The Shining Ending Explained

Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film adaptation of Stephen King’s macabre novel, ‘The Shining‘, often leaves audiences bewildered and intrigued. The film’s ambiguous ending continues to be a hot topic among film enthusiasts and critics. In 1980, when the movie first premiered, its abstract conclusion left audiences with more questions than answers. Now, more than four decades later, the ending is still discussed and analyzed.The aim of this article is to explore different perspectives and expert analyses to provide a comprehensive understanding of ‘The Shining’s haunting conclusion.

Overview of The Shining and its ambiguous ending

‘The Shining’ is a labyrinthine descent into madness, tied up in family dynamics, isolation, and supernatural horror. The enigmatic film features Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a struggling writer who takes up a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to overcome his writer’s block. Along with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), Jack hopes to use the isolation to his advantage. But as the winter progresses, Jack’s sanity spirals downwards, and the family must deal with both his descent into madness and the sinister forces at play within the hotel.

The movie’s ending, filled with symbolic images like the eerie hotel maze and the mysterious photograph of Jack in the hotel party from 1921, evoke chills and induce a sense of looming dread.

Importance of understanding the ending

Fully grasping the ending of ‘The Shining’ is crucial for several reasons:

• It enhances the viewing experience and adds depth to the narrative.
• It provides insights into the director’s vision and interpretation of the story.
• It sheds light on the recurring thematic motifs of the movie.• It contributes to a better understanding of the film’s cultural and artistic significance.

Breaking down the key components of the conclusion, parsing the subtle clues and understated nudges hidden throughout the narrative, we venture to unmask the true essence of this cinematic masterpiece. Join us in the next section where we delve into the specifics, interpreting the famous “redrum” revelation and ‘The Shining’s final chilling frames. 

II. The Final Sequence

In the final sequence of ‘The Shining’, the audience is taken on an emotional roller coaster with some scenes that have become iconic in cinematic history.

Recap of the final scenes leading up to the ending

In the film’s final moments, we see Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, lost and freezing in the snow-filled maze. Overcome by the cold, Jack eventually collapses and dies, his frozen face forever etched with terror.

Jack’s encounter with Delbert Grady

Previously, Jack encounters Delbert Grady, the hotel’s former caretaker who had lost his sanity and killed his family—paralleling Jack’s impending doom. Their conversation reveals the eerie history of the Overlook Hotel and its influence on its inhabitants, furthering the psychological horror of the situation.

Wendy and Danny’s escape from Jack

As Jack chases his son Danny through the maze, Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall, is trying desperately to find her son in the hotel. Danny manages to escape the maze and reunites with his mother. The two find a snowcat, brought by Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), and use it to escape the Overlook Hotel, leaving Jack behind.

Jack’s demise in the maze

Jack’s eventual death in the maze is a terrifying parable on isolation and madness. His family’s escape while he’s left lost and alone in the maze symbolizes the complete breakdown of his sanity and his failure as a writer and a family man.

Thus, the provocative and enigmatic ending of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ remains a pivotal topic of discussion among the audience and film critics. Ultimately, the haunting last sequence, wherein Jack’s frozen face is etched into the memories of viewers, solidifies the film’s status as one of the greatest horror films of all time.

III. The Photograph

The final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” leaves viewers with a mysterious and thought-provoking image: a photograph from a July 4th party in 1921, where Jack Torrance, the film’s protagonist, is seen among the guests. This photograph has sparked numerous theories and interpretations, and here we dive into its significance and various explanations.

The significance of the photograph at the end

The photograph serves as a visual representation of the eerie and supernatural elements present within the Overlook Hotel. It suggests that there is a deeper connection between Jack Torrance and the hotel, beyond what is shown in the film. This connection can be interpreted in different ways, leading to various theories surrounding Jack’s presence in the photo.

Theories surrounding Jack’s presence in the photo

  1. Reincarnation: Kubrick himself revealed that the photograph suggests the reincarnation of Jack. This theory proposes that Jack Torrance is a reincarnation of a previous guest or staff member at the Overlook Hotel in 1921. The hotel seems to have the power to recall its past inhabitants and offer them a choice between good and evil, which Jack ultimately chooses evil.
  2. Absorption into the hotel: Another theory suggests that the photo is a representation of Jack’s soul being absorbed into the history of the hotel. According to this interpretation, when Jack dies, his spirit becomes part of the hotel’s past, forever trapped within its walls.
  3. Collage of victims: Some viewers believe that the photo is a collage of all the victims claimed by the hotel over the years. When Jack dies, his presence merges with the other spirits within the hotel, forever becoming one of its inhabitants.

It is essential to note that Kubrick intentionally left the ending of “The Shining” ambiguous, allowing for multiple interpretations. This ambiguity contributes to the film’s lasting intrigue and invites viewers to develop their own understanding of the story.

For a deeper exploration of “The Shining” and its ending, you can refer to this article.

To conclude, the photograph at the end of “The Shining” is a powerful and enigmatic image that raises questions about the nature of the Overlook Hotel and its connection to Jack Torrance. Whether seen as a symbol of reincarnation, absorption, or a collage of victims, the photo adds to the film’s lingering sense of mystery and captivates audiences to this day.

IV. Director’s Explanation

In an interview, director Stanley Kubrick provided insights into the ending of “The Shining” and his intentions behind the role of Jack in the Overlook Hotel.

1. Metaphorical and Visual Interest

Kubrick explained that he wanted to avoid the cliche ending of simply blowing everything up. He believed that there could be something more metaphorically and visually interesting. By keeping the Overlook Hotel intact, he allowed the supernatural villain to continue haunting the viewer’s imagination even after the film ends.

2. The Need for a Death

As a horror film, Kubrick felt that someone needed to die for the story to have a more impactful and satisfying ending. In King’s novel, only Jack dies. Kubrick contemplated different characters being killed off, including the possibility of Danny being the tragic victim. Ultimately, he settled on Jack’s death, as he was emotionally invested in the father-son relationship and wanted to explore the fear a little boy has of his father.

3. Killing Off Hallorann

To fulfill the horror genre’s expectations, Kubrick made the decision to kill off Hallorann shortly after his arrival at the hotel. This establishes the menacing presence of the hotel’s powers. Kubrick wanted to present Hallorann as a good character throughout the film before he is possessed by the hotel and becomes an unexpected antagonist in the finale.

4. The Hedge Maze and Minimal Gore

Kubrick incorporated the hedge maze as a substitute for the moving topiary animals in Stephen King’s book. He found the idea of a maze visually appealing, although he initially thought that topiary animals might appear too cute and juvenile. For Hallorann’s death scene, Kubrick wanted to focus more on psychological horror rather than excessive gore. The iconic elevator blood scene was intended to be metaphorical and ornamental rather than excessively graphic.

Kubrick’s explanations shed light on his creative process and how he crafted a chilling and thought-provoking ending for “The Shining.” By deviating from the original source material and incorporating his own vision, Kubrick created a film that invites multiple interpretations and discussions among viewers.

To learn more about “The Shining” and its ending, you can visit the Wikipedia page for detailed information. 

V. Interpretations and Symbolism

Various interpretations of the ending by fans and critics

The ending of “The Shining” has been a subject of much debate and speculation among fans and critics. There are several different interpretations of what the ending represents, and each viewer may find a different meaning in the events that unfold. Some of the common interpretations include:

  1. Jack’s eternal imprisonment: Some believe that the ending symbolizes Jack Torrance’s eternal imprisonment in the Overlook Hotel. This interpretation suggests that Jack’s soul becomes trapped in the hotel at the moment of his death, joining the other spirits that haunt the property. The photograph of Jack in the 1921 ballroom is seen as evidence of his eternal presence in the hotel.
  2. The cyclical nature of evil: Another interpretation is that the ending represents the cyclical nature of evil. The Overlook Hotel is seen as a place where violence and evil perpetuate themselves, repeating the same tragic events over and over again. Jack’s presence in the photograph suggests that he is destined to become a part of this cycle, joining the long line of caretakers who have succumbed to the hotel’s dark influence.
  3. The power of the supernatural: Some viewers interpret the ending as a testament to the power of the supernatural forces at work in the film. The photograph of Jack in the 1921 ballroom is seen as evidence that the hotel has the ability to manipulate time and space, transcending normal boundaries. This interpretation suggests that the hotel’s influence extends beyond the physical world, encompassing a realm of supernatural existence.

Symbolism and themes in the final sequence

The final sequence of “The Shining” is laden with symbolism and themes that contribute to its ambiguous nature. Some of the key symbols and themes include:

  1. The photograph: The photograph of Jack in the 1921 ballroom serves as a visual representation of the hotel’s history and its grip on Jack’s fate. It symbolizes Jack’s connection to the past and suggests that he is not just a caretaker, but a reincarnation of a former guest or staff member.
  2. The maze: The hedge maze outside the hotel is a symbol of the labyrinthine nature of the Overlook’s influence. It represents the psychological and physical traps that characters find themselves in, as well as the complex and confusing nature of their own minds.
  3. The mirror: Throughout the film, mirrors are used to indicate a distorted and fractured reality. In the final sequence, the word “REDRUM” is seen written backward in the mirror. This symbolizes the reversal and distortion of reality, and the potential for violence and danger that lies within.

Overall, the ending of “The Shining” is open to interpretation and different viewers may find different meanings in the events that unfold. Director Stanley Kubrick purposefully left the ending ambiguous, allowing for a variety of interpretations and discussions.

VI. Stephen King’s Perspective

Stephen King, the author of “The Shining,” has been vocal about his opinion of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel. While the film has gained critical acclaim and is considered a horror classic, King has expressed his dissatisfaction with certain aspects, including the ending. Here’s a closer look at King’s perspective on Kubrick’s adaptation and the differences between the ending in the book and the film.

Stephen King’s opinion on Kubrick’s adaptation and the ending

King has stated that he believes Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining” lacks the warmth and humanity that he intended in his novel. He has criticized the character of Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall, for being portrayed as a stereotypical screaming and helpless woman, which he feels deviates from the strong and complex character he wrote.

Furthermore, King has commented on the film’s detached and bleak tone, which he believes is at odds with the compassion he wanted to convey in his book. He has described the movie as a more cynical and morbid experience, which did not align with his original vision.

Comparison between the ending in the book and the film

The ending of “The Shining” in the book and the film differ significantly:

  1. In the book: In the climactic scene, Jack Torrance, possessed by the Overlook Hotel’s malevolent spirits, regains control of himself momentarily and urges his son Danny to escape. However, he ultimately succumbs to the hotel’s influence and dies in an explosion caused by the boiler. The explosion destroys the hotel, and Danny, Wendy, and the Overlook chef, Dick Hallorann, manage to escape. The book also includes an epilogue set in the following summer, providing closure to the characters’ stories.
  2. In the film: Jack chases Danny and Wendy through the hotel, and while Wendy escapes, Jack freezes to death in the outdoor hedge maze while pursuing Danny. Danny survives, reunites with his mother, and they escape in Hallorann’s snowcat. The film’s closing shot reveals a photograph from the hotel’s past, with Jack appearing mysteriously in the picture, indicating his integration into the hotel’s history.

Despite the differences, both the book and the film explore themes of madness, isolation, and the supernatural. While King may not have embraced Kubrick’s interpretation of his novel, the film’s unique and haunting qualities have contributed to its enduring legacy in the horror genre.

For more information on “The Shining,” you can visit the Wikipedia page on the novel.

VII. Legacy and Impact

The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, has had a lasting effect on the horror genre and continues to be influential in contemporary cinema. The film’s ambiguous ending has played a significant role in its cultural significance and has sparked numerous discussions and theories among viewers.

The lasting effect and influence of The Shining

The Shining is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time due to its masterful direction, chilling atmosphere, and compelling performances. It revolutionized the genre by blending psychological horror with supernatural elements, creating a sense of unease and tension that has become iconic.

The film’s distinct visual style, meticulous attention to detail, and innovative use of cinematography and sound design set a new standard for horror filmmaking. Kubrick’s precise and deliberate pacing enhances the sense of dread and allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the terrifying world of the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining’s impact extends beyond the film itself, with countless filmmakers drawing inspiration from its techniques and themes. Its influence can be seen in subsequent horror films, such as David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) and Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018), which also explore psychological horror and delve into the darker aspects of the human psyche.

The ending’s role in the film’s cultural significance

The ending of The Shining has become one of the most discussed and analyzed aspects of the film. It leaves the audience with an open-ended conclusion, allowing for multiple interpretations and theories.

The shot of Jack Torrance in the photograph from 1921 raises questions about the nature of time and reality within the Overlook Hotel. Some theories suggest that Jack’s soul has become trapped in the hotel, while others speculate that he has always been a part of its dark history.

This ambiguity adds to the film’s enduring appeal and encourages audiences to engage in discussions and debates about its meanings and themes. It has become a testament to the film’s artistic merit and has solidified its place in cinematic history.

As we continue to revisit and analyze The Shining, its impact and influence on the horror genre and cinema as a whole remain undeniable. The film’s enigmatic ending continues to captivate audiences and spark countless theories, ensuring its place as a timeless classic.


In conclusion, the ending of The Shining is open to interpretation and has sparked much debate among fans and critics. While the film leaves many questions unanswered, it is clear that Jack’s descent into madness and the supernatural influences of the Overlook Hotel play a significant role in the climactic events. The ending of the film can be seen as a culmination of the horrors that Jack and his family have endured throughout their time at the hotel.

Summary of key points discussed

Throughout the article, we explored the various theories and explanations surrounding the ending of The Shining. Key points discussed include:

  • Jack’s transformation and descent into madness, influenced by the supernatural forces of the Overlook Hotel.
  • The significance of the hotel’s history and the role it plays in the events of the film.
  • The ambiguity of the final shots and their multiple interpretations.
  • The use of symbolism and foreshadowing throughout the film.
  • The psychological and supernatural elements that contribute to the film’s unsettling atmosphere.

Leaving the ending open to interpretation

One of the remarkable aspects of The Shining is its ability to leave the ending open to interpretation. Director Stanley Kubrick deliberately chose to omit certain explanations and provide room for audiences to draw their conclusions. This ambiguity has allowed for ongoing discussions and theories surrounding the true meaning of the film’s conclusion.

It is believed that Kubrick intended for the film to be thought-provoking and unsettling, leaving the audience with a sense of unease long after the credits roll. By leaving the ending open to interpretation, Kubrick invites viewers to delve deeper into the film’s themes and symbolism.

Final thoughts on the significance of the ending in The Shining

The ending of The Shining is undoubtedly significant in the overall narrative of the film. It showcases the culmination of Jack’s transformation into a deranged and violent force within the walls of the Overlook Hotel. The eerie atmosphere and unsettling imagery leave an indelible impression on the audience, and the open-ended nature of the conclusion only adds to the film’s lasting impact.

Ultimately, the ending of The Shining is a testament to the power of film as a medium for storytelling and evoking emotions. It continues to captivate and intrigue audiences, cementing its place as one of the most enigmatic and influential horror films of all time.

Note: For more information on The Shining, visit the Wikipedia page on the film 


  • Pravin Kumar

    HI, my name is Pravin Kumar. Whenever it comes to movies web series and entertainment, i become enthusiast. I always get inspire by cinema. When i was child I used to be very excited for movies. as i grown up, my love for cinema gone deeper. I have interest from Classic massterpiece to blobuster movies. I always keep myelf up to date. I not only enjyoj the movie but i also aprriciate the way it is made. From direction to cinematography to acting to script writing, I get excited about everything.

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