It’s no secret that I love a good ghost story. Among the ranks of demons, vampires, werewolves, psychopaths, and all the other nasties that haunt our media and our collective nightmares, ghosts have always held a special place in my heart. They’re timeless and atmospheric, figures as embedded in our own psyches as they are in our folklore. They are intrinsically tied to our very real anxieties (and, perhaps, our hopes) about what waits beyond the veil; our fear of letting go of what we’ve lost; our preoccupation with the mingling of past and present. There’s a sort of romanticism to ghost stories, whether it originates from the existential questions and subliminal fears and desires they evoke or the Gothic tropes in which they’re so frequently mired.
In honor of the incipient Halloween season, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten essential ghost movies. They span from modern to classic, frightening to romantic. You might be surprised at some of my inclusions—and, for that matter, exclusions—but I can promise that each of these films beautifully captures the spirit of the quintessential ghost story (pun intended) and is well worth repeated viewings.
Presented in ascending order, here are my top ten. Enjoy!