Haley Joel Osment, left, and Bruce Willis in a scene from The Sixth Sense.
With The Awakening in limited release in theatres this past weekend, The Apparition ready to terrify you this Friday and The Possession on deck for August 31, it seemed like the right time to round up a list of important ghost stories. If you're hoping to see anything on this list along the lines of Ghost, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Ghost Dad or Ghost Rider, you should turn to sports now.
El Orfanato (The Orphanage) (2007)
A truly dread-inducing tale about an orphan's home, a child who goes missing and a crime from the past that haunts the present. Juan Antonio Bayona directs Belen Rueda and Fernando Cayo in a film that manages to have a satisfactory ending -- the Holy Grail of ghost stories.
The Innocents (1961)
On one hand, there's Deborah Kerr's performance as the vaguely unknowable new nanny, Miss Giddens. And on the other hand, there's the ghost of the former nanny, just visible out the corner of your eye and those two precocious children. And their secrets. Henry James' stately Turn Of The Screw became this 1961 film; it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Well, if you have hair there.
The Others (2001)
A woman must live in a darkened house because her children are allergic to sunlight. In time, she believes the place to be haunted. Director Alejandro Amenabar knows how to ratchet up the tension; he also gets a performance out of Nicole Kidman that reminds you why she was once a star.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
A little boy (Haley Joel Osment) who must hide his ability to commune with the spirits develops a relationship with a child psychologist (Bruce Willis). Also with Toni Collette. Frickin' scary, and full of twists.
Lady In White (1988)
Lukas Haas is a child in danger from something very real in this ghost story about child deaths and life in an idyllic small town. Some hokey bits in this movie, but it's got several terrifying sequences.
So creepy good. No ghosts here exactly, just the spirit of a dead woman hanging over all the proceedings and haunting those she left behind. Alfred Hitchcock directs the psychological thriller, based on Daphne du Maurier's novel; Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson star.
The Uninvited (1944)
This ghost story has siblings living in an old pile on the British seaside, only to discover their fantastic real estate find is haunted. This is a mystery and a ghost story and very scary fare, with Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell. A classic; the cinematography earned an Oscar nomination.
They're here! A gang of ghosts first gets up to mischief at a brand new subdivision house, and then things get ugly. A child vanishes, a seance takes place and an old burial ground heaves up its inhabitants. Gives new meaning to the phrase, 'walk-in closet'. Steven Spielberg co-wrote; JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson star.
Just because it's a ghost story doesn't mean you're not allowed to laugh. Manhattan gets some gnarly looking ghosts in the sewer system and the Ghostbusters come to the rescue in the nick of time! Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver. You'll never eat marshmallows again!
Truly, Madly Deeply (1990)
Just because it's a ghost story doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel good. A love story about a widow (Juliet Stevenson) whose dead husband's ghost (Alan Rickman) returns to hang about until she's back on track with life. Brilliant.