The 25 best ghost movies to give you chills

15. Oculus (2013)

Who knew that a movie about a haunted mirror could be this terrifying? Starring Karen Gillan, this particularly nasty ghost tale comes from Hush and Ouija: Origins of Evil director Mike Flanagan. Tim and Kaylie’s parents both died in horrific supernatural circumstances and while Tim’s stint in a psychiatric hospital has convinced him that there was nothing suspicious, Kaylie has dedicated her life to discovering the truth. When the pair set up a surveillance set up around the family mirror, things get exceptionally crunchy. Claustrophobic and intense, Oculus constantly plays with your expectations and gets really rather nasty as it reaches its conclusion. Don’t count on a happy ending but at least it’ll give you some time to reflect.

14. The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter’s atmospheric story of revenge, The Fog, got mixed reviews when it first appeared back in 1978, but has since gathered a cult following. It’s easy to see why. Exactly 100 years after the shipwreck of the Elizabeth Dane, a mysterious fog descends on the coastal town of Antonio Bay. Residents start to die horribly, panic sets in, and the truth about the sinking of the Dane begins to rise to the surface. The Fog’s horror comes from the unstoppable nature of its ‘ghosts’. Technically, they’re revenants, hell bent on revenge for past misdeeds, and there’s no way they’ll stop until the wrongs have been righted. Add to this the fact that they’re surrounded by a ghostly fog at all times, conveniently obscuring the viewer’s vision to enhance the scares, and you’ve got all the makings of a great, original ghost movie. Right to the very end, where the relentless ruthlessness of the revenants is truly revealed.

13. Beetlejuice (1988)

Still one of Tim Burton’s finest films, the director’s first collaboration with the future Batman is one of the most gleefully anarchic, deliciously dark, freely imaginative supernatural comedies ever made. Pinned around a fantastically grotty central performance by Michael Keaton, balanced deftly against the naïve warmth of Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin’s similarly dead Maitlands and Winona Ryder’s endearingly morbid teen goth Lydia, it’s a reminder of how much magic Burton used to be able to create with a more intimate scale and a lot of ideas. The brilliantly inventive scenes at the miserably bureaucratic afterlife advisory service are worth the watch alone. 

12. The Woman In Black (2012)

Shake the initial horror that you’re meant to believe Harry Potter can have a son and the creeping nasty that awaits in this adaptation might just give you chills. The relaunch of the Hammer Horror brand, The Woman in Black sees young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) travelling to the home of an old woman to organise her estate.If you’ve read the book, or seen the horrifying stage play, you know what awaits Kipps in Eel Marsh House and the film takes pride in every close up of glassy eyed dolls and cymbal holding monkeys. Even before the eponymous spirit shows up, you’ll have nail marks in the palms of your hands as candle light just doesn’t fill enough of the cavernous dark rooms. It all get a bit over the top by the end when CGI takes over in place of old fashioned scares but by then, the ghost train has done its job and you might just have to sleep with the light on. 

11. House On Haunted Hill (1999)

The only modern remake allowed on this list, the reworking of Vincent Price’s original horror house tale is everything that it should be. Cheesy as hell, totally overacted, grisly as get out, and actually pretty darn scary. House on Haunted Hill sees five unknowing guests arrive at an ex-asylum thinking they’re attending a party but they’re actually playing a game where the one person to stay in the building until morning earns a cool $1 million. Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen fully ham it up as the party “hosts” at each other’s throats and when the house starts to turn on its guests, things get rather nasty very fast. From the creeping asylum themed credits which felt bold and new back in the mists of the late ‘90s, to the horrific zoetrope ‘treatment’ room that one unfortunate party guest finds their way into, House on Haunted Hill is a grisly guilty pleasure that shouldn’t be missed. 

10. Ringu (1998)

Rightly shaking up western perceptions of horror overnight, Hideo Nakata’s original, dread-soaked ghost story is a masterpiece of economy, pacing, mood, and primally unsettling imagery. Creating a potent urban legend in its tale of a cursed videotape that triggers a nightmare death sentence when watched, the film’s starkly cold tone, deliberate pacing, and focus on wrought character drama as much as supernatural spectacle makes for a constantly disturbing experience, whose bursts of outright horror are all the more amplified by the relentless, creeping upset in between.

9. Insidious (2010)

There’s a reason James Wan is on this list more than once. When it comes to things that go bump in the night, he’s a veritable scare maestro. When the Lambert family - a brilliant Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne - move into a new home, things go downhill rapidly. Insidious is relentless; loud noises, ghastly apparitions, jump scares but none of them feel cheap. Wan teases us with wide shots before zooming in for closeups when all we want to see is what else is hiding in the room. The even creepier thing is that the characters do exactly what you’d do. If you saw a red demon standing behind your child’s crib, it would probably mean a call to the movers. It’s the same for the Lamberts but it really doesn’t help. Sure, it turns into Poltergeist near the end but the horrific imagery just doesn’t stop. Wan knows what scares you and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

8. The Conjuring (2013)

Another James Wan horror to add to this list, this frightfest is the story of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren - played expertly by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga - who travel to a remote farmhouse where a family is plagued by bizarre paranormal activity. The ‘based on a true story’ tagline might be pushed a tad far but it doesn’t really matter as the scares ramp up inside the house. A repeated game of clap and hide gets worse every time it’s used, there’s a nightmare sequence that means I can’t sleep with the light off after I watch it, and one particular set piece revolving around a wardrobe is just a blood pressure catastrophe. The Conjuring’s not over fast either. By the time you reach the extraordinary exorcism sequence, there’s a distinct feeling of going through every step with the Warrens and the suffering family. An exquisitely constructed modern horror. 

7. The Sixth Sense (1999)

M. Night Shyamalan is known for loving a good twist but possibly his most famous appears in The Sixth Sense. If you’ve not seen the movie and have somehow managed to not have the ending ruined for you (how? How have you done that?), I really must insist you stop reading and go and watch it now. Everyone who’s seen The Sixth Sense knows exactly why it’s one of the best ghost films out there. Bruce Willis stars as a therapist who tries to help a young boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, who can see dead people. Cue many a disturbing scene in which the audience sees what he sees; creepy ghosts walking around the living, sometimes looking normal, sometimes not. Brilliantly paced and expertly shot, The Sixth Sense isn’t just a great ghost story, it’s a lesson in storytelling perfection. 

6. The Others (2001)

A painfully creepy ghost story from Spanish Vanilla Sky director Alejandro Amenabar, The Others perfectly casts Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, the mother of two children sent to stay in a remote house amidst the chaos of World War 2. Awaiting her husband’s return from the war, Grace carefully protects her children who are both highly photosensitive and can’t be touched by natural light. The result is a claustrophobic nightmare as unexplained activity creeps after Grace as she wanders the corridors of the house. Oh and did  all the madness start when those three servants arrived? Suspicious. Supporting performances from Eric Sykes and Fionnula Flanagan seal the deal to make this the perfect movie to settle in on a dark winter’s night with a cup of tea in hand. And maybe a blanket. Just in case.

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.