If you’ve read my work—fiction or nonfiction—you probably already know that I absolutely adore ghost stories. They are among the most primal forms of horror, and in a way, they’re possibly the most relatable as well. After all, we’re all haunted in one way or another, be it by the past or by someone or something we’ve lost. Ghosts can be a reflection of who we are, and they can also be such a blast to read about or watch on the big screen.
So for your phantom-loving pleasure, here are four movies about ghosts that don’t get nearly enough love. Consider adding one (or all) of these underrated classics to your current watch list.
The Uninvited (1944)
In many ways, this 1944 film from Paramount is the ultimate “classic ghost story.” It’s got a creepy house on a perilously towering hill overlooking the ocean. It’s got multiple mysterious deaths. It’s even got its own haunting love song, “Stella by Starlight.” Honestly, when it comes to ghost stories put to film in the twentieth century, you can’t go wrong with The Uninvited.
The cast, which includes Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Gail Russell, is absolutely impeccable, and the séance scene is at once creepy and delightful. There’s even a suggested queer relationship, despite the fact that the film was made during the enforcement of the Hays Code. Truly, The Uninvited is such a fabulous film, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It will haunt you in all the best ways.
The most somber entry on this list, this 1968 Japanese film is not only brilliant, but it will also linger in your mind for a very long time. A samurai returns home from war to discover both his wife and his mother have been raped and murdered by another band of samurai, and their home has been left in burned-out ruins.
What he doesn’t realize at first is that a black cat spirit has brought back the women’s ghosts from the underworld, and they’re now determined to wreak their revenge on any samurai who passes by, even if it happens to be their own family member. This is a tragic meditation on loss and grief and lives cut horribly short. It’s also beautifully shot with a climactic sequence that’s at once fantastical and heartbreaking. Without a doubt, this one’s definitely worth a watch, so seek it out as soon as you can.
The first horror movie called House that I ever saw starred William Katt as the befuddled owner of a very weird haunted house. That one is honestly worth a watch too. But my favorite horror film called House—or more specifically Hausu—is this 1977 experimental masterpiece. This Japanese film directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi follows a group of schoolgirls who take a trip to visit one of their friend’s aunts, only to discover that everything has gone supernaturally haywire inside the secluded home.
Throughout the film, there are some seriously amazing, off-the-wall effects, and more than a few death sequences that are shocking but also over-the-top ridiculous in the best possible horror way. Plus, at the heart of the film, there’s a dubious white cat named Blanche who may or may not be one of the causes of the haunting in the first place. This is a psychedelic, rip-roaring good time, so if you haven’t seen House yet, get to your streaming queue right now and add it immediately.
The Fog (1980)
Okay, so this one is fairly well known in the annals of horror cinema, so calling it underrated might seem to be a bit of a stretch at first. However, when you ask something about John Carpenter films, The Fog is often not the first title that comes up. Halloween for sure or The Thing or even The Mouth of Madness for those cosmic horror fans out there. Maybe a few people will go for Escape from New York or They Live, but not nearly enough Carpenter fans—or horror fans in general—typically name The Fog as one of their favorites. And yes, of course, all of those other Carpenter films are clearly stupendous as well, but sometimes, The Fog feels like it gets a little lost in the shuffle. And that’s a shame because it’s a rightful classic.
The sleepy coastal village of Antonio Bay is preparing to celebrate its one-hundredth birthday. Only the townspeople don’t realize that the founders of their town hid a terrible secret, and now the ghosts of the past are ready to take back what’s theirs. With a cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Adrienne Barbeau, and Tom Atkins, this is horror to the max, so if you haven’t seen The Fog recently—or at all—then definitely add it to your watch list as soon as possible. There’s nothing out there that’s quite like it.