The Real Reason Stephen King Despises the Movie Version of ‘The Shining’

There’s always something lost when a book becomes a movie. While a film only has two hours to convey a story, a book can go on for hundreds of pages to explain everything. But despite this truth, Stephen King still hates the movie version of his classic horror novel The Shining.

He’s known as the master of fiction, and that’s why most of Stephen King’s novels eventually become movies. Some of these are more universally loved than others. But does King appreciate the movie versions of his books as much as fans do?

There’s at least one popular film he doesn’t care for. Stephen King absolutely despises Stanley Kubrick’s retelling of The Shining for several reasons, even though it’s among the best-known and most lauded horror movies of all time.

The Shining
The Shining | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

‘The Shining’ wasn’t popular right away

Though it enjoys cult classic status now, The Shining did not do well at the box office when it was first released in 1980. But over the years, critics softened their stance and fans helped turn this movie into the legendary horror flick it is now. There are so many references to The Shining in pop culture that it’s hard to keep track.

Fans were equally enamored by the novel, which was Stephen King’s third published novel. But the movie eventually became just as popular, even if the story’s author didn’t care for it.

The Shining
The Shining | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Stephen King doesn’t think Stanley Kubrick told the story correctly

Adapting a book into a movie inevitably means making tough decisions and cutting certain storylines. But when it came to Kubrick’s film version of The Shining, Stephen King insists the director didn’t properly capture the “essence” of the story.

Part of this comes from the storytelling in general. But a bigger issue King has with the movie is the casting.

The Shining
Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick on the set of The Shining | Murray Close/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

King didn’t like how Jack Nicholson played Jack Torrance

Stanley Kubrick casting Jack Nicholson as the main character in The Shining is most of what makes the movie so memorable. But it’s also part of Stephen King’s criticism. While the book portrays the protagonist Jack Torrance as being a regular father who slowly goes crazy after being plagued by ghosts, the movie makes Torrance seem insane from the beginning. The only change that occurs is he becomes a murdering lunatic.

Was this Nicholson’s doing or Kubrick’s direction? We may never know. But King hated how Nicholson made Jack Torrance seem emotionally dead when he was supposed to be a loving family man — at least at first.

King also hated how Shelley Duvall played Jack’s wife Wendy. While he painted the character as strong and independent, the movie makes her seem weak.

Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Stephen King made his own version of ‘The Shining’

In the end, Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining so much that he made his own. King wrote a produced a television adaptation in 1997 that more closely followed the storyline of the novel and portrayed Jack and Wendy the way he intended. But it didn’t receive nearly as many accolades as the Kubrick film version.

Not many authors are pleased by the film versions of their books. But either way, The Shining remains a classic both in book and movie form.