Reviews for Annabelle Comes Home have been pretty mixed, but the Conjuring universe shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Regardless if you enjoy the series or if you’re sick to death of it, here’s some great movies to follow it up with. Now, unless you want Coco and A Christmas Carol on this list, you’ll have to keep in mind that we’ll be omitting a plethora of movies with ghosts in them that aren’t necessarily grounded in horror. For example, something like Ghostbusters leans more towards action, and there’s no end of children’s tales that follow suit. So, here are the top ten frightening ghost movies of all time, as ranked on IMDb.
10 The Conjuring
This is probably one of the best modern horror films, despite an ending that resorts to a clichéd exorcism scene. Firstly, it’s horror is bolstered by the “True Story” inspiration. It had two leads with great chemistry to represent actual paranormal investigators. Secondly, it’s actually a story of two everyday families. They have financial problems, vulnerable children, and personal squabbles.
The film also goes out of its way to depict the paranormal as a true phenomena. It addresses false accounts that can be attributed to shaky pipes. With several daughters, and a frequently absent father, the Perron family is easy to sympathize with. Also, Wan’s careful camera lingers in just the right way to convince you something frightening is there. It builds up to some of the best jump scares of all time.
9 The Haunting (1963)
No, not the much-maligned remake, which removed one of the essential features of this film—the black and white visuals. That vintage look has been an effective tool of horror since German Expressionism. It allows directors to play with shadows in a way that color simply can’t. This plot is surprisingly similar to Rose Red, wherein an investigator invites a psychic and others to find the paranormal in a house with a dark history. This film relies primarily on sounds and warping doors, which are effectively done, but probably leave most fans of the genre feeling unsatisfied.
8 The Others
This is a successfully atmospheric tale that doesn’t quite have the same appeal after the twist ending. However, your first watch is very rewarding—because mysteries always work when enough clues were actually included in the story for an audience to discover the truth. To be honest, it’s a little unfair that The Sixth Sense had been released so recently. This film was just as effective in its twist, and has an equally skilled cast. The story is driven by Nicole Kidman’s great performance and acclaimed director Alejandro Amenábar. It has engaging tension, and an appropriate slow-burn pace. The setting plays a great part of the suspense too, an isolated home where the coldness just drips off the walls.
7 Dead Of Night
A British selection, this was actually made at a time when horror films weren’t welcome there. It’s also another anthology film, which is mostly known for its evil ventriloquist dummy. So enjoy that, all you Annabelle fans. However, the movie also features three stories about hauntings, and an ending that has become cliché—“it was all a dream.” The framing device of the story is all about the protagonist’s inability to separate his nightmares from reality. All of this goes as far back as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920. Still, the performances are good enough, and the directing is tidy.
6 Evil Dead II
Some of the most fun you’ll ever have watching any movie, let alone a ghost story in the horror genre. Leaning into absurdity, one-liners, and hilarious gags, Sam Raimi is one of the few people that can mix comedy and horror to perfection. Also, Bruce Campbell was absolutely born for this role. It’s an absolute travesty that the TV series which continued Ash’s story is gone. Filled with mania, gallons of blood, and fantastic camerawork, this is one of the definitive movies to watch around Halloween. While the first entry is all horror (no one walks away from that tree scene unchanged), and the third entry completely abandons that tone, this installment strikes the perfect balance.
5 The Innocents
An adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, this is clearly the precursor for The Others. Yet another ensemble cast that delivers incredible performances, the children sell the horror as perfectly as the new governess does. Convinced the estate is haunted, the atmosphere is absolutely drenched with the kind of slow-burn tension that has been borrowed in nearly every subsequent film about hauntings.
Hints, brief sightings, a jump scare, and doubt all blend together for one of the most effective ghost stories ever put to film. It is tasteful, artful, and altogether another breed of British horror films. It truly set itself apart from Hammer productions—although those are fun in their own way.
When most people think of Asian horror, their minds will probably veer towards Ju-on: The Grudge or Ringu. However, the entire concept of spirits is so intertwined with Japanese culture, that it goes back significantly farther. More open-minded than American audiences to the actual existence of spirits, the stories in this early anthology horror film are typical of countless Japanese myths. The four tales are mostly inspired by written works from around 1900. They feature interactions with spirits that are actually fully involved relationships. It’s unique, but it counts as horror thanks to the first two stories. Respectively, a man realizes he has slept beside his ex-wife’s corpse, and a “snow woman” spirit literally kills someone.
3 The Exorcist
This film was far ahead of its time. Deeply rooted in religion and family, this unforgettable story of possession and horror is much more than a bowl of pea soup. The Exorcist was made in a decade full of corrupted innocence, such as The Last House On The Left. With Linda Blair’s traumatic transformation, her performance is nothing less than astonishing. Of course, the film features dynamic performances from every single member of the cast. The paranormal is blurred into real life by Ellen Burstyn’s desperate mother, who treats her daughter’s symptoms systematically as any parent truly would. The evil force does not just attack the characters physically, but also psychologically. This is the ultimate battle of faith, and for the purity of family.
2 The Sixth Sense
This is the film that perfectly encapsulates everything M. Night Shyamalan ever had to say. It's also one of the few movies that chooses to explore the phenomenon of ESP, rather than heavily relying on a series of gimmicky jump scares or clichés. The powerhouse performance from Haley Joel Osment, the quiet atmosphere, and Shyamalan’s careful camerawork make the scares effective. But first and foremost, it’s very psychological. Any ghost story is firing on all cylinders when the paranormal sits passenger to the drama. And our sympathy is easily earned for any child undergoing a constant, mysterious trauma, which strains his life at home and at school. The film also boasts one of James Newton Howard’s most incredible scores, next to The Village.
1 The Shining
This is easily one of the most quintessential horror stories of all time, the high standard for paranormal frights. That’s because the movie is deeply rooted in Jack’s strained relationship with his family. It establishes his abusive past right at the onset. Ghosts have always served as manifestations of the past, but they particularly do here. They feed on Jack’s violent tendencies and easily manipulate him with it. But aside from the very real threat of a terrorizing father, the paranormal elements themselves are visually iconic. Once the film becomes a full-fledged haunted house at the end, the story’s earned it, and the scares deliver thanks to Kubrick’s keen eye.