We watch a car drive up a long and windy road to a fancy-looking hotel way up in the mountains. The whole thing would be beautiful if it weren't for the super creepy music playing in the background.
A dude named Jack Torrance gets out of the car and heads to a meeting with the manager of the hotel, Stuart Ullman. Jack wants to be the caretaker of the hotel when it shuts down for the winter, and despite Ullman's warnings about the horrible isolation of the hotel and the story of a former caretaker murdering his family, Jack still thinks he's good to go.
Back at the Torrance Household, Jack's wife Wendy asks their son Danny if he's excited about living in the hotel. Danny's kind of ho hum about it, but his imaginary friend Tony isn't happy to go to the hotel at all. When Wendy asks why, Danny says he doesn't want to talk about it.
A while later, Danny has a vision of blood pouring out of a hotel elevator and has some sort of blackout. He wakes up to a doctor, who asks his mom about Danny's history and finds out that his dad Jack once dislocated Danny's shoulder while he (Jack) was drunk. It looks like Jack might not be the best husband and dad.
Jack and his family head to the Overlook Hotel and settle in. The hotel's head cook, Mr. Hallorann, takes Danny to eat ice cream and tells Danny that the two of them share a special power called "shining" that allows them to communicate with just their minds. It also allows Danny to see the past and the future.
When the Torrance family is left alone at the hotel, Jack tries to settle down to his writing. But weeks and months pass without him making any progress at all. When Wendy asks how things are going, Jack flips out and gets defensive. He more or less tells Wendy never to talk to him, so Wendy spends most of her time hanging with Danny and exploring the hotel. As time goes by, Danny starts seeing more and more horrifying things around the hotel that seem to reflect all the bad things that happened in the hotel's past.
Over time, Jack loses his mind. We know this for sure when he starts chatting with a bartender named Lloyd who is clearly either a ghost or a figment of Jack's imagination. Jack falls deeper into the world of ghosts and even meets the spirit of Delbert Grady, the former caretaker who murdered his family with an axe. Grady tells Jack that he needs to do the same thing with his family, and Jack totally snaps.
Looking for Jack, Wendy wanders into the writing room and sees that Jack has spent the past several months writing the same line over and over— "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." She realizes at this point that Jack has gone nuts. He busts in on her, but she uses a bat to knock him out and locks him in the hotel's food storage room. You would think that Wendy and Danny are safe now. But don't speak too soon, because the ghost of Delbert Grady somehow lets Jack out of the room.
So now Jack gets a hold of an axe and comes after Wendy and Danny. In the meantime, Danny's entire body looks like it's been taken over by his imaginary friend Tony, who keeps saying the word "Redrum" over and over. It's only when she sees the word in a mirror that Wendy realizes the word is "Murder" backwards. It's at this moment that Jack's axe hits her apartment door. Wendy runs and lets Danny out of a window while Jack chops his way toward her.
It looks as if it's all over for Wendy until she and Jack hear a snowcat machine approaching the hotel. It turns out that old Mr. Hallorann has heard a mental distress call from Danny and has come to help. But his visit doesn't last long—Jack offs him with an axe.
The death makes Danny scream and reveal his hiding place, and Jack chases him out into the hotel's famous hedge maze during a snowstorm. All Jack has to do is follow Danny's footprints, but Danny is clever and he finds a way to walk backwards through his own footprints to make it look as if his trail just disappears. Danny makes his way out of the maze and escapes with his mother in Hallorann's snowcat machine while Jack freezes to death in the hedge maze.
In the final shot of the movie, the camera pans in on a photograph from the 1920's on the hotel wall… and Jack Torrance is standing front-row center in this photo. So that should make you ask all kinds of questions about the weird time loops that might be happening in this movie. Is Jack Torrance of 1980 just a reincarnation of this dude, or did Jack not appear in the picture until after he died? Feel free to surf the net to see all the crazy theories people have come up with to explain this ending.