The Scariest Ghost Movies of All Time

A good ghost film tends to be part murder mystery, part supernatural horror and all-terrifying, the sort of movie to watch at night tucked safely under the covers—next to your trusty baseball bat. Here is a list of spooky flicks worthy of taking a swing. These are listed in descending order, so the farther down the list you go, the scarier it gets.

Note: "Scariest" doesn't necessarily mean the best (although it usually does).

This old-fashioned ghost story about experts investigating a haunted house delivers scares without the sight of a single ghost. Instead, director Robert Wise expertly manipulates sounds and shadows to convey the sense of being surrounded by malevolent forces. Even in black and white, ​"The Haunting" still manages to have an impact today —much more so than the bland 1999 remake.

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'The Baby's Room' (2006)

6 Films to Keep You Awake - The Baby's Room ghost movie
Lionsgate

In this frantic entry in the Spanish TV movie series "Six Films to Keep You Awake" from cult filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia (​"The Last Circus," "Witching & Bitching"), a couple discovers that they can view ghosts in their new home through a baby cam.

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'The Conjuring' (2013)

The Conjuring ghost movie
New Line

"​The Conjuring" is a haunted house pic in the classic tradition of "The Amityville Horror," "The Haunting" and ​"The Innocents": a low-key fright flick focusing on atmosphere more than dazzling effects or blood 'n' guts. It's also unusually emotional for a horror movie, even as it scares the pants off you.

Like "Lady in White," "The Sixth Sense" generates scares by putting you in the position of a helpless child who discovers that there really are monsters in his closet... and under his bed... and hanging from his ceiling. Its now-cliched "I see dead people" line and well-worn twist ending make people forget how many terrifying moments the film has: the tent scene, the boy who wants to show him his father's gun, the hanged ghosts, the angry closet ghost and more.

It's easy to forget how scary this PG-rated movie about a suburban family's house haunting was in its day, especially to little kids with clown dolls in their rooms.

Part haunted house, part demonic possession, these "found footage" films use recovered "footage" to document the haunting of suburban couples by an evil presence. The plot is minimal, but the visceral scares are potent—at least, for the first three entries in the franchise

09
of 15

'The Innocents' (1961)

The Innocents ghost movie
20th Century Fox

Based on the Henry James novella "The Turn of the Screw," this tale about a governess who comes to believe the two young children she's taking care of are possessed by ghosts mixes Gothic horror trappings with edgy, modern topics of sexuality and abuse while challenging viewers' perceptions of what a haunting is. But regardless of your interpretation, it's got several genuinely scary scenes.

08
of 15

'Insidious' (2011)

Insidious ghost movie
FilmDistrict

A couple is tormented by ghosts that seem to be targeting their comatose son in this relentless throwback scare-fest.

A recent widower (George C. Scott) moves into—you guessed it—a spooky old house that turns out to be haunted. In this case, the ghost is a young, sickly boy whose wheelchair and ball lend some classic scares as the man unweaves the tangled, tragic mystery behind the boy's death.

This iconic haunted house flick was savaged by critics, but despite some over-the-top acting, it stands up well to contemporary supernatural fare like "The Omen" and "The Shining," aided by its eerie "moaning children's chorus" score and classic bits like "invisible friends" talking to kids, bleeding walls and disembodied voices yelling "Get out!" 

05
of 15

'Lake Mungo' (2010)

Lake Mungo ghost movie
After Dark

This superbly crafted faux documentary peels off layer after scrumptious layer of supernatural mystery and is arguably as creepy and impactful as similarly themed fare like "Paranormal Activity" and ​"The Blair Witch Project."

It's debatable what exactly the "presence" is in this movie—ghost, demonic force, swamp gas—but whatever it is, its impact is creepy with a capital CREEP. In the film, a group of hazmat workers cleaning up asbestos in an abandoned mental hospital encounter a malevolent force. One of the workers begins listening to audiotapes of psychiatric "sessions" with a former patient, and by the time he gets to session No. 9, every hair on your body will be standing on end.

Perhaps the only Hollywood remake of an Asian horror movie so far to improve upon the original, "The Ring" haunts with jaw-dropping visuals (pun intended—see the opening scene) and introduced America at large to the "yūrei" ghost figure that would be featured in dozens more Asian horror films.

Cheap and simple yet ingeniously executed (and marketed), "The Blair Witch Project" is a documentary-styled first-person account of the search for the legendary spirit of a witch rumored to haunt a forest in rural Maryland. The mind-numbing scares lie in the realism of the film, which features mostly improvised dialogue, natural lighting, shaky camerawork and spooky ambient noise that truly epitomizes the phrase "things that go bump in the night."

Almost every haunted house movie seems to have a scene in which the evilness of the building is touted in dramatic tones, but rarely do the manifestations of the evil live up to the legend. "The Shining" has no such letdown. Its iconic imagery, courtesy of legendary director Stanley Kubrick, is nightmare-inducing even if you haven't seen the film for years. Amazingly, it even rivals the Stephen King novel upon which it was based in terms of pure terror.