School teacher-turned-writer Jack Torrance arrives at the remote Overlook Hotel in the Rocky Mountains to be interviewed for the position of winter caretaker. The hotel, which opened in 1909 and was built on the site of a Native American burial ground, closes during the snowed-in months. Once hired, Jack plans to use the hotel’s solitude to write. Manager Stuart Ullman tells Jack about the hotel’s history and warns him about its reputation: a previous caretaker, Charles Grady, supposedly developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. Despite the troubling story, Jack is impressed with the hotel and gets the job. In Boulder, Jack’s son, Danny, has a terrifying premonition about the hotel, and Jack’s wife, Wendy, tells a doctor about Danny’s imaginary friend, Tony.
When the family moves into the hotel on closing day, head chef Dick Hallorann surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. Hallorann explains to Danny that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls “shining”. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel has a “shine” to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay away from room 237.
A month passes; while Jack’s writing goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel’s hedge maze and Hallorann goes to Florida. Wendy learns that the phone lines are out due to the heavy snowfall, and Danny has frightening visions. Jack behaves strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts. Danny’s curiosity about room 237 overcomes him when he sees the room’s door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack screaming during a nightmare while asleep at his typewriter. After she awakens him, Jack says he dreamed that he killed her and Danny. Danny arrives, visibly traumatized and bruised. Wendy accuses Jack of abusing him, which Jack denies.
Jack wanders into the hotel’s Gold Room and meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd, to whom he complains about his marriage. Wendy tells Jack that Danny told her a “crazy woman” in room 237 attempted to strangle him. Jack investigates room 237 and encounters a dead woman’s ghost, but he tells Wendy that he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue over whether Danny should be removed from the hotel, and Jack angrily returns to the Gold Room, which is now filled with ghosts attending a ball. While participating, he meets a ghostly waiter who identifies himself as Delbert Grady. Grady informs Jack that Danny has reached out to Hallorann using his “talent”, and says that Jack must “correct” his wife and child. Hallorann grows concerned about what is going on at the hotel and flies back to Colorado. Danny calls out “redrum” and goes into another trance, referring to himself as “Tony”.
While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers that her now-deranged husband has been typing pages filled with the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. She begs Jack to leave the hotel with Danny, but he threatens her. Wendy knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat and locks him in the kitchen pantry, but she and Danny are both trapped as Jack has disabled the hotel’s two-way radio and snowcat. Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady. Moments later the door is unlocked, freeing Jack.
Danny continues chanting and drawing the word “REDRUM”. When Wendy sees the word reversed in the bedroom mirror, the word is revealed to be “MURDER”. Jack hacks through the quarters’ main door with an axe. Wendy sends Danny through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack breaks through the door, but retreats after Wendy slashes his hand with a knife. Hearing Hallorann arriving in a snowcat, Jack ambushes and murders him in the lobby, then pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering ghosts, a cascade of blood Danny envisioned in Boulder, and Hallorann’s corpse. Danny lays a false trail to mislead Jack and hides behind a snowdrift.
Danny escapes from the maze and reunites with Wendy; they leave in Hallorann’s snowcat, while Jack freezes to death after losing Danny’s trail. In a photograph in the hotel hallway, Jack is pictured standing amid a crowd of party revelers from 1921.