Screen ghosts get the Top 10 Films treatment. Spectres, ghouls, spooks or spirits – call them what you will, just don’t be afraid of this list…. Nia Jones checks out the best film ghosts…
A quick spoiler warning: the following article details particularly big plot spoilers for The Sixth Sense, Ghost, The Shining & The Blair Witch Project
10. Jacob Marley – A Christmas Carol (Hurst, 1951)
Having had ample screen incarnations over the years Jacob Marley’s ghost haunts Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve, Marley’s ghost is eerie, transparent and laden down with heavy iron chains. Each individual link that make up his chains represents a cruelty he had perpetrated in life. He warns Scrooge he already wears such a chain himself and he has a chance to change his eternity. Scrooge is still reluctant to change his ways, so Marley tells him that he will subsequently be visited by three other ghosts to try and convince him, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come.
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9. Dr Malcolm Crowe – The Sixth Sense (Night Shyamalan, 1999)
The Sixth Sense has all the chills and twists of a modern supernatural narrative, with all the style of a classic Hollywood movie. Dr Malcolm Crowe is a child psychologist who takes a special interest in eight-year-old Cole Sear. He effectively helps Cole with his dilemma of dealing with the “dead people” who are constantly communicating with him. But, Crowe is unaware he himself is a ghost, killed in an attack by his crazed ex-patient Vincent, who displayed the exact same symptoms as Cole when he was child. In return, Cole helps Crowe with his own dilemma of moving on to the afterlife.
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8. Sam Wheat – Ghost (Zucker, 1990)
Ghost was a box-office smash in 1990; it blends the supernatural with action, humour and romance. Banker Sam Wheat becomes a ghost when he is shot by a mugger, dying in his girlfriend Molly’s arms – though remaining a disembodied spirit he can no longer be seen or heard by Molly. Determined to extract revenge when he learns that his maniacal close friend and co-worker Carl Bruner arranged his murder – due to his part in an embezzling plot; he contacts a reluctant psychic Oda Mae Brown and the two set out to serve justice, and keep Carl away from Molly.
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7. Freddy Krueger – Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)
An 80s horror classic that has spawned a television series and seven sequels – a group of teenagers in a Los Angeles neighbourhood start sharing a common nightmare about being stalked and killed by a frightening figure. Freddy Krueger is a vengeful serial killing ‘Dream Demon’, who stalks his victims from within their dreams and is unmistakable by his burned, disfigured features and trademark metal-clawed leather glove on his right hand. Freddy’s character represents the age-old bogeyman myth and subconscious fears, and succeeds by preying on archetypal imagery – showing us the unconscious mind can conjure up the worst horrors we can fathom.
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6. Slimer – Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)
The most cartoon-like of the list, Ghostbusters combines the supernatural, comedy and the horror genres to make a classic movie. Made up of pure fluorescent-green ectoplasm; translucent Slimer is a blob-like entity with two skinny arms, no legs or feet, and several chins – he leaves his trace behind when he passes through solid objects and has a gigantic appetite. After causing havoc at the Sedgewick Hotel, at his usual territory of the twelfth floor, he is the first ghost captured by the Ghostbusters. Slimer’s ghostly outings are usually non-violent and simply involve munching down on food left hanging around.
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5. The Poltergeist – Poltergeist – (Spielberg, 1982)
When the angelic Carol Anne spoke the iconic phrase “They’re Heeeere” in the eerie shaft of green light, memorable chills went up and down the spines of everyone who saw this 1982 supernatural smash hit film. The supernatural beings communicating with her through the television set appear friendly and playful at first, moving objects much to the amusement of the Freeling family, but soon the supernatural visitors turn seemingly malevolent, controlled by a demon named ‘The Beast’. Haunting and terrorising the Freelings, the demon ultimately kidnaps the family’s youngest daughter by sucking her through a wardrobe into the spirit realm beyond.
4. Lloyd the Bartender – The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
Master director Stanley Kubrick explores the dimensions of the horror film, intertwined with the psychological and supernatural. In The Shining, an aspiring writer Jack Torrance becomes the off-season caretaker of the snowbound isolated Overlook Hotel with his family – Jack soon becomes possessed by the hotel’s malevolent and egregious past. Lloyd the bartender, adorned in his crimson velvet tuxedo once worked in the Overlook’s lounge bar, and his ghost has, for reasons unknown, remained behind. Lloyd is dead-eyed, yet a picture perfect bartender, he counsels and soothes Jack’s struggle with sobriety and engages him in a legendary, yet demented conversation.
3. Betelgeuse – Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988)
Director Tim Burton’s fantasy supernatural comedy-horror about a New England couple; Barbara and Adam Maitland’s struggle to cope with life after death and the new occupants, the Deetz’s, who have moved into their home. The Maitland’s need the Deetz’s out or they will be forced to spend 125 years trapped in the house. They summon the help of everyone’s favourite freelance “Bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse; siring him from the grave by uttering his name three times. Betelgeuse is a perverted, obnoxious gonzo-like poltergeist who purported to specialise in scaring the living out of their homes, but usually causing more problems than he solves.
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2. Samara Morgan – The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)
US remake of the 1998 cult Japanese supernatural chiller The Ring has petrified its audience with use of super-creepy visuals and a tense, haunting atmosphere. Initially an innocent victim in life, the ghostly Samara Morgan was thrown down a well by her adoptive mother and survived for seven days before dying. Her apparition appears to the doomed few dressed in a dishevelled, saturated once-white gown with long dark hair covering her face. Now a vengeful spirit Samara seeks everyone’s attention, by the creation of a deadly video tape the world can know of her pain and suffering.
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1. Elly Kedward – The Blair Witch Project (Myrick/Sánchez, 1999)
The 1999 horror hit film about three students who venture into the Black Hills Woods of Burkittsville, formerly Blair, Maryland to film a documentary on the local legend of the Blair Witch. The students are never seen again and a year later their disturbing film footage is discovered. The Blair Witch was believed to be an Irish immigrant named Elly Kedward, accused of witchcraft the townspeople banished her and led her into the woods in winter, tying her to a tree, torturing her and leaving her to hang. Cursing the town, her malevolent ghost is said to eternally haunt the area.
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