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Why Is The Shining Rated R? What You Should Know Before Watching The Horror Classic

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film "The Shining," based on the novel by Stephen King, is widely considered one of the greatest horror films ever made. And despite its haunted hotel setting, it is a decidedly mature movie in its frights, one that might be too intense for kids (and sensitive adults). The MPA rates "The Shining" R for "graphic violence, profanity, and brief nudity," but that really only gives you the barest possible idea of what to expect from this legendarily terrifying work.

One thing you should know about "The Shining," however, is that even a relatively detailed breakdown of its mature elements won't fully prepare you for the intensity of its atmosphere. As with some of Kubrick's other films, "The Shining" has a certain intensity that goes beyond what is directly on the screen, and it's not something that can be captured in a content warning.

Having explained that, "The Shining" still has more than its share of explicit on-screen frightening elements, too. In terms of literal physical graphic imagery, "The Shining" is one of the bloodiest movies ever made, thanks to the infamous "blood elevator" sequence that shows a massive wave of the stuff rushing out of the elevators at the Overlook Hotel. The Overlook's grim history provides more disturbing violence, with references to the caretaker before Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) moved in; specifically, that he murdered his own family and then killed himself. We also see some ghostly flashbacks to this violent history that don't skimp on the blood and gore.

The Shining earns its R rating the hard way

If you count the actual on-screen murders in "The Shining," its body count is actually quite low. Only one character is violently killed on screen, by way of an ax through the chest which is quite bloody and startling. There's a pretty graphic (although not fatal) clocking-by-baseball-bat in one intense moment, and we also see grisly sights like a cut on the hand of one character and a frozen wide-eyed corpse (that you've probably seen in internet meme form before).

Violence isn't the only R-rated component of "The Shining." The film has a fairly large amount of profanity in its dialogue, including the use of a disturbing racial slur. There is the infamous bathroom sequence with its full-frontal female nudity, and a certain sequence involving two ghosts haunting the Overlook that can't even be described without violating Looper's editorial policies! So if you're planning to watch "The Shining" with your kids, you better get ready to answer some uncomfortable questions afterward.

That pretty much covers the graphic violence, brief nudity, and profanity that earns "The Shining" its R-rating, but it also prominently features drinking and alcoholism among its plot points, so if that's a sensitive issue you should be aware of that as well.

"The Shining" is generally regarded as one of the most terrifying Hollywood movies ever produced, but now you're at least somewhat prepared for an extended stay at the Overlook Hotel.