I noticed that many parts of the story of Prison Break match with the script of The Shawshank Redemption:

  • an innocent sent to jail
  • making friends in jail
  • making wardens as friends on the basis of knowledge
  • sneaking through the jail with digging out
  • going to Mexico after breaking out of jail

Can Prison Break therefore be regarded as a copy of The Shawshank Redemption or are there at least any further references (or maybe even official statements) suggesting that this movie was a strong inspiration for Prison Break?

  • 8
    Have you seen both pieces of work? If you have, it'll be quite clear that there is nothing common in them except the "prison-break" theme.
    – Sayan
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 6:58

8 Answers 8


I think if you watched the Film and show you'd see the only major thing they have in common is being set in a Prison.

The majority of the film is actually about living in prison not escaping, while the Series is all about escaping. The main Character in the film is wrongly convicted and sent to prison while in Prison Break the main Character actually gets himself sent to prison so he can break his brother out.

I think that in Prison Break Michael Scofield does make friends with the Warden and guards to help with the escape, In the Shawshank-Redemption Andy doesn't have much choice, he's approached by the Warden and not given much option but to do the books.

Also a major difference is the time line The escape in Prison Break only takes a few weeks/months, in Shawshank it happens over years

Just some points there are lots of other differences.

  • "In the Shawshank-Redemption Andy doesn't have much choice, he's approached by the Warden and not given much option but to do the books." - true, but Andy still needed that relationship for certain perks, including staying in that cell he was in the process of tunnelling out of. To quote the Warden when Andy threatens to stop doing the Wardens books: "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...."
    – Robotnik
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 6:52

Prison Break does not 'copy' Shawshank Redemption any more than Shawshank copies The Great Escape or Escape from Alcatraz or Papillon or even Hogan's Heroes. They share common themes inherent in the genre. Prison Break was actually innovative, because, as far as I know, it is the only story where someone intentionally gets themselves sent to jail so they can help someone else break out. Plus the conspiracy theory arc in subsequent seasons was new to the 'escape movie genre'. Whether they added to the value of the show, or devalued it, is up to the viewer.

Oh, I remembered one, Escape from New York. Snake goes into a prison city on purpose. But that's a completely different genre.

  • Escape Plan - Sylvester Stallone gets voluntarily in prison. Mission Impossible 4 - Ethan James (Tom Cruise) gets voluntarily in prison. Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 13:10

Dumping the dirt from season one. Exactly what Andy did. Banging the wall behind the sink during a commotion (thunder in SR). Covering up the hole under the table like Andy covered the one in his cell with the poster.

The young loud mouth new white gangster kid, just like Tommy in SR.

Lincoln being innocent...maybe, I don't know yet.

Scofield's behaviours, mannerisms and voice are almost identical to Andy's. Slow, methodical, doesn't say much, etc etc. I'm only on season one and like the previous poster said, I should keep a list going.

I think the creators of the show fell in love with SR, ripped off a tonne of King's ideas and made a feature length series. But basically you could watch SR one time and I'm guessing you'd get the same idea from PB.

I've enjoyed the show so far, mostly because of the direct connections to Shawshank, one of my favourite movies of all time.

  • 1
    The hero in a prison movie is always innocent. He often has an urgent reason to get out, involving a sick or endangered family member.
    – Xalorous
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 0:58

I wouldn't really go that far to call it a copy of the movie. Maybe there are some similarities, like you mentioned but most of those things the main characters did in movie and show, are what any gonna-break-out prisoners would do. There are differences as well:

  • The biggest one being the calm and redemption achieved in Shawshank Redemption and the stress and pressure felt in Prison Break. In the show, it's like not only the hard work begins after the break, characters go as far as dying.
  • The character of Prison Break was intentionally there to save someone else, this isn't the case in Shawshank Redemption.

I think they both have similar voices (Wentworth Miller and Tim Robbins) but there are so many similarities between the two works.

  • Both main characters are innocent
  • Both main characters are intelligent
  • Both main characters do not fit in
  • Both main characters are mysterious
  • Both works contain unfair and corruption within the employees on the prison

So many other similarities are found in the book and the show but one thing is totally different are the plots of course. Both are very enjoyable and I would recommend the show, the movie / book to anyone.


It has a few extra connections in my opinion. A perverted inmate who causes trouble for the main protagonist. An older inmate who has a pet, brooke and D.G Cooper, (both die). Both being exceptionally smart. Tunneling out and escaped using the sewer system. A high on life, young inmate in for petty theft (greaser style inmate in Shawshank and Latino in Prison Break) with a partner and child who they care for. Some ideas may be me clutching at straws but they seem pretty close to each other. There may be more but it's 4am as I'm writing this and I need sleep! P.S. The main protagonists are both quiet and soft-spoken as well. Silly point, but another worth making.


The asker is correct and the answers are ill-informed. Die hard SK fans will notice that lines from Shawshank Redemption are actually used in Prison Break and many SK references are given. Even the way the main character tries to act like Andy in Shawshank and refers to "hope" Shawshank's theme. Dialogue lines and concepts are taken from Shawshank. I should have made a list as I was watching Prison Break, the "rip-off" of Shawshank was actually starting to annoy me as it was so obvious to me.

  • 2
    Do you have any examples at all to support this? You might be able to persuade people with a little more evidence... Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 14:42
  • 1
    And what is an 'SK fan'? Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 14:48
  • @JohnSmithOptional I guess Stephen King (who wrote the Shawshank Redemption), but I'm not sure and agree that it could be clarified.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 15:15
  • 2
    Welcome to Movies & TV. If you can provide some examples or major references to the Shawshank Redemption in Prison Break, this could turn into a very good answer giving this question and its answers quite an interesting turn. But we need a little bit more than just the word from a "die-hard SK fan".
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 15:18

The makers of Prison Break were probably inspired by The Shawshank Redemption, but they're not the same. Sure, they definitely have some aspects in common which could make the viewers (me included) feel that Prison Break is a copy of the movie, but it really isn't.

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