Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Ten Ghostly Movies of all Time

During the writing phase of Enter the Dark, for more than a year I watched tons of haunted house and ghost movies, along with endless episodes of Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Paranormal State, Destination Truth and countless other copycat paranormal shows on tv.

I was trying to immerse myself into the world of ghosts, demons, EVPs, and apparitions and wanted to precisely examine just how the scariest scenes are set up and how they actually work to elicit the highest levels of terror.  I tracked down every film I hadn't already seen and re-watched those I already loved.

It has always been my belief that preparation and research are essential ingredients to producing successful art.  What comes off as effortless to the viewer inevitably has hours and hours of practice and study behind it. There's no getting around doing the hard work.

Of everything that I've seen, these are my top 10:

The Haunting (the original of course)

The Shining

The Devil's Backbone  El espinazo del diablo

Sixth Sense

The Ring

The Orphanage El orfanato


Amityville Horror (again, the original, I mean c'mon really...)

The Entity

Paranormal Activity

Honorable mentions:  1408, The Others, The Mothman Prophecies (which I love, but I'm not sure I would categorize as a ghost movie).

Lot's of people loved The Changeling, The Sentinel and Ghost Story but they just didn't do it for me. Also, of the newer indie horror films, Session 9 and Lake Mungo got lots of buzz, but also felt kinda flat.

UPDATE 8_25_10

Ah yes, the beauty of top 10 lists is that everyone has an opinion - as it should be.  My list is just that, my humble opinion, shaped by my own preferences and prejudices.  For instance I'll let you in on a secret - I actually don't find traditional ghost stories to be that scary. 

Movies like The Changeling follow a predictable story arc that is more like a mystery than a horror film.  Something spooky is going on and if the protagonist can just follow the trail of clues and find out what terrible thing previously happened in the house, then the "spirit" can be released and all will be at peace. 

Boring.  And not particularly scary either.

Movies like The Ring (and of course Ringu) interest me because they start off feeling like traditional ghost stories but then twist it at the end to leave you feeling that yes, there is true evil in the world.

Now that's scary.


  1. I agree with most of your choices, though I would have ranked "Poltergeist" a little higher on teh list and not included the last three at all ("Paranormal Activity" has to be the un-scariest, most boring horror movie ever made).

  2. I believe you refer to the US version of The Ring.
    For me, the original Japanese one was even more disturbing.
    I felt like I was thrust into an alien world I could not really come back from again.
    I actually counted 7 days thereafter, silently, fearfully resigned to the final fatal attack that could come from anywhere!

  3. Here's my own list:


  4. What about The Innocents or The Legend of Hell House?