15 Seriously Scary Ghost Movies (And How To Watch Them)

Ghoul from Grave Encounters

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, few would deny that the mere idea of being in a haunted house is unsettling. For that reason, there are many great horror movies based on the premise of sharing a home or any isolated area with a deceased individual’s spectral remains, yet some are more frightening than others. If you are looking for a truly terrifying supernatural movie night, these scary ghost movies should do the trick.

The Shining (1980)

While trying to finish a novel, a recovering alcoholic author (Jack Nicholson), his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son (Danny Lloyd) become caretakers of a desolate Colorado hotel where a sinister presence threatens to tear them apart.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: While the author himself was not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his 1977 novel , The Shining is considered to be among the best Stephen King movies — if not the best — for its unrelentingly eerie atmosphere and aimlessly unique depiction of hauntings.

Stream The Shining on Max . Rent or buy The Shining on Amazon .

The Changeling (1980)

A recently widowed music professor (Academy Award winner George C. Scott) becomes wrapped up in a disturbing mystery about his new home — a long-vacant mansion in Seattle — with guidance from the ghost haunting it.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: One of Martin Scorsese’s favorite horror movies is The Changeling , which is acclaimed as one of the best horror movies that address grief in a profound way in addition to its top-notch scares.

Stream The Changeling on Tubi . Stream The Changeling on Peacock . Stream The Changeling on Plex . Rent or buy The Changeling on Amazon .

Poltergeist (1982)

A real estate agent (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife (JoBeth Williams) tries to rescue their youngest daughter (Heather O’Rourke) from the evil spirits that have invaded their home and abducted her into their realm.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Hailing from producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist is an essential haunted house movie — not just for its indelibly frightening elements, but also for its emotionally grounded depiction of parents longing to find their missing child.

Stream Poltergeist on Max . Rent or buy Poltergeist on Amazon .

The Sixth Sense (1999)

A child psychologist ( Bruce Willis ) with his own dark past tries to help a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) come to terms with his disturbing gift.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Arguably M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie , the clever and frightening classic The Sixth Sense has a unique set of rules about the afterlife which, once you see the killer twist ending , you’ll never think of the same way again.

Rent or buy The Sixth Sense on Amazon .

Stir Of Echoes (1999)

After agreeing to be hypnotized by his sister-in-law at a party just for a laugh, it quickly proves to be no laughing matter for the man ( Kevin Bacon ) as he begins to see visions of a girl who is dead. 

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Because it was released not long after The Sixth Sense and bore similar themes of ESP and paranormal activity , writer and director David Koepp ’s intense adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel Stir of Echoes did not get the attention it deserved, and rarely has since then.

Stream Stir Of Echoes on Tubi . Stream Stir Of Echoes on Plex . Stream Stir Of Echoes on Freevee through Amazon .

Session 9 (2001)

Relations between the somewhat normally close-knit crew of an asbestos removal company grow sour as they race to complete a job at an abandoned mental hospital with a dark past that slowly comes to light.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: From director Brad Anderson — who also co-writes with star Stephen Gevedon — and also starring CSI: Miami star David Caruso, Session 9 is yet another unfairly overlooked horror movie with some really good scares and a chilling final act.

Rent or buy Session 9 on Amazon .

1408 (2007)

A grieving father who specializes in disproving supernatural phenomena (John Cusack) puts the legend of an hotel room with a supposedly deadly curse to the test, only to find a reason to believe.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: From director Mikael Håfström, 1408 is another haunted hotel story from author Stephen King that mostly plays out like a spooky one-man show, while also starring Cusack’s future Cell co-star, Samuel L. Jackson.

Rent or buy 1408 on Amazon .

The Orphanage (2007)

During a visit to the foster home where she grew up, a woman (Belén Rueda) and her husband (Fernando Cayo) accidentally lose their young son (Roger Príncep) and turn to unusual measures in hopes of finding him.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: From producer Guillermo del Toro and writer and director J.A. Bayona, the Spanish-language thriller The Orphanage is already spine-tingling as a missing child story, but its ghostly elements make for an unforgettable frightening experience.

Rent or buy The Orphanage on Amazon .

Lake Mungo (2008)

A family from Australia recalls in interviews the strange events that would begin to plague their home shortly after their teenage daughter drowned to death.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: From writer and director Joel Anderson, and one of the most unlikely After Dark Horror Fest entries, Lake Mungo is an overlooked supernatural drama that's so mysteriously compelling, delicately constructed, and convincingly acted, no one could fault you for assuming this faux documentary was real.

Stream Lake Mungo on Tubi . Stream Lake Mungo on Plex . Rent or buy Lake Mungo on Amazon .

Grave Encounters (2011)

The typically skeptical crew of a docuseries that explores notorious sightings of alleged hauntings find the irrefutable evidence they never thought they would after locking themselves in an empty insane asylum.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Part satire of paranormal investigation reality series like Ghost Adventures , and another part relentless nightmare fuel, Grave Encounters is another relatively underrated found footage thriller featuring some of the most unforgivably frightening supernatural entities you could imagine.

Stream Grave Encounters on Freevee through Amazon . Stream Grave Encounters on Tubi . Stream Grave Encounters on Plex .

Insidious (2011)

A teacher (Patrick Wilson), his wife (Rose Byrne) and their children begin to suffer from very strange and disturbing circumstances after their eldest son (Ty Simpkins) mysteriously falls into a coma.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan of Saw fame already turned the haunted house genre on its head with the unique concept of Insidious , but rarely had a film of this kind been so visually arresting and indelibly frightening at this time either.

Stream Insidious on Max . Rent or buy Insidious on Amazon .

The Pact (2012)

After her sister goes missing not long after the death of their mother, a woman (Caity Lotz) begins to suspect that the secret behind her disappearance is tied to the unexplainable events she begins to experience in her childhood home.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: If you have never seen or heard of writer and director Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact , I highly recommend it to people who enjoy engrossing mystery stories that do not hold back on high-stakes frights.

Stream The Pact on Tubi . Rent or buy The Pact on Amazon .

The Woman In Black (2012)

A widowed legal practitioner (Daniel Radcliffe) is shocked to learn that an abandoned manor in a small London village is haunted by a vengeful spirit who struck fear in the locals.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Based on the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black is one of Daniel Radcliffe’s best movies outside of the Harry Potter franchise in the way it harkens back to a forgotten era of gothic tales of the unexplainable, but with haunting imagery for audiences of any generation to get spooked by

Stream The Woman In Black on Paramount+ . Rent or buy The Woman In Black on Amazon .

The Conjuring (2013)

A family calls upon the help of famed paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) to help rid their new Rhode Island home of the evil presence inhabiting it.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: While the more memorable antagonists in any of the Conjuring Universe movies are of the demonic sort, director James Wan’s original that started it all has its fair share of great and grandly creepy ghostly moments.

Stream The Conjuring on Max . Rent or buy The Conjuring on Amazon .

Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016)

A mother of two (Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson) who makes a living as a fake medium (Elizabeth Reaser) adds a new element to her performance that turns out to be much more real than she could have envisioned.

Why it is a seriously scary ghost movie: Some of the earliest proof of writer and director Mike Flanagan’s expertise in horror storytelling was the surprisingly taut and viscerally unsettling Ouija: Origin of Evil — a prequel to an almost universally reviled generic teen thriller from 2014.

Stream Ouija: Origin Of Evil on Netflix . Rent or buy Ouija: Origin Of Evil on Amazon .

If these ghost movies do not manage to scare you, we hope they at least warm your spirit as a horror fan.

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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.

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50 Best Ghost Movies Ever Made

From spine-chilling horror flicks to classic comedies, our ultimate list of ghost films has something for everyone.

50 best ghost movies of all time, top ghost films to watch now

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Whether you're looking for something scary, funny — or yes — even romantic, our ultimate list of the top ghost movies has something for everyone. There are, of course, plenty of classic horror movies and bone-chilling psychological thrillers that will keep you up all night (and even get you in the spirit for Halloween !). But for those who can't handle their horror, there are also some lighter picks that feature poltergeists and phantoms — like comedy movies , supernatural dramas and even kid-friendly scary movies that keep the frights a little more PG. The good news is: Whichever ghost flick you pick, you'll be in for a truly great watch featuring all the best specters and spirits around.

The Shining (1980)

ghost movies jack nicholson in 'the shining'

Often considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel — about an aspiring writer named Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) who becomes the caretaker at an isolated hotel — delivers on all the psychological horror and ghostly terror.

RELATED: 20 Fascinating Facts About The Shining We Bet You Didn't Know

A Ghost Story (2017)

ghost movies a ghost story

For those looking for a more offbeat, unconventional ghost tale, this acclaimed A24 film centers around a recently deceased man who returns as a ghost (yes, white sheet and all) to the house he shares with his widowed wife. It's a poignant film about loss, grief and time that you won't forget.

WATCH ON AMAZON

Poltergeist (1982)

ghost movies poltergeist

Strange occurrences start to happen to a young family living in a California suburban home, as 5-year-old Carol Anne begins to communicate with ghosts through a television set. Be prepared for plenty of unnerving suspense from this Steven Spielberg horror-thriller.

WATCH ON HBO MAX

The Conjuring (2013)

ghost movies the conjuring

What's more terrifying than a ghost story inspired by true events? Based on a real-life paranormal investigation, The Conjuring will certainly give you chills with a story about a family who moves into a secluded old farmhouse — only to discover it's haunted.

WATCH ON HBOMAX

RELATED: How to Watch The Conjuring Series in Order for the Scariest Movie Marathon Ever

Ghost (1990)

ghost movies ghost

Because who doesn't love a ghost romance? If you haven't yet watched this '90s movie about the ghost of a murdered banker who teams up with a psychic to save his lover, you've probably at least seen that iconic scene with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore cozying up at the pottery wheel.

Ghostbusters (1984)

ghost movies ghostbusters

We couldn't forget a true classic! This iconic supernatural comedy about parapsychologists who start a ghost-hunting business in New York City started a huge franchise for a reason.

RELATED: 50 Movies From the '80s That You Totally Forgot About

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

ghost movies ghostbusters answer the call

Of course, after watching the original Ghostbusters, you'll also have to watch the 2016 reboot — a hilarious take on the classic — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as New York City's four ghost-hunters.

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

ghost movies the devil's backbone

If you liked The Shape of Water and Pan's Labyrinth , try director Guillermo del Toro's gothic horror masterpiece from 2001. Set during the Spanish Civil War, this mournful Spanish-language film follows a boy who uncovers the secrets of a haunted orphanage.

WATCH ON APPLE TV

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

ghost movies a tale of two sisters

This acclaimed Korean film blends psychological thriller, drama and horror into one truly gripping, eerie story about two sisters who return from a mental hospital to their country home, where strange incidents begin to occur.

RELATED: The 22 Best Korean Movies to Add to Your Watchlist

The Sixth Sense (1999)

ghost movies the sixth sense

Considered one of M. Night Shyamalan's greatest works (it even earned a Best Picture nomination, a rare occurrence for a horror film!), The Sixth Sense is a chilling thriller about a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who discovers a young boy's dark secret: He can talk to the dead.

Beetlejuice (1988)

ghost movies beetlejuice

If you're looking for something more light-hearted, you can't go wrong with this '80s cult classic from Tim Burton. Centering around two ghosts who haunt their former home, Beetlejuice will definitely play up both the laughs and the scares.

RELATED: 60 Best Halloween Movies, From Old Classics to New Cult Favorites

Candyman (1992)

ghost movies candyman

A horror film that also examines issues of race and social class, Candyman follows a Chicago graduate student researching the urban legend of a murderous ghost summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. Plus, if you enjoy this one, you can also watch the 2021 sequel by Jordan Peele afterward.

Personal Shopper (2016)

ghost movies personal shopper

If you're looking for a haunting ghost story that perfectly mixes horror with drama, try this critically acclaimed thriller which stars Kristen Stewart as a personal shopper in Paris who tries to communicate with her dead brother and starts to receive mysterious messages from an unknown source.

The Haunting (1963)

ghost movies  the haunting

Craving an old classic? You'll love this 1963 horror film based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House , which follows a group of guests participating in a paranormal study in a haunted mansion.

RELATED: 20 Classic Movies on Netflix That'll Make You Feel Extra Nostalgic

Coco (2017)

ghost movies coco

Sure, it may not be what you immediately think of when you hear "ghost movie," but this popular Pixar movie does center around a boy who finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead, where he meets the spirits of his ancestors. Who says ghost stories can't be cute and heartwarming?

WATCH ON DISNEY+

The Changeling (1980)

ghost movies  the changeling 1980

In this terrifying psychological horror flick that's often considered one of the best horror films of all time, a composer who recently lost his wife and daughter to a tragic accident retires to a secluded mansion only to experience supernatural occurrences.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

ghost movies  paranormal activity

Known for its found-footage horror scenes, the first of the Paranormal Activity franchise follows a couple who moves into a suburban home and sets up video cameras in the house after becoming disturbed by what appears to be a supernatural presence.

Field of Dreams (1989)

ghost movies  field of dreams

Ghosts and baseball, who knew? This Academy Award-nominated sports fantasy drama film is not your typical ghost story — it's about a farmer (Kevin Costner) who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice to build a baseball field, which attracts the ghosts of baseball legends.

The Others (2001)

ghost movies  the others

Nicole Kidman stars in this gothic supernatural film set in the 1940s about a mother who moves with her two children to the English coast during World War II. She begins to suspect their secluded mansion is being occupied by mysterious “others."

The Frighteners (1996)

ghost movies  the frighteners

Be prepared for both laughs and scares in this supernatural comedy horror flick from director Peter Jackson, best known for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, that follows an architect (Michael J. Fox) with the ability to communicate with ghosts after his wife's death.

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@media(max-width: 64rem){.css-o9j0dn:before{margin-bottom:0.5rem;margin-right:0.625rem;color:#ffffff;width:1.25rem;bottom:-0.2rem;height:1.25rem;content:'_';display:inline-block;position:relative;line-height:1;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-o9j0dn:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}}@media(min-width: 48rem){.loaded .css-o9j0dn:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}} The Best Movies to Watch

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50 Greatest Ghost Movies Of All Time Ranked

Miss Giddens Gasping

Ghosts, spirits that linger on unanchored to a human body, are powerful tools in storytelling. Although typically a staple of horror movies, ghosts can be deployed in any genre, serving as an emissary into dark topics audiences usually prefer to ignore. The concept of a ghost has been around seemingly forever: exorcized in ancient Babylon , used in classical Greek plays, featured in Shakespeare's works, and passed down as folklore. 

Cinema has been an excellent form for ghost stories. You've probably encountered more movies about ghosts than you can count, from the Silent Era to the present day. With the help of rankings provided on Rotten Tomatoes and considering the cultural impact, with a sliver of personal opinion, we have ranked the 50 best movies about ghosts. While preferential treatment was shown to horror films, there is a blend of genres here.

49. The Amityville Horror (1979)

"The Amityville Horror" made a huge impact thanks to the reportedly true story making headlines years before. It also  spawned a franchise that consists of several sequels and a remake. Nonetheless, it starts off the list due to the rather confusing aspects of the supernatural occurrences. At one point, it's stated that their house contains a doorway to Hell. So, the forces tormenting them could certainly be demonic, but inhabitants of Hell would likely include souls, right? Maybe some of the utterly bonkers activity going on could have been perpetrated by ghosts.

You probably know the story already: One year after a man murders his entire family at home, the Lutzes move into the house. Strange happenings lead them to believe there is something very wrong with their home. As its effect on them grows darker, the film ratchets up the horror until culminating in a final night that is worse than they could have imagined.

Aside from the questions regarding what exactly is haunting the Lutz family, this is still an effective piece of horror with imagery and scenes that stick in your memory, haunting you long after the credits have finished rolling.

48. What Lies Beneath (2000)

As we will see with later entries on this list, the concept of unfinished business is a popular trope in ghost stories. The idea is that spirits often stick around after death to take care of something they were unable to in life. Very often, the unfinished business has to do with their own murder, as it does in the supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" from director Robert Zemeckis .

Zemeckis, who dabbled in horror previously with episodes of "Tales from the Crypt" and the dark comedy "Death Becomes Her," tells the story of a woman named Claire (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) coping with her husband Norman's (Harrison Ford) affair by communing with the spirit of his dead mistress, although she isn't aware that's what she's doing until later in the film.

Although the film contains some legitimately creepy moments, its primary concern is the mystery surrounding the mistress' murder and Norman's involvement. While Pfeiffer and Ford turn in solid performances, the real star of the film is its atmosphere. The gorgeous Vermont setting, incredible house, and serene lake become eerie and unsettling as the story unfolds, successfully bringing the audience into the story and holding them tightly until the film's final moments.

47. 13 Ghosts (1960)

Discussing the films of William Castle can be difficult because they were designed to be experienced, not simply watched. The notorious showman treated his movies like carnival exhibitions. He wasn't so much a storyteller as he was a promoter. He didn't want you to sit passively and marvel at the wonderful narrative; he wanted to get you to jump up and scream. He didn't do this by crafting quality films that would go on to stand the test of time; he achieved his desired effect through gimmicks.

For "Macabre," he had audience members sign an insurance policy in case they died from fright. Buzzers were installed under select seats during screenings of " The Tingler " to convince audiences the creature from the film was after them. " House on Haunted Hill " featured a plastic skeleton flying out over the audience. The original " 13 Ghosts " required viewers to put on special glasses referred to as supernatural viewers in order to see the ghosts on the screen.

While stunts like this usually have a short shelf life, several of his films, such as "13 Ghosts," are still fun to watch as a bit of retro fun. Is it scary? Not really. Does it reveal some profound insight into the human experience? Nope. It does, however, feature the greatest hits of horror movie cliches played up to their full, zany, and entertaining potential.

46. Heart and Souls (1993)

One of the first things you're likely to notice about the romantic comedy "Heart and Souls" is the incredible cast. While Robert Downey Jr. is the lead, the souls in question are played by powerhouses like the late Charles Grodin , Alfre Woodard (who reunited with Downey in "Captain America: Civil War"), Kyra Sedgwick, and Tom Sizemore. All of them are incredible actors who work exceptionally well together.

This is an unfinished business ghost story that offers several opportunities for Downey to show his acting chops. The four ghosts from 1959 who follow him around, almost serving as guardian angels, often step in to his body to achieve some of the aforementioned business and to help him fix his life. When they do, Downey has to essentially play a ghost pretending to be his character, leading to some solid physical comedy. While it may not be hilarious, the film is genuinely funny with a bittersweet tone that holds up years after its initial release.

45. Casper (1995)

Most of the time, "Casper" is a light-hearted and innocent little movie about a young girl (Christina Ricci) learning to accept change. After the death of her mother, Kat's father (Bill Pullman) immerses himself in his work, leaving her to grieve alone. Neither of them possesses the ability to communicate with each other regarding their mutual pain. When they move into a haunted house for work, Kat struggles to accept her new surroundings. Luckily, she meets a dead little boy who has such an intense crush on her that he's actually the one responsible for them moving here.

Usually, a plot about a ghost luring a girl to his home would be the plot of a horror flick. However, since Casper is a friendly ghost, it plays as cute and sad. There's a lot of that in this movie. "Casper" is actually a fairly dark film , when you think about it. Characters die and quickly return as cartoon ghosts, a man has his head completely turned around and he's still able to walk, and there's the entire film is predicated on the existence of a dead child. Good, family fun!

In retrospect, this is kind of refreshing. It isn't a film that ignores the reality of our mortality. If anything, it celebrates it. While the tone ranges from macabre to broad slapstick, it doesn't shy away from conversations regarding death. This, in its own way, seems healthy.

44. Grave Encounters (2011)

Found footage received a bad reputation thanks to a deluge of cynical filmmakers who didn't understand the format's potential. After the successes "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity," it seemed like anyone with a camera and half an idea thought they could make their own. Unfortunately, what these imitators lacked was any comprehension of why those films worked so well.

In 2011, when you couldn't escape found footage , "Grave Encounters" was a true diamond in the rough. Styled as the raw footage from a "Ghost Adventures"-style paranormal investigation series, the film sees greedy con artists investigating a haunted mental hospital. That alone is a fun idea, but what makes the film work so well is how it experiments with the concept as a commentary on manipulative "reality" television. 

That would be enough to make it interesting, but it's elevated even further by subverting the audience's expectations in subtle but very effective ways. If found footage fatigue (or the film's mediocre trailer ) stopped you from watching this underrated gem, give it a watch. You can skip the sequel, though. 

43. Insidious (2010)

James Wan's 2010 film "Insidious" has no right to be this good. It is, in effect, a modern take on "Poltergeist," with its own intriguing mythology. The explanation as to why this couple suddenly finds themselves surrounded by beings from beyond the void isn't as simple as "their house was built over a burial ground." Instead, it's a bit more metaphysical and unique.

The concept of creepy kids has already been done to death, but Wan found a way to make it work in a whole new way. The film is packed with genuinely frightening scenes and images. There's the pacing man outside the window who suddenly appears in the child's room, the boy standing against the wall who is barely glimpsed as Rose Byrne goes about her daily routine, and those terrifying pictures of grinning ghosts who are omnipresent but rarely seen.

Wan went on to even greater success with "The Conjuring" and its shared universe of paranormal films, but the original "Insidious" still stands as a legitimately creepy, intriguing, and suspenseful supernatural chiller that holds up on repeat viewings.

42. Lady in White (1988)

At first glance, "Lady in White" appears no different than other '80s films with kid protagonists. The opening credits are eerily idyllic, almost cozy, and the idea of a child communicating with the spirit of a girl his age certainly sounds like something Steven Spielberg might have attached his name to as a producer. Where this film differs from the likes of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "The Goonies" is in its tone and the specifics of the plot.

This isn't a gender-swapped take on "Casper." This is a dark, melancholic supernatural murder mystery. Murders don't happen off-camera only to be discussed later in soft detail; in the first act, you see a girl being strangled. Yes, the strangulation is a form of repetitive haunting, so it doesn't have the same impact as watching a murder in real time, but it is harrowing. Minutes later, the boy witnessing this haunting (a pale, wide-eyed Lukas Haas) is also strangled, though he survives. It is deadly serious.

While it may not have become the cultural touchstone other films of the decade became, it does linger with you, as all great ghost stories should. For anyone who grew up watching this on cable, the nightmare-inducing scenes of the ghostly Lady in White standing outside the protagonist's window are likely still lodged in their subconscious.

41. The Legend of Hell House (1999)

Two things are made very clear within the first 10 minutes of this big-screen adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel: 1) This will not be a slow burn, and 2) Hell House is definitely haunted.

The film wastes no time getting the plot rolling. A doctor is tasked with investigating Hell House. He is assigned a small team consisting of two mediums and his own wife and they're off. What we learn about Hell House is that the man who owned it was really into debauchery and the occult. This means that the nature of the haunting is typically sexual and violent.

As Matheson (who adapted the novel himself ) did with the vampire mythology in his novel "I Am Legend," he attempts to provide a scientific explanation for hauntings. He does this to amplify the phenomena and make them more realistic. Unfortunately, it's not as successful here because he assumes the viewer is familiar with these concepts and takes very little time to elaborate.

At its core, "The Legend of Hell House" feels like a teenager's version of what they think Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" should have been. The violence and eroticism are overblown, the characters underdeveloped, and the science is half-baked. None of that is to say the film is bad. In fact, its flaws and the atmospheric cinematography make it incredibly entertaining and worth a watch.

40. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" isn't a terribly exciting story. The author takes his time establishing the beauty of the village in which it takes place and detailing Ichabod Crane's personality, but the horror elements we've come to associate with the tale don't arrive until much later. The prose is all about establishing the proper atmosphere before the final payoff.

Tim Burton's film "Sleepy Hollow" is certainly atmospheric, but it ignores the long, detailed setup to tell a funny, exciting, and uncharacteristically gory mystery. In this version, the Headless Horseman isn't an elusive and mysterious phantom, he is a tool of destruction wielded by an angry and bitter individual. He stalks his prey like a silent slasher before brutally murdering them and taking their heads back to his sacred tree.

The only way to truly enjoy the film is to ignore logic, give only the slightest attention to plot, and simply soak up the imagery. As Peter Travers stated in his Rolling Stone review , "Even when the narrative stalls from too many detours and decapitations, 'Sleepy Hollow' is gorgeous filmmaking that brims over with fun-house thrills and ravishing romance."

39. Stir of Echoes (1999)

Another adaptation of a Richard Matheson novel, this time handled by frequent Spielberg collaborator David Koepp, "Stir of Echoes" is a gripping murder mystery with a flawed, unintentional hero at its center.

Released the same year as M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense," it doesn't pack the same emotional punch, but is equally well crafted and intelligent. Opening with a creepy scene of a young boy having a conversation with someone we cannot see and asking the question, "Does it hurt to be dead?" it certainly feels like another "Sixth Sense," but it's soon revealed that the focus is actually an adult, Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon).  

Witzky is a working-class guy who makes the mistake of allowing his sister-in-law to hypnotize him, awakening latent abilities. Following the hypnotism, Witzky begins having visions of a murder that occurred in his house. He becomes obsessed with discovering the truth. As the mystery unfolds, we can't help but identify with his determination.

For the most part, "Stir of Echoes" is a pretty standard movie with a few surprises. It may not be an earth-shattering masterpiece, but it is very well made and deserves to be talked about more.

38. The Frighteners (1996)

Before Peter Jackson was winning Academy Awards for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," he was mostly known for his work in the horror genre—specifically, his extreme splatter flicks, like the gross-out alien invasion movie " Bad Taste ," the bonkers and raunchy puppet film " Meet the Feebles ," and the unhinged gorefest " Dead Alive ." In 1994, he successfully tried his hand at magical realism with " Heavenly Creatures ," a stylized account of the very real Parker-Hulme murder case .

He could have easily continued down the dramatic path, but 1996 saw a return to horror (albeit with a much slicker look thanks to a Hollywood budget) with the hilarious and thrilling film "The Frighteners." Starring the always-charismatic Michael J. Fox as a medium who exploits his ability to communicate with the dead for financial gain, the film is a powerhouse of comedy and creativity.

Quite frankly, "The Frighteners" is a blast. The jokes don't always land, but it moves with such a fevered pace that you don't mind. The performances are stellar, with Jeffrey Combs as a quirky FBI agent being the real standout. Also, the film cleverly deploys computer technology to allow the ghosts to interact with the real world and to craft a suitably creepy villain.

37. Scrooged (1988)

When compiling a list of ghost movies, you have to include at least one adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol." However, there are so many to choose from that the entirety of the list could be made up of the various adaptations . That's where personal choice and cultural perspective come into place. The 1988 Richard Donner film "Scrooged" won out over all the others simply for its creative and meta take on the material.

Not only is this film about a greedy curmudgeon who is visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his ways, but it also takes place in a world where Charles Dickens' story exists. The main character, played by Bill Murray, is actually overseeing a live production of the story to go out on Christmas. This allows the film to comment on the source material while honoring it at the same time.

The cast is phenomenal, Danny Elfman's score is magical, and the satire still packs a lot of bite. Of course, as great as the entire film is, it's that last moment when Bill Murray pleads with the audience to feel the Christmas cheer all year round that makes this film the uplifting classic it is.

36. The Fog (1980)

Two years after the original "Halloween" popularized the slasher film as we know it, John Carpenter made "The Fog," a classic ghost story set in an island town. While the film struggles to capture the same kind of tension and suspense Carpenter achieved in "Halloween," it does create an atmosphere that almost seems to seep its way off the screen.

The narrative is a little all over the place with several point-of-view characters, making it feel like an adaptation of a story Stephen King never wrote. This is one of the film's weaknesses, as it would have been far more engrossing to follow one character. They're all interesting and find themselves in unexpected situations once the malevolent fog rolls in bringing the ghosts of dead pirates with it, but jumping back and forth between them kills some of the momentum.

Aside from its structural shortcomings, the film has some real highlights. Dean Cundey's cinematography is always immersive and captivating. Seeing Janet Leigh in a film alongside her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis is a lot of fun. Then, of course, there's John Carpenter's mesmerizing score. Music is always important in film, but for John Carpenter movies they're crucial. In the case of "The Fog," it's the score that makes the movie truly great.

35. Candyman (1992)

Speaking of wonderful scores, Philip Glass' theme music for the 1992 film "Candyman" (titled Helen's Theme) is heartbreakingly gorgeous. It perfectly defines the nature of the film. With a title like "Candyman," one could easily assume this was nothing more than an attempt at inventing a new movie monster in the vein of Jason or Freddy. Instead, this adaptation of a Clive Barker short story is much more cerebral, mythic, and tragic than that.

Although the 2021 sequel does a much better job at discussing some of the themes introduced here, the original still stands on its own as a beautiful and grotesque gothic experience. From cinematography that makes Chicago look like something out of a damaged fairy tale, to the art direction exploring the dichotomy between modernity and myth, to Tony Todd's riveting performance, "Candyman" is a ghost story with much more to offer than the standard thrills and chills.

As Michael Rechtshaffen with The Hollywood Reporter said in his review, "This Candyman can elicit some bona fide shivers while the picture that bears his name is high-caliber horror in its purest, most primal form."

34. Crimson Peak (2015)

From one example of gothic horror to another, Guillermo del Toro's "Crimson Peak" is a huge, lavish, and twisted romance full of beautifully hideous creations, per the filmmaker's trademarks. There aren't many scares in this haunting period piece, but that's not always the intent with a dark ghost story. As we said before, ghosts can serve many purposes in a narrative, and "Peak" is an example of the supernatural being used as a metaphor for secrets and regret.

Edith (Mia Wasikowska) marries an inventor named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who lives with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith is warned by a ghost to beware of something called Crimson Peak early in the film, but she doesn't listen. She relocates to the Sharpe's manse, Allerdale Hall, which stands atop and is sinking into a red clay mine, aka Crimson Peak.

Like many gothic romances, the truth of her relationship is much more complicated and the mystery she uncovers is much darker and stranger than even the audience can anticipate. The film makes this list thanks to the sheer beauty of its artistry and striking depiction of ghosts. The film manages to feel like a classic story you've known all your life while also being fresh and new.

33. Blithe Spirit (1945)

1945's "Blithe Spirit," from the play by Noël Coward, has the kind of premise that makes one think they know exactly what they're in for before the story begins. It's about a writer who hosts a séance at his home as research for his new book. At first, it seems as though the séance was unsuccessful, but then the author's late wife Elvira walks in. Naturally, this leads to bitterness and jealousy between Ruth, his current wife, and himself. While that is true, the story takes some truly strange twists along the way.

For the most part, the three leads of the film are selfish twits. Charles, the writer, never really appreciated either wife and finds his current predicament amusing. Elvira was an unfaithful showboat who held everyone in contempt. Ruth only cares about how others see her. That should make for an unlikable story, but all of it is played for laughs, and most of the comedy still works.

While everyone is good in the movie, Margaret Rutherford steals the show as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati. From the moment she arrives, she captures your attention and rewards you with an energetic and charming performance. Arcati is pleasant, courteous, and just batty enough to keep you smiling. 

32. Monster House (2006)

The haunted house is the backbone of any ghost story. Although houses are nothing more than building materials placed together to provide shelter, humans pin their identities to them. Perhaps that's why the sight of an abandoned house often makes us feel so uneasy. Lives were lived there, but now it is a shell haunted by memories. Many stories use ghosts as a metaphor for memories, suggesting it is the emptiness in what was once a place of joy that makes a house haunted.

This is not the case with the 2006 animated horror-comedy "Monster House." There is something very wrong going on at the house in question, and there's nothing metaphorical about it. The house itself is possessed by a former occupant. Not only that, but this ghost is angry. It lashes out at anyone who dares trespass, particularly children, making it a dangerous place to go trick-or-treating.

"Monster House" should be on anyone's Halloween watchlist alongside standards like "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "Hocus Pocus." It is that inventive, funny, and good.

31. Pulse (2001)

In order to keep telling ghost stories without them getting old, you have to try and reinvent them a little bit. A subtle tweak here and there can go a very long way. Writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa brought a unique perspective to the concept of ghosts in his 2001 film "Pulse" by evolving them for the 21st century.

This film posits that the world where ghosts reside is finite and, if it gets too full, the ghosts will have to start inhabiting our world. That is an interesting enough take on ghost mythology to justify the film's existence, but Kurosawa takes things a step further by suggesting human beings, in their isolated worlds desperate to connect with one another, are ghosts already.

For a movie that was made in the relatively early years of the internet boom (one protagonist barely understands how to operate a computer), it is eerily prescient about what our digital lives would become. We spend all our time online, communicating with others, but never truly connecting—just like ghosts damned to silently wander the mortal realm alone.

30. Ghost Town (2008)

David Koepp makes his second appearance on this list, this time with a very different kind of ghost movie than "Stir of Echoes." "Ghost Town" is a romantic comedy about a man named Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) who can communicate with ghosts after briefly dying while under anesthesia. The film falls into the unfinished business category of ghost movies, as these spirits are desperate for him to help them resolve their respective unfinished business.

One ghost in particular,  played by Greg Kinnear , wants Bertram to stop his widow (Téa Leoni) from marrying someone new. Bertram agrees but falls in love with her himself. It's a fun way of subverting the rom-com trope of two people coming together under false pretenses. We've seen what happens when people start dating because of a bet or because of a little sociological experiment, so this is a fun little twist that keeps the narrative fresh.

It's also a nice change of pace for Gervais, who usually plays sardonic and selfish characters. In this film, he's just a lonely dentist who needed to die to learn how to live. The film won't change your life, but it will keep you smiling for the majority of its runtime.

29. 1408 (2007)

With all the stories Stephen King has published, you might think there'd be no need to adapt more than one with a similar premise. After the initial failure and later success of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" and King's own 1997 TV mini-series adaptation, there's really no sense in making another Stephen King film set in a hotel. Director Mikael Hafstrom did it anyway and, thanks to a great script by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski, the result is a solid, entertaining, and suspenseful little horror movie.

The premise is simple: A man who writes books about haunted hotels stays in a haunted room in New York City. The Overlook Hotel in "The Shining" allowed for long scenes of characters slowly walking down corridors to build the tension, but "1408" is just one guy in one room. It's claustrophobic and suffocating, offering just enough space for shadows to pass just out of the corner of the eye. 

The film has just enough violence to establish the stakes without indulging in extreme gore. It also delivers the goods on the supernatural. It may not stand the test of time as the best film to be adapted from the work of Stephen King, but it certainly deserves a mention.

Like Mick LaSalle wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, "'1408' is one of the good Stephen King adaptations, one that maintains its author's sly sense of humor and satiric view of human nature."

28. Ouija: Origin of Evil (2014)

There's no reason a sequel/prequel to the 2014 film "Ouija" should be this entertaining and interesting. The former film was nothing more than a dull attempt to build a franchise around a recognizable gimmick with absolutely nothing to say. There isn't a single concept or character worth the audience's time, despite an honest attempt by the people on screen to elevate the lackluster material.

The choice to bring on Mike Flanagan as the co-writer and director for the sequel was ingenious. Since his film "Oculus" hit it big, the director has consistently proven himself to be one of the strongest voices in horror cinema currently working. What makes him such an interesting filmmaker is his respect for the genre. He doesn't come across as someone who dabbles in horror simply because it sells. "Hush," "Gerald's Game," "The Haunting of Hill House," and "Doctor Sleep" all have depth and powerful vision behind them.

You can see some of his hallmarks starting to form in "Ouija: Origin of Evil." The visual style is engaging, the horror elements are just strange enough to be unsettling but playful, and there is a real family drama unfolding. These characters feel like real people we care about, making the terrifying events that befall them all the more tragic. 

27. Ghost (1990)

Yes, "Ghost" is the movie where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore make pottery together. That's the moment most closely associated with this paranormal romance, but it is far from the only interesting thing in the film. For instance, it was directed by comedy giant Jerry Zucker . Aside from being a touching love story about a dead man trying to protect the woman he left behind, "Ghost" is a fascinating and surprisingly dark supernatural thriller with some excellent world-building.

It would've been easy for the filmmakers to stick with common ghost story tropes by making Moore the protagonist attempting to decipher cryptic messages, hoping it's her lost love. Instead, it's told from the ghost's point of view, and the world he inhabits isn't as simple as it appears. He has to learn how to influence the physical world from a more experienced spectral mentor. In fact, the only way he can speak to anyone directly is by possessing a psychic.

A scene that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should is when the villain of the film is dragged to hell by shadow creatures. It's a satisfyingly dark scene in an otherwise optimistic film that sticks with you long after the parodies of the pottery scene fade from memory.

26. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

There have been so many "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies since the original was released in 2003, it's easy to forget how good that initial outing was. It's a swashbuckling comedy stuffed with exciting action, vibrant characters, solid comedy, and interesting mythology that still works to this day. Plus, as Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) points out himself, it's a ghost story.

This is the kind of adventure film that has become increasingly rare. Although it contains some truly impressive spectacles, the emphasis remains on the characters and their interactions. If you put people like this in a dangerous situation, it will be inherently exciting, because we like their interplay. As the films continued, the focus shifted to bigger and stranger action. While some of the creative choices in the sequels are admirably bizarre, they fail to measure up to the pure fun captured in the original "Pirate of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."

25. Personal Shopper (2016)

Two movies are happening in "Personal Shopper." One reflects the title: A personal shopper (played by Kristen Stewart) for a high-profile client covets her lavish lifestyle. We have several scenes of her admiring the clothes she's buying for her boss and even trying them on. She even admits to wanting to be someone else, suggesting that she envies her boss. This sounds like the setup to a murder mystery, but that's not really the story director Olivier Assayas is telling.

The other movie is still about Stewart's character, but it's interested in her search for evidence of life after death. Her twin brother, who worked in Paris as a medium, is dead, and she is looking for a sign from him indicating he is now a ghost. She sees blurry visions of a spectral form and communicates via text message with someone who claims to know her, but whose identity is never revealed, but none of it proves to her that her brother is trying to reach her.

Both movies are separately interesting, and intertwining them as the same narrative actually detracts from the story being told. Still, it makes the list for the matter-of-fact way it deals with the paranormal. Watching a glass float across the room isn't treated as a terrifying or magical moment; it's simply a thing that happens. Also, the text exchange running through most of the film is compelling enough a mystery to keep you invested.

24. The Changeling (1980)

George C. Scott is an imposing, larger-than-life figure who commands every frame he inhabits. There's a reason this guy was famous for playing a U.S. General in "Patton": he's loud, gruff, and intimidating. Therefore, it's all the more chilling when this figure becomes withdrawn, quiet, and reflective, as he is in the 1980 supernatural film "The Changeling."

Scott plays John Russell, a composer who loses his wife and child when they are hit by a car on an icy road. Their deaths happen very early in the film and pack a punch that you can feel through the entire film, thanks to Scott's melancholic performance. This is a man devoid of direction and meaning, trying to find his way back to some sense of normalcy, but stuck wandering the quiet corridors of the secluded house he escapes to in order to continue his work.

The character's grief pulls us to the character and keeps us invested in his journey. The fact that the house is haunted only serves to pull us even further into this cold, bleak world. By the time the secrets of the house are revealed, we are so enraptured that we can't brace ourselves for an intense and emotional ending.

23. The Others (2001)

Horror films don't need to have twist endings. It is perfectly acceptable to craft a film with no major third-act revelations and still make the ending satisfying. In fact, one could argue that introducing a twist to your film's finale runs the risk of ruining the audience's understanding of the narrative, confusing them to the degree that they no longer enjoy the experience. 

That's when a twist is done badly. When it's done well, it adds texture to the rest of the film, increasing the audience's enjoyment. To do this, the film first needs to work on its own without the twist, but with enough clues to justify the surprise ending. That is exactly what "The Others" from 2001 does. From beginning to end, it is an engrossing and scary ghost story about an overprotective mother. When it reaches the end and the truth is revealed, however, it brings those subtle clues into the light and gives a new reading to everything that has gone before.

This in no way robs the film of its horror. If anything, it twists the scares into a richer and more intriguing shape. It's still a haunted house movie, but the nature of the haunting and the glimpses we get of the other world is different than we expected, making the film worth watching over again to fully appreciate the sadness at its core.

22. The Orphanage (2007)

On the surface, "The Orphanage" appears to be nothing more than a spooky kid story. Just the image of a child in simple, faded clothing wearing a sack mask over their head is deeply unsettling. The mind wonders what the mask is hiding or what kind of a child would willingly wear such a repellent thing.

Once you dive into the film, however, you learn that something much deeper and more complex is going on. Soon, you're not scared just because of the imagery, but also because many of the concepts discussed in the film work their way into you. By the movie's conclusion, the rush of emotions is so powerful you have no idea how to react. On the one hand, the truth revealed is disturbing and the protagonist's decision is agonizing; on the other, the suggestion that it is exactly what she needed to do is kind of beautiful.

Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez summed up the film's strengths perfectly when he said , "The movie is so good at using its horror elements to explore deeper, less fantastical emotions. For all its bump-in-the-night suspense, 'The Orphanage' is ultimately as much about motherhood and grief as it is about apparitions and shadowy corridors." 

21. Beetlejuice (1988)

"Beetlejuice" was director Tim Burton's second feature film. Considering that the first film was "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," it's no surprise that this story about a grimy, mischievous spirit conning his way into the afterlives of a recently deceased married couple is so funny. What is surprising, though, is just how confident and assured it is. 

Almost everything we would come to associate with Burton truly took shape here on both a stylistic and thematic level. Many of the distorted visuals and concepts are highly exaggerated and reminiscent of some of his later work. Just like "Batman," "Batman Returns," "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood," and even "Big Fish," "Beetlejuice" is largely about duality: the duality between the living world and the land of the dead, the duality between the tacky Deetz family and the tasteful Maitlands, the duality between the comfort of the Maitland's home and the void outside. Even the black-and-white, double-mouthed Sandworms represent duality. While it may not be held up as the pinnacle of Burton's career, it should definitely be viewed as a cornerstone.

20. Carnival of Souls (1962)

Virtually everything about the 1962 film "Carnival of Souls" is fascinating. From the film's haunting and dreamlike atmosphere to the story of how it came to be made  and the enormous influence it's had on film , there is always something about it worth exploring and discussing in great detail. Yet, it still isn't as well known as the majority of movies on this list, which is a real shame.

That said, the movie isn't for everyone. Younger audience members will likely struggle with its pacing, obvious budgetary flaws, and lack of jump scares or driving narrative. Anyone looking for a complicated plot full of twists and turns will also be disappointed. "Carnival of Souls" is eerie and occasionally verges on truly scary, but the real draw of the film is the way it simulates the experience of trying to remember a dream.

Imagine being affected by a dream so powerful you can't shake it for the entire day, but the specifics still elude you. As you go about your normal routine, there's a haze of surreal confusion swimming around your head. It's almost as though you exist in two realms at once, stalked by ghoulish imagery that simultaneously frightens and compels you to explore further.

That is what it's like for the main character who is drifting through life after a car accident, and that is how the audience feels as we take this haunting journey with her.

19. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Perhaps no filmmaker is as closely associated with twist endings as M. Night Shyamalan. The writer/director has been mercilessly parodied for his penchant for third-act reveals  over the years . Given the nosedive Shyamalan's career took post-" The Lady in the Water ," it's understandable that many audience members might have forgotten just how powerful "The Sixth Sense" was upon its release.

Unlike "The Others," this is an example of a twist that doesn't transform our understanding of the movie, it just makes much of the dialogue more poignant. The entire time we think we're watching a man help a young boy dealing with a very unique problem when in actuality it's been the reverse. Would the movie still work without the twist? It probably would, but in this case, it makes Bruce Willis' character more emotionally resonant.

Something that doesn't get talked about as much is how scary the movie is. The reveal of the kid with the bullet wound in the back of his head is more shocking than any jumpscare, and the scene where Cole realizes it isn't his mother standing in the kitchen grips you so firmly you feel you're being strangled. So, if you've never seen the film, ignore the cliché of Shyamalan's love for twist endings and give it a chance. You might still be surprised.

18. The Uninvited (1944)

If you were to close your eyes and imagine a classic, gothic ghost story, it would probably look a lot like Lewis Allen's film "The Uninvited." It is bathed in shadow and candlelight, with mysterious breezes and shivering chills and dark secrets. It is a classic ghost story in every sense.

Where it differs from many other classic ghost movies is in its decision to not keep its ghosts completely hidden. Instead of just hearing mysterious noises and seeing the occasional object being moved by an unseen force, "The Uninvited" includes some possession. There are even a few instances of ghostly manifestations that still hold up today, occasionally resembling the kind of "real ghost" footage found in countless videos online.

That, perhaps, speaks to the film's attempts at making the concept of hauntings feel plausible. As Keith Philips pointed out in his review, "'The Uninvited' was...one of the first films to treat the supernatural seriously, and to play ghosts and hauntings as something other than fodder for comedy." The decision to treat the ghost story as something that could really happen has gone on to influence how we talk about the paranormal to this day.

17. Poltergeist (1982)

You may not have given "Poltergeist" a lot of thought lately. Maybe you saw it as a kid and have grown to think of it as quaint. You might think, "Sure, the scene where the guy rips his face off in the bathroom mirror was cool, but the movie is tame and terribly dated when compared to modern horror films." Then again, you could be more interested in the rumors of a supposed curse that came about by using actual skeletons in the film's final moments. 

Make no mistake, "Poltergeist" is terrifying. Yeah, it was rated PG when it came out, and there are way more over-done special effects than there need to be, but when this movie works—and it often does—it is gripping. Just think of the imposing tree waiting just outside the children's window, or the maniacal clown doll watching the little boy try to sleep. Conjure up memories of the demonic, ethereal skeletal dog thing roaring from the doorway, and the mundane yet chilling static buzzing away on unwatched televisions.

"Poltergeist" deserves to make any and every list of best ghost movies because it does everything a classic haunting tale needs to while supercharging it with nightmarish images that still lurk within the subconscious.

16. The Haunting (1963)

Fans of the 2018 Netflix series "The Haunting of Hill House" might be surprised and confused by the Robert Wise 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic novel. While the series was able to conjure fear out of what you do and don't see, this psychological deep-dive into paranoia is all about suggestion. There is not a single ghost to be seen, and the film makes never overtly states that the sounds heard in the middle of the night were actually caused by the supernatural. So, why is it on this list of ghost movies? 

Well, that's the thing about the paranormal—there's no definitive evidence supporting its existence. We have anecdotal evidence, personal stories recounted by the people who experienced certain things. There's a galaxy of audio and video that could be considered "evidence," but most of it is debunked or explained rationally. Those that defy explanation still don't constitute proof.

When it comes to the question of whether or not ghosts exist, the only suitable answer is: We don't know. Therefore, when "The Haunting" ends and you find yourself wondering if there even were any ghosts in that movie, that's the point.

15. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

When telling a ghost story, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too. Most movies take one stance or the other: either the ghosts are real or they're metaphors. This Kim Jee-woon film has it both ways. There are two very distinct kinds of hauntings going on in the film. The obvious one involves the terrifying woman who occasionally appears to let the audience know that something seriously wrong happened in this house. The other one is about grief and guilt.

It's true, something terrible did happen in that house. Discovering this event is the mystery of the film. The resolution is what leads to the double hauntings. One haunting is a literal supernatural consequence of someone being mistreated in life and the other is a more emotional after-effect. While watching the film, you keep expecting the protagonist to stumble on some clue that takes them down the rabbit hole of mystery, but it never happens.

That may sound unsatisfactory, but that's only if you can't appreciate the fact that the film had successfully distracted you into asking the wrong questions. The last 15 minutes or so is all about answering questions you didn't know you'd had. These answers heighten make you reconsider the narrative in a similar way to "The Others." If the film were a magic trick, this misdirection would be a perfect execution of sleight of hand.

14. House (1977)

Discussing 1977's "House" is difficult because the film defies explanation. It plays out like a student film by someone who is incredibly talented but distracted by all the possibilities of editing. In the middle of an otherwise normal dialogue scene, a character will suddenly scurry across the frame to silly music and then go back to normal. The image speeds up and slows down at random. Cuts jump from one person to an object to another person with no connective tissue. Then there's the insanity of the final act, which can only be described as...different.

Honestly, nothing anyone says about this film can prepare you for the experience of watching it. We can throw out avant-garde or arthouse, but they are meaningless here. Sometimes it is fairly linear and easy to follow; other times, it's utter nonsense. Occasionally there's a scene with a genuine atmosphere, seconds later it devolves into some of the strangest comedy you've ever seen.

The reason it's so high on the list is that it's never boring and there's nothing quite like it. Some of the gorier comedy scenes remind you of "The Evil Dead," and the more surreal sound editing and camera moments evoke David Lynch, but it's even more extreme than either of those two examples. If you're tired of the same old ghost story tropes, you need to watch "House."

13. We Are Still Here (2015)

Sometimes movies follow paths from beginning to end with no real change. The plot may surprise us, but the outlook and tone of the film remain consistent throughout. Other times, a movie begins as one thing and ends as something entirely different. Both are perfectly valid, but the latter tends to provide a more enriching experience because they have taken you on a truly transformative journey. That is absolutely the case with Ted Geoghegan's film "We Are Still Here." 

When the film begins, it establishes a somber, wintery tone. This seems obvious because the film takes place in winter, but it's also because the expression on lead actress Barbara Crampton's face tells us everything we need to know about her: she is hurting. The source of that pain comes from the loss of her son. She and her husband are moving to a country house to escape the city and the memories of their son.

At first, everything progresses like your typical haunted house movie. There are strange noises and happenings that get them to think something strange is going on, but they're never totally sure what it is. About halfway through, however, everything changes, and this eerie little movie becomes an eldritch horror spectacular with deeply disturbing ghosts, maniacal humans, and showers of gore.

Some of the more sentimental moments might leave you giggling, but the horror that follows will shut you up again.

12. The Devil's Backbone (2001)

If there's one thing about director Guillermo del Toro that everyone knows, it's that he loves monsters. Few filmmakers working today have strived to make monsters feel real while still retaining their mythic status as del Toro. His entire filmography features titles that explore monsters in some way. He has reinvented them and brought them out into the light to be examined and understood in new ways for years.

With his 2001 film "The Devil's Backbone," he does the same thing with ghosts. Santi, the ghost of the film, does what the best del Toro creations always do: disgust and frighten at first glance, only to reel you in over time. He isn't a blurry apparition or a perfect human form in white makeup to make him appear ethereal. He's almost like a zombie at first, with his decaying skin and dead stare. The closer we get, though, the more we see and understand his sadness.

Similar to "Pan's Labyrinth," the film is just as much about the horrors of war as it is about the supernatural. It is clear to whom del Toro has pledged his allegiance, since the human characters are often times scarier than the things that go bump in the night. It is a unique and fascinating take on a cliché-prone genre that stands as one of the strongest pillars of del Toro's career.

11. La Llorona (2019)

Released shortly after "The Curse of La Llorona," director Jayro Bustamante's "La Llorona" was lost in the hype. It is more than just a common ghost story attempting to exploit the recognizable legend of The Weeping Woman . Instead, it re-contextualizes it into a tale that's even more socially poignant. This isn't simply a spooky story to warn children about wandering around at night; it is about what happens when terrible crimes go unpunished.

The film focuses on a fictional former dictator who closely mirrors the real-life dictator  Efraín Ríos Montt  and the failure to convict him of genocide. As people protest his home, his life begins to crumble due to illness, and the people around him begin mistrusting him. Then we meet Alma, a quiet young woman hired to look after the house. Her appearance brings strange occurrences and old secrets.

It is a deeper, sadder film that manages to honor the origins of the legend by modernizing it, as opposed to resorting to lame jump scares and tired imagery.

10. The Shining (1980)

By the time you're reading this, there is really nothing to add to the discussion surrounding Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." Most people know the film was not a critical success when it was released and that Stephen King, who wrote the book it was based on, didn't like it . Chances are you're even aware of all the different theories about what the film means and the documentary "Room 237" that discusses them.

All we can really do here is mention what makes it such an effective ghost movie. Audiences can continue to debate every frame of the film all they want; what matters here is how Kubrick depicts the supernatural, because it is one of the strangest and truly unsettling approaches to showing the paranormal on this entire list.

Our fear of ghosts comes from a lack of understanding. We don't know what they are or even if they exist. If they do exist, we have no grasp of what it is they want or what they're capable of. Kubrick taps into that confusion masterfully. The few times we see ghosts in the film, we're not quite sure how to react. There's something inherently off-putting about them, but nothing overtly threatening—that is, until one of them tries to kill Danny.

There is an unknowable quality to the ghosts in the film that needles at our subconscious. Evading comprehension is their superpower and it's what makes them so very, very scary.

9. A Ghost Story (2017)

The image of a sheet with eyes cut into it to symbolize a ghost has been used countless times. Usually, it is a childlike interpretation of a spirit and a low-budget Halloween costume. There is a sweetness to it that harkens back to simpler times. Seeing it as an adult can make you laugh at its naïveté, but it can also be used to evoke great nostalgia and powerful melancholy.

That push and pull between perfect innocence and jaded maturity are what makes "A Ghost Story" so enthralling. We should find scenes of a ghost as a sheet goofy, but it's too familiar to be laughed at. While seeing it, we not only acknowledge what it is supposed to represent but also feel undeniable regret over the loss of childhood and our own potential. 

As our protagonist witnesses life continuing without him, we are confronted with all the choices we never made, the potential we may never fulfill, and the chances we never took. It is an uncomfortable truth we all must face and "A Ghost Story" allows us to do that with grace.

8. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

With the surge in popularity of American studios remaking Japanese horror movies , it's easy to forget just how unsettling and creepy some of the original films are. "Ju-On: The Grudge," which was remade in 2004 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is a perfect example. From the very beginning of the original, anger and darkness permeate the film and never let up.

Under most circumstances, murders are plot conveniences in ghost stories. They set up why the ghosts are shambling around and causing a ruckus. Very rarely do they cause the audience to feel anything. They exist solely to scare us later. In this film, the murders trouble us. They're more than just a functional backstory, as they give birth to the curse that goes on to claim so many victims.

The pain experienced by the murder victims prior to the main events of the film is so intense and all-consuming that the ghosts move in agonized, horrendous fashion, barely able to mimic human mobility. It is this commitment to depicting the cruelty of murder and its consequences that makes the film so scary and one of the best ghost movies ever made.

7. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

"The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" is a film about two people who simply met at the wrong time. One is a widow (Mrs. Muir) trying to make a life for herself in England. The other is a former sea captain who is used to a scrappier lifestyle and happens to also be dead. 

As is the case with many love stories, the pair aren't sure what to make of each other at first. As they spend more time together, they collaborate on a novel and fall in love. Of course, they're incapable of having a fulfilling relationship given their different living statuses and the ghost goes away, allowing her to find someone new. Having the protagonists separate only to reunite by the end is a common trope in romances, but at least in this one, it doesn't feel contrived. Usually, the couple splits up due to some moronic misunderstanding. This time, it actually makes sense and makes the film all the more rewarding when they meet again.

6. Kwaidan (1964)

When someone says you can watch a film with the sound off and still appreciate it, that's usually a form of damning something with faint praise—as if to say that everything about a film other than its visuals is a complete waste of time. However, if someone says that about the 1965 Masaki Kobayashi horror anthology "Kwaidan," it is more a positive statement on the film's complexity rather than an insult.

The film consists of four stories. Each is a fable with dark underpinnings. From a man being cursed by the deceased wife he abandoned to another man going back on a promise he made to a spirit, a musician performing for an audience of ghosts, and a writer who may still be working from a watery grave, each installment offers a chilling story that will hold you in its snare.

On top of entertaining stories being well told, every frame is gorgeous. Watching the film is like entering a reality built for a stage without borders. The film is crafted in every sense of the word and is a feast for gluttonous eyes. It is so beautiful and engaging and layered that you can enjoy it in pieces, all at once, or even without the sound.

5. Rebecca (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" is a tough one to include on this list because the haunting in question is so metaphorical and cerebral that it probably isn't supernatural at all. The decision to add it was based on the debates it can spark about the nature of hauntings. Do we need to see objects levitating, doors slamming, and mysterious breezes for it to be a ghost story? Can't a ghost simply be lingering dread that clings to the living?

"Rebecca" is a movie about a woman who becomes the second wife of Maxim, a cold man who is clearly grappling with some trauma. His new wife tries to make him happy and take the place of his first wife, the titular Rebecca, but is unsuccessful. The presence of the former Mrs. de Winter permeates the entire house. She was a bitter woman and the effects of her behavior still touch the people who survived her.

Who's to say that's not how a real haunting would work? Instead of all the spectacle, we've come to expect from other ghost movies, maybe a true haunting is just a memory that refuses to let you go.

4. Ringu (1998)

When a film is remade as successfully as "Ringu," you can't help but compare them. Gore Verbinski's take on the material ("The Ring") is creepy, stylish, and crowd-pleasing. It has everything American audiences expect from a horror film with a nice twist at the end. There's no argument that it isn't a well-made and effective film.

The original, directed by Hideo Nakata, makes the list over the remake for its lack of slick production value. Despite its fantastical subject matter (a video that kills whoever watches it), "Ringu" has a realistic quality in its production that grounds it in a recognizable world. This goes a long way in making the supernatural elements even scarier because we don't expect those kinds of things to happen in the real world.

The best way to explain this is to talk about the tapes featured in both films. They are very similar and equally unnerving, but the world depicted in "The Ring" is so visually heightened that it almost makes sense that a tape like that would exist. Within the world of "Ringu," the tape resembles nothing else we've seen up to that point. It's simpler, too, making it all the scarier.

3. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

A metaphor that isn't explored all that often in ghost stories is the concept of ghosts as temptation. It's a realistic interpretation since many of us are tempted to believe in ghosts because their existence suggests life beyond death. However, we're not sure what that kind of afterlife would entail. Perhaps it's everything we could have dreamed, or it's terrible beyond our worst imaginings.

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu Monogatari" explores this idea through the lens of Japan's past. It is ostensibly about two men who leave security behind in order to achieve their dreams. Both men are married and refuse to listen to their wives' reasoning for staying home and preparing for the war instead of going off on a fool's errand. One wife even tells her husband that as long as she has him, she doesn't need anything else.

The poor life isn't for him, however, and he goes out to seek his fortune. He falls in love with a ghost, leading to the loss of everything he holds dear. Although the temptation of achieving one's dreams can sometimes consume us, we might all be chasing ghosts.

2. The Innocents (1961)

Modern audiences who dislike black-and-white films should be forced to watch Jack Clayton's adaptation of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" to truly understand how effective the lack of color can be. 

While Netflix's own adaptation of James' novel "The Haunting of Bly Manor" may be more to their tastes, there isn't a single moment in that wonderful series that matches the simplest scene in 1961's "The Innocents." As Flora hums a tune from a music box, the governess Miss Giddens glances over the water to fully appreciate the beautiful day they're having.

Her eyes land on a woman in black standing just far enough away to obscure some of her features, making it difficult to make out who she is or what she's doing. It's better than any jumpscare and could only work in black and white. A stark black figure rising from the light gray grass draws your attention and is visually arresting. Had the scene been shot in color, it wouldn't have been nearly as powerful.

The rest of the film operates like that as well. Some of the scary moments are simple, sometimes they're complicated, but all work in part because of the lack of color. We are watching shadows move across the screen like lonely spirits passing in the night.

1. Ghostbusters (1984)

We won't be getting academic or philosophical with this entry. Explaining why "Ghostbusters" tops this list is incredibly easy and can be summed up in three words: it's so good. There are definitely films here that are better constructed on a technical level and have higher artistic visions, but "Ghostbusters" is by far the funniest and most entertaining movie of the bunch.

Directed by the late Ivan Reitman , the film is a comedy masterpiece. No matter how many times you've seen it, you're bound to find something new to enjoy. The cast is phenomenal, playing off each other like the seasoned veterans that they are. The grimy world of New York City is tactile and real, allowing the supernatural to shine. 

It is also an example of a truly transformative movie. "Ghostbusters" begins with a creepy scene in the basement of a library and ends with four schlubs standing up against an interdimensional demon and a giant marshmallow man to stop the apocalypse.

Endlessly quotable, legitimately tense, never boring, "Ghostbusters" is as close to perfect as you can get.

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  • FILM & TV

20 Haunting Ghost Movies That Will Send Chills Down Your Spine

We see dead people.

ghost horror movies

  • Photo Credit: Artisan Entertainment

Spirits, poltergeists, otherworldly visitors: Hollywood ghosts go by many different names. Whether they’re possessing people, haunting houses, orphanages or schools, or just generally terrorizing those around them, these souls have a bone to pick with the living. Inexplicable events, angry demons and psychological games are just some of the things these movies have to offer. Additionally, there is something about having unforeseen forces terrorizing people in places we deem safe that is truly frightening. 

Ghost movies offer petrifying elements: unexpected twists, disturbing images, and ominous noises that will linger for days to come. If you are ready for adventures in the paranormal world then keep scrolling to find some of the best ghost movies of all time. 

Here are 20 of the most haunting ghost movies to watch.

1. The Changeling

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Chessman Park Productions

When composer John Russell moves to an old Victorian mansion in Seattle after a tragedy, he soon finds out the house is already occupied—by the ghost of a young boy. What’s more, the ghost wants John’s help in investigating his mysterious death, and he won’t rest until John complies. Based on a true story, this ghostly tale terrifies.

Related: The Real-Life Haunting That Inspired The Changeling  

2. The Devil’s Backbone

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Deseo

The Devil’s Backbone also features a little boy ghost out for vengeance. When young Carlos arrives at a orphanage during the end of the Spanish Civil War, fitting in with the other boys is hard enough. Things get considerably more bleak when Carlos learns about Santi, the spirit of a young boy who vanished just before Carlos’ arrival, and whom the other boys believe haunts the orphanage.

3. Poltergeist 

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

A red-blooded American family moves into a new home—which just happens to have been built on top of a relocated cemetery. Oh yeah, and it’s also connected to a ghost dimension: the portal is located in the youngest daughter’s closet. This is all pretty ironic, considering Dad is a real estate developer. Although this 80s flick doesn’t  totally hold up today, we bet you won’t be able to stop the goosebumps from rising on your arms when Carol Anne announces, “ They’re heeeere .”

Related: 7 VERY Creepy Tales of Cursed Movie Sets  

4. The Others

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Dimension Films

In this terrifying, Turn of the Screw -like movie, a woman living with her two hyper-photosensitive children in post-WWII England begins to suspect there are “others” residing in the home with them. We won’t spoil the twist ending, though suffice it to say, there is definitely something paranormal going on.

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5. The Orphanage  (2007)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Grupo Rodar

It’s hard to go wrong when you combine Guillermo del Toro—who in this case produced the film—and a story set in an orphanage. Laura plans on reopening an abandoned orphanage, when her son Simón goes missing after forging a friendship with a mysterious boy named Tomás. Once again, vengeful ghost orphans run rampant.

Related: 9 More of the Scariest Movies on Netflix Right Now  

6. I Am a Ghost  (2012)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Ersatz Film

In this extremely clever twist on the “haunted house” plot, it’s the ghost who’s the protagonist. Poor Emily can’t figure out why she’s stuck haunting her home. When a clairvoyant is hired to drive her away, Emily must face dark truths about her past. This microbudget horror movie far out-punches its $10,000 budget weight class.

7. Paranormal Activity  (2007)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Blumhouse Productions

Laugh now all you want—when this low-budget box office smash was released in 2007, audiences were scared out of their minds. If your wife ever tells you she’s been followed by a “demonic presence” all of her life: Take it seriously.

8. Ju-on: The Grudge  (2002)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Pioneer LDC

It’s generally a bad idea to move into a house where people have been murdered. It’s even more unfortunate if those murdered in the house now haunt it as onryō, vengeful Japanese ghosts.

Related: 11 Scariest Haunted House Movies to Freak You Out in Your Own Home  

9. The Amityville Horror  (1979)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Cinema 77

In 1974, Ronald Defeo Jr. massacred his family at their home on Long Island. In 1975, the Lutz family moved into that very house, only to move out a month later, supposedly terrorized by the paranormal activity inside the home. This 1979 horror classic is a fictionalized account of their experiences at 112 Ocean Avenue.

10. The Awakening  (2011)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: BBC Films

More little ghost boys are afoot in The Awakening , only this time they’re at a boarding school rather than an orphanage. In 1920s England, profession skeptic Florence Cathcart spends her days debunking supernatural hoaxes. When she gets called to investigate a ghost at a remote school, she realizes she might have stumbled across the real thing.

11. The Conjuring  (2013)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

OK, we all thought, here’s yet  another silly haunted house movie “based on true events.”  And how wrong we were. The Conjuring , based on the experiences of the Perron family , is deeply, unsettlingly scary. The characters are well-developed, the scares are effective, and the climax is satisfying, as the paranormal activity inside the house reaches a boiling point.

Related: 13 Terrifying Books for Fans of The Conjuring  

12. House on Haunted Hill  (1959)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: William Castle Productions

In this 1959 horror classic—DO NOT bother with the horrid 1999 remake —Vincent Price plays an eccentric millionaire, who invites five people to see if they can spend one night in a haunted house in exchange for $10,000. Of course, the house is filled with some very real terrors, including several ghosts.

13. The Sixth Sense  (1999)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

Arguably the only good movie M. Night Shyamalan ever made, The Sixth Sense is a modern-day horror classic, with one of the most infamous twists in movie history. When little Cole is troubled by paranormal visions, psychologist Malcolm Crowe is called in to help. If you haven’t seen this movie yet (where  have you been?), make sure you watch it again after the twist is revealed, to discover all of the great clues you probably missed upon your first viewing.

Related: These Horror Movies with Twist Endings Will Blow Your Mind  

14. The Shining  (1980) 

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Considered by many to be the greatest horror movie ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining can teach us all an important lesson: If your husband is offered a job as winter caretaker at a giant hotel which is completely shuttered in the off-season, DON’T let him accept. The hotel might be filled with ghosts, just like The Overlook , and all this paranormal activity might just drive your husband into a homicidal rage, as it did with Jack.

Related: 10 Horrifying Books Like The Shining  

15. The Ring (2002)

female horror villains

  • Photo Credit: DreamWorks SKG

Legend has it that if you see the cursed tape, you'll die seven days later. After Rachel's niece, Katie, tragically dies, she is urged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death. Rachel, a Seattle journalist, quickly uncovers plenty of oddities: Katie and her friends all died in strange incidents the same night, the only witness to Katie's death has been institutionalized, and Rachel discovers the tape. After watching the bizarre and haunting images, Rachel receives a phone call warning her she has seven days to live. When Rachel begins to experience supernatural symptoms of the curse, she decides to bring in her video analyst ex-boyfriend to help unearth who—or what—is behind the killings. 

16. Stir of Echoes (1999)

ghost horror movies

Set in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago, Tom Witzky begins to grow tired of his routine life and desires to break free from the life he knows, including his pregnant wife and young son, who apparently speaks with the dead. He takes the rather extreme measure of challenging his sister-in-law to hypnotize him. Soon, the hypnotism results in terrifying visions. To stop the visions, he must figure out exactly what they are–which becomes both easier and harder when he realizes that his son can see the girl at the center of the visions as well.

17. Insidious (2010)

ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: FilmDistrict

In 2010, the amount of influence James Wan was about to have on the horror industry became clear with the release of Insidious . When the Lamberts move into an older house, they think they're finally settled. Instead, their young son, Dalton, falls into a deep coma. Soon, the house's–and the Lamberts'–paranormal history is unearthed in terrifying ways.

Related: 10 Most Terrifying Ghost Stories and Paranormal Novels  

18. The Innocents (1961)

best ghost movies

  • Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw , this film follows Miss Giddens, a governess hired to look after two young children. After being orphaned as infants, Flora and Miles were placed under the care of their bachelor uncle who has "no room, mentally or emotionally". After the death of a previous governess, Miss Giddens has been called to the manor. Her charming charges soon show a darker side–and the housekeeper tells Miss Giddens that she believes the children have been possessed by evil spirits. Is this all just the governess's imagination? Or is something truly paranormal happening?

19. Lake Mungo (2008)

lake mungo

  • Photo Credit: MGM

Netflix's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic tale may have gotten all of the praise lately, but for our money, 1963's The Haunting is the best take on the story. When reports on a troubled New England mansion start to surface, anthropology professor Dr. John Markway decides to investigate the house. Despite the home's mysterious history, Markway decides to occupy Hill House in order to closely observe the paranormal activity. The longer Markway and his group remain, the graver the danger each of them is in.

Related: 9 Haunted House Books That Will Leave You Sleeping with One Eye Open  

Featured still from "I Am a Ghost" via Ersatz Film

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7 best ghost movies to watch on Max, Prime Video and more

Ghosts haunt scary movies including Poltergeist, The Ring and The Conjuring

Lili Taylor and Joey King in The Conjuring

Late at night, there's nothing quite like cozying up under a blanket and indulging in a scary ghost movie. 

Even the most devoted cinephiles might not realize that the presence of ghosts in film dates back almost as far as the inception of cinema itself. During the late 19th century, when movies were in their nascent stage, trailblazer Georges Méliès breathed life into ghosts on film for the first time with his 1896 creation The House of the Devil, and in the 127 years since, hundreds of ghost stories have chilled audiences around the world. 

From sinister entities haunting homes to narratives of vengeful spirits seeking justice, and even more lighthearted horror-comedies, there are plenty of ghost movies out there for viewers ready to take an otherworldly journey with those on the other side. But which are the best of the best ghost movies? We’re counting them down, right here. 

7. The Frighteners

Before Peter Jackson became a household name with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he directed the horror-comedy The Frighteners. In one of his last roles before retirement, Michael J. Fox stars in this film as scam artist Frank Bannister, who collaborates with the undead to scare the living into paying his bills, with mostly humorous results. However, things turn deadly serious when mysterious numbers start appearing on the living — right before they expire. 

Though the film starts out as a mostly lighthearted affair, the third act takes a very serious turn, and the film’s multiple mysteries coalesce in a shocking finale with multiple twists and turns. Though the film garnered mostly positive reviews when it was released in 1996, it didn’t impress at the box office. However, in the years since the film has become a cult hit, and many consider it a seminal entry in Jackson’s overall catalog. 

Watch on Peacock or Tubi (free with ads)

6. The Others

The 2001 film The Others, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, is a moody, gothic ghost story set in 1945, shortly after World War II, and stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a widow who lives in perpetual darkness with her two young photosensitive children, Anne and Nicholas. When both Grace and her children start hearing voices and experiencing vivid hallucinations, Grace becomes convinced the house is haunted and takes drastic measures to protect herself and her children. 

The film takes its time unraveling its central mystery, but patient viewers will be rewarded with a truly haunting performance from Kidman as well as one of the most shocking twists ever put on film, which truly demands a second viewing as soon as the credits roll. 

Buy/rent on Vudu (starting Oct. 24)

5. The Devil’s Backbone

Guillermo del Toro often cites The Devil’s Backbone as his first real film, and fans of this director can definitely get a sense of what would eventually become his signature style in his earliest work. The Spanish-language film is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and follows Carlos, a young boy who is left at an isolated orphanage after his father dies in the war. 

Carlos is haunted by visions of a young boy named Santi, who disappeared the night an unexploded bomb fell. Santi warns of a large calamity that will befall the orphanage and claim the lives of many of its inhabitants, and while Carlos is initially afraid of the spirit, he realizes he must work with the ghost, not only to save as many lives at the orphanage as possible but also to bring justice to the person responsible for Santi’s fate. 

The film seamlessly blends horror, fantasy, and historical drama, and explores themes of revenge, betrayal, and the impact of war on children, all while maintaining a creepy, unsettling atmosphere that viewers simply won’t be able to look away from. 

Watch on Prime Video or Tubi (free with ads)

4. The Conjuring

When it was released in 2013, expectations were average for James Wan’s The Conjuring, which re-tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s investigation of the Perron family haunting in Harrisville, Rhode Island. 

However, thanks to Wan’s sharp direction (which he honed on 2004’s Saw and 2010’s Insidious), The Conjuring became more than just a run-of-the-mill haunted house flick, thrilling audiences and critics with its suspenseful atmosphere, effective jump scares, and compelling storytelling, defying expectations at the box office. In response, an entire Conjuring universe has been created in the years since, which comprises 8 films as of 2023, including two direct sequels as well as the Annabelle and The Nun spinoffs. But for many, it doesn’t get better than the film that started it all. 

Watch on Max

3. The Ring

When it comes to 21st-century ghost stories, it doesn’t get creepier than 2002’s The Ring, from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. The film is a masterful remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ringu, and revolves around a cursed videotape that brings death to anyone who watches it exactly seven days after viewing it. 

This unsettling movie follows investigative journalist Rachel Keller (played by Naomi Watts) who is determined to unlock the secrets of the cursed videotape after her niece dies, reportedly one week after viewing the tape herself. The film’s terrifying imagery, masterful use of color, and shocking ending made it both a critical darling and a horror fan favorite. 

Watch on Paramount Plus

2. The Shining

One of the most iconic horror films ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining stands the test of time thanks to Kubrick’s arresting visuals, haunting atmosphere, and Jack Nicholson's career-defining performance in the movie. 

Loosely based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the film follows aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance, who accepts a job as an off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. As Torrance and his family spend time alone in the desolate hotel, several terrifying events occur as the result of malevolent spirits who are revealed to dwell within. 

The film relies heavily on ambiguity and symbolism (ever notice what happens every time Jack is near a mirror?) and fans still debate exactly what they think happened at the Overlook Hotel over 40 years after its release, making this one ghost story worth revisiting over and over again. 

1. Poltergeist 

If you’re looking for a truly terrifying ghost movie, it’s hard to beat Poltergeist. The 1982 film, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced/co-written by Steven Spielberg, follows the Freeling family, whose young daughter Carol Anne has been communicating with malevolent spirits through the family's television set. 

Initially, the phenomena seem harmless, but they escalate, leading to the abduction of Carol Anne by the spirits into another dimension, where she is kept hostage by a malevolent entity known as “The Beast.” 

Despite only being rated PG, Poltergeist is known for its intense and frightening scenes, as well as its masterful use of practical effects to produce truly unsettling visuals. The film was a critical and commercial success when it was released, and remains one of the scariest ghost-related films of all time. 

More from Tom's Guide

  • 5 scary movies on Netflix right now
  • The best horror movies to stream on Prime Video
  • Horror comedy movies that combine laughs and thrills

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Amanda Kondolojy

Amanda Kondolojy is an entertainment journalist based in Florida with over 15 years of experience covering film, TV, theme parks and more. When not in front of a screen you can find her reading something at the beach (usually by Neil Gaiman, Grady Hendrix or Brandon Sanderson) or dancing around the kitchen to her favorite showtunes. 

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15 Best Paranormal Movies That Will Haunt You in Your Sleep

Not for the faint of heart!

Horror stands as one of cinema's oldest and most ambitious genres, and it has cultivated a passionate fan following off the back of its ability to leave viewers a terrified, trembling mess. One of its most viscerally horrifying subgenres comes in the form of paranormal movies, with films focusing on unnatural beings like ghosts, spirits, and demons which invade our nightmares and pique our superstitions and fears.

With impeccable special effects, agonizingly suspenseful storytelling, and an ingrained sense of terror that forces us to keep watching no matter how much we want to look away, great paranormal horror films have served as one of the genre's defining pillars for decades . From timeless classics from over 50 years ago to modern masterworks that reinvent the terror for new generations, it was much more than mere jump scares that made these films the iconic hits that they are today.

15 'The Others' (2001)

Directed by alejandro amenábar.

A twisty, winding psychological horror, The Others excelled as a subversive haunted house horror movie that coasted on Nicole Kidman ’s compelling central performance. Taking place in 1945, it follows a devoted Catholic who moves to the English coast with her two young children who suffer from a rare photosensitivity disease while waiting for word on her husband in the war. As odd occurrences start to transpire around the house, Grace (Kidman) starts to believe something paranormal could be at work.

With an elegance that isn’t necessarily characteristic of horror, not to mention an intelligent and engrossing screenplay to boot, The Others excelled with its narrative nous alone. However, with The Others also boasting a magnetic, atmospheric chill that can have an immersive effect , it is shocking as it is tight and tidy to be an impressive and underrated horror flick.

Rent on Amazon Prime

14 'Suspiria' (1977)

Directed by dario argento.

One of the greatest horror movies of the 1970s which distinguished itself with a rich sense of style, Suspiria has become a true classic of the genre. It follows Suzy Bannion ( Jessica Harper ), an aspiring ballerina from America who travels to Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy, where her stay becomes plagued as a mysterious and malevolent entity haunts the establishment, sparking an idea that a supernatural conspiracy could be at play.

While the film has some genuinely unnerving scenes, what truly made it stick in the viewers’ minds was its breathtaking visual display, with Dario Argento using color to striking effect , creating a surreal atmosphere of gripping intensity. The end result is a strangely beautiful horror film that excels as an aesthetically entrancing masterpiece with a solid horror story to boot.

Watch on Tubi

13 'Poltergeist' (1982)

Directed by tobe hooper.

Poltergeist made television a thing to be feared. When the youngest of the Freeling family, Carol Anne ( Heather O'Rourke ) begins chatting with the static on the TV, there is something wrong. Eventually, the rest of the house becomes a horror show as well and it is overrun by malevolent ghosts who want to abduct Carol Anne.

Released in 1982, Poltergeist has become a timeless horror classic with its consistently terrifying tone which remains just as scary today as it was the day it was released. In addition to being a terrific paranormal horror film, Poltergeist is also one of the all-time great haunted house movies , one that not only gave viewers nightmares, but left them in a cold sweat when their television sets went to static as well.

Poltergeist

Rent on Apple TV

12 'Smile' (2022)

Directed by parker finn.

The directorial debut of Parker Finn , adapting his 2020 short film Laura Hasn't Slept into a feature-length horror hit, Smile proved to be incredibly effective as an unnerving, creepy demon possession flick. It follows Rose ( Sosie Bacon ), a psychiatrist who believes she is being haunted by a supernatural threat after she witnesses the bizarre and harrowing suicide of one of her patients.

Smile 's use of jump scares, mounting suspense, and eerily off-putting performances offered more than enough horror to keep audiences awake at night for fear of what they would see in their dreams. As a fresh entry into the world of horror cinema, Smile was a landmark box office success, making well over $200 million worldwide, and has a sequel scheduled to be released in October .

Watch on Amazon Prime

11 'Last Night in Soho' (2021)

Directed by edgar wright.

While it isn't classified as a horror film, Edgar Wright 's ghost story draws clear inspiration from the genre while creeping under audiences' skin with much more than just evil spirits. Last Night in Soho follows Eloise ( Thomasin McKenzie ) a clairvoyant girl who moves to London to attend a fashion course at an illustrious arts school where her connection to the area's ugly past threatens to drive her mad as she begins experiencing the life of an aspiring singer who had her room in the 1960s.

While the film's ghoulish, faceless ghosts can certainly garner a fright, it's Last Night in Soho 's thematic focus on misogyny and abuse that made it particularly striking . It also didn't hurt that the film had a spectacular soundtrack of '60s hits , flaunted Wright's trademark dedication to style, and served as a wonderful testament to classic horror which fans could both adore and fear.

Last Night in Soho

10 'talk to me' (2023), directed by danny and michael phillipou.

The modern age of horror cinema has seen a number of stunning instant classics arise, but few have had such immediate success as Talk to Me . Following a group of friends as they conjure spirits with an embalmed hand for thrills, its sudden shift to paranormal terror has entrenched it among the best and most popular horror movies to be made in recent years.

The debut film of Michael and Danny Philippou , it hearkens back to classic horror movies from decades past while being imbued with some new ideas that make it completely of its time. Further enhanced by its aspirational dramatic heft, Talk to Me is a deeply unsettling film capable of rattling even the most hardened horror fans and is destined to become one of the best paranormal horror movies, if not of all time, then of its era at the very least.

Rent on Amazon

9 'Paranormal Activity' (2007)

Directed by oren peli.

An ingenious mix of simple yet suspenseful narrative, low-budget innovation, and the haunting, invasive feeling exuded from its home-camera gimmick, Paranormal Activity is a true masterpiece of found footage horror . As one of the 21st century's earlier horror hits, it focuses on a young couple who move into a new house where a series of strange happenings inspire Micah ( Micah Sloat ) to set up cameras to document what is occurring.

Steadily building the tension as the weird events that occur become increasingly hostile, much of the film's agonizing torment actually stemmed from the lingering moments where nothing was happening. A stressful, heart-stopping horror film, Paranormal Activity remains an acclaimed hit of the genre and one of the most intense and terrifying paranormal horror films of all time.

Paranormal Activity

Watch on Max

8 'The Ring' (2002)

Directed by gore verbinski.

An American adaptation of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu , The Ring fast became a horror hit in the early 2000s. It follows Rachel ( Naomi Watts ), a journalist covering the death of four teenage girls who investigates a cursed videotape that kills people seven days after they watch it, and must find answers to save herself after she views it out of curiosity.

Fascinatingly, the film went into production without a finished script, but it found momentum in Gore Verbinski's arresting atmospheric suspense and Watts' outstanding central performance . The Ring tapped into the internet phenomenon of chain mail horror years before it bled into the mainstream consciousness, becoming a superstitious, paranormal hit of urban legend terror and nightmarish visual terror.

7 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)

Directed by roman polanski.

A true timeless classic of horror cinema which was famous for its terrifying, psychological impact which saw it linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled, Rosemary's Baby mixes demonic horror with family drama to horrifying effect . It focuses on Rosemary Woodhouse ( Mia Farrow ), the wife of a stage actor who moves into an apartment building with her husband where strange occurrences plague her as she falls pregnant, leading her to grow suspicious of her neighbors.

With a violent and overbearing satanism an underlying threat throughout Rosemary's Baby , it gradually builds a sickening dread as the sinister plot of the complex’s tenants unfolds. Powered by Farrow’s phenomenal central performance, Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t just thrive as one of the scariest paranormal movies of all time, but as a great example of female-led cinema as well.

Rosemary's Baby

Watch on Paramount+

6 'The Conjuring' (2013)

Directed by james wan.

Throughout the 2010s, the horror genre had a massive resurgence, with more genre films becoming mainstream hits the longer the decade went on. One of the great, early major success stories for 2010s horror was 2013's The Conjuring which follows a family who move into a haunted house and turn to demonologists Ed ( Patrick Wilson ) and Lorraine Warren ( Vera Farmiga ) to investigate the curse's origin.

A suitably terrifying picture, The Conjuring is a flawless example of haunted house horror and proved to be such a hit with fans that it spawned a successful extended franchise. Further adding to the nightmarish horror of the demonic evil and the visual frights, The Conjuring was reportedly based on true events that the real-life Warrens investigated in the 1970s.

The Conjuring

5 'the babadook' (2014), directed by jennifer kent.

A cult hit of an Australian horror movie that has gradually built up its audience as the years have gone on, The Babadook served as the directorial debut of Jennifer Kent . Following a widowed single mother as her son begins to act strange and speaks of a monster coming to get him, it focuses on an ominous picture book called "Mister Babadook" and the monstrous evil that comes to life from within it.

The film won international praise not only for its horror mastery, but also for its depiction of grief and loss which gave it a heart-wrenching story of family woe as its core. As for its terrifying magnificence though, Kent masterfully manufactured a truly shaking horror film without having to rely on jump scares or copious gore to leave audiences dreading the titular villain long after the movie had finished.

The Babadook

Watch on Hulu

4 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

Directed by eduardo sánchez and daniel myrick.

Still standing as the magnum opus of the found-footage subgenre over two decades after its release, The Blair Witch Project remains one of the most viscerally terrifying movies ever made. It follows three film students who seek to make a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch, and venture into the supposedly haunted woods to find out more about the myth only to find themselves lost and being stalked by a wicked and malevolent force.

The low-budget documentary approach gave The Blair Witch Project a jarring, grounded realism which elevated the horror by only giving audiences a very narrow viewpoint of what was unfolding. It allowed the imagination to run wild with all manner of dreadful thoughts, and also led to a very real sense of motion sickness which made many patrons in theaters physically ill .

The Blair Witch Project

3 'hereditary' (2018), directed by ari aster.

A groundbreaking debut from modern horror maestro Ari Aster , Hereditary became an instant classic with a startling reputation as being one of the greatest and scariest movies ever made . The famed horror flick follows a grieving family mourning the loss of an elderly relative who begins to fear they are being haunted by a demonic entity as they discover more of their disturbing ancestry amid a series of worrying occurrences.

The narrative takes some deeply disturbing turns to build an unbearable sense of dread which serves as an embodiment of nightmarish terror. Hereditary 's commentary on loss, guilt, and family is brilliant, not only in its depth but also in how it works into the horror , further enhancing it as the story unfolds right up until its scarring ending which has undoubtedly led to nightmares for millions of viewers around the world and marked Hereditary as one of the best supernatural horror movies ever made.

2 The Shining (1980)

Directed by stanley kubrick.

As one of the most renowned horror movies of all time, The Shining has endured for decades as a genre-defining masterpiece capable of generating an immense and weighted sense of dread that hangs heavy over the audience. From acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick , it follows a young family who relocates to the remote Overlook Hotel to serve as the resort’s winter caretakers where the patriarch begins to go mad as the hotel’s violent intent unravels.

With a runtime of 146 minutes, the film utilizes an agonizingly slow pace to draw out every ounce of dread and eerie suspense. It may not be the most immediately terrifying movie, but The Shining does prove to be an exhausting, lingering nightmare that can haunt viewers long after the credits roll .

The Shining

1 'the exorcist' (1973), directed by william friedkin.

When young Regan ( Linda Blair ) becomes possessed by a demon, her family calls for an exorcism to vanquish the evil. As Regan's condition worsens, she wreaks havoc on her household as she battles the demon for power over her very being, all while two Catholic priests work tirelessly to exorcise the demon from her body.

The Exorcist broke barriers for the genre, becoming an instant and lasting phenomenon that incited widespread fanfare and spectacle while also inspiring derision and even legends of a cursed production. Despite all the hysteria surrounding the film though, the one thing about The Exorcist that has endured is its masterful execution of paranormal horror, something that has made the movie the scariest film of all time in the eyes of many who have seen it.

The Exorcist

NEXT: The Most Bizarre and Grotesque Body Horror Movies

horror ghost hollywood movies

‘Presence’ Review: Steven Soderbergh Tells a Ghost Story from the Ghost’s POV. It Is Scary? Not Quite. But the Family Demons Lure You In

Soderbergh shoots the film in long roving takes that are supposed to be what the ghost is seeing. But for all the fancy camera moves, the paranormal activity remains rather minimal.

By Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman

Chief Film Critic

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A still from Presence by Steven Soderbergh, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

I exaggerate, though not by much. In “Presence,” we’re indeed taking in the entire movie from the point-of-view of the unseen spirit who has taken over the house. The spirit hovers and observes and always seems to know where the action is; nothing escapes its view. Yet in this case, the cinematographer is Soderbergh himself (shooting under the nom de plume Peter Andrews), and while he has shot many of his own films, going back to “Traffic,” you get the feeling that part of the fun of “Presence” for Soderbergh was literally, through the conceit of the ghost, finding a way to join in the action, to become part of it and fuse with it.

But no. The presence in “Presence” is mostly — merely — a presence , and for long stretches we almost forget it’s there; we’re just watching a shoestring movie shot with a rather nosy and flamboyant visual style. Soderberg stages each scene in a long unbroken take, ending each one of them with a cut to black. All very stylish and percussive. But if he had made a version of this movie without the ghost-as-camera-eye conceit, it would have been more or less the same movie.

Paranormal activity aside, this family has enough ghosts of its own. The mother, Rebecca ( Lucy Liu ), is a tightly wound control freak who runs everything and plays favorites with her kids (she’s the one who decides, in the space of five minutes, to purchase the house, mostly because it’s in the coveted district that will allow the teenage son she dotes on to attend North High School). Rebecca works at an oblique high-finance job in which she’s committed some mysterious illegal action that could get them into hot water. Tyler (Eddy Maday), the son, is sweet on the surface but a mean-boy lout underneath, and his sister, Chloe (Calliana Liang), is falling into a depression, though not just because she’s entered the teen-blues tunnel. Her best friend, Nadia, died a few months before of a drug overdose. (She’s the second girl in her school to have died that way.) Chloe is the one member of the family who can sense the ghost’s presence, and Soderbergh doesn’t waste much time revealing why that is. As it turns out, the ghost is there not to haunt but to protect.

The thing about Soderbergh’s “little films” is that they’re brash and inventive and superior to what so many directors could just toss off. But you get the feeling that the main reason they exist is so that Soderbergh can enjoy tinkering with them. That doesn’t sound like a bad philosophy of art or moviemaking, yet he tends to throw these films together in a way that “works” (they carry you along) but that leaves no imprint. It’s as if he were crafting a puzzle by making up pieces on the spot.

“Presence,” in its showy angst, winks at topicality, in the same way that it winks at lot of other things (like things that go bump in the night, or the rise of teenage mental illness, or serial killers). But it’s just flirting with all of them. You want the movie to add up to something, but what it adds up to is another half-diverting, half-satisfying Soderbergh bauble, only this time he’s the ghost in the machine.

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19, 2024. Running time: 85 MIN.

  • Production: An Extension 765 production. Producers: Julie M. Anderson, Ken Meyer. Executive producers: David Koepp, Corey Bayes.
  • Crew: Director: Steven Soderbergh. Screenplay: David Koepp. Camera: Peter Andrews. Editor: Mary Ann Bernard. Music: Zack Ryan.
  • With: Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Julia Fox, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland.

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The Best Ghost Horror Movies On Netflix

Jacob Shelton

Dive into the realm of spectral spookiness with the cream of the crop in ghost horror movies on Netflix. Chilling, thrilling, and often downright terrifying, these films redefine the genre, captivating audiences with their spine-tingling narratives and eerie atmospheres. They provide a comprehensive showcase of phantasmagorical fear, demonstrating the expansive breadth and depth of the horror genre within the Netflix library. 

Harnessing modern cinematography and some good old-fashioned storytelling, these best ghost horror movies on Netflix leave no stone unturned in their quest to terrify viewers. These films encompass the essence of spectral horror, taking you on a rollercoaster ride of suspense, mystery, and blood-curdling terror. They push the boundaries, redefining expectations for a truly immersive scare session, from the comfort of your couch. 

Unearthing hidden gems like Visions , a film that blends psychological horrors with jarring supernatural elements, and Polaroid , which melds timeless, old-school horror tropes with a fresh narrative twist, these films are testaments to the creative prowess of filmmakers in the horror spectrum. Moreover, classics like Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and A Ghost Story offer a haunting viewing experience, bringing a dose of spectral suspense straight to your living room. And with a multitude of streaming platforms, including Disney+, Amazon Prime, Max, Hulu, Paramount+ and of course, Netflix, finding the perfect flick has never been easier. 

The realm of top ghost movies on Netflix offers a myriad of horrifying delights, each one more terrifying than the last. These Netflix haunted movies don’t just scare you; they grip you with a chilling narrative that leaves you on the edge of your seat, begging for more. So, whether you're a horror fanatic or a casual viewer looking for a thrill, this collection of spectral cinema is your ticket to a night of frightful fun.

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The Most Terrifying Female Ghosts In Horror Movies

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Borderland

The 15 scariest horror movies based on true stories

In these movies, truth is scarier than fiction...

Matthew Singer

If you’re the sort who scares easily, there’s a mantra you’ve likely spoken to yourself in order to keep you tethered while watching a particularly frightening horror film and stave off a potential dread-induced anxiety attack: ‘It’s only a movie’. Most of the time, it’s an effective strategy – a reminder that the movie is trying to scare you, and that once the credits roll, the fear ceases to exist.

But what happens when the movie isn’t just a movie? What do you tell yourself if the stuff you’re seeing actually occurred? Well, that’s a kind of horror movie that’s harder to escape. 

As with any genre, horror movies that claim to be ‘inspired by real events’ often play fast and loose with the literal truth, embellishing facts for cinematic effect. Sometimes, though, certain films can cut a bit too close to reality to provide the comfort many of us need to shake off a truly terrifying movie experience. Here are 15 that do just that.  

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Scary horror movies based on real-life events

Zodiac (2007)

1.  Zodiac (2007)

Anyone with a passing interest in true crime is familiar with the Zodiac Killer, who terrorised San Francisco with a string of still-unsolved murders in the 1960s. But David Fincher’s chilling masterpiece is less about the slayings – though he re-enacts several of them in unnerving detail – than the rabbit hole the killer opened up with the maddening puzzles and coded messages he disseminated through the press. The case fully consumed political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, whose decades-long obsession with uncovering the Zodiac’s identity  cost him his marriage. Given how, every few years, some new theory arises about who committed the killings, he’s clearly far from the only one.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

2.  The Amityville Horror (1979)

Driven by a marketing campaign playing up its supposedly truthful bona fides, this haunted house tale became a significant leftfield success during the post- The Exorcist horror boom of the late ‘70s. Based on the book by Jay Anson, it depicts the supernatural harassment experienced by the Lutz family upon moving into an old house in Long Island that had previously been the site of a grisly mass murder. Of course, critics have long dismissed Anson’s book as a hoax, but that didn’t stop the movie from becoming a horror classic, spinning off numerous lesser sequels and inspiring a 2005 remake from Michael Bay.

The Conjuring (2013)

3.  The Conjuring (2013)

Ed and Lorraine Warren were semi-famous paranormal investigators before director James Wan decided to turn their most well-known case into a throwback haunted house movie and made them perhaps the most famous ghost hunters in the world. Who else in their field can claim to have inspired the most successful horror franchise of all-time? The so-called ‘Conjuring Universe’ has spun off in several directions now – including the Annabelle movies – but the first film takes its inspiration directly from the Warrens’ account of investigating supernatural activity at a crumbling farmhouse in Rhode Island back in 1971. It gleefully mashes up numerous classic horror tropes, including many jump scares, and proved that Wan, previously known for the torture porn Saw franchise, could conjure up more than just nausea. 

Poltergeist (1982)

4.  Poltergeist (1982)

Three years after The Amityville Horror , director Tobe Hooper effectively ‘Spielbergised’ the modern haunted house movie – with an assist from Steven Spielberg himself, who produced and possibly, maybe ghost-directed some of it – turning in a horror classic. And like Amityville , it takes inspiration from an actual haunting. In the 1950s, the curious case of the Hermann house in suburban Long Island became a national media story after the family brought in a paranormal investigator to diagnose unusual activity, such as randomly popping bottles and objects moving on their own. The house did not ultimately vanish into an interdimensional portal, however.    

Compliance (2012)

5.  Compliance (2012)

The incident that inspired this indie thriller didn’t end in death or involve any sort of bloodshed, but it is nonetheless deeply disturbing – and not without torture. In 2004, a man claiming to be a police officer called a fast-food restaurant in rural Kentucky and managed to convince the employee who answered to strip search her coworker, the first in a series of rapidly mounting indignities. Craig Zobel’s claustrophobic drama doesn’t exploit the humiliation of what turned out to be an incredibly fucked-up prank call but uses it as a springboard to explore the American fealty to authority.

10 Rillington Place (1971)

6.  10 Rillington Place (1971)

John Christie is perhaps second to Jack the Ripper as London’s most infamous serial killer, an unassuming postman who, in the 1940s and ‘50s, strangled at least eight women, including his wife, and hid their corpses in the walls of his Notting Hill flat. Richard Fleischer’s account of his killing spree is an under-seen gem of the true crime genre, featuring a truly chilling lead performance from Richard Attenborough, which the actor claimed haunted him for a long while afterward.  

Open Water (2003)

7.  Open Water (2003)

It’s one of those scenarios your subconscious always seems to generate just as your moments away from drifting off to sleep: wouldn’t it absolutely suck to go scuba diving and end up stranded in the middle of the ocean? Americans Tom and Eileen Lonergan lived that nightmare in 1998, when the boat taking tourists out to explore the Great Barrier Reef accidentally departed without them. Whoops! How long they actually ‘lived’ is unclear – their bodies were never found. But filmmaker Chris Kentis has an idea of what happened to them, and it involves a horde of hungry sharks. Watching a helpless couple on the verge of becoming bobbing meat snacks doesn’t sound like much of a movie premise, but Kentis – who shot in the actual ocean, using real-live sharks – lends the incident a severely anxious realism that keeps your stomach sufficiently tied for 80 minutes.

Snowtown (2011)

8.  Snowtown (2011)

Is it possible for a movie to seem too real? In its account of the so-called ‘barrel murders’ that haunted a poor Australian suburb in the 1990s, Snowtown lives alongside Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer   as a film that brings viewers a little too close to the darkest corners of humanity to qualify as ‘entertainment’. For seven years, a group of four men, led by John Bunting, carried out a series of gruesome slayings, mostly targeting alleged pedophiles and homosexuals. Director Justin Kurzel focuses particularly on how Bunting recruited an abused teenager into assisting him, and spares few details. No, it’s not something you casually throw on during a boring night in. But if you’re ever compelled to stare directly into the abyss of the human psyche, there may be no darker portal in movies.

The Birds (1963)

9.  The Birds (1963)

It’s aged a bit worse than other Alfred Hitchcock classics, but perhaps it’d seem a bit less goofy today if more people knew that, in 1961, birds in the coastal town of Capitola, California, really did turn against their human superiors. Poisoned by toxic algae, flocks of normally mild-mannered seagulls began crashing into homes and cars and vomiting up half-digested food. It took decades for scientists to figure out the cause, but only two years for Big Al to turn the incident into an allegory for man’s increasingly fragile peace with the natural world – and maybe also female sexual frustration.

Dead Ringers (1988)

10.  Dead Ringers (1988)

Imagine the look of deranged glee that spread across David Cronenberg’s face when he read a New York magazine article about the Marcus brothers, twin gynaecologists who died simultaneously of drug overdoses in 1975. Cronenberg, of course, wildly embellishes their shared decline, using the case as a jumping off point to examine male sexual anxiety, among other things, in the most skincrawling, off-putting, distinctly Cronenbergian way possible.

Ravenous (1999)

11.  Ravenous (1999)

Nineties kids remember Alive , the harrowing story of a Uruguayan rugby team who resorted to eating their dead teammates to survive after a plane crash in the Andes. Nineties kids almost certainly do not remember this box-office bomb, the decade’s other true cannibal tale. Well, sort of true – yes, Guy Pearce’s character, Capt. John Boyd, is based on Alfred Packer, a prospector who ate five members of his own party after getting trapped traversing the mountains of Colorado in 1874. No, he did not turn into a flesh-craving lunatic after being rescued. Packer’s life also inspired another, even more fabricated pseudo-biopic: 1993’s Cannibal! The Musical , directed by future South Park co-creator Trey Parker.

Borderland (2007)

12.  Borderland (2007)

In the late ‘80s, the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas was terrorised by a group of so-called ‘narcosatanists’, a clan of drug-dealing occultists who practised ritual human sacrifice as a means of assisting their associated cartel. This effectively freaky indie horror flick dramatises the events surrounding the cult’s most widely publicised crime, the abduction and subsequent murder of a University of Texas medical student in 1989. While the film embellishes the details, a lot of it is more factual than you might think – a horrifying thought. 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

13.  The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

In ultra-religious circles, exorcisms are, of course, a very real and not outmoded practice – even The Exorcist was loosely based on an actual incident – but The Exorcism of Emily Rose is more specific in its inspiration. In 1975, a young German woman named Anneliese Michel began experiencing seizures and hallucinations. At the behest of her Catholic parents, two local priests initiated dozens of exorcism rites until she eventually died from malnutrition. Her parents were then charged with negligent homicide. Director Scott Derrickson blends those facts with a liberal sprinkling of fiction, creating an interesting mix of psychological thriller, demonic horror and courtroom drama.

Fire in the Sky (1993)

14.  Fire in the Sky (1993)

  • Science fiction

Alien abduction may stretch the definition for ‘true story’, and sceptics have certainly tried to throw doubt on logger Travis Walton’s account of being sucked into a spaceship, violently probed, then deposited on the side of an Arizona highway. Whether or not it actually happened – and for the record, Walton and his coworkers who witnessed his alleged extraterrestrial kidnapping have all passed polygraph tests – the depiction of Walton’s abduction in Fire in the Sky is one of the most horrifying scenes in ‘90s cinema: vivid, nightmarish and worst of all, totally believable.   

Winchester (2018)

15.  Winchester (2018)

It’s not a great movie, even with Helen Mirren in the lead role, but it is a great, weird piece of lore. As the legend goes, after the sudden passing of her husband, gunmaker William Winchester, his widow, Sarah, began making odd additions to their Northern California mansion – hundreds of extra rooms, random doors, stairways to nowhere – supposedly at the behest of the spirits of those killed by her namesake rifle. It’s mostly hogwash: the renovations were primarily the result of hasty repairs following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. But hey, when choosing between myth and fact, film the myth.

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Sundance: steven soderbergh reveals the auteur rule he broke to make ghost story ‘presence’.

Soderbergh screened his latest feature in Park City some 35 years after the debut of 'Sex, Lies and Videotape.'

By Chris Gardner , Mia Galuppo January 20, 2024 7:20am

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A still from Presence by Steven Soderbergh, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Steven Soderbergh was convinced that films shot with a first person point-of-view simply would never work. That is, until he made one.

The veteran filmmaker arrived in Park City for the 40th Sundance Film Festival this weekend to show off the results, a spooky ghost story titled Presence shot entirely from the ghost’s perspective. During the post-premiere Q&A, he explained why he backtracked on his edict.

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When he landed on the decision, “it was really fun because there was no other plan, no other plan. That’s it. Live or die with that.”

The film stars Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland and Julia Fox, all of whom were on hand at the screening. The plot follows a family who moves into a new home only to recognize an unsettling presence in the house. The story was filmed from the POV of the ghost, with the camera moving throughout the house as the apparition.

Soderbergh wore martial arts slippers while sliding around the house “as a ghost” to make as little noise as possible while manning the camera (using at14 mm lens). He said his favorite part of the filmmaking process is the editing, and there were gasps of surprise when Soderbergh revealed that it was a three-week shoot.

His cast was certainly impressed with what he put together. The Sundance screening marked the first time they’d seen the film, and when asked for their reviews, Liu said, “My body is having a reaction like I wasn’t in the movie.” Added Fox, to big laughs: “I’m traumatized. I hadn’t even read the script, I am gonna be honest. But when Steven calls, I trust him.”

Later, Liu explained that Soderbergh “really didn’t give us notes” beyond geographical moments. “There was no extraneous direction,” she said. “Theater was my first love in that way, and it was like going back to that time again.” Sullivan, who plays her husband, agreed. “No one has ever shot a movie like this before,” the actor said of the shoot, which took place on location in a home in New Jersey. “It was Steven running up and down the stairs in martial arts slippers trying not to make any noise.”

The film also marked yet another collaboration between Soderbergh and screenwriter David Koepp, both of whom were in Park City in 1989, Soderbergh with his career-catapulting Sex, Lies and Videotape and Koepp with Apartment Zero . (One audience member was overheard saying, “Steven Soderbergh at The Library? What year is this? How cool!”)

Koepp detailed the origins of Presence by saying that the two of them were throwing around ideas when Soderbergh suggested that he defy everything he’d ever said and do this project only from the ghost point of view. “He wrote a few pages and said, ‘Here it might look like that.’ I was in right away. I love confinement. I love when a story takes place in one place or a short period of time, or you set up arbitrary rules for yourself that confine you. In that, I feel like you can actually be a lot more creative than having the whole world as your option.”

The other suggestion Soderbergh offered about the family living in the house is that “they’re really fucked up,” to which Koepp replied, “Oh, that sounds interesting … so that was my guidance. It was like: Point of view of the ghost, I’m in this house, this family’s really fucked up, and I went from there.”

With that, Soderbergh replied, “It’s great. Now, if it could all end right now.” And it did.

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Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Presence’ Spooks Sundance With Traumatic Ghost Story

By David Fear

You know the Tolstoy quote about all happy families being the same, but “every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way?” The quartet at the center of Steven Soderbergh’s ghost story Presence has refined their own particular brand of dysfunction to perfection. The mom, Rebecca ( Lucy Liu ), is a first-class control freak, has become involved in some shady financial dealings, and dotes on her teenage son, Tyler (Eddy Maday), in a way that would make Freud’s head explode. He’s a champion swimmer, and she has her hopes pinned on him breast-stroking his way to the top; the kid is also a bully. His younger sister, Chloe (Callina Liang), is grieving over the recent loss of her best friend from a mysterious drug overdose, though her brother will tell you she’s always been a head case. And then there’s their dad, Chris ( This Is Us ‘ Chris Sullivan), who’s worried about his daughter, fed up with his wife, and wants to punch his asshole son through a brick wall.

How it got there is unknown. Why it’s there will eventually be revealed. Only Chloe sense its [ clears throat ] presence, at least until things start getting violently thrown around. But we know it’s there from the first frame, because the entirety of the film takes place from the viewpoint of this specter, roaming the hallways and gliding down staircases, lurking in closets and eavesdropping on conversations. Soderbergh has always been a restless formalist. Now he’s made the very first first-person ghost story.

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And while the dizzying, dazzling cinematography, self-shot under his usual D.P. pseudonym Peter Andrews, demands you pay attention to the technical virtuosity, that gambit (or gimmick — your call) is merely setting the table for something else.

Which brings us back to that Tolstoy quote. At the post-screening Q&A after Presence ‘s Sundance premiere late Friday night, Soderbergh admitted that he’d never been a fan of virtual reality as a storytelling tool, and that part of the thrill of making this paranormal thriller was breaking his own rule about POV parameters. People don’t want to see nothing but a first-person perspective outside of video games — they need a reverse angle in order to bond with a character. Try to do a reaction shot of a ghost, however, and you see nothing. “The only way to do it was to never turn around,” he said. “There was no other plan. You live or die by that.” (Some viewers apparently found this approach too intense to handle .)

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Godzilla looks over his shoulder in Godzilla Minus One.

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Best horror movies of 2023, ranked by scariness

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Horror’s looking great in 2023. There are established masters doing some of their best work in years , undeniable new talents making waves with their first or second big features , and old franchises breaking records at the box office .

With so many good horror movies out, here’s a list of the best of the best to give options for everyone, from the scaredy-cats to the horror-curious to the freaks (in a good way) who can’t get enough fright and gore. No matter what you like, there’s probably a 2023 horror movie for you, and to help you find it, we put together a list of the year’s best horror so far, ranked by how likely they are to give you a chill — and what kind of chill that might be.

Because everyone deserves the exact fright they want, we’ve ordered them based on scariness. Scariness isn’t an easy thing to define, so we’ve divided the topic up into two categories: terror, which could be anything from creepiness to something genuinely frightful, and gore, which is just about how bloody a movie ends up getting. Each category gets a rating out of five, then we add the two numbers to reach a (more or less) scientific scariness score.

So for everyone looking for a good scare, here are the best horror movies of 2023, ranked from least to most scary. And for a broader look at the year in movies, here’s our list of the best movies of 2023 . Our latest, and final, update added Thanksgiving and Godzilla Minus One .

The killer AI doll M3GAN (Amie Donald) grabs her creator Gemma (Allison Williams) by the face in M3GAN

Run time: 1h 42m Director: Gerard Johnstone Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng Where to watch: Prime Video

A horror comedy with an emphasis on comedy, M3GAN is easily one of the most fun and least scary movies on this list. It’s also one of the best. The story follows a career-obsessed toy engineer named Gemma who has been tasked with taking care of her recently orphaned niece, Cady. Instead of actually doing anything, Gemma builds a robot to parent Cady, and things quickly go off the rails. Murder and mayhem ensue, but thanks to the movie’s constant barrage of jokes and its PG-13 rating, it stays fun and creepy without ever actually getting too far outside the comfort zone of just about any moviegoer. — Austen Goslin

How scary is M3GAN?

  • Terror: 1/5

Total scariness score: 3/10

No One Will Save You

An alien foot approaches the bed of Brynn in No One WIll Save You

Run time : 1 hour 33 minutes Director : Brian Duffield Cast : Kaitlyn Dever, Elizabeth Kaluev, Zack Duhame Where to watch: Hulu

Home invasion movies are a classic genre that always pairs well with a neat little twist. And in the case of No One Will Save You , that twist is aliens .

The movie stars Kaitlyn Dever as Brynn, a homebody who doesn’t talk much. We see her go through her routine day, preferring to keep things old-timey and traditional just like her clothes and her house, and ignoring the finer points of modern life. This is rudely interrupted one day by an unexpected presence in her house that just happens to come from beyond our world.

The best parts of No One Will Save You take place inside Brynn’s gorgeous house, constantly finding new ways to surprise her (and us) with a menacing alien. The movie also ventures beyond the walls of the home for a few great chase sequences and neat alien reveals.

Nothing about the movie is too particularly spooky, beyond the existence of aliens and the home invasion, of course, but it’s got a nice light-and-spooky vibe without too much gore. While No One Will Save You ’s extra-terrestrial spin on the genre isn’t exactly unheard of, it is a lot of fun and a perfect warm-up for fans of not-too-scary movies that still have some thrills. — AG

How scary is No One Will Save You?

  • Terror: 2/5

Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla looks over his shoulder in Godzilla Minus One.

Run time: 2h 5m Director: Takashi Yamazaki Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Munetaka Aoki Where to watch: Theaters

Japan’s streak of great Godzilla movies continues with Godzilla Minus One . More of a melodrama than Shin Godzilla , and more of a traditional monster movie than Legendary Entertainment’s Godzilla films, Godzilla Minus One is a throwback to the original film, as post-war Japan has to deal with the giant lizard monster terrorizing its cities. Godzilla’s back to his roots as an unknowable force of nature, a deadly horror made extra malevolent by human meddling. Godzilla isn’t heavy on gore, or even on direct scares, but Minus One ’s version of the iconic lizard is handled with enough reverence and dread to make this monster movie definitively horror. — AG

How scary is Godzilla Minus One?

  • Terror: 3/5

Total scariness score: 4/10

The Pope’s Exorcist

Russell Crowe as Father Gabriele Amorth in The Pope’s Exorcist facing the camera with short hair and a glowing orange light behind him

Run time: 1h 43m Director: Julius Avery Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe Where to watch: Netflix

Russell Crowe isn’t in the habit of taking himself too seriously at the moment, and the entire world is better for it. In The Pope’s Exorcist , Crowe plays father Gabriele Amorth, the guy the Catholic Church, and the Pope himself (here played by the legendary Franco Nero), sends in when it needs an exorcism done right.

Amorth rides on a moped, bumbles effectively, and gives Crowe the chance to lay on the thickest Italian accent this side of House of Gucci . It’s all an excellent time and a tremendous amount of fun, but that’s not all the movie’s good for. It’s also a shockingly slick and well-made exorcism movie. It’s frequently pretty creepy, with some fantastic visual moments and a propulsive mystery (and demon) behind everything.

The comedy helps keep the movie from ever getting too scary, and like most exorcism movies, it never ends up getting terribly gory. But there aren’t many recent movies that walk the line of horror and fun as well as The Pope’s Exorcist . Here’s hoping for all 199 sequels the movie teases . — AG

How scary is The Pope’s Exorcist?

  • Terror: 2/5

Insidious: The Red Door

Dalton (Ty Simpkins), a tall, gangly, shaggy-haired teenager, enters a room lit entirely in dark red light in Insidious: The Red Door

Run time: 1h 47m Director: Patrick Wilson Cast: Ty Simpkins, Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne Where to watch: VOD

The Insidious movies have always been fun little horror romps with inventive jump scares, excellent demon/monster designs, and exquisitely creepy production design. The latest entry in the series is no different, building on the success of the series for one of its stronger entries .

Insidious: The Red Door is a direct sequel to Insidious: Chapter 2 . The movie picks up nine years after the previous entry, with Dalton (Ty Simpkins) off to college and Josh (Patrick Wilson) struggling with the life of a divorced dad. While at college, both Dalton and his dad start to reconnect with the Further, the spirit realm that has haunted them both throughout their lives, dredging up fresh demons who want to use them as a portal to our world.

The movie’s plot doesn’t get much more complicated than that, and thematically it’s a nice bow to tie onto the series, letting us know the characters are trying to deal with their connection to the Further rather than hiding it or hypnotizing it out of themselves — like they did in Chapter 2 . But The Red Door ’s greatest trait is the same as the other movies in the series: providing new(ish) horror directors with a fun staging ground to try stuff out.

The first two entries gave the great James Wan ( The Conjuring , Malignant ), the chance to reinvent the haunted house movie and reframe The Shining , and The Red Door lets longtime series star Patrick Wilson step behind the camera to try his hand at the scares. It turns out he’s pretty good at it! The movie never gets too gory despite some traces of blood, but it is full of excellently orchestrated and tremendously fun jump scares, which seems to be a passion of Wilson’s. — AG

How scary is Insidious: The Red Door?

Totally killer.

The teen stars of Totally Killer stand together in front of some bushes, one holding a bat.

Run time: 1h 46m Director: Nahnatchka Khan Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Charlie Gillespie Where to watch: Prime Video

A small town was rocked by a trio of murders in 1987. Decades later, the killer seemingly returns to finish what he started. When the daughter (Kiernan Shipka) of the newest victim goes back in time to the date of the first murder, she tries to stop it all from happening.

For most of its run time, Totally Killer is a fun and funny time from director Nahnatchka Khan ( Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 ) with an intriguing premise and a game cast. It’s more often comedy than it is horror, but it does commit to horror when those opportunities come around. The slasher scenes are tense and bloody, and the movie doesn’t shy away from that terror. — PV

How scary is Totally Killer?

Total scariness score: 5/10

The Boogeyman

Vivien Lyra Blair as Sawyer Harper holding her light ball in The Boogeyman

Run time: 1h 38m Director: Rob Savage Cast: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair Where to watch: Hulu

This adaptation of a Stephen King short story comes off more like a sequel than a straightforward retelling, but it does so to tremendous effect. It’s a scary movie that manages to walk its PG-13 line well, all while telling one of the bleakest stories of any movie this year.

The movie follows a father and his two daughters who are suddenly plagued by a strange presence. The presence arrived just after a haunted-seeming man (played by the always haunted-seeming David Dastmalchian) wanders into the father’s at-home psychiatry practice and dies. From there, the two daughters start seeing more and more evidence of some kind of shadowy monster that feeds on grief.

The Boogeyman , like almost all non-slashers these days, is chiefly a movie about grief and trauma being supernaturally reflected back at the sufferers. The Boogeyman doesn’t handle it quite as well as some of the recent classics — like The Babadook , Talk to Me , or Midsommar — but it’s a cut above a movie like Smile , which goes from scary to silly when it tries to wrap things up.

What makes The Boogeyman really creepy, however, is the insinuation that the curse is seemingly random and never stops hunting its victims until they die. On one hand, it’s a sad but sometimes true statement about trauma; on the other, it’s also just a despairingly bleak premise that few horror movies are bold enough to go for right now.

Despite that lurking terror, the movie’s PG-13 rating keeps it from ever being too gory, even if it does have quite a few great jump scares . — AG

How scary is The Boogeyman?

A woman wearing sunglasses and a blue face mask sits behind the wheel of a vehicle with a passenger beside them wearing a purple face mask.

Run time: 1h 23m Director: John Hyams Cast: Gideon Adlon, Bethlehem Million, Dylan Sprayberry Where to watch: Peacock

John Hyams is one of my favorite directors working today, so it’s no surprise that his COVID-19 slasher Sick worked well for me despite many of the COVID elements of the movie not landing. A modern master of tension, pacing, and brutal action scenes, it all comes together in a slick 80-minute package, following two college students who travel to a cabin in the woods at the start of the COVID outbreak, and encounter an unexpected guest.

More tense than scary, there is nonetheless some gore in this one, including some broken bones and a few spurts of blood. — Pete Volk

How scary is Sick?

Thanksgiving.

A person in a turkey suit walks down the street in a Thanksgiving Day parade in the movie Thanksgiving

Run time: 1h 46m Director: Eli Roth Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Nell Verlaque, Addison Rae Where to watch: Theaters

As funny as it is gory, Eli Roth’s holiday slasher is a hilarious romp and a fantastic time at the movies. The plot follows a New England town that’s being terrorized by a killer dressed as John Carver , avenging the perpetrators of a Black Friday tragedy that claimed three lives. At its best, Thanksgiving feels like the closest echo of the Scream franchise we’ve had since Wes Craven stopped working on it in 2011, but with a lot more brutality and meanness than the horror master’s parody franchise ever employed. Thanksgiving is the kind of movie to cut a body in half and perch it over a super mart’s “Half Off” sign.

How scary is Thanksgiving?

Total scariness score: 6/10

Infinity Pool

James (Alexander Skarsgård) in close-up drips blood out of his mouth while kneeling and wearing a black dog collar in Infinity Pool

Run time: 1h 57m Director: Brandon Cronenberg Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman Where to watch: Hulu

Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature is a dystopian vision of the world as nothing more than a playground for the uber-wealthy (yes, even more than it already is). The movie is set at a resort where the wealthy go to get away in a country where all of its strict laws can be bent, broken, or otherwise twisted if you’ve got the money. There’s cloning, murder parties, drug-fueled orgies, and Alexander Skarsgård on a leash, so basically everything you need for a good tropical vacation, or a good trippy horror movie that asks a lot of questions about how you know you’re really you or if you’ve been replaced by something lesser. As for gore, Infinity Pool is a little less subtle, going hard on the blood and guts of the clones and showing close-ups of people dying in all sorts of horrible ways. — AG

How scary is Infinity Pool?

Knock at the cabin.

Dave Bautista standing in front of several other people in Knock at the Cabin

Run time: 1h 40m Director: M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge Where to watch: Prime Video

Seldom has a day passed that Knock at the Cabin has not crossed my mind since I first went to see it in theaters. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest psychological horror thriller centers on a family, Eric, Andrew, and Wen (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui), who are terrorized by a group of four heavily-armed kidnappers while vacationing in a remote cabin located in rural Pennsylvania. The kidnappers, however, have no intentions of either harming them or demanding ransom; quite the opposite. Leonard (Dave Bautista), the unofficial leader of the group, tells the family that he and his “associates” have been commanded by a higher power to plead with the family to sacrifice one of their own. The alternative? The death of every single human being on the planet, with the exception of the family.

Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World , the terror of Shyamalan’s film is not found in its moments of gore, which are bracing yet brief. Nor is it attributable to the global scenes of apocalyptic imagery that unfold outside of the cabin’s walls, the kind of cataclysmic spectacle one would expect from a late-aughts Roland Emmerich disaster epic. No, these surface-level scares are only window-dressing for a far more terrifying, existentially troubling question that goes virtually unuttered throughout the course of the film but nonetheless exists at the fulcrum of its thematic focus and power. Why does God ask the most from those who have already lost so much? Furthermore, why are we so often asked to love those who would choose instead to hate us, so much so that we would be willing to sacrifice what happiness we have in our own lives for the sake of those who would likely never so much as spare a thought, let alone their own happiness, on our behalf?

It’s not exactly the type of question horror audiences are used to being asked, which more often skew toward more sensationalized subjects such as “Wouldn’t it be fucked up if someone like, kidnapped somebody and tortured them?” or “Wouldn’t if be fucked up if rich people like, cloned themselves and had weird sex and went on killing sprees?” Knock at the Cabin doesn’t propose such easy and escapist scenarios, but rather poses one that challenges its audience to look inward and ruminate not only on disparity between one’s beliefs and what one does unto others, but with the question how much they are willing to sacrifice for sake of a stranger.

I guess one of the reasons why Knock at the Cabin affected me so deeply is because, after I walked out of the theater and drove home, I couldn’t stop turning a question around in my mind. That question was and remains this: If this exact scenario were to play out today, and a trans woman , or a migrant child , or an unhoused person were presented with the same ultimatum given to Eric, Andrew, and Wen, and they chose their own love over the lives of others, could you blame them? —Toussaint Egan

How scary is Knock at the Cabin?

  • Terror: 4/5

Skinamarink

A young boy sits in a dim, blue hallway with his back to the camera, facing a series of open doorways, in a typically grainy, fuzzy shot from the horror movie Skinamarink

Run time: 1h 40m Director: Kyle Edward Ball Cast: Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul Where to watch: Shudder, Hulu

There’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker is commanded by his master Yoda to enter a cave in order to advance in his training as a Jedi. When asked by his apprentice what is inside the cave, Yoda gravely replies, “Only what you take with you.”

While Yoda was in fact describing the Dark Side of the Force, he could have easily been talking about Skinamarink . The feature horror debut of director Kyle Edward Ball has more than earned its reputation as one of the year’s most surprising and divisive releases. Produced on a crowdfunded budget of $15,000 and filmed in Ball’s childhood home in Canada, the film has been equated as cult favorite on par with that of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s seminal found-footage horror classic The Blair Witch Project not only for its content, but its controversial composition.

Skinamarink ’s narrative is confounding at times and more often than not inscrutable, with its focus primarily on skewed off-center hallway shots, chasmic shadows, and flickering television screens beaming reflections of ghoulishly distorted cartoons. The basic gist of the film’s premise concerns two children, 4-year-old Kevin and his 6-year-old sister Kaylee, who awaken one night to find that their father has seemingly disappeared… along with every door and window in the house. Their mother appears bedridden until she too mysteriously vanishes without a trace. Worse yet, Kevin and Kaylee are not alone. Someone — or something — is also inside the house, twisting reality into ever more phantasmagorical shapes, and it wants the pair to come upstairs and play a game with them… or else .

Truth be told, Skinamarink is not going to land for everyone who sees it. This is mostly attributable to the fact that, much like the cave Yoda urges his young Padawan to enter, what you’ll get out of the film is entirely dependent on what you bring into it. If you come into this film expecting clearly defined characters, conventional cinematography, crystal-clear sound design, and a definite beginning, middle, and end, boy are you in for a frustrating watch. But if you approach Skinamarink with the mindset of, say, a latchkey kid with an overactive imagination who grew up in the ’90s, you’ll discover a film as primordial and terrifying as any of your most unspeakable childhood nightmares. Your mileage may vary! The only way to know for sure is to watch it.

A word of advice, though: Please turn your phone off and turn off all the lights when you watch Skinamarink . It really does make all the difference. —TE

How scary is Skinamarink?

Evil dead rise.

Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), possessed and turned into a red-and-yellow-eyed, greasy-haired, grimy-faced Deadite, smiles eerily over a barrier in Evil Dead Rise

Run time: 1h 36m Director: Lee Cronin Cast: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Morgan Davies Where to watch: Max

Evil Dead is a shockingly consistent franchise. Five entries from three different directors ranging from slapstick horror to one of the bleakest movies around, there isn’t a dud in the bunch. The latest to join the series’ vaunted ranks is Evil Dead Rise , which pulls the series out of the woods and into the big city, all while focusing on family . Isn’t that sweet?

Unlike previous movies in the series (or many of the movies the series has inspired ), Evil Dead Rise is set in an apartment building, which provides it with a totally fresh vocabulary for its scares and brutal kills. Of course, all the Evil Dead touchstones are still around, like someone reading from a Necronomicon to inadvertently summon a spirit and a shotgun and chainsaw playing prominent roles. But Evil Dead Rise updates each of these classics with a flair all its own and adds to the series’ long list of memorable — and exceedingly gory — moments. — AG

How scary is Evil Dead Rise?

Total scariness score: 7/10

The signature Jigsaw puppet from the Saw movies, a red-eyed, white-skinned, black-haired humanoid with prominent cheekbones painted with red spirals, as seen in Saw X

Run time: 1h 58m Director: Kevin Greutert Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund Where to watch: Rent on YouTube , Prime Video

The Saw franchise is ten entries deep now , but Jigsaw’s still finding new traps for his victims who need to be taught a lesson. Saw X finds the self-righteous killer in one of his most justifiable hunts for karma as he takes on a group of fake doctors preying on cancer patients. This movie has a little more set up than certain previous Saw movies, but once John Kramer gets going, the traps are still as gruesome as ever.

Chances are if you’ve seen the previous movies in the series, you know what’s up here: a whole lot of gore. But aside from the tidal wave of blood and gore, Saw X is a tense thriller with quite a few harrowing scenes and enough twists to keep you on your toes until the very last minute. — AG

How scary is Saw X

Total scariness score: 8/10

Mia (Sophie Wilde), a short-haired, dark-skinned young woman in a fluffy mustard-colored sweater, shakes hands with a plaster molded hand sitting on a table next to a lit candle in the horror movie Talk to Me

Run time: 1h 35m Directors: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou Cast: Ari McCarthy, Hamish Phillips, Kit Erhart-Bruce Where to watch: VOD

Talk to Me has about as good a horror premise as any movie could want: Some kids come by a mysterious embalmed hand that allows you to briefly greet the spirit world. While the spirits can’t really hurt you if the visit is brief, if you commune too long, they’ll take over your body. Armed with this information, the kids do what anyone would: use it as a party drug. One teen, Mia (Sophie Wilde), has recently lost her mom and realizes this could be a way to talk to her again. And that goes about as badly as you might think.

Talk to Me is a pitch-perfect lesson in horror efficiency. Everything you need to know gets meted out in a couple of concise scenes, and everything after that is pure gas. The movie’s party scenes are electric, flipping the camera with each possession and sending the whole movie into a spin when all hell breaks loose. The possession scenes in Talk to Me feel almost like action movie beats, with kinetic movements and powerful hits that give each spiritual movement its own kind of otherworldly impact.

Adding to the movie’s inventive scares is the fact that it’s also pretty gory. Though the gore is mostly limited to a few specific places, when bad things happen to a character, they really happen, giving Talk to Me an edge that makes it pretty easily one of the scariest movies of the year so far. — AG

How scary is Talk to Me?

Total scariness score: 9/10

The Outwaters

A young blonde woman wearing a colorful top iss seen through desert plants in The Outwaters.

Run time: 1h 50m Director: Robbie Banfitch Cast: Robbie Banfitch, Angela Basolis, Scott Schamell Where to watch: Tubi, Vudu, The Roku Channel, and Plex

The Outwaters is a found-footage movie about a group of friends who go missing while exploring the Mojave Desert. While most found footage is more about the horror you don’t see and the mysteriousness of the disappearances of the characters, The Outwaters prefers to keep its violence front and center, putting together what’s sure to be one of the gnarliest horror movies of the year with incredible-looking blood and guts. On top of that, the movie’s full of disconcerting images and creepy cosmic horror — at least when it’s bright enough for you to see what’s going on. — AG

How scary is The Outwaters?

When evil lurks.

Ezequiel Rodríguez, with his face covered in blood, sits in the driver’s seat of a car with his hands on the wheel in When Evil Lurks. The car’s front windshield is shattered, with lots of blood.

Run time : 1 hour 39 minutes Director : Demián Rugna Cast : Ezequiel Rodríguez, Demián Salomón, Luis Ziembrowski Where to watch: Shudder

2023 really seems to be the year of possession movies, but none of them are as bleak, haunting, or brutal as When Evil Lurks .

When Evil Lurks is set in a remote village sometime after a horrifying apocalypse of-sorts. While it’s never quite clear what happened, we know that evil is now everywhere and possession is commonplace. But when two brothers fail to properly dispose of a possessed soul, their entire world spirals out into a mess of bloodshed and death.

This is the kind of movie where half the delight of watching is seeing the new and increasingly creative ways that someone is going to die next. When Evil Lurks delights in its gore and increasingly brutal deaths, but unlike other extra-bloody movies, it’s restraned enough to know exactly how to avoid overdoing things, never becoming garish enough for you to look away, only enough to keep you glued to the screen.

When Evil Lurks is a gnarly movie with a mean-streak a mile wide. In a year full of possession movies, this one puts them all to shame, upping the gore to 11 and making its world full of doom feel inescapable and overpowering. — AG

How scary is When Evil Lurks?

  • Terror: 5/5

Total scariness score: 10/10

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‘Presence’: Steven Soderbergh Does His Version of a Haunted House Movie at Sundance

BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Soderbergh returns to the Sundance Film Festival 35 years after his game-changing “sex, lies and videotape.” This time, he’s bringing a ghost.

Nick Schager

Nick Schager

Entertainment Critic

Photo still from "Presence"

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

PARK CITY, Utah— Steven Soderbergh never met a genre on which he didn’t want to experiment, and with Presence , he upends the conventions of the haunted house movie by telling his tale through the eyes of an unseen—and, until the end, unidentified—spirit. That gambit is the most (if hardly the only) daring thing about the prolific auteur’s latest, both because it affords inventive new avenues for creating suspense, and also because it slyly speaks to audiences’ relationship to the characters, settings, and stories they watch on the big screen. Casting us as ghostly spectators who are voyeuristically enjoying—and desperate to intervene in—the plight of a dysfunctional family, the director’s latest is a distinctly cool, dynamic Soderbergian riff on Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom via The Haunting , with a dash of Paranormal Activity sprinkled around its edges.

Debuting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival on the 35th anniversary of the premiere of Soderbergh’s trailblazing indie sex, lies and videotape , Presence is another exquisitely compact and fluid formal exercise from an artist driven to find creative ways to breathe new life into familiar formulas. Written by blockbuster scribe David Koepp (who penned Soderbergh’s similarly concise 2022 thriller Kimi ), it assumes the gaze of a specter in a spacious and unfurnished house that it roams with the free-floating fluidity of a being unburdened by gravity. In the first of numerous long, unbroken takes, Soderbergh’s camera glides, spins and soars around empty rooms, the winding central staircase, and the open modern kitchen, creating the impression that this apparition is lost and distressed, and possibly in search of something, or someone, it can’t locate. Set to melancholy piano, the sequence establishes the spatial dynamics of this milieu, but more importantly, it attunes us to our invisible proxy’s confusion and anguish.

Before long, company arrives in the form of a realtor ( Julia Fox ) who shows the abode to Rebekah (Lucy Liu), her husband Chris (Chris Sullivan) and their two children, older swimming-star son Tyler (Eddy Maday) and younger Chloe (Callina Liang), whose grief covers the clan like a shroud. They agree to buy the place, and soon the ghost’s rotating perspective takes in a home that’s fully furnished, if still less than happy. Tensions are high, thanks to a variety of escalating factors: Rebekah has gotten herself into serious (ill-defined) criminal trouble at work, thereby motivating Chris to gauge his liability (and options for self-preservation); Tyler is at perpetual odds with his morose sister, and as everyone knows (and Chris detests), he’s his mother’s clear favorite; and Chloe is mourning her friend Nadia, who recently died (along with another acquaintance) of a drug overdose.

Death literally looms around every corner in Presence , but so too does the threat of family disintegration. Soderbergh and Koepp utilize their subjective POV to parcel out details about the issues plaguing these individuals, with scenes designed as brief glimpses and separated by edits that feel like deep breaths. Small touches, such as back-to-back sights of Liu’s Rebekah with a drink, help flesh out the characters without need for blunt exposition, while Soderbergh’s visuals—marked by warm hues, deep focus and curved borders—suggest the wide, bewildered stares of the ethereal protagonist. The material boasts an otherworldly aura that’s more sad than scary, and thus when Chloe begins subtly sensing the spirit, her terror is outweighed by her curiosity and, shortly thereafter, her desire to deduce whether this visitor is her deceased friend.

Into this insular space arrives another regular in the figure of Ryan (West Mulholland), a friend of Tyler’s who quickly strikes up a romantic relationship with Chloe. Their cryptic talk about craving control implies that a dangerous sort of plan is brewing, although it’s Tyler’s story about playing a mean prank on a female classmate that really provokes the ire of the ghost, which poltergeists his room and, consequently, reveals its existence to the rest of Chloe’s previously disbelieving family. Thrown for an understandable loop by this phenomenon, Chris enlists the aid of a local medium who informs them that wayward souls don’t experience time like the living (for them, the past, present and future can be jumbled together), and that their phantom has stuck around to fulfill a purpose, albeit one it can’t remember.

Be it shooting everything from the perspective of the dead, to confining all the action to the stately house’s interior, to editing the proceedings in an atypical, rhythmic manner, Presence appears to have been constructed as a series of challenges for Soderbergh. That he pulls each one off is no surprise, even if some of Koepp’s narrative components never fully bear fruit. In particular, Rebekah and Chris’ vague legal predicament fails to amount to anything, making it seem like merely a decorative embellishment. Moreover, the writer’s characterizations aren’t evenly developed; of the four, Chloe and Chris share the healthiest bond, and their compassionate moments together—highlighted by a one-on-one chat about faith and trust—make them far more three-dimensional than Rebekah and Tyler. Nonetheless, there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch, and in a memorable turn of paternal protectiveness, Sullivan (as he did in Soderbergh’s The Knick ) proves that he only needs a little to convey a lot.

Presence may initially resemble just a role-reversal variation of a standard spookshow, yet beneath its surface, it’s a clever—not to mention consistently unnerving—thriller about the longing to be close to death, and the even stronger impulse to safeguard our loved ones from harm. Though its wraith starts off as a passive observer who, when detected, retreats to the closet of Chloe’s bedroom (which has a bad energy that causes a house painter to doggedly avoid it), it eventually grows more interactive. Moving schoolbooks, causing lights to flicker, knocking over drinks, and literally shaking its new cohabitants out of their slumbers, the ghost becomes determined to affect forthcoming events—and, as a result, realizes our own horror-movie wishes to warn characters about peril before calamity strikes. In that regard, Soderbergh and Koepp’s newest collaboration is almost playfully deconstructionist, simultaneously embracing and upending common genre elements in order to investigate the underlying ways we relate and respond to such scary movies, and why.

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Best Haunting/Possessions Horror Movies

Haunted Places, Haunted Houses, Haunted People, Evil Spirits, Ghosts, Urban Legends, Cursed Games, Cursed Objects, Cult and Curses

  • Movies or TV
  • IMDb Rating
  • In Theaters
  • Release Year

1. Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

PG-13 | 99 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

Director: Mike Flanagan | Stars: Elizabeth Reaser , Lulu Wilson , Annalise Basso , Henry Thomas

Votes: 72,166 | Gross: $35.14M

2. Ouija (II) (2014)

PG-13 | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

Director: Stiles White | Stars: Olivia Cooke , Ana Coto , Daren Kagasoff , Bianca A. Santos

Votes: 56,463 | Gross: $50.86M

3. It (I) (2017)

R | 135 min | Horror

In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

Director: Andy Muschietti | Stars: Bill Skarsgård , Jaeden Martell , Finn Wolfhard , Sophia Lillis

Votes: 596,044 | Gross: $327.48M

Stephen King

4. It Chapter Two (2019)

R | 169 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

Director: Andy Muschietti | Stars: Jessica Chastain , James McAvoy , Bill Hader , Isaiah Mustafa

Votes: 296,312 | Gross: $211.59M

5. The Conjuring (2013)

R | 112 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.

Director: James Wan | Stars: Patrick Wilson , Vera Farmiga , Ron Livingston , Lili Taylor

Votes: 547,315 | Gross: $137.40M

Conjuring Universe James Wan

6. The Conjuring 2 (2016)

R | 134 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to North London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a supernatural spirit.

Director: James Wan | Stars: Vera Farmiga , Patrick Wilson , Madison Wolfe , Frances O'Connor

Votes: 296,101 | Gross: $102.47M

7. The Nun (2018)

R | 96 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

Director: Corin Hardy | Stars: Demián Bichir , Taissa Farmiga , Jonas Bloquet , Bonnie Aarons

Votes: 167,597 | Gross: $117.45M

8. Annabelle: Creation (2017)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Twelve years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll-maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, where they become the target of the doll-maker's possessed creation, Annabelle.

Director: David F. Sandberg | Stars: Anthony LaPaglia , Samara Lee , Miranda Otto , Brad Greenquist

Votes: 148,891 | Gross: $102.09M

9. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

R | 106 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

While babysitting the daughter of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a teenager and her friend unknowingly awaken an evil spirit trapped in a doll.

Director: Gary Dauberman | Stars: Vera Farmiga , Patrick Wilson , Mckenna Grace , Madison Iseman

Votes: 85,662 | Gross: $74.15M

Conjuring Universe

10. Silent Hill (2006)

R | 125 min | Horror, Mystery

A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill.

Director: Christophe Gans | Stars: Radha Mitchell , Laurie Holden , Sean Bean , Deborah Kara Unger

Votes: 241,786 | Gross: $46.98M

11. Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

R | 95 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

When her adoptive father disappears, Sharon Da Silva is drawn into a strange and terrifying alternate reality that holds answers to the horrific nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.

Director: M.J. Bassett | Stars: Adelaide Clemens , Kit Harington , Sean Bean , Carrie-Anne Moss

Votes: 66,259 | Gross: $17.53M

12. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

PG-13 | 108 min | Adventure, Horror, Mystery

On Halloween 1968, Stella and her two friends meet a mysterious drifter, Ramón, and uncover a sinister notebook of stories.

Director: André Øvredal | Stars: Zoe Colletti , Michael Garza , Gabriel Rush , Austin Abrams

Votes: 84,147 | Gross: $68.95M

13. Dead Silence (2007)

R | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

After his wife meets a grisly end, Jamie Ashen returns to his hometown of Ravens Fair to find answers. His investigation leads him to the ghost of a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw who seems to have ties to his entire family tree

Director: James Wan | Stars: Ryan Kwanten , Amber Valletta , Donnie Wahlberg , Michael Fairman

Votes: 100,841 | Gross: $16.81M

14. Pet Sematary (2019)

R | 100 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.

Directors: Kevin Kölsch , Dennis Widmyer | Stars: Jason Clarke , Amy Seimetz , John Lithgow , Jeté Laurence

Votes: 97,628 | Gross: $54.72M

15. The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

PG-13 | 92 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

After a family is forced to relocate for their son's health, they begin experiencing supernatural behavior in their new home, and uncover a sinister history.

Director: Peter Cornwell | Stars: Virginia Madsen , Martin Donovan , Elias Koteas , Kyle Gallner

Votes: 64,749 | Gross: $55.39M

16. The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

R | 100 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A young family moves into a historic house in Georgia and learns that they're not the house's only inhabitants. They find themselves in the presence of a secret rising from underground that threatens to bring down anyone in its path.

Director: Tom Elkins | Stars: Abigail Spencer , Chad Michael Murray , Katee Sackhoff , Emily Alyn Lind

Votes: 18,129

17. Incident in a Ghostland (2018)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A mother of two who inherits a house is confronted with murderous intruders on the first night in their new home and fights for her daughters' lives. Sixteen years later when the daughters reunite at the house, things get really strange.

Director: Pascal Laugier | Stars: Crystal Reed , Mylène Farmer , Anastasia Phillips , Emilia Jones

Votes: 38,692

18. Haunt (2013)

R | 86 min | Horror, Mystery, Romance

An introvert teen befriends his new neighbor, and together the couple begin to explore the haunted house that his family has just purchased.

Director: Mac Carter | Stars: Jacki Weaver , Liana Liberato , Harrison Gilbertson , Ione Skye

Votes: 8,651

19. Sinister (I) (2012)

R | 110 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A controversial true crime writer finds a box of super 8 home movies in his new home, revealing that the murder case he is currently researching could be the work of an unknown serial killer whose legacy dates back to the 1960s.

Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Ethan Hawke , Juliet Rylance , James Ransone , Fred Thompson

Votes: 275,767 | Gross: $48.09M

20. Sinister 2 (2015)

R | 97 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A young mother and her twin sons move into a rural house that's marked for death.

Director: Ciarán Foy | Stars: James Ransone , Shannyn Sossamon , Robert Daniel Sloan , Dartanian Sloan

Votes: 59,877 | Gross: $27.74M

21. The Grudge (I) (2020)

R | 94 min | Fantasy, Horror

A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

Director: Nicolas Pesce | Stars: Tara Westwood , Junko Bailey , David Lawrence Brown , Zoe Fish

Votes: 28,792

22. Insidious (I) (2010)

PG-13 | 103 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.

Director: James Wan | Stars: Patrick Wilson , Rose Byrne , Ty Simpkins , Lin Shaye

Votes: 335,248 | Gross: $54.01M

23. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

PG-13 | 106 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

The Lamberts believe that they have defeated the spirits that have haunted their family, but they soon discover that evil is not beaten so easily.

Director: James Wan | Stars: Patrick Wilson , Rose Byrne , Barbara Hershey , Lin Shaye

Votes: 186,815 | Gross: $83.59M

24. Marrowbone (2017)

R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

Director: Sergio G. Sánchez | Stars: George MacKay , Anya Taylor-Joy , Charlie Heaton , Mia Goth

Votes: 37,820 | Gross: $0.00M

25. Hereditary (2018)

R | 127 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences.

Director: Ari Aster | Stars: Toni Collette , Milly Shapiro , Gabriel Byrne , Alex Wolff

Votes: 367,790 | Gross: $44.07M

26. The Bye Bye Man (2017)

PG-13 | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind unspeakable acts.

Director: Stacy Title | Stars: Douglas Smith , Lucien Laviscount , Cressida Bonas , Michael Trucco

Votes: 25,704 | Gross: $22.38M

27. The Amityville Horror (2005)

R | 90 min | Horror

Newlyweds are terrorized by demonic forces after moving into a large house that was the site of a grisly mass murder a year before.

Director: Andrew Douglas | Stars: Ryan Reynolds , Melissa George , Jimmy Bennett , Jesse James

Votes: 116,602 | Gross: $65.23M

28. Polaroid (I) (2019)

PG-13 | 88 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

High school loner Bird Fitcher has no idea what dark secrets are tied to the Polaroid camera she finds. It doesn't take long to discover that those who have their picture taken with it, soon die.

Director: Lars Klevberg | Stars: Kathryn Prescott , Tyler Young , Samantha Logan , Keenan Tracey

Votes: 16,101

29. Demonic (2015)

R | 83 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A police officer and a psychologist investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.

Director: Will Canon | Stars: Dustin Milligan , Scott Mechlowicz , Cody Horn , Maria Bello

Votes: 16,062

30. Oculus (2013)

R | 104 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

Director: Mike Flanagan | Stars: Karen Gillan , Brenton Thwaites , Katee Sackhoff , Rory Cochrane

Votes: 138,344 | Gross: $27.70M

31. Dream House (2011)

PG-13 | 92 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Soon after moving into their seemingly idyllic new home, a family learns of a brutal crime committed against former residents of the dwelling.

Director: Jim Sheridan | Stars: Daniel Craig , Rachel Weisz , Naomi Watts , Elias Koteas

Votes: 68,818 | Gross: $21.28M

32. The Possession (I) (2012)

PG-13 | 92 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl's father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

Director: Ole Bornedal | Stars: Natasha Calis , Jeffrey Dean Morgan , Kyra Sedgwick , Madison Davenport

Votes: 62,874 | Gross: $49.13M

33. The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

R | 93 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm.

Director: Michael Chaves | Stars: Linda Cardellini , Raymond Cruz , Patricia Velasquez , Marisol Ramirez

Votes: 56,857 | Gross: $54.73M

34. Eloise (2016)

R | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

After the death of his estranged father, Jacob, must obtain his aunt's death certificate from the asylum where she died. After breaking in, he and his companions discover the hospital holds many dangerous secrets.

Director: Robert Legato | Stars: Chace Crawford , Eliza Dushku , Brandon T. Jackson , P.J. Byrne

Votes: 4,610

35. Mercy (I) (2014)

R | 79 min | Horror, Thriller

A single mom and her two boys help take care of their grandmother with mystical powers.

Director: Peter Cornwell | Stars: Frances O'Connor , Shirley Knight , Chandler Riggs , Joel Courtney

Votes: 5,776

36. House of the Witch (2017 TV Movie)

Unrated | 90 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

A group of high-school kids set out to play a Halloween prank at an abandoned house, but once they enter they become victims of a demonic witch who has set her wrath upon them.

Director: Alex Merkin | Stars: Emily Bader , Darren Mann , Michelle Randolph , Arden Belle

Votes: 3,923

37. Truth or Dare (2017 TV Movie)

TV-14 | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Eight college friends head to a "Haunted Rental" for Halloween. But when they replay the game that made the house infamous, they awaken an evil spirit intent on stealing their souls.

Director: Nick Simon | Stars: Cassandra Scerbo , Brytni Sarpy , Mason Dye , Alexxis Lemire

Votes: 5,043

38. The Midnight Game (2013)

R | 74 min | Horror, Thriller

After playing a pagan ritual on a dare, a group of high school students find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of their worst fears.

Director: A.D. Calvo | Stars: Guy Wilson , Valentina de Angelis , Deborah Twiss , Renee Olstead

39. Malevolent (III) (2018)

TV-MA | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A team of scam artists get more than they bargained for when a job at a haunted country estate gets out of hand.

Director: Olaf de Fleur Johannesson | Stars: Florence Pugh , Ben Lloyd-Hughes , Scott Chambers , Georgina Bevan

Votes: 16,746

40. Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018)

Not Rated | 94 min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

When children start disappearing, a rebellious teen under house arrest starts to suspect that a legendary evil, a boogeyman known as the Cucuy, might be responsible.

Director: Peter Sullivan | Stars: Marisol Nichols , Brian Krause , Jearnest Corchado , Bella Stine

Votes: 1,070

41. The House at the End of Time (2013)

Unrated | 101 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Dulce is a mother of two who experiences terrifying encounters with apparitions inside her old house, a place where a tragedy occurs. Thirty years later, an elderly Dulce returns home to decipher the mystery that has tormented her for so long.

Director: Alejandro Hidalgo | Stars: Ruddy Rodríguez , Guillermo Garcia , Rosmel Bustamante , Gonzalo Cubero

Votes: 7,854

42. Delirium (II) (2018)

TV-MA | 86 min | Horror, Thriller

A group of young men dare a classmate to reach the porch of a legendary old house, said to be haunted by the thirteen victims of a family massacre. In hopes of making a viral video they arm... See full summary  »

Director: Johnny Martin | Stars: Mike Manning , Griffin Freeman , Ryan Pinkston , August Roads

Votes: 1,082

43. The Fourth Kind (2009)

PG-13 | 98 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up.

Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi | Stars: Milla Jovovich , Elias Koteas , Will Patton , Hakeem Kae-Kazim

Votes: 81,185 | Gross: $25.46M

44. Husk (2011)

R | 83 min | Horror, Thriller

A group of friends stranded near a desolate cornfield find shelter in an old farmhouse, though they soon discover the dwelling is the center of a supernatural ritual.

Director: Brett Simmons | Stars: Devon Graye , Wes Chatham , C.J. Thomason , Tammin Sursok

Votes: 10,594

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10 Best Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free on Internet Archive, Ranked

With over 400,000 movies free to access on The Internet Archive, we look at the best horror movies you will find on the site.

Founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle, a free information advocate, The Internet Archive is an American digital library built to offer permanent access to researchers, historians, and scholars. Initially, the organization began by archiving the Internet itself but later expanded its collections to include texts, audio, video, and software . The organization would later develop the 'Wayback Machine,' which would make the content available to the public in 2001, and has been active since then.

Browsing The Internet Archive can lead to fascinating rabbit holes of archived media, which extends to movies, with the site hosting over 400,000 movies free to access across various genres. We will narrow our focus on horror and look at the ten best horror movies you can watch for free on The Internet Archive.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Inheriting a mansion from the family, a man soon finds that the building, which was once an asylum, holds a dark past that has cast a dark shadow over a small New England town. When a string of murders starts to take place on Christmas Eve , the inheritance of the home and its dark past seem to be connected.

A Christmas Horror Classic

Making effective use of the classic carol 'Silent Night,' Silent Night, Bloody Night is an atmospheric Christmas-themed horror movie perfect for checking out during the winter months.

The movie has also found appreciation for being a 'proto-slasher,' one of the films that predates Halloween and shows the early rumblings of the popular horror genre that would dominate the 80s. However, the movie is worth watching for its backstory, mystery, and success at creating constant tension.

Watch Silent Night, Bloody Night

The Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

While covering a test of guided torpedoes, two reporters are taken aback when they see what appears to be a strange-looking creature lurking beneath the surface. When they decided to investigate further, they discovered an underground society ruled by a mad scientist and his fish-man army. They are taken prisoner, which puts the underground society at war with the 'surface dwellers.'

Related: The 13 Best Free Horror Movies on YouTube, Ranked

Silly Sci-Fi Horror Goodness

A Japanese sci-fi horror starring the likes of Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal, and Franz Gruber, The Terror Beneath the Sea is, admittedly, unremarkable among a sea of cheesy b-movies.

That said, it is still a fun romp that fits so well into that so-bad-its-good category that it will still tickle the fancy of those seeking out purposely silly cinema. At the same time, having a legend like Sonny Chiba gives the movie an entertaining edge, especially when seeing him alongside the roughly designed fish-men.

Watch The Terror Beneath the Sea

The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The house on haunted hill.

An eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), and his wife Annabelle invite five people to a haunted house party. The guests are offered $10,000 each under the condition of having to stay the night. As the night progresses, the five find themselves coming up against all manner of terrors, including ghosts and killers. The House on Haunted Hill was also remade in 1999, following the same premise as the original.

A Classic B-Horror Movie

A campy classic highlighting the early rise of the b-movie, The House on Haunted Hill is one of the best movies by sensational director William Castle. A natural showman, Castle was also known for packing in extra 'features' into the theatrical experience with The House on Haunted Hill​ using the "Emergo" gimmick — a skeleton with glowing eyes that would fly over the audiences during certain scenes.

While one can't recapture that theatrical experience, the movie still resonates with the intended shock and sensationalism intended on release. Much of this comes from Vincent Price's performance, which is wonderfully macabre in both delivery and screen presence. The film may lack the scares for modern audiences, but it is still a wonderfully written and performed dark piece of cinematic history that should be watched at least once.

Watch The House on Haunted Hill

Horror Express (1972)

After British anthropologist Professor Alexander Saxton discovers a frozen prehistoric creature in China, he decides to transport it back to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway. However, when the creature the archaeologists find unthaws, it comes back to life and begins to kill off the passengers, causing chaos.

Uncertain about how to find the creature, distrust among the passengers becomes intense when they learn the creature is a shape-shifting alien capable of stealing memories to blend in.

Claustrophobic Horror at its Best

A unique combination of gothic horror and sci-fi, Horror Express presents a fascinating story of terror and paranoia. The movie also has several other elements that make it stand out, including the presence of iconic actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, giving memorable performances. In addition, the setting of a train makes for a wonderfully claustrophobic stage for the alien threat, all heightened by a great score.

Watch Horror Express

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)

A graveyard's caretaker decides that he must carry on his legacy and find a woman to give him a child after learning his wife cannot conceive. This leads him on a violent and profane journey, ultimately leading to the character spiraling toward his own doom. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is the first part of the 'Coffin Joe' trilogy, followed by This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Embodiment of Evil .

Related: The Best Gothic Movies of All Time

Terror in Brazil

Brazil's first horror film caused quite a stir on release , making it a notable horror film in history worth checking out. On top of its importance in cinema, the movie boasts a memorable antagonist in "Coffin Joe," a darkened figure who carries a wickedness that made director José Mojica Marins feared both off and on the screen.

The dialogue here is a true highlight, with Joe's blasphemy and violent rhetoric delivered with all the confidence of a seasoned showman-turned-villain.

Watch At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

Driller Killer (1979)

Part black comedy and part slasher, Driller Killer follows a troubled artist-turned-murderer as he goes on a killing spree across New York using a drill as his weapon of choice. The movie would mark the feature film debut of director Abel Ferrara, who would go on to cult infamy with movies like Ms .45 , Bad Lieutenant, and King of New York .

A Gritty Slasher

Taking place in the urban landscape of New York , Driller Killer perfectly captures the grit of the era. This backdrop, combined with the unapologetic nature of its killer (Reno), gives the movie an authentic punk rock vibe.

If that was not reason enough to check it out, the film has proven to be highly influential with its disjointed editing style that blurred the line between reality and fantasy. It may be a bit bleak and lacking a plot, but Driller Killer is a must-watch for those looking for gritty chaos.

Watch Driller Killer

Repulsion (1965)

Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful and shy Belgian manicurist living in London, slowly starts to withdraw from the world and begins feeling increasing paranoia. Much of these fears are aimed towards men, of which she has an intense fear and distrust thanks to daily interactions she has with a caller harassing her, and her solitude away from family. Overcome with emotion, Carol begins to hallucinate and becomes violent towards others.

A Convincing Tale of Madness

A wonderful tale of madness, Roman Polanski's Repulsion excels under the convincing performance of Catherine Deneuve. Adding elements of surrealism and unique cinematography, the '60s film feels pretty ahead of its time, and is arguably the best psychological thriller released in the era. Ultimately, Repulsion is a convincing tale of madness packed with suspense and mystery, making it an excellent film to dig deeper into on a solo watch.

Watch Repulsion

Sisters (1972)

A small-time reporter, Grace Collier (played by Jennifer Salt) ends up witnessing a crime in the apartment across from hers, but cannot convince others of what she saw. Matters become further complicated when she learns that the woman she suspects is part of a conjoined twin (played by Margot Kidder), with each having drastically different personas. The more she becomes invested in the case, the more she is drawn into the insidious nature of the twins.

Two's Company

Almost interchangeable with the previously mentioned Repulsion , Brian De Palma's Sisters also deals with themes of madness brought on by fear of men.

At the same time, the movie also utilizes creative cinematography to disorient the viewers and have them experience the same uncertainty and mental instability portrayed throughout, including the early use of split-screen as a narrative device. Still, the approach here is slightly more intense and the methods of the antagonist more malicious, giving this one a slight edge.

Watch Sisters

House (1977)

Schoolgirl Gorgeous (Kumiko Ôba) brings six classmates to her ailing aunt's country home to help her clean up and offer a joint vacation for her and her friends. However, supernatural incidents begin to occur, and the group finds themselves against all manner of ghastly horrors, including going up against a possessed cat and a haunted piano.

Related: The Best Ghost Movies Based on Books, Ranked

Pure Japanese Silliness

The synopsis for House is more of a starting point than any indication of what happens therein. Essentially, the movie is a surreal and nonsensical horror-lite movie that throws everything at the screen to scare and entertain.

Nobuhiko Obayashi's masterpiece was lost to time for a while, but has since garnered a dedicated cult following thanks to its wonderful mix of surrealism, sensationalism, and humor. House is one of a kind that will impress those who are always looking for new cinematic experiences.

Watch House (1977)

Scanners (1981)

The sci-fi horror film Scanners , follows an elite group of citizens gifted with the powers to 'scan' others, including the use of telekinetic abilities. One Scanner, Darryl Revok (played by Michael Ironside), goes renegade and starts finding other Scanners to wage a war against the corporation that is looking to use Scanners for their own purpose. The movie would spawn three sequels, and act as inspiration for the absurd Scanner Cop and its sequel.

Head Explosions Galore

Director David Cronenberg , a master of body horror who crafted some of the most memorable horror movies of the '80s from The Fly to Videodrome , hardly needs any introduction to fans of the genre.

Add in the fact that Scanners includes one of the most iconic scenes in all the director's filmography, the 'head explosion' scene, and this movie has cemented itself as a true classic. If you have been looking to check out David Cronenberg or revisit his '80s work, Scanners is a welcome addition to free films on The Internet Archive.

Watch Scanners

Bloody Disgusting!

‘Last Night at Terrace Lanes’ Review – Bowling Slasher Lands Somewhere Between Strike and Gutterball

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In the pantheon of cool horror movie locations, the bowling alley is an overlooked gem. Unsurprisingly, the tendency to feature a disembodied body part being flung down the lane means that such films are frequently horror comedies (think Anna and the Apocalypse, Cabin Fever, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and Fright Night 2 ).

Last Night at Terrace Lanes adopts a slasher approach (see: Gutterballs – or don’t), but maintains a humorous tone. The film, from director Jamie Nash and written by YA horror author Adam Cesare (working from a story by Jenna St. John ), has a great logline: what if a killer cult attacked a bowling alley?

Sadly, the finished product struggles with its execution, leading to a decidedly mixed comedy slasher.

It’s the last night of business at Terrace Lanes, an aged bowling alley scheduled for demolition. Among the employees and the regulars bowling one last time, there’s Kennedy ( Francesca Capaldi ), a queer teen looking for some solo time with her crush Tess ( Mia Rae Roberts ). Unfortunately Tess has invited two boys – nice guy Pete ( Lucas Sanchez ) and asshole Cody ( Elias Arnold ) – for an awkward double date.

And that’s before the uninvited guests arrive for the evening: a group of murderous cult members dressed in identical blue tracksuits and white masks, intent on killing every single person on the premises.

horror ghost hollywood movies

For those familiar with Cesare’s Clown in a Cornfield series, Terrace Lane offers plenty of overlap in terms of narrative, tone and character. In the books, small town teens are preyed upon by a killer in a clown costume in what is eventually revealed to be a larger conspiracy.

Last Night at Terrace Lanes uses the same formula, though the presence and size of the cult is immediately evident by the opening scene in which a white van full of members abducts and murders a man ( Sam Lukowski ) off the street.

The group is acting on orders from their leader Dove ( Christopher Walker ), a numbers-obsessed figure who directs them to Terrace Lanes for a mission with a fixed deadline. Following the initial massacre (which occurs at roughly the half way point of the seventy-five minute film), the survivors must hide, seek an exit, and/or fight back using weapons available in a bowling alley.

horror ghost hollywood movies

Among the living is Kennedy’s estranged father, Bruce ( Ken Arnold ), an employee at Terrace Lanes. Naturally Bruce has a fraught back story with his daughter that becomes the centerpiece of the film’s narrative and emotional arc. Arnold and Capaldi’s scenes together are easily the most successful part of the film, so while the family conflict isn’t breaking new ground, the father/daughter relationship works to generate audience investment in their survival.

Initially it seems as though the film will subvert expectations about who lives and who dies, but very quickly it becomes clear that only Kennedy and Bruce matter. The romance between the girls is treated as a secondary plot and Tess is almost immediately relegated to damsel in distress. This would be more frustrating if she were a proper character, but outside of Arnold and Capaldi, none of the actors make much of an impact.

This frustratingly extends to both Terrace Lane’s other employees (all of them Red Shirts), as well as the cultists. Several of the killers have unique identifiers, such as a fanny pack or glasses, but this never amounts to anything. Outside of a shrug-worthy joke involving a cultist missing a kill due to his dirty glasses, the killers have no personality or individuality. Visually the group makes for an intimidating bunch when they congregate, but the effect is dampened the further the film progresses as the emphasis shifts to Dove and his sermons.

The main joke is that they’re driven by math and spirituality. We see coordinated watches used to synchronize their movements, a crystal is used to select the first victim, and Dove regularly speaks in math-based terms (at one point, he calls the survivors “variables” and “rounding errors”). It’s a one-note joke that is clearly intended to pay off in the climax, but it’s never as funny or interesting as the production believes it is.

horror ghost hollywood movies

Therein lies the film’s biggest hurdle: the ambition and the ideas are present, but the execution is lacking. Nash’s direction is relatively flat, so action sequences lack energy and while there are plenty of murders, they’re mostly gore-free and frequently occur off-screen. Add in questionable editing decisions, such as several fades to black in the last act that drag down the pacing, and Last Night at Terrace Lanes lacks technical polish.

On the plus side, the film features several sequences that make good use of Kennedy’s bowling talents (once in the lanes; once in a hallway of all places). These moments, as well as Capaldi’s inherent likeability, ensure the film is watchable, and even fun at points.

Overall, the premise and the father/daughter backstory in Last Night at Terrace Lanes are both solid. It’s the technical elements – direction, framing, editing, pacing and gore – that let the film down and prevent it from working as a cohesive whole.

2.5 out of 5 skulls

Joe is a TV addict with a background in Film Studies. He co-created TV/Film Fest blog QueerHorrorMovies and writes for Bloody Disgusting, Anatomy of a Scream, That Shelf, The Spool and Grim Magazine. He enjoys graphic novels, dark beer and plays multiple sports (adequately, never exceptionally). While he loves all horror, if given a choice, Joe always opts for slashers and creature features.

horror ghost hollywood movies

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‘It’s What’s Inside’ Sundance Review – A Twisty Funhouse of Sci-Fi Comedy-Horrors

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Dark secrets, resentment, and jealousy raucously bubble up to the surface in writer/director  Greg Jardin ’s feature debut,  It’s What’s Inside . A pre-wedding reunion amongst former college friends begins with easy revelry as eight gather to reminisce and imbibe in mind-altering substances. Only none knew just how mind-bending the night would become when a suitcase emerges to introduce a new party game, one that catapults the group into an identity-bending funhouse of sci-fi comedy and horror. Its irreverent tone and Jardin’s visual eye ensure a highly entertaining time, though it becomes prone to tangled knots.

The opening introduction to college sweethearts Shelby ( Brittany O’Grady ) and Cyrus ( James Morosini ) sets the manic, social media-obsessed culture and comedic tone as the pair bicker over a botched attempt to rekindle the passion in their relationship. Shelby’s sweet intentions are undermined by insecurities and suspicions that Cyrus isn’t entirely being truthful with her. Attempts to work through their issues get waylaid by the encroaching nuptials of Reuben ( Devon Terrell ), who wants to celebrate the final night of bachelorhood at his mother’s quirky mansion with his old partying pals.

Joining the mix are Instagram influencers Nikki ( Alycia Debnam-Carey ), new-age hippie-type Maya ( Nina Bloomgarden ), artist Brooke ( Reina Hardesty ), and pot-stirrer Dennis ( Gavin Leatherwood ). The group has just enough time to start getting sloppy over joints and wine, exposing former trysts and secret pining between them when one final unexpected guest shows up: Forbes ( David W. Thompson ). Considering how Forbes left the group last, all are surprised by his appearance. That’s quickly forgotten when Forbes breaks out a suitcase and suggests a party game to really kick the night into high gear.

The details of what the suitcase contains will be withheld for the sake of preserving this wacky funhouse’s surprises, but it’s safe to say that it plunges the eight friends and frenemies into a bizarre sci-fi odyssey that leaves each questioning their identity and desires. The longer the night wears on, the more tangled the dynamics become. So, too, do the complications- emotional and physical- that will irrevocably change their lives.

Jardin captures the madness with a manic energy befitting of this vapid bunch. The camera doesn’t stop, circling and swerving around its characters to match and then enhance their liveliness. Brick cuts only further add to the high-octane tone. The rapid-fire dialogue fits the characters perfectly, but it is also necessary for the complex plot. Jardin packs a lot into  It’s What’s Inside , juggling eight flawed characters and letting them loose within one vibrant mansion oddity. The film’s title isn’t referring to Forbes’ box of tricks but the people behind their carefully curated masks. Keeping track of who’s who and who they truly are is made all the trickier once the sci-fi elements get introduced. Jardin deftly prevents audiences from getting lost through careful plotting and visual clues, though the interpersonal dramas threaten to obscure. The director pulls from his music video background to ensure a vivacious, eye-catching feature that dazzles and lures you further into the tangled abyss, even as many of its central players frustrate.

The ensemble cast makes easy work of blurring those lines and preventing the ambitious concept from veering straight into impenetrable territory. While allegiances shift and blur between them, escalating the stakes in the process, audiences will find a tougher time finding rooting interest in most of this self-absorbed bunch. That some of the pertinent details unlocking this puzzle box come at such warped speed means that certain plot points are too underserved for the coda to land its intended impact.

Even still,  It’s What’s Inside  is pure fun. Moreover, it’s extremely funny. Jardin assembles an ensemble willing to push their frequently and intentionally insufferable characters past the point of insanity for our entertainment. On that front, Jardin’s debut is a stunning success. It’s a twisty puzzle box that demands your attention to avoid missing crucial minutiae, but it rewards through saturated colors, meticulous visual plotting, and an irreverent tone. Not all the pieces fully come together, but Jardin’s ambitious debut will easily earn a devout following for its creative setup and commitment to bonkers fun.

It’s What’s Inside premiered at the Sundance Film Festival .

3 skulls out of 5

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Best Horror Movies of 2023 Ranked

It didn’t take long for 2023 to find its new scream queen: M3GAN , the Certified Fresh horror hit released the first week of the year, representing another strike of success for Blumhouse . But actress Jenna Ortega (who we proclaimed a Golden Year winner in our Golden Tomato Awards for her contributions to the dark genre arts) took back the crown with Scream VI in March (see where it ranks in the Scream franchise). In this guide to the newest scary movies, we’ll rank every week the best horror movies of 2023, which through the early months saw Knock at the Cabin (from director M. Night Shyamalan ), Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool , and viral curiosity Skinamarink .

April revved things up with the return of Evil Dead in Rise , and May saw the latest in the long factory line of Stephen King adaptations , The Boogeyman . But, for critics, the one to beat this year is Mexico’s Huesera: The Bone Woman , the body-horror directorial debut of Michelle Garza Cervera.

Then it was a summer of screams with another A24 breakout, Australia’s Talk to Me , as the major studios chugged along with Haunted Mansion , Insidious: The Red Key , and The Blackening.

With the fall came more from The Conjuring universe with The Nun 2 , Saw X , David Gordon Green’s The Exorcist: Believer , and then Five Nights at Freddy’s breaking records Halloween weekend.

Check back weekly as we rank the best new horror movies of the 2023, with Certified Fresh films first, followed by Fresh and then the morbidly Rotten.

Recently added: Thanksgiving , Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor , Sister Death , Suitable Flesh , Five Nights at Freddy’s , The Exorcist: Believer , Totally Killer , The Conference , When Evil Lurks .

horror ghost hollywood movies

When Evil Lurks (2023) 97%

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Huesera: The Bone Woman (2022) 97%

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Attachment (2022) 95%

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Talk to Me (2023) 94%

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M3GAN (2022) 93%

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Influencer (2023) 92%

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Brooklyn 45 (2023) 90%

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Totally Killer (2023) 87%

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The Blackening (2022)

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Sick (2022) 87%

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Infinity Pool (2023) 87%

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The Wrath of Becky (2023)

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) 85%

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Evil Dead Rise (2023)

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Suitable Flesh (2023) 84%

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Thanksgiving (2023) 83%

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El Conde (2023) 82%

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No One Will Save You (2023)

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Perpetrator (2023) 82%

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Enys Men (2022) 79%

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Saw X (2023) 80%

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Scream VI (2023) 76%

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A Haunting in Venice (2023) 76%

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The Offering (2022) 74%

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Summoning Sylvia (2023) 100%

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They Wait in the Dark (2022) 100%

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Murder, Anyone? (2022) 100%

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Forest of Death (2023)

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Mind Leech (2023) 100%

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Daughter (2022) 94%

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Good Boy (2022) 93%

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Satanic Hispanics (2022) 91%

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You're Killing Me (2023) 86%

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The Way Out (2022) 86%

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Malum (2023) 84%

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Megalomaniac (2022) 84%

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The Breach (2022)

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Swallowed (2022) 82%

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Unseen (2023) 82%

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Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor (2023) 87%

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Stalker (2022) 80%

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Followers (2021) 80%

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Adalynn (2023) 80%

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Clock (2023)

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Sister Death (2023) 82%

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Candy Land (2022) 77%

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Follow Her (2022) 77%

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Mean Spirited (2022) 75%

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The Outwaters (2022) 74%

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Beaten to Death (2022) 73%

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She Came from the Woods (2022) 73%

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Skinamarink (2022) 72%

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Final Cut (2022)

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The Conference (2023)

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Knock at the Cabin (2023)

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Sound of Silence (2023) 67%

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Unwelcome (2022)

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There's Something Wrong with the Children (2023) 62%

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It Lives Inside (2023)

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The Boogeyman (2023) 60%

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Cobweb (2023) 58%

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Renfield (2023) 58%

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Blood (2022) 59%

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The Price We Pay (2022) 56%

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Spoonful of Sugar (2022) 55%

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Hunt Her, Kill Her (2022) 54%

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Slotherhouse (2023) 58%

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The Nun II (2023)

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Wolf Garden (2023) 50%

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Tin & Tina (2023) 50%

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Nightmare Radio: The Night Stalker (2022) 50%

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023) 49%

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The Pope's Exorcist (2023) 50%

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Viking Wolf (2021) 43%

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Phenomena (2023) 43%

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We Have a Ghost (2023) 42%

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Consecration (2023) 41%

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The Unheard (2023) 41%

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Insidious: The Red Door (2023) 37%

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Haunted Mansion (2023) 37%

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Run Rabbit Run (2023) 37%

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Nefarious (2023) 33%

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The Tank (2023)

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The Black Demon (2023) 28%

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The Devil Conspiracy (2022) 26%

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Five Nights at Freddy's (2023) 32%

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The Exorcist: Believer (2023) 22%

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Fear (2023)

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Children of the Corn (2020) 12%

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Bunker (2022) 11%

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Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023) 3%

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