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Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’. That's goddamn right.
~ Red

Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding is the deuteragonist and current narrator of the 1994 drama film The Shawshank Redemption. He is a prisoner and a smuggler incarcerated in Shawshank Penitentiary, where he meets new inmate Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover.

He is portrayed by Morgan Freeman, who also portrayed William Somerset in Se7en, Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight Trilogy, God in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty, and Vitruvius in The Lego Movie.


In 1947, Shawshank Penitentiary prisoner Ellis "Red" Redding gets rejected by the parole board after 20 years of a life sentence for murder. He is the self-proclaimed "only guilty man in Shawshank"; he admits to having committed a double homicide, for which he feels great remorse. After getting rejected, he walks outside to see a new load of prisoners coming to Shawshank. He and his fellow prisoners begin to bet which prisoners will crack during their first night. Red bets on Andy Dufresne, a banker convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. During the new prisoner's first night, however, Andy does not crack, and Red loses the bet.

A month after Andy's incarceration, Red is greeted by Andy and asks him to smuggle in a rock hammer for rock crafting. Red manages to get Andy a rock hammer and a Rita Hayworth poster. The two eventually become best friends.

Andy then plays music all over Shawshank, hes punished for it. After his release, Andy explains that hope is what gets him through his time, a concept that Red dismisses. Tommy Williams comes to prison for burglary, Red and Andy befriend him, Andy also help him with reading. One day, Tommy tells his friends that he had an inmate brag about his crime and one of them, he confirms himselfs as Andy's wife true killer. Andy approaches the warden but he denies it and kills Tommy for it.

After Andy is punished again for two months, he tells a skeptical Red that he dreams of living in Zihuatanejo. Andy also tells him of a specific hayfield near Buxton, asking Red once he is released to retrieve a package that Andy buried there. Red worries about Andy's well being, especially when he learns Andy asked a fellow inmate for 6 ft of rope. Andy then escapes Shawshank with some of Norton stuff.

Next day when The Warden sees it, he tells his men to find him immediatly. However, he then finds a tunnel which Andy used to escape in. The police come in Shawshank one day to arrest Hadley and Norton for corruption but Norton commits suicide.

Red finally gets out of Shawshank after serving for 40 years. He struggles to adapt to life outside prison and fears that he never will. Remembering his promise to Andy, he visits Buxton and finds a cache containing money and a letter asking him to come to Zihuatanejo. Red violates his parole by traveling to Fort Hancock, Texas and crossing the border into Mexico, admitting that he finally feels hope. He finds Andy on a beach in Zihuatanejo, and the two reunited friends happily embrace.


  • In the novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, he is described as a middle-aged Irish man with greying red hair and the producers of the movie even looked into various white actors. But the director wanted Morgan Freeman for the role.
  • The Shawshank Redemption is Morgan Freeman's favorite of his own films.
  • In Family Guy's parody of the The Shawshank Redemption, Cleveland Brown stands in for Red.


The first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing shit they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell, when those bars slam home, that's when you know it's for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it.
~ Red about prison
There's not a day goes by that 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 to 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 gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullsh-t word. So go ahead and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a sh-t.
~ Red on whether he feels remorse for his crime
Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of sh-t and came out clean on the other side. Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about him often. I swear, the stuff he pulled... Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that 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 now that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend
~ Red after Andy escapes
I like to think the last thing that went through his head, other than that bullet, was how the hell that Andy Dufrense ever got the best of him.
~ Red after Norton's suicide
I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't wanna know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be 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 grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.
~ Red reflecting on Andy's music
These prison walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That's institutionalized. They send you here for life, that's exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyways.
~ Red on Brooks' institutionalization
Hope? Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no use on the inside. You'd better get used to that idea.
~ Red warning Andy about hoping he will ever be free.
I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
~ Red going to join Andy in Zihuatanejo


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