapes and brings down all the corruption at Shawshank.


Red is paroled after 40 years at Shawshank. He gets a job at a grocery store, but struggles. Remembering Andy’s proposal, he breaks his parole and reunites with Andy in Mexico.


The Shawshank Redemption Full Beat Sheet


Sequence I: Andy Dufresne is found guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to life in prison.

1 – “If I Didn’t Care” by The Ink Spots plays over a car radio. ANDY DUFRESNE, boozed-up, pulls a pistol from the glove compartment.

5-7 – Andy stands trial for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy pleads his innocence, but the court finds him guilty and sentences him to life in prison.


Sequence II: With a group of new arrivals, Andy enters Shawshank, taunted by inmates. Red, a Shawshank inmate, bets his friends Andy will be the first to break down. Later that night, a new inmate breaks down and is beaten to death in front of the entire cell block by Captain Hadley. Red loses the bet: Andy didn’t make a sound.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Inciting Incident

11 – INCITING INCIDENT: Andy enters Shawshank. Red tells us he was a banker.

12 – RED and crew gamble on which new inmate will break down first. Red bets on Andy.

RED (V.O.)

I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy the first time I laid eyes on him. It looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over.

15 – WARDEN NORTON lectures the new inmates…


I believe in two things: discipline and the bible. Here you’ll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank.

20 – One of the new inmates, the fat man, has a panic attack his first night in the cell. CAPTAIN HADLEY beats him viciously in front of the entire cell block.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Strong Movement Forward

21 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD: Andy doesn’t break down.

RED (V.O.)

His first night in the joint, Andy Dufresne cost me two packs of cigarettes. He never made a sound.


Sequence III: After discovering the fat man died from Hadley’s beating, Andy asks Red for a rock hammer. When Red inquires about its proposed use, Andy reveals a desire to chisel rocks.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet End of Act One Turn

29 – END OF ACT ONE TURN: Andy asks Red for a rock hammer.

Andy chooses to pick up a hobby chiseling rocks and adapt to life in prison.


Sequence I: Andy receives the rock hammer from Red. Later, he is raped by “The Sisters.”

33 – Andy is beaten and raped by “The Sisters.”

RED (V.O.)

I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that, but prison is no fairy-tale world.


Sequence II: While tarring a roof, he risks his life with a tax proposition to Captain Hadley. He asks nothing of himself, only beers for his fellow inmates.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet First Trial

38 – FIRST TRIAL: While on a work detail tarring a roof, Andy overhears Hadley complaining about taxes he’ll pay on an inheritance he received. Andy breaks the rules and approaches, angering Hadley, and is nearly thrown off the roof. At the last second, Andy informs Hadley he can keep the money without paying taxes and offers to setup the tax free gift. In return, he requests beer for the workers.


You could argue he’d done it to curry favor with the guards. Or, maybe make a few friends among us cons. Me, I think he did it just to feel normal again, if only for a short while.


Sequence III: Andy discovers the wall chips away with the rock hammer. He asks Red for a poster to cover up the hole he intends to dig. On the way back to his cell, he is nearly beaten to death by Bogs and the Sisters. Time passes and Andy returns from the infirmary to discover a Rita Hayworth poster from Red.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet First Casualty

45 – FIRST CASUALTY: Andy is beaten within inches of his life by Bogs and the Sisters. The beating is so bad he spends a month in the infirmary.

47 – Bogs is beaten by Hadley for sending Andy to the infirmary.

RED (V.O.)

Two things never happened again after that. The Sisters never laid a finger on Andy again... and Bogs never walked again.


Sequence IV: Andy narrowly avoids discovery of his plan by the Warden and Captain Hadley. The Warden gives Andy a new job in the library with Brooks.


Sequence V: Andy writes for funds to expand the Shawshank prison library. As time passes, Andy gains the trust of the Warden and the guards by doing their taxes.


Sequence VI: After being granted parole, Brooks attempts to kill Heywood. Andy learns the longer he stays at Shawshank, the more frightening freedom becomes.

59 – Brooks attempts to kill Heywood, but Andy and Red talk him out of it. Brooks’s parole came through. After spending the majority of his life in prison, the real world terrifies him.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Midpoint (internal)

61 – MIDPOINT (internal): Around Andy and friends, Red empathizes with Brooks.


They send you here for life and that’s what they take.

Andy realizes the longer he stays at Shawshank, the more frightening freedom becomes.


The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Brooks Was Here

Sequence VII: Brooks leaves Shawshank. After being institutionalized for the majority of his life, he cannot adapt to prison life and hangs himself.


Sequence VIII: Andy receives funds, books, and music for the library. In his first act of defiance against the Warden, he locks himself in an office and blasts Mozart over the prison PA.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Midpoint

69 – MIDPOINT (external): Andy puts on a record, “Canzonetta sull’aria” from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” locks the door to the office he’s in, and broadcasts the song over the PA for the entire prison to hear.

RED (V.O.)

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a great place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.


Sequence I: Andy expresses a feeling of hopefulness, in contrast to Red’s pessimism, which is supported by another denial of Red’s parole. The two men reconcile, exchanging gifts.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Assumption of Power (internal)

74 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER (internal): During chow, Andy talks with Red and crew about hope….


That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you... you need it so you don’t forget.




Forget there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside they can’t get to; that they can’t touch... that’s yours.


What are you talking about?




Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s no use on the inside. Better get used to that idea.


Like Brooks did?


Sequence II: Time passes and Andy makes progress as he grows the prison library and cooks the warden’s books, making him a millionaire.

78 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER (external): Andy receives funds from the state and grows Shawshank’s library into the best prison library in New England. The inmates now have freedom to read and listen to music.

84 – Andy works the Warden’s books, cleaning the dirty money. Andy claims he’ll make the Warden a millionaire by the time he retires. Money is cleaned through a fictitious person.


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.


Sequence III: Tommy Williams arrives and makes a huge impact on Andy’s life when he tells the story of meeting the man who killed Andy’s wife. Andy pleads with the Warden for help, but the Warden just throws him in the hole.

85 – Tommy Williams, a young criminal who’s been imprisoned all over New England, arrives.

91 – Red tells Tommy why Andy is in prison. Tommy is shocked.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet End of Act Two Turn

92 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: Tommy informs Andy and Red about Elmo Blatch, a former cell-mate who told him explicit details about murdering a golf pro and his mistress.


I got me this job one time bussing tables at a country club, so I could case all this big rich pricks that come in. So I pick out this guy, go in one night and do his place. He wakes up. He gives me shit. So I killed him. Him and his tasty bitch he was with. That’s the best part. She’s fucking this prick, see, this golf pro, but she’s married to some other guy. Some hotshot banker. And he’s the one they pinned it on!

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Act Two Decision

94 – DECISION: Desperate to clear his name, Andy informs the Warden about Tommy’s Elmo Blatch story. Andy begs the Warden to help, but the Warden refuses, as he needs Andy to launder his dirty money. Andy insists that the money laundering will be kept secret and the Warden explodes with rage, putting Andy in the hole for an entire month.


Sequence I: Andy, at his lowest, tries to quit doing the Warden’s dirty work, to no avail. He’s stuck and there’s no way out.

96 – In the hole, Andy receives word that Tommy earned his high school diploma.

99 – The Warden has Tommy killed.

100 – The Warden lectures Andy in the hole.


I’m sure by now you’ve heard. Terrible thing. Man that young, less than a year to go, trying to escape... Broke Captain Hadley’s heart to shoot him, truly it did. We just have to put it behind us... move on.


I’m done. Everything stops. Get someone else to run your scams.


Nothing stops. Nothing... or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I’ll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the Sodomites. You’ll think you’ve been fucked by a train! And the library? Gone...sealed off, brick-by-brick. We’ll have us a little book barbecue in the yard. They’ll see the flames for miles. We’ll dance around it like wild Injuns! You understand me? Catching my drift?... Or am I being obtuse?

[to Hadley]

Give him another month to think about it.


Sequence II: Andy makes the decision to escape Shawshank and tells Red some key information.

104 – After sixty days in the hole, Andy tells Red he’d go to Zihuatanejo, Mexico if he ever got out of Shawshank.


Mexico’s way the hell down there, and you’re in here, and that’s the way it is!


You’re right. It’s down there, and I’m in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Andy decides to break out of Shawshank.


Sequence III: Andy begins his escape.

111 – Lights out. Andy grabs a rope from under his pillow. A storm closes in…

RED (V.O.)

I have had some long nights in stir. Alone in the dark with nothing but your thoughts, time can draw out like a blade...

112 – POINT OF NO RETURN: The cells open for morning roll call. Andy does not come out.

113 – The Warden finds Andy’s shoes in his shoebox.

115 – The Warden, furious Andy has disappeared without a trace, throws Andy’s chess pieces at the Raquel Welch poster and discovers a gigantic hole in the wall. Andy has tunneled out and escaped from Shawshank.

RED (V.O.)

In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty.


Sequence IV: The full account of Andy’s escape.

116 – FLASHBACK: Andy, with his new rock hammer, attempts to chisel his name in the cell wall and discovers the wall breaks away easily.

118 – FLASHBACK: On his final night, Andy walks to his cell wearing both the Warden’s shoes and the Warden’s suit under his prison clothes.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Escape

120 – FLASHBACK: To hide the noise, Andy waits for thunder crashes and breaks open a sewage pipe with a large rock.

RED (V.O.)

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. Five hundred yards... that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Climax

120 – CLIMAX – FLASHBACK: Andy crawls out of the sewage pipe a free man. Rain washes the filth off him. He’s finally free.


Sequence I: The aftermath of Andy’s escape, as he makes off with the Warden’s money and the Warden commits suicide before the cops can arrest him.

122 – Andy, wearing the Warden’s suit, visits a bank. Assuming the fictitious person’s identity he used to launder the money, he cleans out the bank account.


All told, he blew town with over three hundred thousand dollars of Warden Norton’s money.

123 – Andy mails the Warden’s ledger and a note to a newspaper regarding the corruption at Shawshank.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Judgement Cometh

124 – With the police outside his door, the Warden kills himself.

125 – Red receives an unsigned postcard from Fort Hancock, Texas. He knows Andy made it.

126 – A free man, Andy drives along Mexico’s Pacific coast toward Zihuatanejo.


Sequence I: Red is paroled. He attempts to adapt to normal life, as Brooks did, but also finds frustration.

128 – RED’S ASSUMPTION OF POWER: Yet again, Red sits in front of the parole board. They ask if he feels rehabilitated.


There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So, you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Red's Turn

129 – RED’S TURN: Red’s parole is approved and he leaves prison after 40 years of incarceration.

130 – RED’S DECISION: Red rents Brook’s old room, working the same job Brooks had at the grocery store.

RED (V.O.)

There’s a harsh truth to face. No way I’m gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they’d send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won’t have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me. A promise I made to Andy.


Sequence II: Red follows Andy’s clues to join him on a beach in Mexico. They are both free men.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet Red's Point of No Return

136 – RED’S TRUE POINT OF NO RETURN: Along the rock wall, Red finds a box under black volcanic rock. Inside he finds money and a letter from Andy, asking Red to join him in Mexico.


Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

137 – Red chisels into the same wall Brooks did. It now says, “Brooks was here…and so was Red.”


Get busy living or get busy dying. That’s God damn right.

138 – RED’S CLIMAX: Red breaks his parole and buys a bus ticket.

The Shawshank Redemption Beat Sheet The End

139 – In Zihuatanejo, Mexico, Red reunites with Andy.

139 – THE END.


William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

Articles: 120


  1. This is beautifully done, William. I screened the movie for my 17 year-old son last night and he agreed it was one of the most brilliant pieces of storytelling he’s ever seen.

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