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A Great Critic: The Shining (1980) Ending Explained

A Great Critic: The Shining (1980) Ending Explained

Even though The Shining was filmed almost thirty years ago and is one of the most famous horror movies of all time, someone may not yet see it. That being the case, I am forced to give the warning: spoilers ahead!


We told you above The Shining (1980) ending explanation with almost all theories.

Let’s talk in detail about the last scene.

As you will remember, in the climax of The Shining, Torrance (Jack Nicholson) possessed by a homicidal fury goes in the footsteps of his own son, Danny. After the child manages to deceive him by returning after his own footprints, Torrance is lost in the vegetable labyrinth of the hotel and ends up falling exhausted in the snow.

His wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Danny flee the hotel in the snowmobile that the cook will use to get to the Overlook in the middle of the storm.


It is daytime and it has stopped snowing. Jack Torrance is dead, frozen by the cold and his face covered in icicles. The camera returns to the interior of the Overlook and approaches a wall of photographs that we never saw in detail before in the film.

And there is a black and white postcard of the celebration of July 4, 1921 in the Overlook. And, in the middle of the festivities, there is nothing less than Jack Torrance, with a brand-new tuxedo, gummed hair and a smile at dawn.

The Shining happens – at least for clothes, vehicles and decorations – between 1978 or 1980. Torrance is at least forty years old in the film. How do you manage, then, to end up appearing in a photograph taken twenty years before your birth?

We have had this discussion with several friends since 1991, when I saw The Shining on video. Thanks to the internet I discovered that we were not the only ones and also that the damn old fox of Kubrick died without ever clarifying the point. I read Stephen King’s great eponymous novel, but I must say that the original plot has little to do with Kubrick’s script , except for the premise and certain supernatural aspects.

In general, King’s is a story that takes place in a completely different world from that of the film. In fact, in the book, chef Halloran survives with the woman and the child.

Now, over time I have stacked several theories, my own and others. Here I write down the ones I liked the most:

-The Overlook hotel works like a machine to create ghosts. If you die in it, you become a multidimensional spirit capable of crossing time and space to let you fall into photos of sixty years ago.

-Wendy and her son really arrive alone at the hotel. Jack Torrance is an invention of Wendy’s imagination – as the boy invents his friend Tony – which explains the distance the son has to Jack from the beginning.

-Who greets us from the photograph of 1921 is the father of Jack Torrance: the Lord of Darkness himself. Kubrick would have given us a clue about it by making Nicholson have the same gesture of the Ram in the Tarot card .

-Jack, Wendy and the child are nothing more than the contemporary actors of a cyclical tragedy of parricide that is represented in the Overlook every certain number of years. That’s why Cook Halloran dies, for trying to break the cycle to save the family.

  • Those who die frozen inside the plant maze somehow travel to a point in history where they have the opportunity to live another life under another identity. The photograph, then, would represent a “happy ending” of the tormented soul of Jack Torrance.

-A man from 1921 somehow traveled through time, met Wendy, married her, they had a son. Then, when visiting the Overlook, he remembered his “erased” past, went mad and tried to erase his present present by killing his family.

-The Jack Torrance that leaves room 237 is not the real one, but a double produced by the spirits of the hotel. The real Jack falls into the bathtub, which functions as a time warp, and ends in the Overlook of 1921, where he poses and smiles at all the cameras, hoping that some photo will survive him and his wife and son in the future You can know what happened to him.

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