Ghost movie

Ghost movie (Photo by breakermaximus on Shutterstock)

Stories about spirits and ghosts have been passed down through family members at bedtime or friends around the campfire for generations. Though not always meant to scare us, these tales have a knack for sending chills down our spines and staying in our memory for years. Stories about ghosts have even infiltrated the film industry, with the earliest accounts of supernatural themes being in the 1896 film “Le Manoir du Diable” or “The House of the Devil” as it is referred to in English. With such a long history of haunting tales to pick from, finding the best ghost movies can be difficult. Luckily, we at StudyFinds are here to help.

Half of Americans swear they’ve encountered a ghost from the great beyond. According to a recent survey of 2,000, 63 percent believe in the paranormal in some form. Respondents say the most common unexplained beings they believe exist include ghosts, visitors from other planets, and Bigfoot. The study also revealed that although 23 percent don’t believe in the paranormal, they also don’t want to provoke anything that could prove them wrong.

It turns out, though, that many don’t even have to step out their front door to meet a ghost! A new poll finds 83 percent of respondents have witnessed some paranormal activity inside their own home. The survey of 1,000 people across the country also found that three-quarters of these individuals are still living in that same house! When it comes to what people are hearing or seeing in their spooky dwellings, 46 percent say they heard strange sounds in their home, while 42 percent said the lights started turning on and off by themselves. One in three heard voices in their home.

Spooky, right? If you don’t live with the paranormal, we at StudyFinds have researched across multiple expert sources to bring you today’s list of the top five best ghost movies of all time! From psychological thrillers to stories about family and lost love to straight-up horror movies, there’s sure to be something on this list for everyone. Don’t agree with our rankings? No worries, we would love to hear from you your recommendations in the comments down below!

Blurred ghost silhouette in bedroom window
Blurred ghost silhouette in bedroom window (© HN Works –

The List: Best Ghost Movies, According to Experts


1. “The Shining” (1980)

The first ghostly story on our list is “The Shining.” The movie follows a man’s descent into madness in an isolated and haunted hotel. “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,” says Good Housekeeping.

“The Shining” (1980)

“Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller makes early use of the Steadicam to thrust the viewer into the vast emptiness of the hotel, where the ghosts of a previous caretaker’s murdered family await. If you’re making a list of the creepiest specters in film history, no one would argue if you placed the Grady twins right at the top,” writes YardBarker.

“Stephen King famously hates Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of his novel ‘The Shining,’ which is difficult to understand until you actually read King’s original book, whereupon things become much more clear. Kubrick, ever the mad genius, largely rejected the emotional core of King’s story because he saw within the bones of ‘The Shining’ an opportunity for a journey into the heart of visually and sonically inspired terror that few films have ever come close to replicating. Unlike in King’s novel, Jack is never treated with any kind of sympathy or pathos in the eyes of the audience—he’s a creep from the very first moment we meet him during his job interview, and he only gets worse from there. His madness is alluded to masterfully through some of the most iconic visual and especially sound editing in cinema history—few horror films, or any film in general, have ever used sound as unnervingly as ‘The Shining.’ This movie, like ‘The Exorcist,’ seeps into your bones, infecting every perspective you have on the horror genre for the rest of a lifetime. It’s a monumental film,” raves Paste Magazine.

2. “Poltergeist” (1982)

The next spot is dedicated to the 1982 classic “Poltergeist,” a classic supernatural horror film that explores the terrifying consequences of disturbing a burial ground. “Screen time never looked scarier than it does in ‘Poltergeist,’ the 1980s thriller that left its mark on a generation. This prime example of Steven Spielberg’s knack for horror begins on a rather benign note, as the ghosts that the Freeling family encounter through their TV appear to be, well, kind of fun and friendly. Suffice it to say, said spirits show their true colors by the end of the film, and it’s downright terrifying,” explains PureWow.

“Poltergeist” (1982)

“In the time since its release, this movie has become something of a blueprint for haunted house movies and still manages to be scarier today than most modern horror movies. The moment Caroline mutters the phrase, ‘They’re here…’ marks the moment when the audience isn’t sure whether to be scared of ghosts or creeped out by this adorable little girl,” describes ComicBook.

“The Freelings are a ‘typical’ unassuming middle-class family living in a peaceful suburb that becomes not-so-peaceful as the house is caught in the grip of supernatural disturbances. The anatomization of the ‘happy family’ is lavishly paced, making the ensuing horror all the more vivid. Not the deepest movie ever made, certainly, but an enduring classic of the genre, a highly detailed take on the ‘unassuming regular-Joe family savaged by invisible menace’ trope, and still pretty damn creepy,” notes Paste Magazine.

3. “Ghost” (1990)

The next up on our ranking is “Ghost.” I can hear the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” already! “A romantic drama and a supernatural ghost story? *Adds to queue immediately.* After Sam is murdered, he’s left to roam the earth as a spirit, and tries everything he can to get through to the love of his life, Molly, and protect her from the people who killed him,” reports Seventeen.

“Ghost” (1990)

“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,” comments Good Housekeeping.

“Whoopi Goldberg steals the show as a psychic who acts as the translator between the natural and spirit worlds. All three work together to find the ghosts’ killer and put their soul to rest,” continues Country Living.

4. “The Conjuring” (2013)

Our next spooky ghost story spot goes to “The Conjuring.” The film is a gripping supernatural horror tale directed by James Wan. Set in the 1970s, which leaves one asking the question, “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,” writes Good Housekeeping.

“The Conjuring” (2013)

“‘The Conjuring’ is easily one of the ultimate scary ghost movies. The horror film chronicles paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren, who are dispatched to Rhode Island to help a family tormented by an evil spirit,” says Seventeen.

“Horror movie icons Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play paranormal investigators in the first of this series. The two help a family with a sinister presence in their house that they can’t seem to shake. ‘The Conjuring’ is sure to make you pull the covers over your head the next time you hear a thump,” describes Men’s Health.

5. “The Sixth Sense” (1999)

The last but certainly not least spot goes to “The Sixth Sense,” the film that leaves everyone “seeing dead people” along with a young Haley Joel Osment. “In the chilling drama ‘The Sixth Sense,’ young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is burdened with an ability to see and interact with the deceased. Struggling to understand his unusual gift, he crosses paths with child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). The doctor, still reeling from a traumatic incident involving a former patient, invests himself in helping Cole cope with his terrifying experiences,” notes Ranker.

“The Sixth Sense” (1999)

“What if the ghost in the ghost story doesn’t know he’s a ghost? M. Night Shyamalan’s haymaker of a twist ending turned his third feature into a word-of-mouth blockbuster in the summer of 1999, earning the writer-director comparisons to such master storytellers as Rod Serling and Steven Spielberg,” explains YardBarker.

“‘The Sixth Sense’ was such a cultural phenomenon that it has been the go-to example of a twist ending for over 20 years. The reason the movie has lived on in the hearts and minds of film fans the world over, however, is that the twist is only the cherry on top. The real staying power of ‘The Sixth Sense’ is on the shoulders of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and stars Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis, and Toni Collette,” concludes SlashFilm.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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