Skip to main content

Here’s Why Stephen King Hates Stanley Kubrick’s Version of ‘The Shining’

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

For many, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining stands out as a classic horror masterpiece, despite it having a bit of a sordid history. When The Shining first premiered, it received mixed reviews and garnered two Razzie Award nominations for Worst Director and Worst Actress. However, the Worst Actress nomination for Shelley Duvall was officially revoked after it surfaced that Kubrick had badly mistreated her on set. Not only that, but many have also come to view both her performance (and the film as a whole), as a masterpiece.

Today, The Shining is regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made and is frequently revisited by audiences. The psychological horror movie follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer and recovering alcoholic, who becomes the off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Torrance moves there with his wife, Wendy Torrance (Duvall), and their young son, Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), who has psychic powers called “the shining.” However, as time goes on, Jack’s sanity begins to badly deteriorate as he is influenced by the supernatural forces within the hotel.

Though society’s perception of The Shining has shifted over time, Stephen King’s has not. King, a legendary storyteller with over 60 published novels, has had numerous film and TV adaptions throughout the years. But not all of the adaptions of his books have been met with his approval, and King has been very vocal about his dislike of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Why does King hate The Shining?

American author Stephen King poses for photographers on November 13, 2013 in Paris, before a book signing event dedicated to the release of his new book "Doctor Sleep", the sequel to his 1977 novel "The Shining". The best-selling author has written over 50 novels and sold 350 million copies worldwide. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
(KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

King has said in the past that The Shining is the only adaption he could really remember hating at the time. The major reason for this is that there were too many discrepancies between his book and the film. One major difference that King disliked, was the role of the supernatural in the film. In the book, King heavily focuses on the supernatural forces beyond Jack’s control that change him. The Overlook Hotel is painted as being a supremely evil place. However, in the film, the supernatural forces are downplayed and the evil seems to come directly from Jack himself.

This change, in turn, influenced the portrayal of Jack in the film. In King’s book, Jack is a more complex character. He’s a good man, but struggles with his flaws and demons. In the film, though, Jack is a cold, unsettling, and evil man. Meanwhile, King also criticized Nicholson’s casting, as he felt Nicholson’s previous roles as unhinged characters would lead viewers to realize too quickly that Jack goes insane in The Shining and ruin the suspense. He also criticized the role that Wendy was relegated to, noting that all she does is scream in the film, but was a very strong and sensible woman in his book.

These are by no means minor discrepancies, especially when you look at King’s history. A little-known fact is that The Shining is actually semi-autobiographical. It is based on King’s own struggles with alcoholism and how it deteriorated his mental state. Hence, the theme of Jack being a sympathetic character who spirals into madness from alcohol and the supernatural is central to The Shining. The fact that Kubrick largely brushed aside these details greatly changes the true theme and meaning behind the story.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.