One of the most famous subgenres of horror, both in novels and movies, is the haunted house story. The story takes viewers inside a home, hotel, or mansion, and shows characters dealing with a haunting, possession, or otherworldly event that turns the once peaceful home into a house of horror. The theme is so great that it has been adapted into other forms, from a haunted house in space (Alien) to one in a submarine (Below).
What makes the haunted house story so powerful is that it takes the one thing that people normally look at for comfort -- their place of living -- and turns it evil. From ancient burial grounds to demon possessions, there is a haunted house story for everyone. Here is a look at the best haunted house movies of all time, all guaranteed to keep you checking under the bed at night.
10 THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
Based on the true story of arguably the most famous haunted house in the United States, The Amityville Horror hit theaters in 1979. Based on the novel by Jay Anson, the movie tells the story of a young couple (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) who move into a house and learn that it is haunted.
The book told the story of the Lutz family and their three kids who moved into a house the year after a man shot and killed six members of his family. The movie follows the haunting until it drives George and his family from the home, abandoning everything, never to return. The movie was a major success, the highest grossing independent movie of all-time until 1990.
9 THE OTHERS
Nicole Kidman turned her eyes to horror in 2001 with The Others. This underrated haunted house film was extremely atmospheric, which is very important in the genre. That comes as no surprise, as the director was Alejandro Amenábar, the Spanish mastermind behind the trippy movie Open Your Eyes.
In The Others, Kidman is Grace, a mother in 1945 watching over her two children in an old country house after World War II. The kids have photosensitivity, which means they can't come into the light. When Grace believes that ghostly others have come into her home, she fears for her kid's lives -- although there is a twist at the end that changes everything you thought you knew about the story.
When talking about Stephen King movies, one movie that remains criminally underrated is 1408, and that is a tragedy. While The Shining, deservedly so, is the haunted house movie of choice for most King fans, 1408 is a great haunted hotel movie with John Cusack turning in one of his better performances.
Cusack is Mike Enslin, a cynical author who writes about haunted locales but doesn't actually believe in any of them. However, when he checks into The Dolphin, a hotel in New York City that supposedly has a haunted room, he gets more than he bargained for. There are also two endings to the movie, one that gives hope and one that is as dark as the night.
Not all haunted house movies have to be scary. In the case of Beetlejuice, Tim Burton brought audiences a haunted house movie that was brilliantly funny. The year before Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman, he cast him as an obnoxious demon that two ghosts hire to chase new owners from their home.
See, this is a haunted house story told from the point-of-view of the ghosts. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are a dead young couple who see a very annoying new family move into their home. To get rid of them, they hire Beetlejuice, who actually makes things worse for everyone. Winona Ryder portrays the daughter of the living family, the only person who can get rid of Beetlejuice once and for all.
6 THE CONJURING
The Conjuring was the first film in the series based on the true-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. This couple works to help people deal with the possession of their homes by demonic spirits. Released in 2013, James Wan (Aquaman) directed The Conjuring, while tells the story of the investigators helping a couple who moved into a farmhouse and find that it is haunted.
The movie was a massive success, with a worldwide box office of $319.5 million on a budget of just $20 million. Warner Bros ended up turning it into a franchise, with one more Conjuring movie in 2016 and three spin-offs, two in the Annabelle series and more recently The Nun in 2018.
5 STIR OF ECHOES
1999 saw a three month period where three popular horror movies hit theaters in close succession. Blair Witch Project hit in July, one of the most successful indie films of all time. The Sixth Sense arrived in theaters in August, with some calling director M. Night Shyamalan the next Steven Spielberg.
However, the next movie hit in September and might be the best of the three, and easily the most underrated. Kevin Bacon starred in Stir of Echoes as a father who starts to see the ghost of a young girl in his home after he is hypnotized at a party. It is up to him to find out what the girl wants and help uncover dark buried secrets before his son pays the ultimate price.
Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directed Poltergeist in 1982, a movie written by Steven Spielberg about a haunted house and the family who desperately wants to eliminate the evil presence and live in peace. While Craig T. Nelson and Jobeth Williams are great as the parents, it is Zelda Rubinstein who steals the show as exorcist Tagina Barrons.
Poltergeist is also a haunted house movie that uses the ancient burial ground trope, as a Native American burial ground was under the housing edition and the development just moved the headstones and left the bodies behind. The movie also holds a place in lore as cursed due to the early deaths of many people involved.
3 THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE
Outside of making his mark in Hollywood, Guillermo del Toro created a pair of masterpieces in his native Spanish language. There was the fairy tale masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth in 2006 but five years before that he directed a masterful haunted house movie that took place inside a home for orphans in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
The Devil's Backbone focused on a young boy who is taken to the home for orphans after his father dies in the war. While there, he is tormented by older bullies and then finds himself haunted by the ghost of a young child who went missing before Carlos arrived.
2 THE SHINING
Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's re-telling of the haunted house novel based in the Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) agrees to serve as caretaker of the hotel during the winter months when it is closed due to harsh snows, he starts to lose his mind when the hotel begins to show him glimpses of its dark and disturbing past.
RELATED: 10 Of Stephen King's Worst Movies
Stephen King has been very vocal in the fact that he hates the adaptation of this novel. While The Shining is considered one of the best horror movies of all time, King preferred his version where the hotel was the true evil and not the movie's version of a twisted Jack.
1 THE HAUNTING
When Stephen King wrote The Shining, he admitted that he considered Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House was the greatest haunted house story of all time. Recently, Netflix adapted this into an amazing limited series that kept the spirit of the original while updating it for modern audiences.
There was also a movie in 1999 that most audiences should avoid. With that said, in 1963, Robert Wise, who was the editor on Citizen Kane in 1941 and director of West Side Story in 1961, directed the greatest haunted house story of all-time, The Haunting. Starring Julie Harris, the movie was smart in not showing much and allowing the fear of the unknown to terrorize audiences.