The Ghost: Ghost Of Christmas Past (David Johansen)
Helpful How? The Bill Murray comedy updates a lot about the story - the miser in need of spiritual redemption is snarky TV executive Frank Cross, not a grumbly old man, for example.
But while the ghost is an uproarious, cigar-chomping dead New York Taxi driver (with a time-traveling vehicle), he still manages to get a tear or two our of Cross as he witnesses his joyless, telly-obsessed childhood.
He's also a lot more fun than most ghouls.
Frightening Fact: Johansen got his start as a musician, and rose to cult fame as the singer for the New York Dolls. Considering that Scrooged was one of his earliest acting jobs, he does excellent work.
The Ghost: Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze)
Helpful How? Desperate to keep a handle on his old life, murdered mugging victim Sam seeks advice from various other dead folk before eventual recruiting psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) in his quest to help grieving lover Molly (Demi Moore).
Sam, y'see has also discovered a conspiracy around his dodgy work mates and must expose the culprits before they can endanger his former lady love.
He helps her out, then uses Oda Mae to get one last, spectral song from Molly before ascending to heaven in a shaft of light. Some ghosts get all the luck.
Frightening Fact: Bruce Willis - who was married to Moore at the time - was offered the part of Sam. But he turned it down, thinking the movie wouldn't work. What, no chemistry with the missus, Bruce? Prophetic!
The Shining (1980)
The Ghost: Lloyd The Bartender (Joe Turkel)
Helpful How? Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is having a particularly maddening time at the Overlook Hotel, and what he really needs is a drink. Thank goodness, then for the nattily dressed Lloyd, smoothly pours the bourbon and listens to Jack's woes…
Okay, so maybe's he's not that helpful - he's more of a vision brought about by malevolent energy and is an enabler for Jack's wilder side, what with the imaginary booze…
Frightening Fact: To maintain a spooky aura about him, Turkel (along with fellow ghost player Philip Stone) never blinks during his scenes with Nicholson.
The Ghost: Casper (Voice of Malachi Pearson)
Helpful How? Continuing a legacy that began all the way in 1939 with books and a Paramount 'toon, Caspar is an annoyingly friendly, pudgy ghost finally making his transition to big budget Hollywood blockbuster status.
He becomes fast friends with Kathleen 'Kat' Harvey (a young Christina Ricci), who has bunked down in his haunted mansion with her paranormal expert dad to try to help the spirits (including Casper's even more annoying uncles) pass on. The pair end up helping each other, with Casper giving Kat more confidence and Casper getting a one-night chance to come back to life.
Frightening Fact: Casper's time as a real boy is embodied by Devon Sawa, who would go on to much scarier stuff (but not much of a career yet) with Final Destination.
The Frighteners (1996)
The Ghost: The Judge (John Astin)
Helpful How? Peter Jackson's last film before his career transitioned into making The Lord Of The Rings, it didn't exactly spook the box office, which is a shame because it's ace.
Astin is a highlight as a sharp-shooting, grizzled Old West sheriff , one of the spectral types that help out Michael J Fox's Frank Bannister, a huckster who uses his spooksome pals also including Jim Fyfe's nerd and Chi McBride's Cyrus) to haunt houses, which he then "exorcises".
The dead gang also come in handy when a truly dangerous killer (Jake Busey) comes back from beyond the grave.
Frightening Fact: Michael J Fox just couldn't stop referring to The Judge as "Doc". Someone clearly needed to tell him that the Back To The Future movies were over.
The Ghost: Pete Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss)
Helpful How? Sandich makes a (literally fatal mistake) as the pilot of a water-bombing firefighter plane - he goes on one last mission, which ends with him saving a mate but dying in the process.
He's brought back to Earth to serve as first the bringer of "spiritus" - or divine breath, which is basically making mortals think they came up with good ideas on their own. He's forced, however, to watch his former girlfriend start up a relationship with another man, but overcomes his conflicted feelings to support her and grant her happiness.
He's rewarded for his kindness by getting into heaven. A happy ending? Of course! It's 80s-era Spielberg, people!
Frightening Fact: Spielberg and Dreyfus bonded on Jaws over their mutual love of 1942's romantic fantasy A Guy Named Joe, and they'd sworn to homage it. Consider it done…
The Ghost: The King (Brian Blessed)
Helpful How? Tch. Bloody Kenneth Branagh, always pilfering ideas that have been done before. The ghost of someone who was murdered coming back to help… Wait, what? Shakespeare, you say? Written around 1600? Okay, we'll let him off.
Yes, 90s UK filmmaking has a Branagh-driven stab at The Prince Of Denmark with the classic story of our hero's dad coming back from the afterlife to warn his son that his uncle (who married his mother) is a murdering git. It sounds like an episode of Trisha, but it's cult-ure, innit?
If it weren't for the rather bloody and tragic end to the play, we could see Hamlet and his ghostly pop solving crime as a detective team. "What's that, father? You've talked to the victim at Club Heaven and the butler did it? Another case solved! High five… Sorry… forgot you're insubstantial."
Frightening Fact: Blessed agreed to be one of the film's cameo roles to help Branagh get funding for the four-hour epic.
The Ghost And Mrs Muir (1947)
The Ghost: Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison)
Helpful How? Supernatural romance blossoms between Gene Tierney's widow Lucy Muir and the crusty ex-sea captain who haunts his former home.
The Cap helps Mrs M recover her financial stability by dictating his high seas memoir to her, and they slowly fall in love. Sadly for both of them, there's no hope of a quick phantasmic fiddle as he can't touch her.
But while she moves on to a real man, only to have her heart broken - they're reunited once she dies and he arrives to claim her spirit.
Frightening Fact: Fox pondered remaking the film in 1990 with Michelle Pfeiffer and Shir Shean Connery in the leads. Then The Russia House came out and that idea quietly died. It hasn't come back to haunt anyone… yet.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Ghost: Dr Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis)
Helpful How? Look, if you've never seen the movie or haven't heard what the big twist is… um… you've probably already been spoiled just by looking at this page. But the film is 10 years old, people!
Anyhoo, Willis gives a suitably haunted (yes, pun intended) performance as Crowe, trying to help disturbed youngster Haley Joel Osment, who sees, say it with us, "dead people."
Crowe helps him realise that Osment's Cole Sear can help the recently departed, including a girl whose mother was poisoning her. The big twist is, of course, that Crowe is also dead and must slowly come to terms with the fact he has to give up his old life…
Frightening Fact: While circling a passage in his notes, Willis uses his right hand. He's actually left-handed and learned how to write right-handed so that cinemagoers wouldn't notice that his wedding band was no longer on his hand. Dedication!
Ghostbusters II (1989)
The Ghost: Slimer (Voice of Ivan Reitman)
Helpful How? There are many reasons to dislike the GB sequel - it's largely a lesser retread of the first film, everyone seems to be cashing a paycheck, the villain's a bit cack who never lives up to his legend - but there's still Slimer, who steals every scene he's in.
Apparently having moved in to the 'Busters firehouse base, he makes a small nuisance of himself by stealing food and scaring Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). But he later proves useful by, er, driving a bus to help Louis get to the art museum to help the guys.
All right, so he's not *that* useful. But he's funny.
Frightening Fact: Co-writer/star Dan Aykroyd would refer to the ghost on set as the spirit of John Belushi. He's technically named Onionhead, because of his noxious smell, but that's never used in the film itself.