Ghost movies have been with us since the early days of film, when filmmakers learned how to use double vision images to inject supernatural shenanigans into their films. This guide walks you through the ghost movie hall of fame, and looks at variety of ghosts and ghost movies that have scared us over the years.
The Not Quite Real Ghost
'A scene from 'The Haunting'
‘The Haunting’ (1963)
In ‘The Haunting’, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson, one is not quite sure. The film almost has a reality TV show setup, with the presumptuous Dr. Markway trying to prove that there are such things as ghosts. The insecure Eleanor, played by Julie Harris, doesn’t seem quite there, but we never find out for sure if she is. Even at the end, we’re still as clueless as Markway and his guests.
Most memorable scene: When Eleanor and Markway ascend the staircase in the library.
Quote of the film: “Look, I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen, but it does happen.”
The Funny Ghosts
'A scene from 'Ghostbusters'
Three parapsychology professors in New York decide to take down the ghosts of the city, and they find themselves up against a Sumerian God that has apparently taken over the body of Sigourney Weaver. The Ghostbusters, as they come to be called, head out armed with equipment to capture ectoplasm and a whole bunch of one-liners, notably from Peter Venkman (Bill Murray.
Most memorable scene: The battle against the Stay-Puft Man.
Quote of the film: “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES’!”
The Morality Ghosts
A scene from 'Scrooged'
Ghosts aren’t all about giving you the willies. Sometimes, they’re there to give advice, just like the ones in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. There have been numerous film versions but none as fun as this one featuring Bill Murray as a grouchy and cynical network chief Frank Cross trying to get a Christmas audience by presenting shows such as ‘The Night the Reindeer Died’. The ghosts here, like in Dickens’ story, try to impart advice and show Cross the error of his ways.
Most memorable scene: The Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) hitting Cross with a toaster oven.
Quote of the film: “I never liked a girl well enough to give her 12 sharp knives.”
The Really Scary Ghost
'The Woman in Black' trailer
‘The Woman in Black’ (1989)
The original film adaptation of the book by Susan Hill has chills aplenty, without ever using blood and gore. After an old widow dies in a seaside town, a young solicitor Arthur Kidd (Andrew Rawlins) is sent to settle the estate. As he investigates, he digs up more information about the woman in black that haunts the town, and finds himself entangled in the ghost’s legacy. This film is a gothic masterpiece.
Most memorable scene: The scene where the ghost charges right at the screen, which will send many a film watcher jumping.
Quote of the film: “It was her eyes. She wasn’t just looking, she was hating.”
Also read: 5 Scariest Hollywood Horrors
The Romantic Ghost
'Truly, Madly, Deeply' trailer
‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ (1991)
After Jamie (Alan Rickman) passes away, his lover, pianist Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is deeply bereaved. Nina recovers her mojo, but Jamie returns, along with some of his friends from the afterlife, his presence prevents her from moving on with a new man who comes into her life. The movie presents a fundamental theme: the dead learning to say goodbye to the living. Rickman is as usual in great form, while Stevenson is sweet, and the movie is a profound and moving romantic comedy.
Most memorable scene: Jamie asks Nina to translate a poem by Pablo Neruda.
Quote of the film: “I can’t believe I have a bunch of dead people watching videos in my living room.”
The Ghost Who Doesn’t Know He’s Dead
‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan, with his debut feature, scared up a storm in this well-paced and atmospheric film about a boy, Cole (Haley Joel Osment), who can see ghosts. With a twist that Shyamalan has been unable to match in his latest films, ‘Sixth Sense’ had scares and suspense, as well as Bruce Willis as a sympathetic investigator that kept his wisecracks in line and Toni Collette as Cole’s confused mom.
Most memorable scene: The ending when all is revealed.
Quote of the film: “I see dead people.”
Also read: Top 10 “I See Dead People” Movies
The Freaky Asian Ghosts
'Ju-On: The Grudge'
‘Ju-On: The Grudge’ (2002)
Cinemas have been assaulted with pale Asian ghost children and long haired ghosts that seem to be experts in yoga and slow crawling for the past decade or so, and they can both be seen in the Ju-On series, directed by Takashi Shimizu. Sure the films are mainly exercises in horror and are consequently low on plot, in particular compared to ‘Ring’ (1998), but they can still stir up the scares with their vengeful ghosts.
Most memorable scene: When one of the protagonists wakes up and sees a ghostly boy standing over her.
Quote of the film: “Thanks for the effort.”
Also read: 5 Scariest Asian Horrors
Travis Wong is a film loving geek who got his start from frequenting video shops in JB. He frequented movie theaters more often than school, and received his cinematic epiphany when he watched 'Taxi Driver'. While not driving a cab, he haunts DVD shops, and he currently has the largest remaining collection of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs in the country.