I used four essential criteria to pick these movies. First, it had to be about a haunted house; the other three were atmosphere, creepiness, and suspense. These are the most critical factors in a haunted movie. We know what ghost movies are all about. Ghost stories have been told for 1000s of years, and ghosts are the center of 100s of films, so it’s how well the story is said that does the trick. Each of these movies does well in one of our three criteria. Of course, there are better lists than this.
10. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
If you stay in the house for 24 hours, you will get $10,000 from Vincent Price. What a tremendous creepy classic movie. Honestly, it was 1959, but it has that haunted house feel, that fearfulness that comes from long waits for ghosts to get you. There are some shocking, scary scenes, but it falls short in many places. It is a must-see for horror fans. The movie is a piece of history.
9. Paranormal Activity
You get to watch the haunted house unfold on camera. There is a scene where she stands over the bed, slightly swaying, which is a 10 on the creepy scale. Honestly, this movie almost didn’t make the list because the daytime creep factor is absent. At night it feels like a scary movie; during the day, it feels like a fraternity meeting. There are a few excellent scenes. The sound of running at night pushed this one onto my creepy-enough list. It’s a good film, creepy, slightly suspenseful, but gimmicky.
8. The Conjuring
The Conjuring is an outstanding horror film. It has a lot of working elements that do their job, but I don’t feel like it spends enough time building suspense. It has the creepy factor in places, but the genuine scares aren’t always there. Either way, it is still good enough to make our list. I recommend anyone who loves ghost films see it, but when you watch it, you can’t help feeling that they missed the mark somehow.
7. Stir of Echoes
This movie has the creep factor, but some parts aren’t there. It is still scary and a fun film. It has fantastic elements. Kevin Bacon does an excellent job. There are some significant jump scares, but it has some fatal flaws that keep it out of our top 5. I love this film, though.
Directed by Tobe Hooper or by Steven Spielberg. There is now and always has been a great debate about this film. It looks like a Spielberg film but whatever. I love Tobe Hooper, and he is a giant name in horror. He is a terrific director. There is a lot of atmosphere in this movie. It is creepy at times. It is suspenseful. There is also some terror, but this movie has what no other film on this list has; it feels normal. It feels like a family going to work and coming home in the 80s. It’s not a creepy farmhouse or someplace that should be haunted. It’s football games, station wagons, and a group of disembodied spirits trying to take your child while you are sleeping. So much fun!
5. House of the Devil
If this movie had a little more haunt and less devil, it would be my number 1. This list is all about atmosphere, creepiness, and suspense. This feels just like a late 70s or early 80s film. It feels more like an 80s film than many 80s films do. It is masterfully put together. The suspense in the movie is terrific. You have yet to determine when or where things will come off the tracks. You know they will. You know it won’t be extraordinary, you know, you know, but you just have to wait. I love this film. It kicks off our top 5, but part of me feels it should be 1 or 2.
4. The Changeling
This movie is very similar to our number 1 movie on this list. It is very creepy. It is full of suspense. It is sometimes scary, though it goes off the rails toward the end in some ways. It has George C. Scott. He is one of the greatest actors ever, and he sells this movie with gusto. From his family being killed to becoming obsessed with the house story, he is excellent. A lot of this movie gives me the creeps; the flashbacks, creepy locked-up room, and the wheelchair are all at the top of the list. Many people have not seen this film, so give it a watch.
3. Amityville Horror
As much as the creepiness, which is there, and the suspense, which is also there, this movie was a phenomenon. It set the country on fire. The family toured the day and night shows, convincing the nation that ghosts exist. The gory murders just before this. All of it added to the movie’s creepiness, making my number 3. I like this movie. The flies are superb. The priest having a fit in the bedroom is lovely. I love this movie, but a lot is missing, and to be honest, it may not be as good as some of the films on this list that come before it. But it’s Amityville, for crying out loud. It has to make the top 10.
2. The Others
I about freaked the first time I saw the others. I saw no previews, and the ending was much more shocking. There are so many little quirks to this film, and I don’t want to give anything away, but Nicole Kidman keeping all the doors closed for her children is just unnerving. The children, the workers, and everything in the movie are just one long creep. It is also suspenseful because they sell you the characters. It has an atmosphere because it is a period piece shot in a big creepy house. I won’t say anything else, but you must see this movie.
Yes, I know this isn’t a haunted house movie, exactly. It’s a haunted hotel movie, but hey, they are living in it, aren’t they? Jack Nicholson is excellent in this movie. All the performances and directing are almost a perfect movie in so many ways. It has creepiness gushing out of its elevators. It has suspense in the scribbling of a madman and the haunting of a little boy. You know from the beginning something will go wrong with this family. You can feel the sinisterness working.
In the end, this is not a perfect list. If you want to tell me about how wrong I am or a movie I left off the list, let me know in the comments. I’m sure I’m going to hear it. If you want more content from our site, join our mailing list. You’ll even get our digital magazine for free.