Ghost movies are a very popular and beloved sub-genre of horror movies since the origins of cinema: a category that has offered us some of the best movies to see for lovers of the horror and supernatural genre.
The origins of ghost movies
The first ghost movies appeared with numerous short silent films produced by the French director Georges Méliès in the late 1890s. The best known of these very first film based on the supernatural is the short 3-minute film Le Manoir du Diable (1896). The film is recognized as the first true horror film. In The Haunted Castle, a villain shows up inside a medieval castle where he annoys visitors. Another important horror film by Méliès is La Caverne maudite (1898). The film tells the story of a woman who stumbles upon a cave occupied by the spirits and skeletons of individuals who died there. Méliès made various other short films that critics currently regard as horror comedies. Une nuit terrible (1896) tells of a boy who tries to get a good night’s rest but ends up fighting a huge spider. His other films, L’auberge ensorcelée (1897), or The Bewitched Inn, tell the story of a visitor to a hotel who is teased and tortured by an invisible entity.
Early ghost movies in Japan and Spain
Japan ventured into the horror category very early on. In 1898, a Japanese film company called Konishi Honten launched 2 horror films both made by Ejiro Hatta. These were Shinin No Sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse), and Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook). The movie Shinin No Sosei told the story of a dead man who comes back to life after falling from a coffin that 2 men were dragging. Author Hatta played the dead man, while the coffin bearers were played by Konishi Honten’s staff members. In Japan, Jizō is a divine being who is seen as the guardian of children, especially boys who died before their moms and dads. Jizō was actually revered as the guardian of the spirits of mizuko, especially stillborn, aborted, or aborted children.
Segundo de Chomón created a handful of excellent ghost movies, such as La casa hechizada, made in 1908. Spanish director Segundo de Chomón was one of the foremost silent film directors. His popular works consist of Satán se diverte (1907) and La casa hechizada (1908), among the first cinematographic representations of a haunted house; and also Le specter rouge (1907) a film in collaboration with the French director Ferdinand Zecca about a demonic illusionist.
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Ghost movies: must-see movies sorted by release date
Here is a list of best cult horror movies (and more) that tell stories of ghosts, haunted houses or invisible entities.
Late at night, Allan Gray arrives at an inn near the town of Courtempierre and also rents a room to rest. Gray is suddenly shaken by an old man, who sneaks into the room and leaves a square package on Gray’s table; “Open to my death” is written on the cover card. Gray also walks outdoors. Darkness takes him to an old castle. Gray sees an old woman and meets another old man, the town doctor. Looking through the castle windows, Gray sees the owner of the estate, the same man who had provided him with the package earlier. The man is killed by gunshots.
With Vampyr, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer has channeled his talent to develop a suggestive atmosphere and ascetic and disturbing images in the horror style. The result is a film about an occult explorer who stumbles upon extraordinary events in a city outside of Paris. A myriad of spectacular scenes and cutting-edge techniques, as well as impact sound effects, develop a state of mind of dreamlike fear. With its turbulent mists, threatening scythes and warning mirrors, Vampyr is among the marvelous masterpieces of cinema.
The Uninvited (1944)
There is no shortage of ghost movies that come from before 1944, however The Uninvited has given a notable twist to the genre by making the rather risky choice of ultimately represent one’s supernatural obsession as real. The Uninvited took the gothic characteristics and linked them to a mystery and a family drama with a psychological impact. The activity takes place in a seaside resort that in the past has been the subject of violence, and also risks being so once again, as the descendants of the victims and criminals return to make the crimes of their ancestors disappear. Classical cinematography gives the film a fascinating air.
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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Macabre love is not that common among ghost movies, apart from the famous Ghost movie, but there are some quality ones. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir stands out as a fascinating timeless 1940s dream, telling the story of a young widow who moves with her baby to a seaside residence, where she meets an irritable and rude ghost of a captain of sea. Gradually, a very unlikely love blossoms between the two, as our main character (Gene Tierney) makes use of the life experiences of the captain (Rex Harrison) to compose a highly successful memoir narrative. It’s all pretty straightforward, full of the false narrative tracks you’d expect in most films of this genre, but Harrison as Captain Gregg delivers the Hollywood charm of the golden age. It’s a great ghost movie if you love historical cinema.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Every William Castle has its romantic moments, yet House on Haunted Hill is the director’s most successful work of art. Vincent Price at his best, a big scary house, a puzzle and a walking skeleton. The trick to this film was described by Castle as “Emergo”, and it was also a plastic skeleton on a pulley that was flown. This is the perfect ghost horror movie of the 1950s, although it only got popular as time went on. It suits today’s audiences, and has some fun and provocative characters. You can watch this movie over and over again without ever running out of vision. It’s like scary home cooking.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Carnival of Souls is a film that follows the trail of Night of the Hunter: creatively genuine, by a novice director, but mostly forgotten in its initial launch until its rediscovery years after it turned it into a real one cult film. That said, it’s not the Night of the Hunter artwork, but it’s a disturbing and extraordinary little story of evil spirits, regrets, and restless spirits. The plot tells of a woman (Candace Hilligoss) on the run from her past who is haunted by visions of a pale-faced man, beautifully filmed and played by director Herk Harvey. Carnival of Souls is a classic psychological horror thriller , made on a limited budget, and has also been referred to as a dream cult by directors such as David Lynch.
The Terror (1963)
Lieutenant Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), a French soldier, loses contact with his battalion and is forced to wander alone near the Baltic Sea. As she searches her way, she meets Helene (Sandra Knight), a charming woman, who walks alone. Duvalier starts following her, but she disappears. He later joins her and follows her directly into a castle, where she meets the strange Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), and finds clues of witchcraft.
Made at low cost in a couple of days from Roger Corman capitalizing on the still active contract with Karloff who had finished the previous film early, the film also has some scenes shot by young directors who worked at the Corman production plant: Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Every generation gets a haunted house movie that mirrors the mood of the period – for the 1970s it could great to be The Legend of Hell House. Taken right here is the fundamental style of something like House on Haunted Hill or The Haunting, with changes that take it straight into the grindhouse period: classic ghost movies inspired by the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis. A doctor gathers a group of psychics to deal with the demons of a haunted house. The battle between the various characters begins, and the scientists turn against each other. There is a slightly ridiculous moment when Roddy McDowell explains the factors of demonic possession of the house: murder, vampirism, cannibalism, drug addiction, alcoholism, mutilation and sadism, as if everything had an equivalent infraction. However, Hell House can boast a fluid Richard Matheson script, rich photography, and great nuances.
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Anyone who has seen this Japanese film acknowledges that this isn’t an easy job – it’s about some women going to a haunted house, but it’s also much more complex. Obayashi’s Hausu resembles a negative acid trip, displaying psychedelic colors and visual effects. Computer-animated felines, incorporeal flying heads and stop-motion beasts as the director attempts to disorient the audience with a full-blown sensory attack. The aesthetic results are truly creative and would seem to be the source of inspiration for Evil Dead 2. In a cult scene a woman is even eaten by a living and evil piano.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
The first Amityville Horror may be among the most influential films: there are up to 16 films that were actually made with “Amityville” in the title. Its story is basic: the members of a family move to a haunted house: invisible hands and secret rooms, incorporeal voices and spiritual entities. The film is overloaded with obsessions, ranging from the Indian cemetery to satanic rituals, without ever really stopping on a central theme. It is a simple plot film known for its bloodthirsty scenes. Maybe it was the legendary shape of the house that made him famous? Regardless of the cause of the success, The Amityville Horror was really hard to forget.
The Entity (1982)
The Entity is an extraordinary thriller from the early 1980s that certainly caused a sensation at the time of its launch, but probably would have been overlooked all the same had it not had a well-known supporter. : Martin Scorsese. The director has repeatedly stated The Entity calling him one of scariest movies ever, and it’s not hard to understand why: the concept of being attacked, especially in sex situations, by an undetectable presence is the ultimate in vulnerability. Based on the real life of a woman named Doris Bither, who claimed to be hit by the vengeful spirits of 3 guys, it’s a twisted tale of psychosexual power in the 70s, grindhouse period of horror, with a twist of 80s science fiction. Its slogan is particularly disconcerting: “Based on a true story … which isn’t over yet.”
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Stir of Echoes is just one of those films where any kind of conversation about it constantly tends to focus on a similar film from the same year that got much more interest: The Sixth Sense. Since it had the misfortune to hit theaters a month after the success of M. Night Shyamalan, and also since it includes many of the exact same aspects, as a kid who can make contact with the dead, Stir of Echoes was widely underestimated at the time, but that assessment is not reasonable. Unlike The Sixth Sense, which is all about environment and suspense, Stir of Echoes is even more of a full-fledged thriller that sees Kevin Bacon falling into attention deficit disorder after a hypnotherapy session. Today, the film appears to redeem its reputation and become a cult horror.
Session 9 (2001)
You will have absolutely no problem discovering Session 9 as an overlooked horror treasure, if you explore the world of the Internet. It is commonly referred to along with Lake Mungo as a supernatural indie film Low-budget. His story centers on a group of asbestos eliminators who are removing the toxic material in a deserted asylum, which may lead you to think that you understand where the story is going. This is no ordinary haunted house story filled with scares and apparitions. Rather, it is a complicated, psychedelic emotional thriller that asks the viewer to re-evaluate the nature of truth and a possibly unreliable main character. Is every person going crazy? Which characters are dead or still alive? Session 9 is not an entertainment horror movie of the Halloween season. It’s much better to pay attention – you may still need to go back to watching the movie in hopes of understanding more.
Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
The Grudge, as well as Ringu, are both the most obvious cases of Japanese horror having an effect on the American mind, as both they were quickly adapted from an American production. There is absolutely nothing groundbreaking about his collection of stories that include individuals haunted by ghosts, however his depiction of the youthful spirit of “Toshio” has truly become an icon of the whole of Japanese horror. His stories might seem standard, but the film’s aesthetics and creativity had an indisputable impact on all subsequent ghost movies.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
A Tale of Two Sisters is a complicated and rather confusing Korean horror thriller, a changing swamp of relationships and drama of family members who collide with a possible supernatural risk. Among the highest-grossing horror films in Korea, it complements Hitchcockian style of psychological abuse with a classic ghost movie style story that evokes a timeless Hollywood, such as The Innocents or The Uninvited. The story tells of a group of sisters, including the eldest of them is discharged from a psychiatric institution and returns to the sick family dynamic that ruined her. From there, the film asks numerous questions: What are the true inspirations of the sister’s stepmother? What tormented the younger sister? Is the father complicit in a murder? What really happened to the sisters’ biological parent as he died of an illness in their now haunted home? It’s definitely a film that requires several viewing, as the meaning in the story’s growth is hard to grasp the first time around. It seems to be facing a Shakespearean tragedy.
First Bite (2006)
Gus is a charming man who works as a chef at an Asian restaurant in Montreal. His manager sends him to a remote island in Thailand to meet a Zen food master and to improve the high quality of his recipes. There he finds a strange girl named Lake who lives in a cave and informs him that the Zen food preparation master is dead. It is very likely that Gus will stay in the cave and start a relationship with Lake.
Bite is a indie film that spans various film genres in its narrative, suddenly moving from romance to thriller to horror. direction, editing and writing never banal, supported by shots with wide-angle lenses that increase the tension and by actors in superb form.
At launch, 1408 didn’t actually look on the same level as other Stephen King stories, but it’s still a sneaky, high-profile ghost movie, and includes an excellent interpretation of John Cusack. Cusack is a cynical cheater, a paranormal private investigator and a ghostwriter of a writer who doesn’t believe a word of what he writes, until he sets foot inside room 1408. It’s a descent into chaos as the cursed room uses his powers against Cusack, torturing him with ghosts from his previous victims, as well as provoking him with the demons of his past. It all unfolds into an extraordinarily touching final thought with a hope for immortality: a rare case where the ending of a film is substantially more interesting than the film itself. Funny and even a little terrifying, 1408 is a well above average example of mainstream movies.
Grave Encounters (2011)
It is difficult to understand why Grave Encounters has not been successful among horror fans, who mostly seem to be aware of it but ridicule the film as corny. It is actually one of the best ghost movies of recent years, and also one of the scariest, as well as funny. It’s laid out as a parody for useless ghost hunting TV shows, and tells what might happen when these TV quacks walk into a truly haunted place. Grave Encounters goes beyond what is expected of it – you hear the premise and expect a frantic hand-held camera that runs in the dark, but it delivers so much more. The FX work, on a small budget, is one of the most effective ever seen in a film, and even the nature of the obsession is dramatically far more ambitious and shocking than it initially shows.
There is nothing particularly original about Mama, but the clichés come together to great effect. The initial shot, for example, is of a vehicle with the door open, empty while in operation, the radio on. It is an aesthetic that attracts in its simplicity. Andrés Muschietti is concerned with making children appear otherworldly and dangerous with simple body language. It might seem presumptuous to say that there is an aesthetic idea to this, however the idea embedded in the structure of the film really strikes. Muschietti also gets strong performances from the cast, most notably Jessica Chastain who plays Annabel.
The Conjuring (2013)
James Wan is an excellent horror film director, director of popular horror films such as Saw and Insidious, and has a knack for creating horror films that bring a recognizable touch. The Conjuring is by far the scariest horror of all his feature films. The Conjuring has a method for reversing when and where you predict that fears will come. His story of haunted house and possession is absolutely nothing you’ve ever seen before – few films in recent times actually have the impact Wan conveys with a creaky old farmhouse in Rhode Island. The film amuses itself by disorienting audiences with scares without the conventional Hollywood build-ups of tension, while simultaneously drawing inspiration from traditional golden age ghost movies like Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Interestingly, The Conjuring achieved a ban on minors despite the absence of obvious physical violence, gore or sex.
The Canal (2014)
This Irish indie horror film reveals Ivan Kavanagh as an incredibly skilled director – it’s the kind of film you could enjoy without speculation, only to be completely surprised. Apparently it’s a ghost movie about a man discovering shocking crimes a century earlier that took place in his home, in reality it’s much more: an extreme psychological minefield, a Polanski-style film. By integrating components reminiscent of the sound of The Shining with the surrealist combination of red and blue shades of Dario Argento’s films, it is a perfectly successful and beautiful film to watch.
Under the Shadow (2016)
Babak Anvari makes a horror film that tangibly shares Iran’s claustrophobia during its turbulent post-revolution. Anvari, himself from a family that eventually left the Ayatollah regime, actually made Under the Shadow as a declaration of disobedience and homage to his mother. It’s a decidedly feminist film: Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is chosen to play the heroine who resists hostile pressures, a very effective horror cinematic archetype in this story. Seeing Shideh resist Khomeini’s regime by seeing a video clip of Jane Fonda’s state-banned exercise is pretty much like seeing her overcome her individual demons while protecting her baby from real dangers.
A Ghost Story (2017)
When you no longer exist, it turns out that the perfect opportunity for an existential dilemma. With a bold title like A Ghost Story, it’s no surprise that David Lowery is no ordinary story of paranormal activity, but even that won’t prepare you for the film’s unpredictable psychological odyssey through love, desire and death. . It might as well just be one of the most impressive under 90-minute films ever made. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are two celebrities, possibly married, and reside in an ancient house. He is fond of the place, she wants to move. There is conflict over this problem, but equally there is genuine love. Just as we get to know them through murmured dialogue and songwriting, he unexpectedly dies in a car accident. In the later scenes the film takes its time to expose its strong aims. Writer / director Lowery is comfortable with both indie films than with blockbusters. This ability probably gave him the flexibility to make a tiny, low-budget film, and not to worry about whether people find it boring or pretentious.
Extra Ordinary (2020)
It may be difficult to fit love into a horror comedy by expanding the genre, but it’s the unusual mix where Extra Ordinary presents its best quality. This Irish indie never takes the scary side of the paranormal seriously and yet the lead performers are so human as to make it extraordinary. Maeve Higgins and Barry Ward are 2 simple individuals with the ability to touch spiritual plans faster than they are able to fraternize with real people. Higgins plays Rose Dooley with a sweet and recognizable way of speaking, with a moody mood that hides her ability to bring peace to spirits who are in limbo. The scenes in which they are together have a particular warmth, the feeling that 2 individuals have been united and that they complement each other perfectly. There’s also a charming take on Will Forte as demonic rock star Christian Winter. The main couple, and their fledgling relationship as well, make Extra Ordinary a genuine film like few others.