Spirits, poltergeists, otherworldly visitors: Hollywood ghosts go by many different names. Whether they’re possessing people, haunting houses, orphanages or schools, or just generally terrorizing those around them, these souls have a bone to pick with the living.
Here are 14 of the most haunting ghost movies to watch.
1. The Changeling
When composer John Russell moves to an old Victorian mansion in Seattle after a tragedy, he soon finds out the house is already occupied—by the ghost of a young boy. What’s more, the ghost wants John’s help in investigating his mysterious death, and he won’t rest until John complies.
2. The Devil’s Backbone
The Devil’s Backbone also features a little boy ghost out for vengeance. When young Carlos arrives at a orphanage during the end of the Spanish Civil War, fitting in with the other boys is hard enough. Things get considerably more bleak when Carlos learns about Santi, the spirit of a young boy who vanished just before Carlos’ arrival, and whom the other boys believe haunts the orphanage.
A red-blooded American family moves into a new home—which just happens to have been built on top of a relocated cemetery. Oh yeah, and it’s also connected to a ghost dimension: the portal is located in the youngest daughter’s closet. This is all pretty ironic, considering Dad is a real estate developer. Although this 80s flick doesn’t totally hold up today, we bet you won’t be able to stop the goosebumps from rising on your arms when Carol Anne announces, “They’re heeeere.”
4. The Others
In this terrifying, Turn of the Screw-like movie, a woman living with her two hyper-photosensitive children in post-WWII England begins to suspect there are “others” residing in the home with them. We won’t spoil the twist ending, though suffice it to say, there is definitely something paranormal going on.
5. The Orphanage (2007)
It’s hard to go wrong when you combine Guillermo del Toro—who in this case produced the film—and a story set in an orphanage. Laura plans on reopening an abandoned orphanage, when her son Simón suddenly goes missing. Once again, vengeful ghost orphans run rampant.
6. I Am a Ghost (2012)
In this extremely clever twist on the “haunted house” plot, it’s the ghost who’s the protagonist. Poor Emily can’t figure out why she’s stuck haunting her home. When a clairvoyant is hired to drive her away, Emily must face dark truths about her past.
7. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Laugh it at now all you want—when this low-budget box office smash was released in 2007, audiences were scared out of their minds. If your wife ever tells you she’s been followed by a “demonic presence” all of her life: Take it seriously.
8. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
It’s generally a bad idea to move into a house where people have been murdered. It’s even more unfortunate if those murdered in the house now haunt it as onryō, vengeful Japanese ghosts.
9.The Amityville Horror (1979)
In 1974, Ronald Defeo Jr. massacred his family at their home on Long Island. In 1975, the Lutz family moved into that very house, only to move out a month later, supposedly terrorized by the paranormal activity inside the home. This 1979 horror classic is a fictionalized account of their experiences at 112 Ocean Avenue.
10. The Awakening (2011)
More little ghost boys are afoot in The Awakening, only this time they’re at a boarding school rather than an orphanage. In 1920s England, profession skeptic Florence Cathcart spends her days debunking supernatural hoaxes. When she gets called to investigate a ghost at a remote school, she realizes she might have stumbled across the real thing.
11. The Conjuring (2013)
OK, we all thought, here’s yet another silly haunted house movie “based on true events.” And how wrong we were. The Conjuring, based on the experiences of the Perron family, is deeply, unsettlingly scary. The characters are well-developed, the scares are effective, and the climax is satisfying, as the paranormal activity inside the house reaches a boiling point.
12. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
In this 1959 horror classic—DO NOT bother with the horrid 1999 remake—Vincent Price plays an eccentric millionaire, who invites five people to see if they can spend one night in a haunted house, in exchange for $10,000. Of course, the house is filled with very some real terrors, including several ghosts.
13. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Arguably the only good movie M. Night Shyamalan ever made, The Sixth Sense is a modern-day horror classic, with one of the most infamous twists in movie history. When little Cole is troubled by paranormal visions, psychologist Malcolm Crowe is called in to help. If you haven’t seen this movie yet (where have you been?), make sure you watch it again after the twist is revealed, to discover all of the great clues you probably missed upon your first viewing.
14. The Shining (1980)
Considered by many to be the greatest horror movie ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining can teach us all a very important lesson: if your husband is offered a job as winter caretaker at a giant hotel which is completely shuttered in the off-season, DON’T let him accept. The hotel might be filled with ghosts, just like The Overlook, and all this paranormal activity might just drive your husband into a homicidal rage, as it did Jack.
Featured still from "I Am a Ghost" via Ersatz Film