Movie Mom

Movie Mom


List: My Favorite Ghost Movies

posted by Nell Minow

Last week’s release of Charlie St. Cloud, with Zac Efron as a young man who visits every day with the ghost of his younger brother, made me think of some of my favorite movie ghosts. What are yours?

1. “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” A young widow (the exquisite Gene Tierney) finds her new home haunted by the ghost of a handsome sea captain (Rex Harrison) in this bittersweet romance that inspired a 1960’s television series.

2. “Ghost” The late Patrick Swayze played a ghost trying to help his girlfriend (Demi Moore) identify the man responsible for his murder with the help of a medium surprised to find out she is not a fake (an Oscar-winning performance from Whoopi Goldberg).

3. “Portrait of Jennie” A young artist (Joseph Cotten) has a series of mysterious encounters with Jennie, who inspires him to create the title work of art. When he first sees her, she is a child, wearing the clothes and remembering incidents of a generation before. But over a period of months he sees her again, each time several years older than the last until she is a beautiful young woman (Jennifer Jones) and he finds himself falling in love with her.

4. “Truly Madly Deeply” Juliet Stevenson gives a radiant performance in this story of a woman devastated by loss who is overjoyed at first to be haunted by the ghost of the man she loved (Alan Rickman).

5. “The Sixth Sense” Bruce Willis is a therapist trying to help a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who “sees dead people” in this haunting drama with a legendary twist.

6. “Heart and Souls” Four souls with unfinished business become guardians of a baby born as their bus crashed. When he grows up (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) they enlist his help in resolving the issues that have kept them from entering heaven.

7. “The Unforgiven” A brother and sister (Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey) move into a mysterious abandoned house by the sea, even though their dog refuses to cross the property line. It turns out the place is haunted and a tangled story has to be revealed to prevent another murder. This was one of the first non-comedy ghost stories produced by Hollywood and it introduced the lovely song “Stella by Starlight,” later recorded by many jazz musicians and singers.

8. “A Guy Named Joe”/”Always” “A Guy Named Joe” was Spencer Tracy, a WWII bomber pilot known for taking great risks, despite the pleading of the woman he loves (Irene Dunne). When he is killed in action, he comes back to help her find love again. Steven Spielberg did an updated version with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter called “Always,” featuring the luminous Audrey Hepburn as an angel.

9. “Topper” Cary Grant’s star-making role was as screen history’s most debonair ghost, half of a glamorous young couple who try to teach a milquetoast banker (Oscar-winner Roland Young) how to have some fun. Watch for Billie Burke (best known as Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz”) as the banker’s wife. This film led to two sequels and a 1950’s television series.

10. “The Canterville Ghost” This delightful family treasure based on a book by Oscar Wilde and updated to WWII has Robert Young and Margaret O’Brien as the descendants of a 17th century nobleman (Charles Laughton) cursed to haunt the family castle until his cowardice is redeemed by a member of the family. It has been remade a couple of times and there is even an opera version, but this one is the best and available for viewing online.

Other favorites: the ghosts of “A Christmas Carol,” “The Others,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Haunting” (the original version), “Poltergeist,” and “The Eclipse”



  • Gina Mintzer

    Love your list. Can’t wait to add some of these movies to my Blockbuster Online queue. Thanks!

  • Wendy

    I LOVE Heart and Souls (and Robert Downey, Jr.)! One of my favorite movies ever.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Wendy! It’s one of my favorites, too.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Gina! I’d love to know what you think when you see them!

  • Dave

    The Sixth Sense has got to be one of the most overrated movies ever, and M. Night Shyamalan has done nothing but prove since that he’s not that good of a writer or director. There’s a website that includes it amongst it’s dumbest movies ever, and points to the reasons being the moments that we don’t see but should have (i.e., Bruce Willis never thought it odd that when he was out to dinner with his wife, the waiter took her order but completely ignored him). I felt the same way about the film after I saw it, there were just too many moments that we didn’t see but which would have happened just before or just after when we joined the action, like the restaurant scene, that should have tipped off Willis’ character that something was wrong, but didn’t.
    In it’s place, I would suggest The Others, with Nicole Kidman. Not necessarily one of her best performances, but overall, a sufficiently creepy movie, and it was especially enjoyable to see a movie that was merely spooky in an age when all the other horror films coming out were seeing just how gory they could get. It was refreshing to see a horror film that was cerebral instead of in-your-face with everything.

  • jestrfyl

    The only other one I would add is “BeetleJuice”. The “Day-O” scene is one of my favorites.

  • Dave

    I have to agree with jestrfyl – Beetlejuice is a great ghost movie, too. Phenomenal cast.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I love “Beetlejuice,” Dave and jestrfyl! One of my all-time favorites, and I can’t believe I left it off the list. I’m so happy that Michael Keaton is back in two movies this summer, “Toy Story 3″ (as Ken!) and “The Other Guys.”

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