It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since we first learned of the epic supernatural love story between Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) and Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze). As "Ghost" celebrates its 30th anniversary — the film hit theaters on July 13, 1990 — Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the best movies about ghosts. Keep reading for more…
When "Ghostbusters" debuted in 1984, it was a massive hit. The supernatural-comedy flick, which stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis, follows three eccentric scientists who catch spirits, ghosts and poltergeists for a living. "'Ghostbusters' is one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production," wrote acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert. "But it uses its money wisely, and when that, ahem, monster marches down a Manhattan avenue and climbs the side of a skyscraper … we're glad they spent the money for the special effects because it gets one of the biggest laughs in a long time." It had a huge impact on popular culture, making it clear that comedies laden with special effects can actually work as it spawned comics, video games, TV shows, theme park attractions and, of course, a film franchise.
RELATED: '90s movies to stream at home
Note to self: When writer's block hits, do not go off to an isolated hotel! The Stanley Kubrick classic "The Shining" tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer who, in an effort to overcome his writer's block, escapes to the eerie Overlook Hotel with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). It's only a matter of time, however, until Jack becomes possessed by the sinister apparitions that inhabit the hotel and begins to lose his mind in the process. The psychological thriller based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name came out in 1980. Critic Roger Ebert gave the horror flick four stars, writing, "Stanley Kubrick's cold and frightening 'The Shining' challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust?"
RELATED: 2000s movies to stream at home
"The Sixth Sense"
One of the most notable films in the horror genre, "The Sixth Sense," tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a boy who is often visited by ghosts. He's afraid to speak of this to anyone but his psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). The two try to understand Cole's unusual abilities but in the process unearth an unsettling, twisty truth. The 1999 M. Night Shyamalan thriller was both a critical and commercial hit: "The Sixth Sense" was nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, best director and best original screenplay. The film also made $672.8 million on a $40 million budget.
"Paranormal Activity 3"
There's something incredibly unsettling about watching a found-footage horror film. "Paranormal Activity 3," which hit theaters in 2011, served as the prequel in the franchise and told the story of a wedding videographer who uses his camera to figure out what's been causing some strange occurrences in his home. In the process, he unearths a flurry of eerie information… including that his daughter has conversations with an imaginary friend named Toby. Though it's the third installment in the franchise, "Paranormal Activity 3" was an even bigger box office success than its predecessors: The movie set a horror movie midnight release earnings record ($8 million) and had the best opening day for a horror film in the US ($26.2 million). It ultimately earned $207 million on a $5 million budget.
Not all movies about ghosts have to be scary! Disney's "Coco" tells the story of Miguel, a boy who dreams of becoming a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, despite his family's enduring ban on music. In an effort to bring his hopes to fruition, Miguel finds himself thrust into the eccentric, beautiful Land of the Dead, where he embarks on an adventure that allows him to unearth the truth about his family history. "'Coco' is a movie about borders more than anything — the beauty in their porousness, the absolute pain produced when a border locks you away from your family," wrote Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker. "The conflict in the story comes from not being able to cross over; the resolution is that love pulls you through to the other side. The thesis of the movie is that families belong together." The moving animated film grossed $807 million on a $175 million budget.
After a near-death experience, misanthropic dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) develops the peculiar ability to converse with the dead — and it's not long before a ghost named Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) enlists Bertram's help to end an engagement between his widow, Gwen (Téa Leoni), and an untrustworthy lawyer. Critic Roger Ebert gave the quirky romantic comedy three out of five stars, writing, "'Ghost Town' is a lightweight rom-com elevated by its performances. It is a reminder that the funniest people are often not comedians, but actors playing straight in funny roles."
"Just Like Heaven"
Leave it to Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo to shine in this ghostly romantic comedy. "Just Like Heaven" follows the life of David, a widowed architect who moves into an apartment that's being haunted by a woman named Elizabeth. Convinced she isn't actually dead, Elizabeth seeks David's help to figure out who she really is. In the process, of course, the pair begin to fall in love. Critic Roger Ebert said of Reese and Mark, "These are two of the sweetest actors in the movies, and sweetness is what they give their characters in 'Just Like Heaven.'" The rom-com earned $102.8 million at the box office on a $58 million budget.
There are horror films that you quickly forget after you watch them, and then there are the ones that stay with (and haunt) you long after — and "The Ring" is a film that falls into the latter category. Debuting in 2002, the movie follows reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) as she tries to solve the mystery surrounding a sinister videotape that foretells the viewer's death within seven days. "The Ring" was a major box office success — it grossed $249.9 million on a $48 million budget. "Gore Verbinski creates an air of dread that begins with the first scene and never lets up, subtly incorporating elements from the current wave of Japanese horror films along the way," wrote Keith Phipps of AV Club.
"Casper" focuses on a young, friendly ghost who haunts an abandoned mansion with his disruptive uncles, the Ghostly Trio. When James Harvey (Bill Pullman) is called to the mansion to communicate with the ghosts, he brings along his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci), with whom Casper begins to fall in love. While Casper tries to befriend James and Kat, his uncles make doing so increasingly difficult. Released in May 1995, "Casper" was a box office hit: The family-friendly flick grossed $287.9 million on a $55 million budget.
Starring Kristen Stewart, "Personal Shopper" follows Maureen Cartwright, a celebrity personal shopper living in Paris who attempts to communicate with her dead twin brother. "Olivier Assayas's new film is both a supernatural thriller and an unnerving inquiry into the drift and mystery of modern life," wrote A.O. Scott of The New York Times. Kristen's performance was also highly praised, with Wendy Ide of The Guardian writing that the actress "delivers her best performance to date" in the "fascinating supernatural drama." The thriller scored an 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
"A Tale of Two Sisters"
"A Tale of Two Sisters" follows Su-mi (Yeom Jeong-ah), a teen recently released from a mental institution, who reunites with sister Su-yeon (Su-jeong Lim). Together, the siblings return to their family home in the countryside where their father and stepmother Eun-joo reside. However, upon their arrival, the girls are subject to a series of sinister events that begin to unravel the dark secrets of their family history. The Korean psychological horror drama received rave reviews, with Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times writing, "Kim Jee-woon's 'A Tale of Two Sisters' is a tour de force of psychological horror at its creepiest. It is endlessly clever and confounding, achieving an aura of ambiguity but building to an intricate bravura finish in which heretofore closely held secrets quite literally come tumbling out of a closet." Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 85% fresh.
This one's a classic. Following a tragic car accident, Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) become ghosts who are stuck haunting their marital home. When the insufferable Deetz family (Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones and on-screen daughter Winona Ryder) purchase their residence, the Maitlands attempt and fail to scare them away. After catching wind of their struggles, Betelgeuse (aka Beetlejuice, played by Michael Keaton) — an unpredictable and duplicitous poltergeist — offers to help the Maitlands, but his involvement quickly makes matters dangerous for everyone involved. The Tim Burton classic "Beetlejuice," which debuted in 1988, earned $74.2 million at the box office on a $15 million budget. "Brilliantly bizarre and overflowing with ideas, 'Beetlejuice' offers some of Michael Keaton's most deliciously manic work — and creepy, funny fun for the whole family," read Rotten Tomatoes' critics consensus on the film.
1982's "Poltergeist" follows the lives of the Freeling family, who realize they have the ability to communicate with ghosts through their television set. After their youngest daughter, 5-year-old Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke), is abducted by the sinister ghosts, the family must find a way to retrieve her. The horror flick was a critical and commercial success: "Poltergeist" earned a whopping $121.7 million on a $10.7 million budget. The film, which is based on a story by Steven Spielberg, spawned two sequels — "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" and "Poltergeist III."
"1408" stars John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a prolific author who's made a name for himself debunking supernatural occurrences — but when he stays in room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, he finds himself in the midst of a series of terrifying paranormal events. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, "1408" was a box office hit — the psychological horror flick earned $133 million on a $25 million budget. "Relying on psychological tension rather than overt violence and gore, '1408' is a genuinely creepy thriller with a strong lead performance by John Cusack," read Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus.
After losing his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident, grieving widower and New York City-based composer John Russell (George C. Scott) moves to an isolated mansion in Seattle. However, not long after arriving, he becomes haunted by a young boy who drowned in the home's bathtub. John enlists the help of Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) to solve the mystery surrounding the boy's death. 1980's "The Changeling" has been regarded as one of the most influential Canadian films of all time. It was also one of the first Canadian films to receive widespread international fame.
Set during World War II, "The Others" stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a religious mother who resides in a Victorian mansion with her two children, Anne and Nicholas. Following the disappearance of their servants, a new trio arrives and unsettling events begin to occur in their home. When Anne reveals that she's been communicating with ghosts, Grace initially dismisses it, but soon realizes it's true. "The Others," which debuted in 2001, earned big at the box office, making $209.9 million on a $17 million budget. "The director, Alejandro Amenabar, has the patience to create a languorous, dreamy atmosphere, and Nicole Kidman succeeds in convincing us that she is a normal person in a disturbing situation and not just a standard-issue horror movie hysteric," wrote critic Roger Ebert.
After gaining the strange ability to see ghosts, former architect Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) becomes a psychic investigator in "The Frighteners." When a desperate couple (Trini Alvarado and Peter Dobson) enlist Frank's help to rid their home of the ghost that's been wreaking havoc on their lives, he becomes embroiled in a serious case that transcends their home life. As people continue to die from mysterious heart attacks, Frank must find the cause of these mass killings. While "The Frighteners" wasn't a box office success — it made $29.3 million on a $26 million budget — it has been praised for its exceptional showcase of special effects and Peter Jackson's direction.