When Tommy goes out into the yard to talk to Warden Norton, Warden Norton offers him a cigarette. The pack of Marlboros that he offers him has Marlboro Miles on them, which weren't around until the '90s.
When they are on the roof during the tar job, Andy tells Hadley that the IRS allows a gift to a spouse tax free. This was supposed to take place in the spring of 1949. At that time, the IRS was known as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, not the IRS. It did not become known as the IRS until the 1950's.
When Red takes the bus down to Mexico after his release in 1967, the highway shows yellow solid and yellow dashed center markings. In 1967, the dashed markings would have been white. Dashed markings did not start to be repainted yellow until 1971-1974 when MUCTD introduced the new scheme.
Andy's library has received donations of 78-rpm albums, and he selects a record from such an album before he locks himself in and broadcasts Le Nozze di Figaro. The record he plays, however, is a 33 1/3 rpm, which is clear from the position of the needle on the disk.
The poster of Raquel Welch from the film 'One Million Years B.C. (1966)' would not have been available to be on the wall in Andy's cell if he escaped in 1966. The film wasn't released until the end of December 1966 and the poster became popular only after the film's release.
In the scene where Andy and Red are shown playing checkers outside (after discussing Mr. Stevens in the library) the checker board they are playing on is actually a board manufactured by Pressman in the 1980s and 1990s.
Andy's 1955 library letter carries a 1954-series 3-cent stamp, which is correct; but the letter beneath his has a 1923 series, which hadn't been issued since 1938, and the other two have just two cents in postage.
Near the end as Red was on the Trailways bus, we are shown a shot of the bus going down the hill and up the other side. On the far right, there was a green bicycle sign on a telephone pole that probably didn't show up until the 90s.
When the inmates are at the table discussing the possibility of Andy committing suicide, one of them says "No, no, Andy would never do that." But his mouth movements do not correspond with what he said. His mouth movements actually look like was saying Dufresne, instead of Andy, Dufresne being Andy's surname.
Andy Dufresne is obviously a very intelligent man and fond of playing chess. However if you take a good look at the shot of the (nearly) completed chess board in his cell, you see that he put up the chess board the wrong way. The board should be turned 90 degrees in order to have the pieces stand right. The square on the lower left should be black, the one on the upper right too, which they are not, they are white. Anyone fond of playing chess would never make that mistake.
When Red and Andy meet for the first time, an extra is seen behind each of them. It is the same scene but as the lines were filmed at different times, the extra is wearing different shirts - one prisoner shirt the day that Red's lines were shot, and a different shirt behind Andy the day his lines were filmed.
When Norton is walking to Andy's cell after his escape, he tells the guards to question "that friend of his... him!" and he points to Red with the index finger on his left hand. The shot then cuts to a frontal shot of Red in his cell, and Norton is now pointing at Red with the index finger on his right hand.
After Andy escapes and is celebrating with upraised arms, the clothes he had just taken off (as narrated by Red when he said, "...the only thing they found was a set of prison clothes...") are gone, when he had just stripped them off and dropped them right next to him only seconds before.
A friend of the warden bribes him with a pie made by his wife which was baked in a disposable aluminum pan. The warden later gives the pie to Andy, who shares it with Red. While Red's eating it, the pan is now made of strong metal.
When Red is talking to Andy for the first time, he is throwing a baseball between himself and Haywood. Just as Andy stoops down, Red catches the ball and seconds later, catches the ball again without throwing it back.
In the aerial shot where Andy's bus approaches the prison, next to the gate is a red brick building and it's sidewalk is strewn with debris. As the bus pulls in seconds later and we see the gate and same brick building from the vantage point of guards who hurried from a tower, the sidewalk is clean.
When Andy is assigned to the prison library, Brooks tells him he'll give him a tour. As he says this, Brooks is standing in the doorway to the library. The room is very dimly lit. But when Brooks and Andy walk in seconds later, it is full of sunlight.
When Red is on the bus, one shot shows all of the windows on the bus open. In fact, Red's arm is hanging outside the window. In the very next shot of the bus (a long shot from a distance), all of the windows are closed.
At the beginning of the scene when Andy Dufresne's cell is about to be searched, as the warden and guards are first approaching the cell, the shot shifts to Andy sitting in his cell holding an almost new indigo blue bible as if reading it. Throughout the scene Andy holds the bible in his hand as the guards ransack the cell. At the end of the scene, the search complete, the warden enters the cell and, facing Andy, notices him holding the bible then asks him about his favorite passages. As the warden and Andy discuss Mark 13:35, the warden reaches for and Andy hands him a worn and stained, black bible.
Right before Warden Norton shoots himself, the layout of the bullets on his desk changes between shots. You can see, right before he aligns the bullet chamber with the barrel, that the bullets are a little spread apart from each other, with one of them adjacent to the bottom of the magnifying glass handle. In the very next shot when the bullet chamber is aligned and the gun is ready to fire, the bullets are close together in a single pile, and the one near the magnifying glass has disappeared.
When Norton is at his desk loading the revolver the brand of ammunition shown on the box is Remington Kleenbore. However, looking at the cylinder as he is loading it, the cartridges have a WW head stamp indicating Winchester Western ammunition.
Red's narration says that Andy came to the prison in 1949. Then, during the sequence where time passes and Andy is brutalized by the Sisters, we see winter pass. Then, in narration again, Red says the roof tarring was the spring of '49. It would have to be at least 1950 if not later by then.
When Brooks delivers the rock hammer to Andy's cell, he continues to push the cart in the same direction and we hear wheels squeaking for a few seconds as the camera changes angle, to Andy's POV. Later, when the warden leaves Andy's cell, we can see the end of the aisle on the cells' tier just outside Andy's cell. Brooks had nowhere to push that cart.
When Red is sitting in his chair in his apartment with the compass you can tell he has done the scene over and over again. When he opens the compass it does not spin. With that type of compass when it is closes it locks the compass needle in place. So when you open it it spins until it settles on North. When he opens it however it is pointing perfectly north and does not spin.
Towards the beginning of the film, during a beautiful aerial shot of the bus entering Shawshank Prison, the camera flies over the buildings, where we see the prisoners on their way to "greet" in the new inmates. As the camera circles around, at the top of the frame, in an area of green grass, near a building, the shadow of the camera's helicopter is clearly visible.
The narrator says "Five hundred yards. The length of five football fields. Just shy of half a mile." There are 1760 yards in a mile. 880 yards is half a mile. 500 yards is not even a third of a mile, a long way from 'Just shy.'
When Andy's climbing out of the hole, just before he's going into the sewer, you see him with his old shoes. But just before that he had put them in the warden's shoebox and replaced them with the warden's. However, at that point, Andy had been in prison for nearly 20 years and enjoyed special privileges. It's possible he had an extra pair of prison issue shoes in his cell, and took the warden's off before making his escape. This makes sense considering that when Andy entered the bank the next day, the shoes were still polished, and clearly had not been worn while wading through a sewage pipe.
It's been claimed that when the warden throws the rock through the poster on the morning after Andy's escape, the poster appears to be stuck to the wall at all corners, raising the question of how Andy could have re-stuck the poster from inside the tunnel. However, as shown in a later (flashback) shot, the poster is attached at the top two corners allowing it to be lifted like a curtain while Andy works behind it. With the poster mounted in this fashion, the only requirement for the poster returning to the proper position - after Andy makes his escape - is simple gravity.
When the top of the pipe is broken open, it shoots a fountain, indicating that it is pressurized (if only by gravity). But then the pipe drains nearly empty. It should only have drained to the lowest point in the hole broken at the top.
If you look at the prison buildings in the background of most outdoor shots, you'll notice many of the panes of glass are missing. It's most obvious when Andy is being dangled from the roof of the number plate factory and again in the scene where the prisoners are in the yard listening to the opera music.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
When Byron Hadley is arrested, supposedly the day after Andy escaped, the arresting officer starts reading him his "Miranda" rights. Miranda vs. AZ was handed down by the U.S. Supreme court on June 13, 1966, but it was not handed down with the wording, the wording would take more months. Red states that "Andy Dufresne escaped in the spring of 1966." Miranda would not have been in effect in the spring as it would have taken months for that ruling to become standard practice nationwide.
After the library has been well-established, we see Heywood in there listening to a Hank Williams album on a record player. However, he's listening to "24 of Hank Williams' Greatest Hits", which was released in 1970, seven years after the scene was supposed to have taken place.
When Brooks hangs himself by kicking the table away, his feet barely lower at all, yet in the next shot we see that he should have fallen a considerably greater distance. Also as he is carving his name in the beam, his head is high enough that he would not have to stand on his toes to put the rope around his neck, as he is shown doing.
When Andy is in the bank withdrawing the warden's money, we can see a man standing at the counter talking to a teller. A moment later when Andy leaves, the same man is walking up to the teller's window.
The bullet hole under the warden's chin is in a different location than where he placed the gun barrel a moment before he committed suicide. In the 10th Anniversary release, director Frank Darabont admits that this was an error, it has bugged him for 10 years, and they had it fixed in the 2004 release.
When Red's hat is blown off by the wind, it tumbles almost into the water, and Red walks quite close to the sea. But the next time we see Red, the hat is farther from the sea than Red originally walked.
When Norton is about to load the revolver you can see a black and white photograph in a white frame on the desk. In the next scene when Norton has shot himself, you can see that the picture has now moved across the desk and is leaning against the lamp.
When Norton shoots himself, he puts the revolver under the center of his chin and pulls the trigger. A second later, when we see his body from a high angle, the entry wound is clearly on the right side of his neck.