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Film: The Shining

The Shining is an 1980 horror film loosely based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is an alcoholic writer who takes a job as a winter caretaker for the old and luxurious Overlook Hotel, which every winter becomes completely snowed in. He brings along his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd).

As time passes, strange things start happening: Danny discovers he has psychic powers and starts receiving odd visions. In the meantime, Jack starts becoming more and more unstable: he had been warned that the previous caretaker snapped and killed his family, but that wouldn't happen again...right?

In a serious case of either Tempting Fate or Paranoia Fuel, The Shining is screened every year at midwinter for those "wintering-over" at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, alongside The Thing. The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which inspired King's novel, has a channel on their cable TV that plays the film twenty-four hours a day.

Some interpretations of the film's themes are explored in the Documentary, Room 237.

Not to be confused with the Shining Series of videogames.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie cuts most of the exposition and backstory, as well as the context for some scenes, such as the true nature of Danny's imaginary friend Tony (in the book he's Danny from the future), the woman in Room 217 and the two men in masquerade costumes Wendy sees while searching for Danny. The movie is arguably better for it, as it would be difficult to properly convey these in a visual medium, as the later mini-series remake would prove.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Wendy and Jack are blonde in the novel, but have black hair in the movie.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: See Mythology Gag below.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Mr Ullman is a condescending, overbearing Smug Snake who epitomises everything Jack hates about authority figures and makes it clear that he doesn't want Jack at the hotel. In the film, he is very friendly, polite and completely approves of Jack as the caretaker.
  • Adult Fear:
    • In the climax where crazed Jack goes after Danny outside in the heavily snowed-in hedge maze with the full intent in killing his own son. What makes this worse it that Wendy is inside the house desperately searching for Danny, and has absolutely no idea where he is.
    • Also, mid-film, when Danny appears with a huge bruise on his neck, and tells his mother that a crazy stranger strangled him.
  • Affably Evil: Grady and Lloyd the bartender.
  • Alien Geometries: The layout of the hotel makes no sense whatsoever. Stuart Ullman's office has a nice big window in the middle of the building, the Colorado Room has multiple floor to ceiling windows with a mystery hallway behind them. The hotel interiors have nice right angles while the outside doesn't. The freezer flips sides of the hallway between shots. The spaces between the doorways in Room 237's hallway are far too small to actually contain any rooms of that size. This was done deliberately for dramatic/horror effect.
  • The Alcoholic: Jack. At one point he bemoans the fact that there is no alcohol to be had, and then Lloyd appears at the bar and serves him some whiskey...
  • Angrish: An Ax-Crazy Jack Torrance falls into these near the end of the movie when he is reduced to only being able to moan like a wounded animal.
  • Asshole Victim: Arguably, Jack and even Grady are both victims of the Overlook.
  • Ax-Crazy: NO KIDDING.
    • Not to mention Grady before him, who unfortunately succeeded in carrying out his rampage.
  • Axe Before Entering: One of the most famous examples, played straight but also turned Up to Eleven in that, while Jack is hacking his way through the door, the camera follows the motion of the axe, thereby briefly making the axe a POV character.
    • Real Life Writes the Plot: At least in the set design for that scene. The props department originally built a door that could be easily broken, but Jack Nicholson - who had worked as a volunteer fire marshal - was able to smash through it far too quickly. A much stronger door was used in order to slow him down.
  • Background Halo: Inverted with the black chandeliers, which gave Jack a "black halo" post snap.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Again, the axe scene.
  • The Bartender: Lloyd.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. Hallorann spends some time travelling back to the Overlook, only to have his grand rescue cut short when he gets an axe to the chest courtesy of Jack, only a few minutes after he arrives. The fact that he brought a vehicle allows Wendy and Danny to escape, however.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Hallorann in the film.
  • Bloody Horror: One of the iconic images from this film is the scene with an elevator full of blood pouring out and flooding a hallway.
  • Burning the Ships: Slowly being possessed, Jack disables the ham radio (the family's only means of calling for help) and their snowmobile (their only means to leave the hotel).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Danny walks through the maze with his mother near the beginning of the film. It comes in handy later on.
  • Coordinated Clothes: The creepy sisters wear the same light blue dresses with pink ribbons. The identical look multiplies the creep out factor.
  • Creepy Twins: Grady's daughters. Actually, they are specifically described in both book and film as not twins (ages 8 and 10) but in the movie they were played by real-life twin actresses.
  • Daylight Horror: As horrific as it is, there are few scenes that are literally dark. It's a well-lit movie.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Implied to be the case with the ghosts, with the Overlook merely assuming their forms. Grady, for instance, starts off kindly and incredibly cordial, but the moment Jack recognises him and mentions the murder of his wife and children at his hands, his entire demeanour changes and starts radiating pure malevolence.
  • Deal with the Devil: Hinted at in the bar scene. Jack says he'd give his soul for a drink, cue creepy bartender appearing with a full stock of booze.
  • Death by Adaptation: Dick Hallorann.
  • Doing In the Wizard:
    • To a certain extent, downplaying the more overtly supernatural elements of the novel. Kubrick's version gives the impression that Jack was well on the way to Ax-Crazy before the Overlook got hold of him.
    • The film can actually be read as there being no supernatural elements at all - it's all in the minds of the characters. However, this interpretation makes little sense as stuff that happens to the other characters is foreshadowed to Danny by Tony. The final shot essentially kills any non-supernatural interpretation dead, although it doesn't really explain anything, either.
  • Duality Motif: The film uses a lot of this, with mirror reflections and symmetrical items such as double-doors, to reinforce the dual-nature of the hotel (which is practically a character itself) as well as Jack Torrance with his inner demons.
  • Evil Brit: Delbert Grady.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Even if you knew nothing about Jack Nicholson before seeing this movie, you'd still be able to guess what's going to happen to him just by looking at his eyebrows alone, to the point where King objected to the casting of Nicholson and begged Kubrick to reconsider.
  • Fan Disservice: The hot girl in the bathroom. She appears fully naked and upfront, yet it still looks creepy rather than sexy. On top of that, she turns into a rotten naked old corpse-woman who cackles in the creepiest manner possible!
    • The shots of her naked are also inter cut with shots of Jack's psychotic face, which would be a real mood killer even if the scene wasn't already creepy.
  • Fanservice: Many would argue that the first naked lady in the bathroom was more fanservicey than not.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foregone Conclusion:
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Allegedly Kubrick told the MPAA that the torrent rushing out of the elevators was rusty water and not blood in order to get the movie's trailer shown. At the time the MPAA did not allow blood to be depicted in trailers.
  • Hedge Maze: The Overlook has an iconic one not present in the book, the perfect place for a scary chase scene. There is also a scale model inside the hotel.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The Overlook is built on one. In 1987 San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bill Blakemore penned a rather intriguing essay arguing that the film is basically a hidden commentary on the genocide of the American Indian.
  • I Never Told You My Name: When Hallorann calls little Danny Torrance "Doc", his parents ask how Hallorann knew they call him Doc. Hallorann answers by saying Danny just looks like a Doc, but the real reason is that Danny and Hallorann both share a psychic ability, "the Shining".
  • Kensington Gore: Enough to float sofas down the corridor. Executive Meddling almost cut it, but Kubrick told them it was just rusty water.
  • Kubrick Stare: Jack, naturally, as his sanity begins to wane. He even dies with this expression.
  • Large Ham: Jack Torrance, summed up by "Jack Nicholson hardly does a subdued performance" + "Evil Is Hammy". (Steven Spielberg first stated to Kubrick he felt Nicholson was too over-the-top. Kubrick replied by comparing him to James Cagney)
  • Legacy Character: Jack has always been the caretaker, according to Grady.
  • Locked In The Bathroom: Wendy locks herself in the bathroom to hide from the now (literally!) Ax-Crazy Jack. The lock holds. The door doesn't.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The film is more ambiguous towards the supernatural aspects of the story. However, the titular "Shining" is equally effective in both the film and the book - warning clearly of danger seconds before the axe hits the bathroom door.
  • Mind Screw: Pick any moment of this movie. ANY. The entire concept of the hotel itself is this trope, as there are doors that lead to nowhere, room layouts that make no sense, and overall impossible building structure.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The fact that Jack is a writer who is suffering severely from Writer's Block is the reason the family goes to the hotel in the first place.
  • Mythology Gag: Kubrick dispensed with several of the novel's plot points but kept references to them in the movie. The book explains just where Danny's imaginary friend "Tony" comes from, who the dead lady in the bathtub is, and who the person in the dog costume delivering a blow job is. The film keeps these elements but with no explanation. Also, Kubrick did not use the novel's climax— exploding boiler destroys the hotel—but still showed the boiler in a couple of scenes.
  • No, Except Yes: This line, as Jack has pretty much lost it and starts menacing his wife.
    Jack: I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just gonna bash your brains in. I'm gonna bash them right the fuck in!
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: As Jack is chasing down Danny through the hedge maze and Wendy is in the Overlook Hotel desperately searching for Danny, starting to hallucinate, you can hear ominous Old Church Slavonic chanting from Penderecki's Utrenja.
  • Paint the Town Red: The elevator scene.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Grady refers to Hallorann as "a nigger cook". Doubles as Deliberate Values Dissonance, as Grady appears to a be the ghost of a butler from the 20s.
    • See Indian Burial Ground above for a more ambitious unpacking of this.
    • Jack is certainly counts too. He makes the offhanded comment about the white man's burden and repeats Grady's phrase about a "nigger cook."
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The twins in front of the elevator (in-universe) aren't twins at all. Just sisters who dress and look the same. Still doesn't make them any less murdered by their crazy dad.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: While the movie departs from the book quite a bit, it can stand on its own.
  • Precision F-Strike: The first of abuse of Wendy by Jack is verbal, telling her quietly to "start [leaving him alone] right now and get the fuck out of here." As his sanity breaks, he starts using the word a little bit more liberally.
  • Psycho Strings: Half the score sounds very much like Bernard Herrmann's work, but it's actually avant-garde modernist music by Bela Bartok, György Ligeti and Krzysztof Pendercki.
  • The Radio Dies First: When Jack decides to kill Wendy and Danny, one of his first acts is to disable the radio so she cannot call for help.
  • Re Cut: When the film premiered, it had a final scene in which Ullman visits Wendy and Danny at the hospital and explains that Jack's body could not be found. About three weeks into release, Kubrick ordered this scene excised from all prints.
    • Kubrick then trimmed an additional 30 minutes of footage for the film's European theatrical release. This shorter cut, which was his preferred version of the film, is also used for non-US DVD releases.
  • Room Full of Crazy: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's particularly unsettling because of the sheer number of pages, with the tacit implication that Jack has been gradually losing his mind almost from the instant the family arrived in the hotel.
  • Sanity Slippage: The hotel causes every caretaker to lose his mind. Stephen King stated his book was about a normal man who goes crazy, and that Stanley Kubrick's film was about a crazy man who goes absolutely bonkers.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A major subplot is Dick Hallorann trying to contact and subsequently save the Torrances. As soon as he arrives at the Overlook, Jack axes him and he dies.
    • Subverted Trope: His arrival with a Snow-Cat is what allows Wendy and Danny to escape the hotel, so Hallorann technically succeeded in saving them.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Movie: The movie was a much different take on the kind of slasher movies that were becoming popular at the time. It's much more psychological; basically it's what happens when Stanley Kubrick makes one. Notably, there are only two deaths in the film.
  • Slasher Smile: Just look at a picture of Jack during the "Here's Johnny!" scene. Of course, he is played by Jack Nicholson, so that sort of thing is expected.
  • Snow Means Death: Justified, with Jack freezing to death in the hedge maze.
  • Snowed-In
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Overlook itself in the film.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • "Midnight, with the stars and youuuu..."
    • "I love you, Danny. I love you more than anything else in the whole world. And I would never do anything to hurt ya, never. You know that, don't ya? Huh?" to Bela Bartok's somber and menacing Music for Percussion, Strings and Celesta.
    • Also hearing the light-hearted Road Runner cartoons in the background of otherwise deadly serious scenes.
  • Spooky Photographs: "Overlook Hotel - July 4th Ball - 1921"
  • Surreal Horror: The movie doesn't explain many of the strange things that happen in the hotel. It is also left deliberately vague whether or not there are supernatural causes at work, or just figments of the characters' imaginations. Apparently Kubrick screened Eraserhead for the crew to show them the kind of atmosphere he wanted to convey in the film.
  • Tap on the Head: Wendy hits Jack on the head with a baseball bat and he falls down a flight of stairs. It's unclear which actually knocks him unconscious, but either way he's awake less than an hour later, with nothing more than a headache and a small gash for his trouble.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: It's kept deliberately vague whether the strange goings-on at the Overlook are real or just a product of Jack's deteriorating mental state.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs:
  • Uncanny Valley: Deliberately invoked by Nicholson's acting towards the beginning of the film; he seems to be cheery and dapper, but there's just something off about it, and it all feels horribly phony. Most likely done to call attention to his need for a drink.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Roger Ebert argued that what makes the film so disturbing is that all of the main characters might be examples of this - the audience is never given unambiguous evidence that any of Jack, Wendy or Danny's perspectives is objective and accurate.
  • Villainous Breakdown: As Jack chases Danny into the maze and begins to slowly freeze to death, his words become more slurred and begin to degenerate until he is just bellowing like an ox.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: "Wendy? Baby? I think you hurt my head real bad..."
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Wendy tells the doctor that Danny's shoulder had been dislocated six months earlier. Later, while bitching to Lloyd the Bartender, Jack says that the dislocated shoulder incident had happened three years earlier.
    • Also, when talking to Lloyd, when taking his first drink, he says "Here's to five months on the wagon, and all the irreparable harm it's done," calling to mind how Wendy said Jack had stopped drinking when he hurt Danny, yet just a moment later, he makes the "three years" comment. It may have been to show just how much Jack is losing it, that he can no longer correctly recall important things like that, and can only focus on his desire for alcohol.

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