Movie Feature

Top 10 “I See Dead People” Movies

By Zaki JufriMovies - 15 July 2011 11:36 AM | Updated 22 July 2011

Top 10 “I See Dead People” Movies

It’s that time of the year again when the ‘Gates of Hell’ opens for all and sundry; and the spirits from beyond the grave get a hall pass to gallivant amongst the living for a whole month. And sometimes, the departed will make a surprise appearance to a lucky (or unlucky) few.

Interacting or communicating with the dead is not a new topic in the world of movies, especially in Hollywood.  The horror movie genre is riddled with mediums and psychics having the ability to interact on the spectral plane.

Most filmmakers employ this movie device to round up some cheap (sometimes clever) scares while some understand that most ghosts are sad, and are attempting not to frighten us but to communicate something that must be known so that they can rest. In the spirit of the Hungry Ghost Festival, here are our picks of the top 10 flicks where the stubbornly dead just doesn’t want to rest in peace.


The Sixth Sense

The film’s now infamous line: When young Haley Joel Osment whispers in a low voice, “I see dead people”. Osment’s Cole Sear, a tormented lil’ fella really sees and hears dead people; walking around like ordinary folks and scaring the bejesus out of him. Definitely his best movie ever, director M Night Shyamalan packs a punch with the storyline and plot, and the surprise ending really leaves you breathless on end. Although the film catapulted Shymalan into the big leagues, the director have never been able to replicate the success of The Sixth Sense with his latter movies.

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The Frighteners

An underrated scare comedy by Peter Jackson (right before he started the LOTR trilogy), The Frighteners see Michael J Fox’s character Frank Bannister playing the scheming psychic. Rather than using his otherworldly abilities for good (he can speak and communicate with spirits), he’s in cahoots with a bunch of spirits to harass helpless mortals for his exorcism business. Everything went downhill when a string of murders happened in town and poor Frank was fingered for the capers. Turns out that the spirit of a long-dead serial killer came back to finish his job, and Frank’s the only one who can stop him.

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Although he deviated from the source material by Stephen King, The Shining, directed the late Stanley Kubrick represents one of Kubrick’s greatest work. In the book, King employed the tried and tested horror device: An innocent family marooned in an evil dwelling with a grim history - and built layers of ingenious terror upon it. The father is gradually possessed by the demonic, desolate hotel. And Kubrick, being Kubrick, took the book and tore almost 90 per cent of it apart, turning a straightforward haunted house story into one that hovers into a byzantine world of ghostly visions and apparitions, and of madness. Disturbing yet brilliant.

Possibly the creepiest scene in the film:

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The Eye

Hong Kong horror auteurs Danny and Oxide Pang’s 2002 scary romp, The Eye is a cleverly executed nail biter of a film. A blind girl gets a cornea transplant. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realised she could even see ghosts. And some of these ghosts are downright unfriendly (they are ghosts after all) and they appear at the most unexpected moment. Possibly the scariest bit of the movie the one with the little boy. He (or it) speaks in an eerie choked monotone and keeps his head down, never showing his face. He then runs to a window and jumps. Oh yes, there’s also the elevator scene which still gives us the creeps (the hairs on our arms are standing just typing this). Here’s the scene:

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Clint Eastwood tries his hand at the afterlife with this supernatural drama Hereafter. Assembling a cast of heavyweights such as Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard and Cécile De France, the movie weaves three different stories that are intertwined in their subject matter: The afterlife and near-death experiences. French journalist Marie (de France), has a near-death experience while on holidays in Asia that impacts on her. George (Damon), is a blue-collar worker in San Francisco who has a special connection to people who have died. And when London schoolboy Marcus (George McLaren), loses the person closest to him, he is devastated and alone. While looking for answers about life after death, their lives intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter. More sentimental than scary, Hereafteris possibly one of Eastwood’s better efforts.

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Ghost Town

Some spirits torment the living just for the fun of it while some harass us to ask for a favour (Ghost Whisperer anyone?) and it’s the latter for the 2008 comedy Ghost Town. When Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), an anti-social dentist (He loves dentistry because it’s the only job where people can’t talk to him), has a near death experience, he awakes to discover that he can now communicate and see ghosts. For a man who has enough trouble dealing with the living, enduring the constant pestering of a city full of needy spirits leaves Bertram annoyed and exhausted. Undeterred by his bad attitude, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), an especially persistent ghost, convinces Bertram to do whatever's necessary to prevent his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) from marrying a man he doesn't approve of.

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Director Tim Burton manages to bring on the laughs and scares in this delicious blend of comedy and the macabre. Never have we seen the undead foul up one of the very things that justifies their existence: To scare the living daylights out of the living. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis’, newbie spooks Adam and Barbara Maitland’s efforts just fall flat. Desperate to rid their house of the excruciating annoying yuppies and their hot daughter (Winona Ryder) who’s the only one that can see them, they employed the services of rogue ‘scarer’ Beetlejuice (brilliantly played by Michael Keaton), and the results are two parts weird, five parts funny and three parts creepy.

And who can forget this scene:

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The Others

Even the tagline gives us the chills: How do you keep them out, when they've already invited themselves in? Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar's 2001 English language debut is a beautifully crafted supernatural thriller that’s hair-raising as it is nail-biting. Masterfully crafter with almost surreal visual, The Others is a tale where Nicole Kidman stars as a neurotic single mom, raising two seemingly problematic children while her husband is fighting in WWII. Like most good horror movies, The Others eschews the gore, blood and special effects, and rather plays on the mind—the fear of being alone in an isolated house. The effective use of mirrors, shadows and lighting shows how Amenabar elegantly tackle the haunted house genre. Not to mention, his presentation of Kidman’s Grace. As story unfolds with all its clever twists and turns, Amenebar deftly manipulates the way we see her, one moment sympathetic, the next wary and then against her. If you haven’t watched this one yet, look out for the surprise ending. And no, we won’t spoil this one for you. 

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The Devil’s Backbone

Set amid the Spanish Civil War, The Devil’s Backbone¸ director Guillermo del Toro's masterly supernatural thriller tells the tale of an orphanage haunted by the ghost of a young boy. We absolutely dig the film’s opening sequence of a falling bomb, wounded child and body parts drifting in murky water sets the dark gothic tone of the film. Like other del Toro’s films, The Devil’s Backbone cleverly laces chilling thriller with political melodrama. The story unfolds when a new boy, Carlos is brought to the orphanage and he starts seeing ghost child Santi, a boy who died there, and is rather obsessed with a water tank in the basement. Perhaps, the creepiest scene is when the other orphan boys dared Carlos to venture to the water tank to bring back some water at night.

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The Ring

We remember getting the chills whenever the phone rang even weeks after watching The Ring on the big screen. Disturbing, spooky and downright terrifying, The Ring heralded a slew of look-alikes. Not many horror films are intended to scare you or they just subscribe to the usual horror film devices. This one… this one really want to the scare your wits off, and it succeeded. Sadako, played by kabuki actress Rie Inou, is one of the main reasons the film was so terrifying—the creepy girl in a shapeless white frock and long black hair. Director Hideo Nakata made the right decision in keeping her a secret for most parts of the film. And when she did come on, it scared the living daylights out of anyone watching.

Probably the scariest scene in horror movie history:

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Also check out the following articles in our scary movie series!


The Decade's Scariest Hollywood Horrors

Our list of scary films doesn’t just scare you. It will haunt you for life.



5 Scariest Asian Horrors

We count down some of the finest in the macabre from Asia.