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Top 10 Creepiest Ghost Movies

5. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Ghost Movies Best - Top 10 List
Imagine if you will, an antediluvian filmic era. Before The Happening. Before The Village. Before Signs. Welcome to the golden age of M. Night Shyamalan, when The Sixth Sense briefly transformed him into the hottest new film-maker in Hollywood and he could deliver a twist ending that had viewers choking on their pop corn in surprise, rather than weakly sobbing at the lameness of it all. Starting a trend for chiller flicks featuring kids delivering their dialogue in loud whispers (which persists to this day) and a trend for movies starring Haley Joel Osmant (which proved to be far, far, far-shorter lived), The Sixth Sense attempted to establish a cogent relationship between the living and the deceased, without diluting the spiritual atmospherics.

4. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Best Ghost Horror Movies
Ah, I have to confess to a bit of con-job on this one. Because, rather than sitting here resplendently in fourth place on my list, Don’t Look Now should face technical disqualification on the grounds that there aren’t actually any ghosts in it. But! The elliptical story related by Man Who Fell to Earth helmer Nicholas Roeg suggests that grieving John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) is being stalked round Venice by a red coat-clad phantom version of his dead daughter – consequently giving Don’t Look Now at least a partial ghost film credit. And there is no shortage of creepiness in the central scenario, which culminates with one of the most heart-stopping finales in cinema, when Baxter discovers that the ‘daughter’ he has repeatedly sighted is a ***spoiler***. Sounds laughable on paper, bloody terrifying and terrifyingly bloody in practice.

3. The Others (2001)

Scariest Ghost Movies
It may have been penned way back in 1897, but Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw still seems to exert a sizeable influence over the motion picture ghost story. The literary original was successfully adapted as The Innocents with Deborah Kerr in 1961, and James’ narrative components of a young woman inhabiting a strange gothic property, a perplexing set of events which appear to be supernatural in nature, and kids conversing with the spirit world were all adopted by director Alejandro Amenábar for his Nicole Kidman-starrer The Others. Privileging a nebulous sense of anxiety over blaring great shocks (although the bit where Kidman finds her daughter has been replaced by a knobbly pensioner is certainly a jolter), Amenábar’s movie even manages to find a sinister purpose for British comedy veteran Eric Sykes, as gardener Mr. Tuttle.

2. Ringu (1998)

Scariest Ghost Movies
A second entry in the list for director Hideo Nakata and the movie that ensured we would spend the opening years of the 21st century being deluged with J-Horror and J-Horror remakes alike. Despite the plethora of imitators, Ringu remains a genre benchmark though, boasting as it does a highly effective marriage of tight, surprising plotting and evocatively uncanny imagery. Around the conceit of being able to sign your own death warrant without even knowing it, Nakata weaves a race-against-time dilemma and downbeat denouement, while Rie Inou’s herky-jerky moving Sadako instantly establishes herself of one of the most identifiable characters in modern horror cinema.

And here it is, the number one all time top ghost movie –

1. The Shining (1980)

Best Ghost Movie (Horror Movie List)
Much of Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining has undeniably become the stuff of all-too frequent parody; the Diane Arbus-inspired twin girls, the elevator of blood, the revelation of ‘REDRUM’ in the mirror, and Jack Nicholson’s manic cry of “Heeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”. However The Shining delivers so many moments of oddness that it still never fails to unsettle (the briefly-glimpsed guy in the bear costume and Joe Turkel’s sallow-faced bartender always succeed in putting a cold breeze up my flagpole). Kubrick’s Steadicam relentlessly glides the corridors of Overlook Hotel, trailing little telepathic Danny (Danny Lloyd) trundling round on his tricycle, searching out the spiritual malevolence that finally sends Jack Torrance’s booze-fuelled caretaker over the edge, and gives Nicholson opportunity to cut loose. With a really big axe.

Any scary ghost movies I missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Also See: Top 10 Vampire Movies / Top 10 Werewolf Movies

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186 Comments »

  • Best Christmas Movies said

    Decent list, I’ve seen a lot that are very cliched and go for the obvious ones(The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc). I haven’t seen the original Dark Water, I thought the remake was pretty poor though. The Others is very underrated, so good on you for including it. Overall, a nice list.

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    • Cody said

      Ok… I’m noticing people saying Movies that have no GHOSTS in them…aka exorcist, jacobs ladder.. These films have no GHOST’s in them… Maybe a demon.. or a lethal vietnam experiment gone haywire…but NO GHOST’S DURING THE FILMS STORYLINE.. Sorry I know im overreacting.. but there is a list for those films..Now lets be creative and find some GHOST FILMS that change our lives.. THANKS and i am sorry.

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      • David said

        Why do you say “you’re sorry? You are correct by putting this theme in perspective. People, here, keep putting any ole horror movie in this article that aren’t even “ghost” movies. Someone wonders why GHOST DAD didn’t make it here. That’s because this film is a comedy. THE EXORCIST? THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE? Etc., Etc. These films have their own sub-genre. Not all horror movies are the same.

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      • Brandon Rodgers said

        okay buddy unless ur a dumbass christian that still believes that deamons are real then i would consider the demons in jacobs ladder and exrosist to be more like ghosts but whatever

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        • Jean said

          I’d still call a demon a demon and a ghost a ghost, though…

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        • Chillbro said

          Scumbag Brandon: says you’re a dumbass for believing in demons… Believes in ghosts…

          But seriously, the movies here tailor to the audience as ghost flicks. The Exorcist is made as a demon movie, there’s no other way around it. You can theorize all you want that it’s really ghosts, but that’s not what the creator was going for.

          I saw someone earlier say Insidious, and I 100% agree with that one. However, this was written in 2009 and that movie wasn’t released yet, so makes sense it isn’t up here.

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        • Jessica Nicole Marsh said

          Demon stories are demon stories, and ghost stories are ghost stories regardless of your own religious beliefs. Movies have their own internal logic, and you need to use something called “suspicion of disbelief” when you watch them. This means, of course, ignoring your own PERSONAL beliefs and taking the logic of the movie the way that the characters and the movie tell you to take it. A good example, although it’s not a ghost story, is the Craft. We know that the craft and the spells that are in it “exist” because the movie says they exist. It doesn’t have to exist in real life to be effective. Similarly, if the people in a movie tell you that a demon is, in fact, a demon, then it is a demon, because the story says it is. Hence, the exorcist is a DEMON story, regardless of your beliefs, because the characters in the story TELL YOU that Reagan is being possessed by a DEMON.

          The Woman In Black is pretty decent. Not one of my favorites, myself, but it had a pretty good atmosphere.

          Isn’t the Mothman Prophecies about ALIENS?

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  • Adam Mason said

    Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

    Completely agree with The Shining – I only watched it for the rest time a few months back and I was starting to become convinced that I couldn’t be scared anymore. Oh boy was I wrong.

    For me it was the music. The slow, nerve-shredding build-up that seamlessly turns into the loudest and most ear-splitting soundtrack I’ve ever heard. Loved it, utterly loved it.

    That and the barman. Brrr.

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    • Diolacles said

      Yes, “The Shining” was a great movie, with Jack Nicholson playing an excellent role as Jack. But what in the HELL was Kubrick thinking….casting Shelly Duval as Wendy???? Anyone who read the book, before seeing the movie, would know that the Wendy Torrance character, was a STRONG woman….frightened, yes….but not a simpering fool running around in hysterics, on tippy-toes, screeching at everything that moved. That had to be one of the WORST choices in any good movie that I have ever seen.

      The made-for-TV remake of “The Shining” starring Rebecca DeMornay as Wendy was excellent, and she portrayed the character the way it should have been done.

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      • Sheridan Passell said
        Sheridan Passell

        Novels are not bibles, you can make improvements. The TV movie was faithful but was a shadow of the Kubrick movie. Shelley Duvall was excellent. Her freaked out looks and raw emotion added a tremendous amount to the film. If you look at the Here’s Johnny scene without her reactions, Nicholson isn’t scary. The two worked with each other to create something extremely effective.

        If she had been a tough, unphased type then that makes her less vulnerable, reduces the threat from Nicholson and the situation is made less frightening. She’s not weak, rather just an ordinary person in a terrifying situation. The nature of her character is one reason the film is far more frightening than the TV movie.

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        • Diolacles said

          I simply disagree. Duval really ruined the movie for me. As far as I’m concerned, she was a mistake, a miscast. She had totally the wrong look, and played the part perhaps only as she could. She would not have been believable had she attempted the character the way it should have been done.

          If you haven’t seem the made-for-TV movie with Rebecca DeMornay….give it a view. She brings the right balance of alternately being terrified and yet managing to remain in control of herself to protect her son and herself. Duval’s Wendy is a doormat, a subservient punching-bag that jumps at shadows and puddles with hysteria.

          Movies based on novels can change things around however they like. But their biggest mistakes is redefining the characters into something that they are not. Duval was wrong for this part, and wouldn’t have been able to pull off the character the way it should have been portrayed.

          To say that Nicholson isn’t frightening is an odd observation. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion on his portrayal and Duval’s.

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          • David said

            I have to say, I’ve been torn on the THE SHINING. First, I was greatly disappointed when I first went to see this. I couldn’t wait to see the hedges coming to life. I understand now, that it was probably difficult to film such a scene back when CGI didn’t exist but still…
            Secondly, I don’t know if there were time constraints, if there were more time to work with the actors, we may have had something more decent on that big screen. Specifically, the Duvall and Lloyd actors… terrible, terrible acting. Sure there were some good moments/scenes. Duvall is not a bad actress but in THE SHINING it was just plain disconnected and very bland. Lloyd’s performance wasn’t any better. He acted more like he was in a coma than interacting with his counterparts. I could alost feel Jack’s impatience with these two.
            Unfortunately, it showed in the numbers/box office. THE SHINING was a major disappointment.
            The only things I treasured most about THE SHINING, was Jack’s evil- personified and the elevator blood-letting scenes.

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          • Sheridan Passell said
            Sheridan Passell

            I didn’t say Nicholson isn’t scary in the movie, I said if you take the Here’s Johnny scene it’s her acting that sells the fear of that scene. Don’t you think that one of, if not the most frightening ghost movie of all time might have something to do with the performance of the female lead?

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  • Twitch said

    What?! No Ghost Dad!?

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    • David said

      The theme here is strictly straight “ghost” horror movies- not comedy. GHOST DAD is not a horror movie and is quite a disappointment at that.

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  • Ben Prokop said

    Two of my favorite ghost movies aren’t on the list. The orphanage and Stir of echoes. Other than that you got a really good list. I completly forgot about dark water until i saw that movie in your list. I really feel like watching that again now.

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  • MadScott said

    “Jacob’s Ladder” should be in here somewhere…

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    • Fossafun said

      I don’t remember it having a ghost in it. I saw it so long ago. Did it have a ghost?

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      • Brandon Rodgers said

        It pisses me off that Japaneese horror is even up there ive seen so many j-horror films and evry time they get worse in worse the japaneese do not know scary. I agree with the shinning but its not number 1. a good ghost story horror movie has to be a mind bender and jacob’s ladder takes the cake, the caller is also good or maybe even insidious thats the best recent one ive seen. i agree with poltergeist and the others but the fog and dark water and ringu? come on u know better!

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    The Changeling (1980) is good too. I’d also point fans of the ghost horror genre toward The Woman In Black stage play and the BBC series ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas’ which is now available on region 2 dvd – very old school, but still extremely eerie.

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    • Fossafun said

      Yes- The Changling
      I posted about it (further down the blog list and then backtracked to see it mentioned here….should have just read posts from the threads start)
      The Changling scared me. Really scared me. CREEPY!

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  • roger said

    You forgot Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

    scared the bejesus out of me as a kid. still disturbing

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    • Fossafun said

      What scares me most about that one, now, are all the creepy “Porno Mustaches” on male characters. The bell bottoms are shudder worthy as well. 🙂

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  • Luciano Galasso said

    Good list…I’m sure a lot of these (those that haven’t all ready, at least) will be remade soon.

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  • twaddington said

    great list, there’s so much more intelligence in these films than in your standard slasher/gore flick.

    “I’d also point fans of the ghost horror genre toward The Woman In Black stage play and the BBC series ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas’ which is now available on region 2 dvd – very old school, but still extremely eerie.”

    I haven’t seen The Woman in Black but i’ve got a couple of the episodes from the A Ghost story for Christmas series on video; A Warning to the Curious based on an M.R. James story and The Signal-man which is a Charles Dickens story, they’re both really atmospheric and chilling.

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    • Fossafun said

      Daniel Radcliffe is currently wrapping up filming “The Woman In Black”. I’m looking forward to it.

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    Yeah the other BBC dvd to check out is Whistle And I’ll Come To You (or something like that).

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  • godfrey hamilton said

    I’m trying to stay pertinent to your “ghostly” theme – the Japanese Anthology classic ‘Kwaidan’ (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964) is essential, and while it isn’t strictly speaking a ghost story (but certainly in its cumulative effect qualifies for genre inclusion), ‘Onibaba’ (Kaneto Shindo, also 1964) boasts some of the most atmospheric and moody cinematography I’ve ever seen. Both these movies are available on Criterion DVD. Others have mentioned ‘The Orphanage’, an informal companion piece to ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, and you yourself give passing reference to Jack Clayton’s masterful ‘The Innocents’ (1961), adapted by Truman Ccapote from Henry James, and boasting a pitch-perfect performance by Deborah Kerr. And demonic rather than ghostly the entities may be, but Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ Parts 1 and 2 still deliver laughs and thrills in equal measure. Other than that, take a copy of M. R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories to bed, start with ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ then continue with ‘Casting the Runes’ (which formed the basis for the brilliant UK supernatural thriller, Tourneur’s 1957 classic ‘Night of the Demon’) and you’ll be on the way to a troubled night’s sleep filled with delicious nightmares and anxious narratives of your very own…

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  • Jason said

    While “The Shining” was scary, it will always fail me as a viewer because I read the book. Kubrick took King’s basic plotline and then decided to throw whatever random wackiness he could into the movie, while at the same time junking some of the freakier moments in the book. The ABC movie was closer to the book (and better in plot since King wrote it), but most people still hold on to Kubrick’s version for whatever reason.

    Better choices:

    One Missed Call (Japanese version)
    Pulse (Japanese or American, as both had their moments)
    Shutter
    The Eye (not the crappy Alba version)

    Hell, you could do a top ten of Japanese ghost movies and still have a killer list.

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  • Admiral Ass'Cannon said

    THE SIGNALMAN is another of the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, and it’s quite pant-crapping in its own way. Although I guess it’s not a movie.

    Anyways, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES for the win.

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    The Mothman Prophecies only has 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, it can’t be very good?

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    • Fossafun said

      It’s not very good. It doesn’t stink. It’s not a ghost story.

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      • screamwriter said

        The Mothman Prophecies either bores people or scares the crap out of them. A very interesting effect. I have made it my buisness to try and see every ghost film ever made in English and as many good ones in other countries as can be recomended. Shutter the original was one very creepy one with a great ending. There are so many good asian ones.

        The Orphanage

        The woman in Black (BBC VIDEO)

        Haunted 1995 UK

        The Other 1972 U.S.

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        • David B. said

          How many times is somebody(in this case-me)going to correct you all who keep insisting that THE OTHER (1972)is a ghost story? This is NOT a ghost story. Technically, this would be considered to be a psycological drama/thriller.
          ******SPOILER ALERT******
          There isn’t a ghost in this picture at all. It is the imaginary memory of what once was- coming from the mind of a disturbed boy who takes on the duel personalities of himself and that of his dead, twin brother.

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  • jim said

    Although “The Haunting” remains the scariest movie (the final line was burned into my brain) for viceral reasons “2000 Maniacs” is my favorite ghost film.

    And we can’t, of course, forget “Ghostbusters”.

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