Things that go bump in the night. Icy cold rooms. Mysterious voices. Flying furniture. What do each of these things have in common? Well, if you are to believe the tales told within the following movies, you might assume your home has been haunted if you relate to any of that strange phenomena.
Here are our picks for the ten best horror movies about ghosts. Do you agree with our choices? Or have we overlooked one of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger star in this classic chiller that is supposedly based on true events. It tells the story of a newlywed couple and their three children who move into a large house on New Island. Not long after, their dream home becomes the place of their nightmares when they are set upon by supernatural forces.
In real life, the Amityville house was once home to a series of brutal murders. On November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald J. DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family while they were asleep. 28 days later, the Lutz family moved into the house and were terrorized by paranormal phenomena while living there. Their experiences, which form the basis of this movie, were supposedly linked to the murders that took place.
There are some who think the Lutz family made up the haunting to gain media exposure but we won’t be moving into the house to find out the truth!
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Bruce Willis stars as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist who, at the beginning of the movie, is shot by one of his former patients. Months later, when he has seemingly recovered from his injuries, he takes on a new client, a boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment), who claims he can see and talk to dead people.
Malcolm thinks Cole is delusional and that what the boy is seeing isn’t real. We know differently, of course, as we see Cole interact with the dead throughout the movie. He tells Malcolm that ghosts only see what they want to see and that they are oblivious to their state. At the end of the movie, the truth of what Cole is saying is revealed.
It turns out that Malcolm himself is a ghost, which is something Cole had already realized. The psychologist had no idea he was dead, just like audiences at the time of this movie’s release who were stunned by this twist in M. Night Shyamalan’s spooky movie.
The Changeling (1980)
George C. Scott stars in this spine-chilling movie as John Russell, a music professor who moves into a long-vacant Seattle mansion to ‘get away from it all’ after his family are killed in a tragic road accident.
Not long after moving in, he realizes he is sharing his home with the spirit of a boy who was killed decades before. After making this ghoulish discovery, Russell is drawn into a mystery involving the child’s murder.
Director Peter Medak uses frightening noises and dark shadows to give his movie a very chilling atmosphere and he provides lots of spooky moments that take us by surprise. One such sequence involves a red ball that bounces down the mansion’s grand staircase. What’s so scary about that, we hear you asking. Well, when we tell you the professor threw the ball off a bridge just a few moments before, you’ll understand how unnerved the grieving fellow is when he returns home only to find the ball being rolled back to him!
The Haunting (1963)
“What does it take to convince you that the dead do not always rest in peace, but some houses, like Hill House, are born bad?”
This is the question asked in Robert Wise’s classic movie, faithfully adapted from Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ It tells the story of a group of people who assemble at the house at the request of a paranormal researcher who hopes they will prove whether or not the house is haunted.
Unsurprisingly, spooky things start to happen when they take up residence and it’s not long before they realize that the house is indeed haunted by some kind of evil presence!
This movie is a classic of the genre, relying less on jump scares and needless bloodletting, and more on a foreboding atmosphere that will creep you out while watching.
In Tobe Hopper’s celebrated fright flick (although some agree that Steven Spielberg shot most of the film), the Freeling family move into a new house and discover they are not alone.
Shortly after their arrival, strange things start to happen, such as objects moving around on their own. These happenings are harmless enough but it’s not long before things take a more sinister turn when the resident ghosts turn nasty and suck young Carrie-Anne through the family’s TV and into another dimension. If you ever needed evidence to teach your kids that screen time was bad, let this movie teach them that lesson!
The movie is full of terrifying moments, from the hideous clown doll that comes to life to the ghoulish moment when the head of the family discovers his house is located on top of an Indian burial ground. Two sequels followed but neither were as powerful as this non-stop thrill ride of a ghost movie.
The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is a brilliant film but it’s not as effective as the original book due to the director’s decision to rush Jack Torrance’s descent into madness. Despite this change – which King hated – the movie still has the power to chill, not only because of the wintry setting but because of the various ghosts that exist in the Overlook Hotel where Torrance, his wife and psychic son are staying.
The sinister Brady Twins, the cheerful bartender, and the naked lady in Room 237 are just a few of the ghosts that the Torrance family discover during their stay. But while some of these have the power to scare, none of them are as terrifying as Jack Torrance himself who, after being driven mad by the haunted hotel, sets out to murder his family. “Here’s Johnny” he screams, right before he chops down a bathroom door where his petrified wife is hiding.
The Black Phone (2021)
Based on Joe Hill’s short story of the same name, The Black Phone is a dark and disturbing tale that takes place in a small Colorado town in 1978.
At the beginning of Scott Derickson’s film, we discover several children have vanished without a trace. The identity of their abductor is initially unknown but one young girl, Gwen (Madeline McGraw), has psychic abilities that reveal clues about the Grabber (Ethan Hawke), a bogeyman-like figure whose name strikes fear in the kids of the neighbourhood.
Gwen’s 13-year-old brother Finney (Mason Thames) falls prey to this masked monster and is locked up in a dark basement. His chances for survival are slim as the Grabber is bigger and stronger than he is but when the boy is contacted by the spirits of the killer’s young victims via the black phone in the corner of the room, he is told of a way to escape his captor.
Most of the movies on this list feature malevolent ghosts but in this one, the spirits of the dead are actively helpful to our young protagonist. The movie is no less impactful as the cause of their deaths may still send a chill running down your spine.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
After moving into a new home, a young couple is startled to discover a demonic presence that is mostly active in the middle of the night. They discover the spirit’s movements after setting up video cameras around their house which capture the strange happenings that occur while they sleep.
As this is a found footage movie, we see events unfold through these cameras instead of the eyes of Katie and Micah, the two protagonists of this chilling tale. While this perspective has the potential to make the movie quite boring to watch – there are sequences where very little happens – it actually has the opposite effect, as we never know when or where the ghost will appear.
Your eyes will likely be glued to the screen looking for clues to the ghost’s presence and when it does appear, usually when least expected, you will likely jump from your seat in terror.
From director Hideo Nakata comes this critically acclaimed J-horror about a cursed videotape that brings about the death of anybody who watches it after 7 days have passed.
The movie’s main antagonist is a long-haired spirit known as Sadako who climbs out of her victim’s television screens to frighten them to death! Who is Sadako? Well, she’s not a former Blockbuster employee taking unusual measures to wreak vengeance on the people who failed to rewind their video rentals! As is discovered by the reporter investigating the mysterious tape, she is the ghost of a girl who, years before the events of the movie, drowned after being thrown down a well.
This disturbing movie was followed by several sequels and a surprisingly decent remake in 2002 starring Naomi Watts. All of these movies are worth watching provided you don’t purchase them on cursed videotapes from a dodgy-looking guy down the market.
His House (2020)
On the surface, this British horror film would appear to be about the immigrant experience as it follows a refugee couple who flee from war-torn Sudan to the UK where they are treated badly by government officials and given a home in an inner city area that is rife with racism.
The fact that they go through hell during this transition is horrifying enough but the movie’s place on this list should clue you into the fact that His House is more than a drama about the couple’s traumatic journey. While they do experience the evils of racism and government bureaucracy, they also have to contend with the ghosts of their past (both literal and metaphorical), that have followed them to their new home to make them atone for their sins.
The movie puts a heart-wrenching spin on the type of ghost story that we are used to, causing it to be both scary and achingly sad.
So, there have it – our picks for the best horror movies about ghosts. Do you agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below.