杰克（杰克?尼科尔森 Jack Nicholson 饰）是一个作家。一个冬天，他得到了一个看管山顶酒店的差事。这正合杰克的意思，他正好可以有一个幽静的地方写作。于是杰克带着妻儿搬进了酒店。冬天大雪封路，山顶酒店只有杰克一家三口。从他们一搬进来，杰克的妻子温蒂（谢莉·杜瓦尔 Shelley Duvall 饰）就发现这里气氛诡异，杰克的儿子丹尼（丹尼·劳埃德 Danny Lloyd 饰）经常看到一些他不认识的人，但这里除了他们一家别无他人。而杰克除了一整天闷头写作外，脾气亦变得越来越古怪。直到有一天，温蒂发现丈夫这些天来一直写就只有一句话：杰克发疯了！
Ralph Anderson returns to his remote California hometown for the first time in many years. Now a lawyer, he has been estranged from his father, Lloyd, and brother, Tippy, ever since being sent to reform school as a youth for stealing a car, taking the blame for his brother's crime.Lloyd is now sheriff and Tippy his deputy. Forced to represent a wanted criminal, Ralph asks the law to look the other way while a local airfield is used to enable the mobster, Massonetti, to flee the country. A disgusted Lloyd agrees to help, but Tippy decides to arrest Massonetti and cash in on a big reward.Tippy's beautiful wife Linda was once the love of Ralph's life and regrets his long absence. She is tired of Tippy's shiftless, drunken ways and Lloyd's domineering rule of the family.Massonetti arrives in town, backed by Davis, his top thug. Tippy and two deputies, Karger and Eddie, make an amateurish attempt to capture Massonetti, only to get Lloyd shot and killed while trying to stop them. Ralph manages to get Massonetti behind bars at the town jail.The mob cuts off phone communication and highway access to the town. Ralph suggests driving Massonetti to the authorities in Barstow in the mobster's own fast car. Noticing the tension between the brothers, Massonetti taunts them both and offers $25,000 to tempt Tippy into betraying Ralph and setting him free.On the road, deputy Eddie is ambushed and the brothers learn that Linda has been abducted. A deal is made to get her back, but Karger is killed and the car is disabled. Ralph manages to get the four of them to a gas station, where the owner is found shot. In a fight for the gun, Ralph is winged and Tippy seriously wounded.Borrowing a miner's jeep, Ralph drives Massonetti to a main highway, where two policemen take them into custody. They turn out to be impostors who drive Massonetti to an air strip where Davis is waiting with a plane. After they board, Ralph drives the car into the plane, overturning it. He drags Massonetti from the wreckage and holds him until real cops arrive. By the time he returns to the gas station, Linda is watching Tippy's lifeless body carried away.