Ghost Movies: The 25 Best Films About Ghosts

Stories about ghosts, often recurring deceased people, have probably been around as long as humans have been able to speak. So it is not surprising that already among the first films ever created were also ghost films. The first known one dates back to 1896. Real boom experienced the genre of ghost film than in the mid-1930s and especially after the war.

Since then, it’s hard to imagine the pop culture canon without this genre. With so many ghost movies coming out every year, the answer to the question of which one to see is not so easy. Therefore, here is the compilation of possibly the 25 best ghost movies of all time – although the order in which they are mentioned does not represent a rating.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

A great interwoven story, which is resolved in such a brilliantly composed ending that the critics were overflowing with praise. No violence or monsters appear here. Here the thrill is skillfully created subtly, with a successful psychologically stressful mood.

A child psychologist cares for a nine-year-old who can supposedly see dead people. Dead people who do not know they are. After initial doubts, the psychologist believes the boy, who also takes an active part in helping the dead find their peace. Often it is murdered people who still have something to clear up. The psychologist doesn’t suspect this also applies to him until the very end, but it becomes a reality in one of the most successful twists in film history.

The film was nominated for an Oscar no less than six times. Even if it did not win any of them, it is one of the top films of the last decades.

The Shining (1980)

Based on a novel by Stephen King, director Stanley Kubrick took so many liberties with this masterpiece that King couldn’t identify with it anymore. All the greater the success with audiences and critics. Writer Jack Torrance takes a janitor job at the Overlook Hotel, which is closed for the winter and spends time there with his wife and son.

That the son has psychic abilities, the “Shining,” the others do not know at first. The house slowly drives Jack to madness, the consequence of which is quite a few encounters with mysterious apparitions and outbreaks of violence that end in disaster. The question remains for whom.

It is a masterpiece of virtuoso mixing illusion and reality with genuinely shocking horror moments – at least at the time of its release.

The Others (2001)

The film, which takes place entirely in a mansion and its immediate surroundings, uses the classic motif of the “haunted house” par excellence. Set in 1945, a mother lives here with her two children, who are never allowed in the light because of an allergy to the sun. Her husband is at war. Suddenly the staff disappears without a message. The mother hires three new employees, but the house begins to be haunted.

Even a priest will not help her against the supernatural forces. Her husband appears unexpectedly back from the war, only to disappear again the next day without a trace. The children discover gravestones in the garden – those of the three house servants. Through a séance with a medium, the mother gets in touch with the supposed spirits. Then everything clears up – and to shudder.

Although some critics criticize the story’s predictability, there is extensive praise for the claustrophobic atmosphere in this film. Worth seeing.

Silent Hill (2006)

A movie based on a computer game that also happened with Resident Evil. Here the directors have gone for less action and more suspense. What works well: a couple’s daughter sleepwalks and keeps muttering the name of a town called “Silent Hill.” When the mother learns that it really exists, she goes there with her daughter.

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The town turns out to be haunted and covered in ashes. Alarm sirens sound, quickly there is an accident, the daughter has suddenly disappeared. The husband sets out to find them, and the story gets creepier and creepier.

The design is fully based on the computer game. In this respect, the imagery used here is somewhat different from what is usually used in cinema, which is quite appealing.

Ghostbusters (1984)

One of the very few films on this list that deals with the subject of ghosts in a rather humorous way, although it does not lack serious threats. Three parapsychologists become the “ghost hunters,” the Ghostbusters, in New York when paranormal activity in the city becomes rampant. They have more and more ghosts to suck in before facing the final boss, the great annihilator.

In the end, the grand finale takes place on the roof of a skyscraper after they had to fight a large marshmallow man beforehand. Whether they are victorious with their energy beams or the demons are a victorious must, of course, remains an open question.

“Ghostbusters” is, in any case, one of those parts of pop culture that you have to know. The Ghostbusters logo alone is world famous – and so is the movie, quite rightly, because it offers the finest entertainment in a form that has never been seen before.

Don’t Look Now (1973)

A couple whose young daughter recently drowned traveled to Venice. The husband gets a job there as a restorer. There they meet two blind women who claim they can communicate with the deceased daughter. This is around the couple and happy, which helps the woman grieve. The husband remains skeptical about this parapsychology. The son who remains in England also suffers an accident, and the woman travels back.

Nevertheless, she appears to the man still in Venice, who pursues her and does not find her. Supposedly everything clears up with a phone call to England; the woman is really there. Then the man sees a small child from behind, who looks very much like his daughter. This time he succeeds in the pursuit, but when he confronts her, he gets a rather dark surprise.

This film regularly appears on the lists of the best films of all time – even more than four decades after its release. That’s proof enough of quality.

Candyman (1992)

A doctoral student in Chicago comes across an urban legend about a spirit called the “Candyman.” This one was once killed by the father of a white woman he had impregnated by dousing him with honey, after which he was stung to death by bees. Supposedly, this one returns to the world of the living if you say his name five times in front of a mirror.

The doctoral student tries this out, whereupon strange murders occur in her surroundings. When she asks the police for help, she falls under suspicion. Only she can stop the Candyman. The attempt ends tragically, although other inhabitants set a fire in which the Candyman dies. But there’s more to the story with the graduate student – at least if you recite her name five times in front of the mirror.

The Fog (1980)

Filmed twice, in 1980 and 2005, the original is probably the better version of this ghost movie. A ship approaches the coast of California at night but crashes on the cliffs. A false beacon had put the boat on a false track. One hundred years later, an eerie fog rises in the same place, from which the ghosts of the drowned sailors emerge.

They take revenge for the fact that some men from the village had set the false beacon to steal gold from the ship. Of course, a young couple also heads off to a ghost ship at sea. There, the dead suddenly comes to life, and in the end, the ghosts take full revenge and kill the sixth descendant of those former swindlers.

Especially in terms of images and mood an awe-inspiring film, which many count among the best ghost films in history.

Shutter (2008)

A married couple from the USA travels to Tokyo for their honeymoon. There they run over a child, who disappears after the accident. The couple’s husband is a photographer and later wonders about strange shadows in his photos a short time later. The woman sees a skull in the subway window and believes she has seen the girl.

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She also discovers an old love affair with her husband in Tokyo. Then the horror begins. There are deaths and yet a supposed end to the ghost haunting. Back in New York, however, the woman discovers more of her husband’s secrets, and so everything heads for a grand finale in which a ghost plays a rather big role.

Critics compare the suspense here with Hitchcockian films. And there could hardly be a greater compliment in the field of cinematics.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

An absolute cult film in this genre of ghost movies, in which the character of Freddy Krueger became the standing twist of pop culture. A girl has a nightmare in which a man with knife blades in his hand appears to her. He chases her, but she wakes up in time but has cuts in her nightgown as if it all happened.

Her friend had the same dream. When the nightmares don’t stop, she is taken to a sleep clinic but wakes up wearing the hunter’s battered hat. Her mother suspects something is wrong and tells her about a child killer named Freddy Krueger, whom a mob burned in a boiler room years ago. She even still possesses his knife glove. After some fights with Freddy, everything seems to have a good ending at first.

But what is still a dream, and what is reality? The film received great praise for its clever staging.

The Orphanage (2007)

Exceptionally a ghost movie from Spain/Mexico. A married couple discovers an orphanage where the woman lived as a child. They decide to move in there. Her adopted son suddenly develops strange behaviors. He sees imaginary friends with whom he goes treasure hunting. An unknown woman inquires about him but is sent away. Then the boy disappears, and a search for him begins, accompanied by all sorts of strange events.

This film uses creepiness very sparingly, which makes it seem so impressive. Broadly acclaimed by the critics, it is also of a somewhat different style than similar films from the U.S.

The Haunting (1963)

Again a story about a haunted house, the “Hill House” in New England. Earlier, there were connections with this building from the 19th century. Century features quite a few mysterious deaths. A professor of parapsychology gains entry to conduct some experiments here. He invites psychically susceptible people, including the unstable Eleanor, who has to go through some creepy things here. At night it is haunted, strange messages appear on walls, and something is up to no good.

Events spiral out of control, and in addition to telepathy, spiral staircases leading into the unknown, and ominous noises, this 1963 film has everything ghosts like to do to people – and creep out the viewer.

The Crow (1994)

Based on a comic book, this film received inglorious attention because the leading actor was accidentally shot dead during the filming. The plot is based on the fact that, according to legend, the souls of the deceased are actually brought to the realm of the dead by crows. Unless this soul does not find rest, it can also return to the living and fulfill its last task.

The setting is very dark but also skillfully staged, so many also rate this film as a classic. Comparisons have been made to Blade Runner, which should clarify how atmospherically accomplished The Crow is.

Winchester (2018)

This Horror Movie with supernatural elements from 2018 is about Sarah Winchester, who mourns the death of her husband and child. As the sole heir to the family business, famed gun manufacturer Winchester experiences paranormal apparitions in the aftermath. These come about through spirits that were once killed by Winchester firearms. Even moving to another house doesn’t help her escape these ghosts.

The story is based on the real-life Winchester Mystery House, which the real widow had built as a sign of atonement. The psychologically haunting film also asks questions about responsibility.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Another classic of the genre from the 1980s. A young couple dies in a car accident. But they don’t get to the afterlife and have to stay in a house they can’t leave. A family moves in, and the daughter discovers the two ghosts. These now try to scare the family out of the house to be for themselves again. This reacts with a lot of humor, which is why the whole thing can be classified more as a black comedy. How the film ends indicates a rather casual approach to the ghosts in this approach.

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Insidious (2010)

This ghost movie, released in 2010 and followed by several sequels, is a typical haunted house movie, using the classic motif of the haunted house. A family moves into a new house, where strange apparitions quickly begin to appear. Voices sound and footsteps are heard in the attic. However, moving to another house is of no use either.

Apparently, one of the family’s children can escape into a parallel world where they have awakened or been overcome by a demon. It turns out this was also the case with the child’s ancestors. Again, the resolution is quite surprising. Pleasantly subtle creepiness that doesn’t shock with a sledgehammer but works with plenty of suspense.

Ghost Stories (2017)

This fairly recent ghost film is based on the 2018 play of the same name but is shot in the tradition of the 1960s Portmanteau films. The protagonist is a respected but lonely professor who comes into contact with a researcher of the paranormal. Together they want to investigate three cases, each of which takes its own turn. The devil appears in one case, a poltergeist in another, yet the protagonist initially believes in a normal explanation for it all.

The resolution then takes a shocking turn, which is why the review mainly received good ratings.

Poltergeist (2015)

A real classic of ghost movies. Little Carol-Ann, daughter of an average American family, is talking to a blaring T.V. when suddenly a hand of light hisses out of the T.V., crashes into the wall, and makes the house shake. From then on, the house is haunted, chairs move, and pets die. A tree comes to life and steals the son of the family. Carol-Ann also eventually goes missing. But the family can still communicate with her via the T.V. set. What starts already shocking finds its grand finale in a confrontation with “the other side.”

A real masterpiece, especially in special effects, in which Steven Spielberg also played a decisive role. The myth of the “poltergeist curse” that grew up around the film does its part to make this film feel particularly disturbing.

Paranormal Activity (2009)

This flick uses the stylistic device of “found footage,” supposedly later found video footage created by the protagonists themselves. In it, young couple Katie and Micah are haunted by a demon in their own home. At first, the couple notices nocturnal noises, whereupon they get themselves a camera, by means of which they make recordings from an.

They consult a medium that actually detects a demon in the house. As it progresses, the paranormal activities increase, and Micah even tries to contact the creature. It is appropriate for the audience that this turns out to be a bad decision and that the story picks up the pace while moving in the direction of even greater thrills. It is not so good for the couple, as it will turn out in the end – whatever the outcome.

The Innocents (1961)

Also, in 1961 one knew excellently to scare and entertain the audience with ghost stories. This black-and-white film is still praised today for its morbid atmosphere and intelligent staging. Set in the 19th century. Set in nineteenth-century England, it begins as in the typical haunted house story.

A woman starts a new job in a country estate, which soon becomes haunted. The woman sees ghostly apparitions, which are the ghosts of former living here. As they died all too soon back then, an exciting story develops between the living and the dead, with all kinds of drama, shockers, and creeps – without slipping into horror. Aged quite well.

The Conjuring (2013)

Oculus (2013)

Casper (1995)

The Woman In Black (2012)

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Conclusion on the best ghost movies

Many of these ghost movies follow a similar motif: that of the haunted house being haunted. But there are more modern and more classic variations of it. Likewise, many ghost movies like Beetlejuice or Ghostbusters approach their subject humorously. In any case, these 25 films presented here are all worth seeing – and some of the best from the field of ghost movies.

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