The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (2024)

Georges Méliès' Le Manoir du diable (1896) deserves much reverence for its impact on scary movies over the years, and even though the silent film is only a few minutes long, The House of the Devil marks the beginning of the horror genre. Released as The Haunted Castle in the United States, Méliès' motion picture is the precursor to all haunted house movies.

Films in the following century like The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Old Dark House (1932), and Rebecca (1940) certainly presented creepy, decrepit manors, but their walls were haunted by earthly threats. However, The Uninvited (1944) creates the supernatural template by which horror films like The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Crimson Peak (2015), and Hereditary (2018) still follow today.

Now, enjoy EW's ranking of the 20 best haunted house movies of all time.

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20. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (1)

Not even Fixer Upper's Chip and Joanna Gaines can salvage your house when its walls start bleeding. George Lutz (James Brolin) and his wife, Kathy (Margot Kidder), get the deal of a lifetime when they buy a home in the quaint, seaside town of Amityville, N.Y. — but their new digs come with a sordid history and house full of haunting horrors.

The Amityville Horror, a somewhat underrated flick, is based on the real-life Lutz's unsubstantiated claim that the house was actually haunted. The Dutch Colonial-style home still stands in Amityville, but its address has been changed from 112 Ocean Ave. to 108 Ocean in order to throw off curious tourists.

Where to watch The Amityville Horror: Max

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19. The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (2)

Irena isn't Casper, but she certainly is a friendly ghost, and she still haunts her husband Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) and his new wife, Alice (Jane Randolph). However, Irena only allows Oliver and Alice's daughter, Amy (Ann Carter), to see her when the Reeds' lonely child wishes for a friend.

The film marks the first directing credit for Robert Wise (later of 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still and 1965's The Sound of Music glory), since he was uncredited for directing additional sequences in The Magnificent Ambersons two years prior. While virtually every character — and performer — from 1942's Cat People returns, The Curse of the Cat People is, to this day, argued by most film historians as being a sequel in name only.

Where to watch The Curse of the Cat People: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

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18. Paranormal Activity (2007)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (3)

Do not wait around for the entity haunting your house to fully possess you or your partner. Don't do it! Filmmaker Oren Peli's supernatural take finds a young couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) haunted by an unseen force, as the audience watches the couple chronicle the ghost's movements via their home security cameras.

The movie cashed in on the found-footage phenomenon that 1999's The Blair Witch Project proved to be a potential gold mine. Paranormal Activity grossed more than $193 million worldwide, and it only cost $15,000 to produce. Steven Spielberg saw the original cut of the film prior to its release in which Katie dies, and convinced Peli to reshoot the more ominous ending where Featherston simply goes missing.

Where to watch Paranormal Activity: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

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17. Beetlejuice (1988)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (4)

Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland might be dead, but they don't have any intention of sharing their home with its new residents, the Deetz family — parents Delia (Catherine O'Hara) and Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and their goth icon daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder). When the Maitlands' attempts to frighten the Deetzes away fail miserably, Barbara and Adam turn to the mysterious and mischievous Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to rid them of the living.

Keaton's portrayal as the unscrupulous "ghost with the most" garnered him a Saturn Award nomination, even though he appears on screen for less than 15 minutes, and the actor acknowledges Beetlejuice as his favorite film from his own library of work.

Where to watch Beetlejuice: Max

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16. The Others (2001)

While the living and dead coexist in Beetlejuice, The Others teaches horror fans a different life lesson: Sharing isn't always the answer. Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), live together in a Gothic country house in the aftermath of World War II, but it seems increasingly likely their Bailiwick of Jersey home is haunted.

The Others offers scary movie enthusiasts one of the genre's most memorable twists, and it's unlikely the filmmakers really wanted audiences to laugh at the very last shot of the film. It's hard not to chuckle, though, and the comedic moment certainly lends itself to the storytelling. The Others also marked the final time Kidman worked with her then-husband, Tom Cruise (executive producer), prior to their divorce.

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15. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (6)

Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price) is throwing a party, and he promises each of his guests $10,000. The catch: They have to spend the night in a haunted house and survive until morning. Filmmaker William Castle couldn't afford to pay Price the salary the actor had become accustomed to, so he offered him a percentage of the profits to land the horror movie maestro as a cast member.

House on Haunted Hill also features one of Castle's vaunted gimmicks: Emergo. When the skeleton terrorizes Mrs. Loren (Carol Ohmart) on screen, a plastic skeleton would swoop over the heads of audiences all across the country. Ever the showman, Castle wanted to give moviegoers something even better and more exciting than 3-D could ever deliver decades later.

Where to watch House on Haunted Hill: Amazon Prime Video

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14. Scrooge (1951)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (7)

While there have been many fine adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Alastair Sim's performance as the miserly, penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge elevates this version to must-see status. With Christmas soon approaching, Ebenezer's old friend, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), returns from the grave to offer Scrooge a chance at redemption through the haunting of three spirits.

Invariably and inexplicably, A Christmas Carol is absent from many best-of haunted house lists, but Dickens' tale is the preeminent example of this type of supernatural story. Now, despite the positive critical and fan response to this 1951 version, there is a famous bit of dialogue omitted from this particular film: "If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

Where to watch Scrooge: Plex

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13. Poltergeist (1982)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (8)

The real estate market is always a monster, but the Freeling family lucks out and gets a good deal on a nice house. There's just one little catch: The home was built on a Native American burial ground. And those spirits are not happy about the new tenants. Poltergeist pairs two Hollywood heavyweights, with Steven Spielberg behind the story and Tobe Hooper in the director's chair — and the result is pure movie magic.

The infamous TV scene, with Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), is well-known, but it's nothing compared to what happens to the television in the last shot of the movie. No spoilers here, but viewers are bound to roll with laughter. Drew Barrymore auditioned for Spielberg for the role of Carol Anne, but, despite not landing the part, it was her Poltergeist tryout that led to her being cast in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

Where to watch Poltergeist: Max

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12. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (9)

Filmmaker Kim Jee-woon's heartbreaking horror film gives audiences valid reasons to avoid adultery. Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) returns home from a mental facility after her mother dies, but there's a strange family dynamic between her father and stepmother, Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah). Su-mi is also very protective of her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young).

The film's twist is one of those watercooler moments that rivals any horror movie ending. Without spoiling the climax, A Tale of Two Sisters uses the haunted house motif almost as a window dressing to obscure the psychological aspects at play in this immensely enthralling, supernatural flick.

Where to watch A Tale of Two Sisters: Kanopy

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11. The Conjuring (2013)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (10)

Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) and her husband, Ed (Patrick Wilson), are paranormal investigators hellbent on helping the Perron family as they're haunted in their own farmhouse. The Warrens were real people who dedicated their lives to exploring the paranormal (or as some see it, duping the vulnerable), and they also investigated the real-life mystery of the Amityville house purchased by George and Kathy Lutz.

The Perrons, too, were not just characters, and The Conjuring is based on what happened to them in their Rhode Island home. The Perrons often visited the set while the film was being shot, and Farmiga and Wilson met with the Warrens to further their understanding of the characters they were portraying.

Where to watch The Conjuring: Max

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10. The Orphanage (2007)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (11)

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again, but Laura (Belén Rueda) doesn't heed the novelist's advice. Rather, Laura takes her family back to the closed orphanage she was adopted from with the hopes of reopening it to help children with disabilities. But things take a bizarre turn when her son, Simón (Roger Príncep), goes missing.

The Orphanage, which also features a cameo from producer Guillermo del Toro as the doctor attending to Laura in the emergency room, received a standing ovation when it premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Filmmaker J. A. Bayona found inspiration for The Orphanage from watching 1961's The Innocents and 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Where to watch The Oprhanage: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

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9. We Are Still Here (2015)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (12)

One hundred and twenty years of haunting and horror isn't going to stop Anne Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton) and her husband, Paul (Andrew Sensenig), from buying a rural home, but perhaps they're blinded by the death of their son, Bobby. It isn't long before the couple realizes the house is alive — and it is hungry for a blood sacrifice.

We Are Still Here is loaded with homages to other horror films, and one of the most obvious is the appearance of the home's original residents, the Dagmars. They look like the vengeful ghosts in John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), and the stair scene is a clear nod to Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) trudging up the staircase in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Where to watch We Are Still Here: Amazon Prime Video

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8. The Haunting (1963)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (13)

Very few horror films evoke a creepier vibe than 1963's The Haunting, even with its black-and-white cinematography. Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) assembles a team to investigate the paranormal activity of the Hill House in Massachusetts — but escaping the haunt unscathed may prove futile.

The film is based on the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by author Shirley Jackson. Director Robert Wise was coming off his immense success with West Side Story (1961), which he codirected with Jerome Robbins, while another west-sider joined him for the Hill House horror: Actor Russ Tamblyn, who portrayed Riff in West Side Story, tackles the role of Luke Sanderson.

Where to watch The Haunting: Max

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7. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (14)

Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) starts her life anew when she buys a cottage in a quaint, seaside village, but her house is purported to be haunted by a seaman, Capt. Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison). The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is by far the most romantic of the haunted house films, and its storytelling — rather than fright and fear — makes it one of the top supernatural tales of all time.

Natalie Wood portrays Lucy's daughter, Anna, when she's a child, and the actress shot to stardom later that same year by appearing in Miracle on 34th Street. The screenplay for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was also adapted by Amanda Duff, and she claimed Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were originally courted to play the lead roles.

Where to watch The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

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6. Lake Mungo (2008)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (15)

Alice Palmer's (Talia Zucker) drowning isn't the end of her tragedy when it comes to her family trying to cope with their loss and move on. Instead of closure, the Palmers are plagued by unexplained sightings of Alice, and, later, an even more mysterious, bloated-faced doppelgänger emerges.

Lake Mungo is chilling from start to finish, employing a mockumentary and found-footage style of filmmaking to exude an atmosphere of realism and tension that is supremely frightening to the senses. The fun of Lake Mungo, without spoiling the film's well-executed jump scare, is its use of modern technology to frighten audiences when they least expect it.

Where to watch Lake Mungo: AMC+

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5. Hausu (1977)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (16)

Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) and her friends find themselves facing off against a haunted house that murders its victims like a serial killer straight out of a slasher film. The same studio that produced the Godzilla franchise, Toho, masterminds one of the most horrifying and disturbingly humorous psychedelic films to date.

Hausu's over-the-top subject matter isn't for everyone, but horror fans — particularly of Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992) — will find the movie resonating with them. The success of Jaws (1975) inspired Toho to make Hausu, and none of the lead actresses were trained thespians. Rather, the seven women were all models.

Where to watch Hausu: Max

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4. The Evil Dead (1981)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (17)

Before becoming the "this is my boomstick" housewares expert of S-Mart, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) makes the unfortunate mistake of spending his vacation in a haunted house with some friends. There, they find the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the cabin, also known as the Book of the Dead, and all hell breaks loose into two sequels (1987, 1992), two remakes (2013, 2023), and a TV series Ash vs Evil Dead.

If you don't know what the "tree scene" is, you'll never get that imagery out of your head after watching The Evil Dead for the first time. It's one of the most appalling and unforgettable scenes to appear in any horror film, ever. The Evil Dead was the feature film debut for both Campbell and his best friend since high school, director Sam Raimi.

Where to watch The Evil Dead: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

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3. The Uninvited (1944)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (18)

Rick (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) make the spur-of-the-moment decision to buy a lovely seaside home, and, as a result, Rick meets and becomes quite taken with young Stella (Gail Russell). The Uninvited is one of the first full-length haunted house movies, making it a cornerstone model moving forward for all other films to follow.

While Martin Scorsese called it one of the scariest movies of all time, The Uninvited kindles a wonderful romance between Rick and Stella. In fact, the serenade Rick writes and plays for his love, "Stella by Starlight," was composed specifically for the movie. However, it became a sensation when lyrics were later added, and it was even performed by Frank Sinatra.

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2. The Innocents (1961)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (19)

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is hired to be a governess for Flora (Pamela Franklin) and her older brother, Miles (Martin Stephens), once he returns from boarding school. While Giddens takes an almost instant liking to Flora, she soon fears the children's secretive bond when Miles returns. And things grow even more disconcerting when Giddens begins seeing things and hearing voices.

The film is based on Henry James' 1898 horror novella, The Turn of the Screw, and both Truman Capote and William Archibald won the Edgar Allan Poe award for their screenplay. Jack Clayton directed and produced The Innocents, and he later went on to direct Hollywood icon Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby in 1974.

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1. The Changeling (1980)

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (20)

It's hard to have your car break down on the side of the road and not think about The Changeling. John Russell (George C. Scott) watches helplessly as his wife and daughter are cut down by a tow truck in the snow. Russell moves on and buys a house once owned by the family of Senator Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas), but he soon realizes he's not as alone there as he previously felt.

The character of John Russell is a music composer, but Scott wasn't musically inclined. Even so, the actor practiced the piano pieces Russell plays so that he could actually tickle the ivories on screen. Also, the actress who portrays historical society agent Claire (Trish Van Devere) was Scott's wife in real life, and they made five feature films while they were married, as well as a made-for-TV movie and a play.

Where to watch The Changeling: Peaco*ck

The 20 best haunted house films of all time, ranked (2024)

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