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The Scariest Ghost Movies


10. The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents
© 20th Century Fox
Based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw, this tale about a governess who comes to believe the two young children she's taking care of are possessed by ghosts, mixes gothic horror trappings with edgy, modern topics of sexuality and abuse while challenging viewers' perceptions of what a haunting is. But regardless of how you interpret it, it's got several genuinely scary scenes.

9. Insidious (2011)

'Insidious' movie poster
© FilmDistrict

A couple is tormented by ghosts that seem to be targeting their comatose son in this relentless throwback scarefest.

8. The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling DVD
© Warner Bros.

A recent widower (George C. Scott) moves into -- you guessed it -- a spooky old house that turns out to be haunted. In this case, the ghost is a young, sickly boy whose wheelchair and ball lend some classic scares as the man unweaves the tangled, tragic mystery behind the boy's death.

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7. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Amityville Horror DVD
© 20th Century Fox

This iconic haunted house flick was savaged by critics, but despite some over-the-top acting, it stands up well to contemporary supernatural fare like The Omen and The Shining, aided by its eerie "moaning children's chorus" score and classic bits like "invisible friends" talking to kids, bleeding walls and disembodied voices yelling "Get out!" You wouldn't have to tell me twice...

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6. Paranormal Activity (2009) / PA2 (2010) / PA3 (2011)

Paranormal Activity DVD
© Paramount

Part haunted house, part demonic possession, these POV films uses "found footage" to document the haunting of suburban couples by an evil presence. The plot is minimal, but the visceral scares are potent.

5. Lake Mungo (2010)

'Lake Mungo' movie poster.
© After Dark

This superbly crafted faux documentary peels off layer after scrumptious layer of supernatural mystery and is arguably as creepy and impactful as similarly themed fare like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.

4. Session 9 (2001)

Session 9 DVD
© Universal

It's debatable what exactly the "presence" is in this movie -- ghost, demonic force, swamp gas -- but whatever it is, its impact is creepy with a capital CREEP. In the film, a group of hazmat workers cleaning up asbestos in an abandoned mental hospital encounter a malevolent force. One of the workers begins listening to audio tapes of psychiatric "sessions" with a former patient, and by the time he gets to session 9, every hair on your body will be standing on end.

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3. The Ring (2002)

The Ring DVD
© Paramount

Perhaps the only Hollywood remake of an Asian horror movie so far to improve upon the original, The Ring haunted us with jaw-dropping visuals (pun intended -- see the opening scene) and introduced America at large to the "yūrei" ghost figure that would be featured in dozens more Asian horror films.

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2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project DVD
© Artisan

Cheap and simple yet ingeniously executed (and marketed), The Blair Witch Project is a documentary-styled first-person account of the search for the legendary spirit of a witch rumored to haunt a forest in rural Maryland. The mind-numbing scares lie in the realism of the film, which features mostly improvised dialogue, natural lighting, shaky camerawork and spooky ambient noise that truly epitomizes the phrase "things that go bump in the night."

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1. The Shining (1980)

The Shining DVD
© Warner Bros.

Almost every haunted house movie seems to have a scene in which the evilness of the building is touted in dramatic tones, but rarely do the manifestations of the evil live up to the legend. The Shining has no such letdown. Its iconic imagery, courtesy of legendary director Stanley Kubrick, is nightmare-inducing even if you haven't seen the film for years. Amazingly, it even rivals the Stephen King novel upon which it was based in terms of pure terror. Redrum!

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