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30 best and worst movie ghosts, spooks and spirits

The good, the bad and the ugly

If there's one part of a supernatural movie that everyone can confess to being just a little bit freaked out by, it's ghosts. Unlike their closest cinematic companions, zombies and vampires, you're roughly a gazillion times more likely to encounter a spooky resident in your home that a blood-sucker or flesh-eater.

While some movie ghosts are fiends from hell whose only purpose is to prevent sleep, some aren't supposed to scare the bejeezus out of us. Good or bad, this supernatural lot still have to uphold certain ghostly obligations. So join us for a rundown of the best... and the worst.

Best: Ringu (1998)

Well-dwelling Sadako's bone-chilling tale was all-but responsible for kicking off the Noughties J-Horror craze that seized horror fans by the gonads and refused to let go.

Think cursed video tapes sound daft? Not when you’ve seen the one in Ringu , which shows the long-haired Sadako creeping out of a well like a giant spider in order to escort you to your doom. We’re still not over the TV moment, and don't even get us started on the eye! Dear god THE EYE!

Worst: The Haunting (1999)

The cherub motifs that proliferated the excellent original 1963 Haunting get themselves a Jan de Bont modern day makeover. What does that amount to? Well, a whole lot of CGI, of course, as the little statues come to life and grope at their victims – only to come away empty handed because they’re frickin’ stationary statues, for crying out loud!

Worse still, the CGI indentations of flying ghost cherubs in bed-wear and drapes look like they were ripped out of a particularly dreadful Enya video.

Best: Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Knife-fingered dream stalker Freddy Krueger is all kinds of nasty. Just look at his modus operandus, which has him taunting (hell, tearing at) nubile teens – but nobody will believe them because it’s all “just a dream”.

Devilishly clever, then, and the creativity doesn’t stop there, with Freddy dreaming up all manner of grisly fates for his virginal knife fodder.

Worst: FeardotCom (2002)

Tsch, everybody and anybody is on the internet these days. If you don’t have your own .com, you might as well give up the ghost right now. Which is exactly what some clever Minnie has done. Despite being all kinds of dead, she’s set up her own website to get back at the people who watched her being tortured and killed.

A haunted website? Payback’s, well, lame…

Best: Beetlejuice (1988)

He’s creepy and he’s spooky, he’s just a little ooky… Beetlejuice is a bio-exorcist hired by a recently deceased couple to remove the living from their home. Yeah, it’s a sort of anti-exorcism from the point of view of those who’ve crossed the veil.

Brilliantly barmy and with the kind of get-up that just screams ‘Halloween party’, Beetlejuice is one of the coolest ghosts about. And he knows it.

Worst: Ghost Ship (2002)

Ripping off The Shining, this tired remake of the 1952 film of the same name tries to get under your skin using a creepy little girl, who goes about being a general haunt-y nuisance aboard the Antonio Graza ocean liner.

What’s really scary is that Gabriel Byrne is playing the ship’s captain. Shudder.

Best: Ghostbusters (1984)

Where to even begin? In keeping with the iconic flick’s ghoul-inclined title, Ghostbusters is literally busting with the floaty apparations. If it’s not Slimer wreaking havoc, it’s demented old ladies and some demonic spirit called Zuul, who’s taken up residence in poor old Sigourney Weaver’s fridge.

Who you gonna call? Not us, we’re fraidy cats.
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Worst: The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Eddie Murphy finds himself sharing breathing space in the titular abode, where all manner of clunky Disney baddies are attempting to make his life a misery.

It’s based on a theme park ride, but this ain’t no Curse Of The Black Pearl. Stick to talking to animals, eh Murph?

Best: The Grudge (2002)

Clearly if you’re looking for ghosties to fry your soul, Japan’s the place to be. Following on from Hideo Nakata’s defining Ringu, The Grudge features another scorned woman whose uncontrollable rage seeks to destroy any who dare cross her path.

More contortionism and ghostly pale faces, not to mention a creepy little child sidekick who makes cat noises. And we’ve not even gotten started on those throat-clearing phone calls… Ringu had the TV, Grudge has phones, beds, showers, toilet stalls...

Jack Shepherd
Jack Shepherd

I'm the Senior Entertainment Editor here at GamesRadar+, bringing you all the latest movie and TV news, reviews, and features. Plus I look after the Total Film and SFX sections and socials media channels. I used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film

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