Stephen King Compares This Big Movie Flop to The Shining

Stephen King thinks Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon' (2022) could end up being a rediscovered gem like Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining.'

Stephen King is seeing a bit of history repeat itself, as there's a recent film that flopped hard at the box office, but could (according to King) could be rediscovered as a cinematic "classic" years later, like Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

The film in question is Babylon, Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle's (La La Land, Whiplash) 2022 film about Hollywood throughout its golden age era (1930s-1950s). Babylon was viewed as Chazelle's biggest and most ambitious project yet, but it ultimately failed to connect with theatrical audiences, earning just $63.4 million worldwide and failing to even recoup its approximately $80 million budget. 

Since Babylon has hit home video and streaming on Paramount+, it has generated a consistent (if not huge) buzz – including with the likes of Stephen King

"Maybe this says more about me than the film, but I thought BABYLON was utterly brilliant--extravagant, over the top, hilarious, thought-provoking," King wrote on Twitter. "Might be one of those movies that reviews badly and is acclaimed as a classic in 20 years."

King then added in a separate tweet: Sort of like THE SHINING.😂"

Was The Shining A Flop? 


It's hard to imagine now, but The Shining – largely revered as one of the greatest and most iconic horror movies ever made – did not gain acclaim when it was initially released. The Shining opened on May 23, 1980, the same weekend that Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released in theaters. Major critics like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert didn't look favorably upon them film, refusing to even feature it on their Sneak Previews show at the time, and the LA Times, Variety, The New Yorker, Washington Post, and New York Times all offered mixed reviews (at best) of the film. Ironically (now), The Shining was the only one of Kubrick's final ten films NOT to receive either a Golden Globe or Oscars nomination; even worse, it was one of the first films ever recognized by the Razzie Awards (for the year's worst films), which awarded it both a "Worst Director" award for Kubrick and a "Worst Actress" award for Shelly Duvall. The Shining long runtime and slow, atmospheric horror style didn't make it a big theatrical draw, earning just $43.7 million at the box office. 

However, in the years since its initial release, The Shining has grown through word-of-mouth into one of the most iconic and influential horror films of all time – and it just goes to show how art may not always be immediately appreciated in its day. 

Funny enough, Stephen King's statements comparing The Shining to Babylon are also a sign of growth and change: for a time, King himself was one of the biggest outspoken critics of The Shining, asserting in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, that Kubrick's vision of his Shining novel was "maddening" and "disappointing." Sounds like the horror maestro has similarly come around on that stance, after years of reflection. 

What Is Babylon (2022) About? 

(Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Babylon (2022) tracks the path of cinema's evolution from silent black-and-white films to color pictures and sound being part of the cinematic experience. In the midst of that transition, one big star of the silent film era (Brad Pitt) tries to hang on to fame in the new era of "talkies"; meanwhile, a crass and uncultured New Jersey girl (Margot Robbie) schemes on how to get her shot at A-list stardom as cinematic tastes are changing. Caught in between the old star and the new one is a hard-working Mexican immigrant (Diego Calva) who moonlights as a party fixer, and finds opportunity as a producer/director with bold visions of how to mix sights and sounds into cinematic wonder. 

Like The Shining, audiences have alleged that Babylon is too long (189 minutes long) and too off-putting with its frenzied, manic, tone and style – as well as its batch of unlikable characters and somewhat cynical commentary on the artistic ideals vs. the dirty business of making movies in Hollywood. With the way things are currently going in Hollywood, Chazelle's vision may indeed prove to be much more valid, years from now.

You can watch Babylon on Paramount+.