RANKED! Our 13 Favorite Spooky Movies in Anticipation of ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’
Most of us weren’t even alive when Ghostbusters hit movie theaters way back in 1984. The supernatural classic was a box office smash, the rock upon which a billion-dollar franchise was built, with video games, cartoons, comic books, amusement park rides, and a hit song along the way. The only thing missing from its otherworldly success was a decent theatrical follow-up. Thirty-seven years after the fact, Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopes to rectify that.
The journey here has been a long and winding one, with more false starts than an Ecto-1 sitting in deep storage. When original co-writer and star Harold Ramis passed away in 2014, the franchise took a sharp turn, rebooting itself with a new, all-female cast. While the film had all the right people involved, it proved to be a box office dud. So much so, that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is pretending it never even happened.
The new film, out June 11, returns to the original timeline, bringing all of the surviving original cast together (excluding Rick Moranis as of now – sadly) while introducing a new generation of Ghostbusters to presumably take up the mantle.
Stranger Things Finn Wolfhard leads the young cast, along with Mckenna Grace and Paul Rudd as their marshmallow-loving science teacher and resident Ghostbuster-nerd (the most relatable character in the movie). With Jason Reitman directing – son of original director Ivan Reitman – it looks like we’re in good hands, though after four decades of buildup, no one can doubt the pressure is higher than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
As we wait with bated breath (and fingers crossed) we have no choice but to conjure up our excitement for all things spectral with this list of our 13 favorite spooky movies of all time. Prepare to get your bumps properly goosed.
Cover Photo: Sony Pictures
13. 'The Fog'
There's no greater champion of the '80s low-budget genre film than John Carpenter, who made The Fog movie for a measly $1 million. This hair-raising tale about a fog of vengeful spirits is filled with classic tropes masterfully juiced for maximum effect. Beautifully shot and layered with Carpenter's iconic synth score, this ghoulish film has aged well, proving creepiness never goes out of style.
12. 'The Conjuring'
You might say the 2010s kicked off a modern Rennaissance in horror films. Thanks to Blumhouse and low-budget fright flicks like Paranormal Activity, scary movies ditched the uninspired polish of big-budget remakes and got back to basics. One of the spookiest films to come out of this era has got to be The Conjuring. The tone of the movie grows more unsettling by the minute, and the scares are as well set-up (both visually and psychologically) as any in the genre. If you're jonesing for a good, clean spook, look no further.
11. 'The Sixth Sense'
It's easy to poke fun at this oft-parodied film, but that's just a testament to how universally received it was. Everyone saw this film, and everyone was blown away by the twist. While we can't say much for M. Night Shyamalan's other flicks, The Sixth Sense dishes up the goods, serving as both mind-bender and classic haunter while humanizing the post-mortem experience in ways we wish we didn't have to relate to.
10. 'The Others'
For a movie that borrows so heavily from its predecessors (including The Sixth Sense), The Others somehow rises to the top of the genre heap. Thanks to Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar's slow-burning drift toward revelation (and Nicole Kidman's eye-popping freakouts) the movie seeps under your skin before ripping it off with little warning. It's a study in psychology and perception that promises a delightful payoff.
Camp, pop art, and the afterlife never tasted so smooth. With an all-star cast, including Michael Keaton at his rip-roaringest, Tim Burton's second film is an unforgettable take on the haunted house trope - and just creepy enough for the entire family.
Who knows how heavily Steven Spielberg's hand guided on this '80s classic from director Tobe Hooper, but the film is packed full of some of the most iconic visuals in Spookland. From the glowing TV set to the poolside corpses, it's obvious why Poltergeist is considered the ultimate spectral popcorn flick. But it's the melting face scene (an epically unsettling moment) that epitomizes the bad acid trip of evil spirits - and makes you want to put your Shaman on speed dial.
7. 'The Changeling'
This eerie film about a composer moving into a new home to grieve the loss of his wife and child is the perfect blend of haunting, murder mystery, and American cultural examination. George C. Scott, playing against type, carries the film brilliantly - but his masterclass in acting is matched beat for beat by the layered craftsmanship of the entire film.
6. 'The Devil's Backbone'
Few horror films come close to the texture of this period piece from Guillermo Del Toro. Set during the last days of the Spanish Civil War, the ghost in the story merely acts as a guide pointing the way toward the horrors found within men enthralled by war and greed. The Devil's Backbone is a rare horror film, exceptionally plotting its way to one of the most airtight and poetic conclusions in the genre.
5. 'The Innocents'
Old movies can be scary too, just look at The Innocents, a story of two orphans and their new caretaker who believes the children have fallen victim to evil spirits in their new home. The wide CinemaScope somehow feels claustrophobic as we're drawn into the children's darkness, an ambiguous possession that may be nothing more than the figment of the caretaker's imagination. With a haunting score and standout performances from both child actors (plus a screenplay by Truman Capote), The Innocents remains a stunning achievement in the horror canon.
Ghostbusters is spooky Hollywood at its finest. A novelty movie that manages to transcend its premise, balancing over-the-top performances, commercial cross-promotion, and a sense of the mundane, even as it unleashes a giant marshmallow baby onto Manhattan. A perfect movie as American and iconic as anything ever made.
Japan is full of great ghost stories. And while most people think of the horror milieu of Japan emerging in the 2000s, one of the best was made half a century earlier in 1953. Ugetsu is a masterpiece in any genre, captured poetically with the use of a floating camera that lifts the viewer out of their corporeal selves as we follow the follies of two simple-minded men in Sengoku period Japan. Tragedy unfolds as the two husbands sacrifice family duty to chase wartime profiteering - an elegy on how nothing is more haunting than the grave mistakes of bad life choices.
2. 'Spirited Away'
Hideo Miyazaki has been called the Walt Disney of Japan, and for good reason. The animator behind Studio Ghibli created a treasure chest of masterworks that reveal the human spirit in ways most animation can't. Spirited Away takes all the best aspects of his life's work and fits them together with precision, crafting a story that captures the complexities of the parental estrangement every kid must experience in the course of growing up. It's unnerving, beautifully eerie, and filled with the best spirit world characters ever contained in one movie.
1. 'The Shining'
Film buffs argue Stanley Kubrick is a director lacking in humanity. But his calculated detachment is partly what makes him one of the greatest filmmakers in history. So what happens when an inhumane director makes a ghost story? You get The Shining - an epoch-making horror film that's as subversive and indelible as anything ever committed to film. Just like the afterlife itself, it's inscrutable, bewildering, intoxicating, terrifying, morose - and it will haunt you deep down inside your bones whether you like it or not.
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