130 Best Ghost Movies Of All Time For A Spook-tacular Cinema Experience
Although many filmmakers try to cater to various audiences, it's no surprise that many have young people in mind as their target audience. This can be supported by data that shows that cinemagoers are typically younger than the general population, with around half of attendance coming from the key 14–34 age group. Also, another no-shocker from the film industry - there are almost as many adaptations as original films these days, meaning that adaptations account for up to 50% of all Hollywood films.
Speaking of horror movies featuring ghosts or other genres of ghost movies, today, it's relatively rare to see an original ghost story movie. After all, there's so much you can do with ghosts, really. The many modern supernatural movies featuring ghosts we see on screen today are merely adaptations of old classics. And let's be brutal but honest, the adaptations of many of the best ghost movies stand nowhere near the originals. And the worst bit? Many filmgoers are not even aware that the originals exist! And this needs to change.
Below, we've compiled a list of the best ghost movies and best horror movies featuring deadly spirits. We've tried our best to include many original films (and rank them high) that gave rise to modern ghost stories and deserve a re-visit. But don't be surprised to find plenty of more recent releases as well, as we thought they were also pretty darn spooky. Also, let us know what your favorite ghost movie is!
1980 | 2 hours 26 minutes | Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
When you think Steven King's novel can't get any better, director Stanley Kubrick improves on his already excellent work and brings the tale to life in his distinctive style. It's a masterwork of gloomy, grim, and terrible storytelling and the ultimate ghost story that will crawl underneath your skin. The vast isolation, the snow-covered peaks, the valleys, the mountains, the winding, tiny roads covered in snow, and the spooky corridors all contribute to the movie's narration and experience. The Shining is as psychological as horror gets, playing with your emotions and expectations, throwing in something entirely out of left field, and never letting you catch your breath between what are now regarded as classic shocks.
1982 | 1 hour 54 minutes | Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring Jo Beth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
You'll want to leap out of your seat while watching this early 1980s horror movie because it is so eerie and scary. Married couple Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) appear to live a normal, everyday life. She is a devoted homemaker, and he is a prosperous real estate agent. They have three lovely children, but one night changes everything. The practical special effects in this movie, released four decades ago, hold up well and outperform many of their more contemporary CGI-heavy equivalents. As with many successful films from the '70s and the '80s, there were sequels developed with noticeably bigger budgets but less than stellar results. However, both the Poltergeist sequels and the follow-up TV programs fell well short of recreating the spirit of the original. Arguably one of the most excellent filmmaking collaborations in history was between producer/co-screenwriter Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper when they made Poltergeist. And don't try to fight us on that.
1961 | 1 hour 40 minutes | Directed by Jack Clayton
Starring Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins
A young governess for two children, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted. The film, based on a Henry James short story, The Turn of the Screw, has a lot going for it. The black and white cinematography alone contributes significantly to the Gothic atmosphere. It helps that the scene is an old mansion where just about anything may be hidden; the house could easily be the movie's main character. However, Deborah Kerr's facial expressions are just as unsettling as the things happening around her. Her facial expressions make the spectator wonder how much of her fear is real and how much is just in her head. The film, directed by Jack Clayton, is superb, regardless of whether one views The Innocents as a psychological suspense thriller or a classic ghost story. Nonetheless, this one deserves to be praised as one of the best horror films ever made, not just for how creepy it is but also for how well-made it is and how deep the themes are.
1964 | 3 hours 3 minutes | Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Starring Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe
Kwaidan is a breathtaking movie that, once watched, is never forgotten. Although the four stories within the film deal with ghosts and the paranormal, it's hardly a horror film. But whether it's haunted? Absolutely. All four stories revolve around ghosts and are as simple and predictable as any spooky tale. They are like traditional Japanese ghost stories from folklore, the sort of eerie tales you could overhear an elder telling children over a bonfire. Kwaidan is not amusing; instead, it is engrossing, beguiling, and spectacular. This is a unique experience for moviegoers and a feast for art novices. It is unquestionably a stunning and eerie movie, ideal for late-night, solo watching in the dark with candles lit in the background.
1963 | 1 hour 52 minutes | Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson
Hill House has had a rocky past. Over the years, deaths by suicide or accident have happened there. Dr. Markway, an anthropologist and investigator of paranormal activity, is leading a group of four people to Hill House in the hopes of establishing the existence of something paranormal there. The Haunting thrives firmly on the idea that what you can't see is what scares you the most rather than what it throws at you in the form of jumps and peek-a-boo shocks. The viewer is forced to rely on their anxious imagination to fill in the blanks, which is never a good thing in the language of psychological horror. To extract the most atmosphere possible from the concept, Robert Wise employs oblique camera angles, thunderous sound effects, and angled close-ups of his actors. And these cinematic effects are really bound to give goosebumps. This old but not dated classic is worth watching if you enjoy the supernatural subgenre of horror. But also remarkable films in general.
The Sixth Sense
1999 | 1 hour 47 minutes | Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette
Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a respected child psychotherapist, is depressed because one of his former clients killed himself, and Crowe was powerless to save him. In the hope of finding redemption, Crowe decides to try to help Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy with uncannily similar social problems to his former client. Later, Cole reveals that this issue transcends traditional medicine. No one else can see the spirits of the dead, but Cole can. It is distinctive because it uses your imagination and psychological tricks to frighten you and make you reconsider your surroundings. Thus, we are provided the ability to experience a variety of feelings, including fear, grief, joy, perplexity, and humor, each of which is a complement to the other. It's not just another supernatural horror film. It is a charming human-interest story, well worth watching.
1980 | 1 hour 47 minutes | Directed by Peter Medak
Starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
After losing his wife and daughter in a car accident, John Russell (George C. Scott) decides to move to Seattle and rents an old mansion with a sinister past. The old house is trying to tell Scott about the secret of a little child who previously lived there through creaking doors, bouncy balls, running water, and broken windows. Scott's performance is a significant factor in adding to the movie's merit. For once, the protagonist of a ghost story is not a wimp but rather a courageous, self-assured guy. He will battle valiantly until the very end to uncover the truth and reclaim his life. Only very few actors would have pulled this role off better than Scott did. This one is one of those horror films that is frightful without being graphically bloody or gory. To convey its chills, it merely relies on atmosphere and ominous but subtle imagery, and, heck, does it succeed!
1984 | 1 hour 45 minutes | Directed by Ivan Reitman
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
Recent adaptations just prove that nothing can beat the original. This iconic production results from the ideal combination of a special effects extravaganza and outstanding performers to produce a side-splitting masterpiece. There aren't many films that can compare to Ghostbusters. This movie brilliantly strikes the proper mix between the humor and horror genres. Every scene is enjoyable because of the undeniable chemistry between the three main characters. It is hardly a surprise that this was the most popular movie of 1984 when one considers its outstanding theme song and apocalyptic conclusion. This is, hands down, one of the greatest Hollywood blockbusters ever produced. It features humor, thrills, spills, and some of the best special effects money could buy at the time. And sure thing, there weren't as many as there are today.
1988 | 1 hour 32 minutes | Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton
Many older movies age not so gracefully, and crappy video effects or bad montages are so evident that the whole film turns sour when you watch it after a while. Beetlejuice aged gracefully, thanks to a huge injection of humor, a charming cast, and cynical twists in the plot. This bizarre movie (we think this description fits Beetlejuice perfectly) explores what happens after death, including becoming a ghost and having to accept that you died and should now move on. What if, however, one ghost had perhaps too much fun and simply wanted to shock the living world? This is what the film is about — the one zombie you'd love to party with once, but just once. Never again.
The Devil’s Backbone
2001 | 1 hour 46 minutes | Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi
It is the year 1939. The Spanish Civil War is about to end. Ten-year-old Carlos, the abandoned son of a murdered Republican, is dropped off by his tutor at a remote boys' orphanage. Despite the school's dire financial situation and limited ability to feed the students, Dr. Casares and headmistress Carmen do their best. Carlos bravely accepts his fate, but there are still bullies at school, an unexploded bomb in the courtyard that serves as a daily reminder of the ongoing conflict, and an abusive housekeeper. As if that weren't enough, a ghost named Santi, who died mysteriously, starts following Carlos and somberly informs him that many people will soon pass away. The stunning cinematography in this movie is one thing you'll notice immediately. Also, the fact that the film doesn't get sidetracked by the ghost narrative is one of its finest points. After all, one ghost is nothing compared to the horrors of war, death, desertion, political persecution, and abuse at the hands of adults. Briefly put, The Devil's Backbone is a scary, horrifying, yet gorgeous film. If you haven't seen it yet, don't wait much longer to watch it.