The end really kicks in when Tommy, an Elvis lookalike (and the bloke from Ally McBeal), moves to Shawshank. He soon joins Andy and Red's posse, and Andy helps him achieve his High School diploma in the newly rennovated library.
While talking to Red about Andy, Tommy tells them of an old cellmate who bragged of murdering a golfer and his lover - and framing the woman's husband for the murders. Andy tells the Warden, who clearly doesn't want Andy to leave because of his money-laundering activities, and puts Andy away in solitary.
The Warden meets with Tommy, who says he will testify - and the Warden has Hadley shoot him. The Warden breaks the news to Andy, who refuses to help him anymore - so he is threatened with every type of blackmail possible, and kept in solitary another month.
When he is released back to his cell, it seems that Shawshank has finally got the best of Andy, and he looks to be a man without hope. He tells Red that he didn't kill his wife, but he was far from a perfect husband and had bad intentions that fateful night - yet any crime he has committed has paid for many times over. He tells Red about a place in Mexico he would like to live, and about a secret spot in a field beneath a tree where he proposed to his wife. Red worries for his friend that night.
Later, Andy picks up his final duties including the Warden's suit to dry clean and shoes to shine, and exits to his cell for the night.
The next morning, Andy doesn't show for roll call. The guards enter his cell to find that it is empty. Red is called, who doesn't know what has happened. The Warden is irate and throws Andy's rocks around - including one at the poster that falls straight through and lands with a hollow thud. Those in the room look in awe and the Warden pushes his hand slowly straight through the poster, where the wall should be, and rips the paper apart.
It seems that Andy crawled through the tunnel he had made over many years, out between two walls, and down to a sewer pipe that he struck in time with lightning that night. He crawled through a few football pitch lengths of sewage in the pipe, to come out the far end a free man. All the time he pulled a ledger and the suit tied in a plastic bag behind him with some rope.
That morning Andy enters the bank, assuming the identity of the character they had created to help with the money laundering, and takes all the money from the account. He asks that a parcel, containing the ledger that charts the Warden's crimes, be sent to the local newspaper.
The police show up at Shawshank. Hadley is arrested for murder, crying like a little girl as he is taken away, while the Warden decides to shoot his brains out.
While the others would talk about Andy's exploits, Red just listens. One day he receives a blank postcard from the Border, knowing that his friend made it there in one piece.
Red manages to pass the next parole hearing with an angry honesty that was missing from his past meetings, and is sent to the halfway house used by Brooks. He is lost on the outside and would like to return to Shawshank, but instead he fulfills his promise to Andy, and follows his friend's plan to find the tree he mentioned, and a black box containing a wad of money and a letter.
Red breaks the law to violate his parole, and takes the bus down to the border. At the end, on the beaches of Zihuatanejo, we see Andy working on a boat, about to be joined by another free man, Red.