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The Real Reason Red From Shawshank Redemption Was In Prison

Even with its horrific box office release in 1994, earning just $727,000 on its opening weekend (via Box Office Mojo), "The Shawshank Redemption," much like its lead character, clawed its way out of the mess it found itself in and is now one of the most beloved films of all time. Perched at the top spot of IMDb's Top 250 Movies list since 2008, director Frank Darabont's prison drama adapted from the Stephen King novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is an intricate and uplifting tale centered on one of the greatest friendships ever put to film. As perfect as it is, though, and as clever as that final act may seem, there are a few details that we never really uncover within the walls of Shawshank State Prison, specifically what one of its inmates, Ellis Boyd Redding, aka Red (Morgan Freeman), is in for.

During the initial meeting between Red and quiet new fish Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the two make small talk, beginning with the most obvious question of what they're in prison for. Andy reveals that he's been wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover, whereas Red says nothing of his own crime or sentence, simply referring to himself as "the only guilty man in Shawshank." Darabont's film never dives into what Andy's prison buddy is behind bars for, but it's a detail that King made sure to include in his writing.

Red's original crime isn't that much different from Andy's

In Stephen King's novella, it's revealed fairly early on what the narrator of our story is in for, and it's something to which the sentence is undoubtedly suited. It's revealed that Redding was sent to Shawshank after carefully planning the murder of his wife, who had come into possession of a hefty life insurance plan. To do so, he attempted to stage an accident by cutting the brake cables on her car, killing her in the process. Unfortunately, the alteration on the vehicle led it to hit their neighbor and the neighbor's child, killing them both.

It's a harrowing incident that never really gets highlighted in the film, with Red's parole hearings only really focusing on the question of his rehabilitation after the fact. Perhaps given the epic tale of Andy Dufresne's quest for freedom, it may have bogged down what was already a massive story. Of course, "The Shawshank Redemption" is still a near-perfect picture that doesn't look to be moving from the top spot any time soon. We hope.