Keeping it Reel : Shawshank Redemption’s Andy is guilty


1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” is arguably the greatest film ever made. This isn’t necessarily a personal opinion (although I do love The Shawshank Redemption), but rather the general consensus around the world based on an average rating of 9.3/10 on IMDB from more than 1.5 million votes. The only film that ever rivals this is the Godfather (which is on 9.2 as it stands).

There are numerous reasons why it is generally regarded as one of the best, if not the best. It is a story about hope and the bonds that can develop between people from all walks of life when put in a difficult circumstance.

For those that haven’t seen it, The Shawshank Redemption is the story of a man named Andy (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. Whilst in prison he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and his group. As time goes on, Andy develops a professional relationship with the prison staff due to his previous employment in banking, and this leads to corruption, conspiracies and punishments, all of which happen whilst Andy is adamant of his innocence of the original crime.

I’m not going to tell you the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for those that have somehow managed to avoid the film up until now, but trust me when I say that it has an exceptional ending.

However, I was sent a link earlier today to a fan theory that makes you question the entire film as it basically says that Andy is actually guilty of the crime he is accused of. Normally I just ignore a lot of fan theories about films. The only one that I have ever really found interesting is that 007 theory. That theory basically states that the name “James Bond” is actually just a code name and is given to a new agent when the previous incumbant dies/retires/whatever, and this explains why each incarnation has a considerable different personality than the others, and why the character seemingly stays young even though everyone else is aging around him and the technology moves on.

Anyway, I read the theory with interest and the more I read into it, the more it made sense.


I have in no way edited or changed the theory from it’s original text and I won’t take credit for it in the slightest, but I wanted to share it for those that haven’t seen it before. The entire theory is below, however, the original and the subsequent debate about it can be found here –

The “Andy is Guilty” theory

He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn’t normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place…

..because he was a sociopath, and he was guilty.

First off I love the Shawshank Redemption (I’ve seen it over 50 times). I also like to watch movies with a different twist, so I’m going to pose this theory out there for everyone to think about and discuss. Warning— as I started writing this up I got sad with the prospect it may be true. If you don’t want to maintain the purity forever click away now.

Andy Dufresne is in fact an “icy and remorseless” killer who manipulated everyone around him.

-He’s a chess player, and he has no one to play with. While chess is pervasive in the movie, we never quite see Andy’s mind in this mode. It’s all about chess, but we as the audience never seem to see the game. In contemporary stories (such as House of Cards) we get to see the story from the viewpoint of the main character (Frank in House of Cards). But we forget that the story of the Shawshank Redemption is told from the point of view of Red. By his own admission chess is a total mystery to him. Andy is surrounded by pawns — people below his intelligence. He will let them in on whatever he wants them to see as he plots his escape. Red is explaining a game of checkers to us. We don’t see the chess game actually going on.

-He only befriended Red when he needed something that only Red could provide. Not for companionship or friendship. That developed after the request.

-He started it. It was Andy who first offered financial help to the guards. He targeted the Captain Hadley (let’s say the queen on the chess board). Red speculates maybe it was to curry favor with the guards or make friends among the cons. I think he was dead on here and the reason he sat quietly with a strange smile across his face is the board was set and it was finally time for him to start playing his game.


-Andy is an unreliable source for our narrator. The interactions perceive between the warden and Andy are based off what Andy tells Red and the others. The only real observation Red has directly between the Warden and Andy always strikes me (if you can remember it) as interesting. The warden looks completely perplexed, listening to Andy like a school child would listen to a teacher. Andy tells Red stories in the library stacks like gossip, villainizing someone who is an easy mark already— the hated Warden. The actual (observed) Warden doesn’t seem sharp enough to concoct the schemes Andy only helped facilitate. Perhaps it was Andy who was puppeteering the Warden until the Warden suspected he had gotten too far involved. Warden was a hardass, sure. But these schemes didn’t come online until Andy was in the picture.

-Andy concocted someone out of thin air. He knew the cracks, and he had the ability. He was a ‘Rembrandt’ . Why do this? Clearly the Warden didn’t seem to have the smarts to think “that many moves ahead” regarding the money laundering. Andy did. Andy wanted a golden parachute for when he escaped. So he set things in motion so he would be in a position to walk out of bank after bank with the money. If Andy was an honest man, why not just leave the trails pointing to the Warden? Why go the extra mile?

-Tommy may have been Andy’s ultimate work of art. I think here of Hannibal Lecter getting Miggs to swallow his own tongue. Tommy “I don’t read so good” becomes Andy’s one on one project for months. MONTHS. Let’s suppose that Andy plants the idea of the confession in Tommy’s head. Or that he knows Tommy enough to know he will make up a story like that to appease his new best friend. We all know those compulsive liar types. The Warden did too. Andy was shocked that the Warden was smart enough to see through this bullshit. But let’s say just in case he told Tommy that if anything happened to him he needed to break out of Shawshank and get the truth out to the public.


-Tommy was trying to escape, and the Warden wasn’t lying when he said it broke Hadley’s heart to have to shoot him. So break it down like this… The Warden is starting to get wise to the fact that Andy is seriously a bad guy and that he (the Warden) is being manipulated. His only recourse is to lock him away while he tries to figure out what to do and get his arms around the situation. During this time, Tommy decides to make a break for it, and Hadley actually does have to fire on him and kill him. Remember the interaction we see on film is only what Red supposes happens. What else do we know about Hadley? I heard that Hadley cried like a baby when they arrested him. Its possible Hadley was a seriously messed up man, who hid behind aggression and fell apart when he killed Tommy (as the Warden said). When he was arrested, he just broke down. At this point, Andy was ready to go. He had amassed enough money, created a reasonable doubt story to his guilt, and simultaneously painted the perfect picture of a Warden behind everything.

-Andy goes away to the Pacific which has no memory. No memory of the judge (the only possible intellectual peer) who saw through him and called him for what he was.

Now watch the scene where he crawls out of the sewer and stretches his hands in the air, but picture in his head he is laughing maniacally.




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