Why was The Shining so controversial?

Why was The Shining so controversial?

The Shining is a classic horror film that has left a lasting impression on audiences and filmmakers alike. However, despite its critical and commercial success, the film was also highly controversial upon its release. In this article, we will explore the reasons why The Shining sparked so much controversy and continues to be a topic of debate decades later.

The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1980, was a controversial film that divided audiences and critics alike. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, who famously disliked the adaptation and criticized it for diverging too much from his original vision.

One of the main reasons for the controversy surrounding The Shining was its departure from the traditional horror film tropes of the time. Rather than relying on jump scares and overt gore, Kubrick opted for a more psychological approach, emphasizing the slow and steady breakdown of his main character, Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson. This approach was not universally appreciated, with some viewers finding the film slow-paced and uneventful.

Stephen King’s Novel

The Shining was originally a novel written by Stephen King and published in 1977. The book tells the story of Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, an isolated resort in the Colorado Rockies. Over the course of the winter, Jack becomes increasingly unhinged and violent, as the hotel’s sinister past and supernatural forces drive him to madness.

King’s novel was a critical and commercial success, and it remains one of his most beloved works. However, when Stanley Kubrick adapted the novel for the big screen, he made several significant changes that upset both King and some of the book’s fans.

Stanley Kubrick’s Film

Kubrick’s film was released in 1980 and starred Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. The film was a departure from King’s novel in many ways, including changes to the ending, the depiction of key characters, and the focus on supernatural elements. Kubrick also added several new themes and motifs that were not present in the book, including a heavy emphasis on the concept of isolation and the breakdown of the family unit.

The making of the film was notoriously difficult, with Kubrick’s perfectionism causing tension on set and leading to long and grueling shooting schedules. However, the finished product was widely praised for its haunting visuals, atmospheric score, and powerful performances.

The Controversy

Despite its critical acclaim, The Shining was not universally loved upon its release. Many critics panned the film, criticizing its slow pacing, lack of coherence, and departure from the source material. Audiences were similarly divided, with some finding the film too confusing or too violent.

One of the main points of contention was Kubrick’s changes to King’s original story. King himself was famously critical of the film, stating that he felt it “didn’t work” and that Nicholson’s performance was too over-the-top. Some fans of the book also felt that Kubrick had missed the point of the story, and that the film lacked the emotional depth and character development of the novel.

In addition to these criticisms, The Shining also sparked a number of interpretations and analyses that further fueled the controversy. Some saw the film as a commentary on the genocide of Native Americans, while others believed it to be a metaphor for the Holocaust or a reflection of Kubrick’s own struggles with mental illness.

Furthermore, there was accusations that Shelley Duvall, who played Wendy, was tortured on set of the movie. During the infamous “Here’s Johnny” scene where the bathroom door is broken door be an axe, she was reportedly terrified. So the twins, redrum message, ghosts and naked woman, and bartender weren’t even the most eerie parts of the film. In order to get the best performance, the director recorded a multitude of takes of Wendy shrieking.

Legacy of The Shining

Despite the controversy surrounding its release, The Shining has gone on to become a cultural touchstone, inspiring countless homages, parodies, and tributes in popular media. The film’s iconic images, such as the elevator of blood and the hedge maze, have become ingrained in the public consciousness and remain instantly recognizable to this day.

The Shining has also inspired ongoing discussions and analyses, with scholars and fans alike continuing to debate the film’s themes, motifs, and hidden meanings. Some have even suggested that the film’s ambiguous ending is intentionally left open to interpretation, with different viewers drawing different conclusions based on their own experiences and perspectives.

In short, while The Shining may have been controversial upon its release, it has since become a seminal work in the horror genre and a true classic of cinema. And Danny Lloyd and Dick Hallorann became beloved actors.


In conclusion, The Shining was a controversial film that sparked heated debates among critics, audiences, and even the author of the original novel. Despite its initial reception, however, the film has endured as a cultural touchstone and continues to be studied, analyzed, and appreciated by horror fans around the world.

If you’re interested in experiencing the film for yourself, we highly recommend giving it a watch (or a re-watch!) and forming your own opinions on the controversy surrounding this iconic work of horror cinema.


1. Why did Stephen King not like the film adaptation of The Shining?

Stephen King felt that the film did not capture the emotional depth and character development of the original novel, and he also criticized Jack Nicholson’s performance as too over-the-top.

2. What are some of the differences between the novel and the film version of The Shining?

The film has a different ending, changes to key characters, and a heavier emphasis on supernatural elements, among other differences.

3. What are some of the interpretations of The Shining that have been suggested over the years?

Some see the film as a commentary on the genocide of Native Americans, while others believe it to be a metaphor for the Holocaust or a reflection of Kubrick’s own struggles with mental illness.

4. How has The Shining influenced popular culture?

The film has inspired countless homages, parodies, and tributes in popular media, and its iconic images have become instantly recognizable to audiences around the world.

5. What is the legacy of The Shining?

Despite its controversial reception, The Shining has become a seminal work in the horror genre and a true classic of cinema, inspiring ongoing discussions and analyses among scholars and fans alike.