The website Snopes documents and posits various reasons behind the number being featured, but finds no conclusive evidence.

Here are the unsupported theories put forward, to save everyone a click:

A blog created by Kubrick’s fans hypothesized that Kubrick repeatedly referenced the number 42 (as well as 24, 21, and 12) after studying Sigmund Freud‘s writings outlining the “unsettling effect that recurring numbers can have.”

It is possible, as well, the original BBC Radio 4 broadcast of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” — which aired via multiple episodes in 1978 — influenced Kubrick. According to The Frida Cinema, an Orange County art house nonprofit, scenes from “The Shining” were shot in London that same year.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Cocks, a retired history professor, has a more specific theory. Cocks — a source in the 2012 documentary “Room 237” that dissects the film’s possible hidden messages and author of the book titled, “The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust” — believes the “42” reference helps paint an allegory about Nazi extermination.

“1942 was the year of the Final Solution, and 42 has been used as shorthand to refer to the Holocaust,” Vulture published in 2013, citing Cocks’ theory.

Is there an explanation attributable to Stanley Kubrick as to why he referenced the number 42 so often in the movie?

  • 4
    Maybe Kubrick wass a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? It originated as a radio drama in 1978, while The Shining movie is from 1980, so the timing makes it just possible. Oct 11, 2022 at 13:48
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen and why was 42 referenced there?
    – Bob
    Oct 11, 2022 at 14:35
  • 3
    Douglas stated: “The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.” @Bob Oct 11, 2022 at 14:38
  • 1
    @JiminyCricket. He didn't have to pick a number. He could've picked apple pie. And Lewis Carroll used 42 so it's not the first popular work to use it; it's not chosen randomly.
    – Bob
    Oct 11, 2022 at 14:51
  • @JiminyCricket. For the use of 42 in Hitchhikers’, that’s the answer for people who don’t like answers. Other, more illuminating answers are available Oct 11, 2022 at 14:55


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