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The Best Haunted House Movies of All Time

Ranked oldest to newest, this is the list for the best haunted house movies of all time.

By Nathaniel Channing IIIPublished 6 years ago 7 min read
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If there's one branch of the horror genre that will never get old, it's haunted house movies. I mean, really, is there anything more terrifying than the thought of being tormented by invisible forces in your own home?

Whether you're a thrill seeker looking for another horror movie to tick off your list, or if you're looking for something you can watch with your young family, there's something for everyone in this list of the 12 best haunted house films of all time.

"Mrs. Grose, is there anyone living here that I don’t know about?"

Surely paving the way for the best psychological thriller books of 2018, this 1961 adaptation of Henry James' 1898 psychological horror novel The Turn of the Screw tells the story of Miss Giddens (Meg Jenkins), a woman who begins working as a governess looking after two wealthy orphans at the Bly estate. Despite Miss Giddens' lack of credentials, she is hired by the orphans' uncle, who is in desperate need of a new governess because the last one recently met a sudden death. Soon after Miss Giddens begins spending time at the Bly estate, she begins to grow concerned that there is a sinister presence haunting the property and possessing the children for whom she is caring.

Directed and produced by Jack Clayton and released in 1961, this British black and white film plays on childhood innocence, forming an incredibly eerie narrative.

This quirky Japanese haunted house movie, directed and produced by Nobuhiko Obayashi, is one you can enjoy with the whole family. And it's so entertaining that you don't even need to read the subtitles to enjoy it.

Hausu tells the story of a group of schoolgirls—Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Prof (Kumiko Ohba), Fantasy (Ai Matsubara), Mac (Mieko Satô), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), and Sweet (Masayo Miyako)—who travel to the countryside during their summer vacation to stay with Fantasy’s aunt. However, the enjoyable holiday the girls were so eagerly looking forward to turns into a terrifying chain of events almost immediately upon setting foot in Auntie's house.

Hausu's flashy and psychedelic special effects combined with the mostly amateur cast of actors have earned Hausu a cult-like appreciation. Hausu is creepier than it is scary, with visual effects that walk the line between psychedelic art and nails on a chalkboard, all of which complemented by a soundtrack that makes your skin crawl with its unlikely mixture of eerie and uplifting music.

"Although the story of this film is fictitious, the events depicted involving psychic phenomena are not only very much within the bounds of possibility, but could very well be true."—Tom Corbett, Clairvoyant and Psychic Consultant to European Royalty

In this haunted house movie, wealthy Mr. Rudolph Deutsch (Roland Culver) sends a group of paranormal investigators, led by renowned physicist and paranormal psychiatrist Dr. Barret, to, “establish the facts regarding survival after death” in the Belasco House, or, as Dr. Barrett calls it, "the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”

Accompanying Dr. Barrett to the Belasco house are his wife, Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) and mediums Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall) and Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin).

Writer Richard Matheson based The Legend of Hell House on his own 1971 novel, Hell House, but director John Hough and his production team certainly boosted the story by adding surreal and daunting special effects that keep you on your toes.

Based on the legendary 1977 novel by Steven King, adapted by Diane Johnson, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the screen adaptation of The Shining is a cinematic masterpiece.

The narrative follows the downward spiral of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a troubled writer who brings his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) with him to the Overlook Hotel after accepting a job working as a seasonal caretaker. "The shining" refers to Danny's psychic abilities that allow him to see into the grave and terrifying past of The Overlook Hotel, which involves a murder-suicide that continues to haunt the property and its inhabitants.

The Shining is one of the most-referenced movies of all time, so anyone who watches it and pays attention, unwittingly receives the privilege of understanding allusions that might otherwise go unnoticed; as well as being totally freaked out! Fortunately, or not, for us, we weren't subjected to the even bleaker alternate ending that was in the works!

Poltergeist is a classic haunted house movie. Directed by Tobe Hooper and written and produced by Steven Spielberg, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this haunted house movie was nominated for three Academy Awards and won a BAFTA for Best Special Visual Effects. Upon its release, Poltergeist took the box office by storm, grossing the eighth-highest sum out of all movies released in 1982.

Although not a true story, this horrifying ghost story is inspired by real events. At first, Poltergeist looks like a movie about the American dream, taking place in sunny suburbs of Orange County, California in the Freeling family household, but when young Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) starts communicating with the stir of echoes coming from the static television set, it becomes clear that the all-American Freeling home is not as charming as it seems.

Poltergeist involves paranormal investigators and terrifying special effects that will keep you up at night long after you’ve finished watching it. Especially after you consider the possibility that Poltergeist is widely considered a cursed movie!

Who doesn’t love a bit of Beetlejuice? Tim Burton directed this Warner Bros film, so you know it's a good one. After spending a relatively small sum of $15 million on production, Beetlejuice managed to gross $73.7 million when it came out in 1988.

Beetlejuice won an Academy Award for Best Makeup, and three Saturn Awards; one for Best Horror Film, one for Best Makeup, and Sylvia Sidney won Best Supporting Actress. It also won a BAFTA for Best Special Visual Effects.

When the Deetz family moves from New York City to an “idyllic” home in the Connecticut countryside, they have no idea that they are not the only ones who live there. Though it doesn’t take long for only child Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) to befriend her family’s invisible roommates, the ghostly residents are intent on scaring the Deetzes away.

Beetlejuice is a great haunted house movie to watch with the family, and it’s available on Netflix!

This Universal Pictures ghost story, directed by Brad Silberling, Casper tells the story of a friendly ghost who falls in love with a living teenager. Casper was the first feature film with a computer-generated lead character, so it's not astonishing that the film received mixed reviews upon its released. Fortunately for this family-friendly film, that didn't stop Casper from grossing $287.9 million from a $55 million budget!

This CGI haunted house movie inspired a TV series, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, several sequels, and even a prequel. This movie's influence isn’t just found in the film sector either; several video games have been created based on the movie.

Supernatural horror films are not known for being critically acclaimed, and while Ju-On: The Grudge is no exception, you have to give it some credit for the influence it’s had within the realm of entertainment.

Written and directed by Takashi Shimizu, “The Grudge” is the third piece of the Ju-On series. After its 2002 release at Screamfest, Ju-On: The Grudge gave life to many sequels, as well as the American remake, The Grudge, which was released two years later.

The film tells the story of Nishina Rika (Megumi Okina), a volunteer care worker in Tokyo who starts a new live-in job caring for an elderly (and creepy) woman. Once Rika enters her new home for the first time, only a few moments pass before the paranormal activity kicks in, and Rika accidentally frees a terrifying spirit from a sealed closet.

If you scare easily, you should watch this haunted house movie with the volume down, or you might feel your blood start to curdle.

Written and directed by J.A. Bayona, this Spanish film was nominated for 14 Goya Awards and won awards for Best Art Direction, Best Director of Production, Best Makeup and Hair, Best New Director, Best Screenplay—Original, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Special Effects. Maybe that’s why it received a ten-minute ovation after its 2007 premiere at Cannes Film Festival. That same year, New Line Cinema bought the rights to produce an English-speaking remake.

The plot follows Laura (Belén Rueda), with her young son, Simón (Roger Príncep) and her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), as she returns to the now abandoned orphanage where she grew up, planning to turn it into a home for children with disabilities. Things quickly change when the social worker, Benigna Escobedo (Montserrat Carulla) comes by and stirs things up, ultimately leading to the disappearance of Simón after an argument with his mother. After months go by with no luck finding her son, Laura begins to look into possible leads, and discovers a dark string of events that took place at the orphanage after her adoption.

This funny New Zealand film is a fantastic specimen of the horror genre, weaving together humor and fear like there’s no tomorrow. Written, edited, and directed by Gerard Johnston, Housebound lightheartedly tells the story of a woman named Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) who is sentenced to house arrest at her mother’s haunted house. Housebound takes its audience on a terrifying journey with the protagonist who can't shake the feeling that she's not alone—but nobody will believe her.

Housebound stands out from the rest of the horror genre because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It received critical acclaim, and New Line Cinema announced in 2015 its plans to create a US remake of the film. To name just a few of its many deserved awards, Housebound won both Best Horror film and Best Comedy Film at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and Dead by Dawn awarded it Best Feature Film.

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About the Creator

Nathaniel Channing III

The movie buff that can tell you about the latest releases, especially in the sci-fi and comic/superhero world.

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