Total Recall: Ghosts of Movies Past

RT takes a sample of some of our favorite cinematic ghost stories.


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Topper (1937)
Tomatometer: 100%

Modern special effects have numbed audiences to even the niftiest spectral hijinks, but in 1937, moviegoers were far less blasť about the behind-the-scenes magic that helped George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) torment their good friend Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) from beyond the grave. Like the Thorne Smith novel from which it draws its inspiration, Topper plays its haunting for laughs -- and Grant, who negotiated a percentage deal for his participation, chuckled all the way to the bank. He opted out for the sequels (and the '50s TV series), but they all retain a measure of what the Chicago Reader's Dave Kehr called "arch screwball style."








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Ugetsu (1952)
Tomatometer: 100%

Ominous but yearning, Lady Wakasa is not your typical apparition. And Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu is certainly not your typical haunted tale; this masterwork, which helped bring Japanese cinema to worldwide prominence, is a moving story of the ravages of war, the complex bonds of family, and the loneliness of the grave. As conflict envelops his village, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) decides to sell his pottery in a more prosperous town. It is there that the noblewoman Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) takes a shine to his work -- and Genjuro as well. She invites him to her palace, and demands that he marry her, so she can feel the love she missed out on in her first lifetime. Genjuro is enraptured, but also conflicted, still duty-bound to his earth-bound wife and son. Ugetsu is "a masterpiece from Mizoguchi -- for its historical drama, its moving social and family themes and its marvellously moody ghost story," wrote Daniel Etherington of Channel 4 Film. (And if you can't get enough of lyrical, disquieting Japanese ghost stories, the monumental Kwaidan, from 1964, has four of 'em.


Comments

collex

Alex D.B.

Hum, you forgot The Others with Nicole Kidman. It may not be the best film ever, but it's worth including because of it's amazing and really original shocker ending. (I won't tell you what it is, so no spoiler!)

Sep 17 - 05:25 PM

collex

Alex D.B.

Hum, you forgot The Others with Nicole Kidman. It may not be the best film ever, but it's worth including because of it's amazing and really original shocker ending. (I won't tell you what it is, so no spoiler!)

Sep 17 - 05:34 PM

dylan21484nj

glenn welsh

The Others came out after The Sixth Sense, so the twist ending (and ultimately, the film itself) didn't hit with quite the same punch as The Sixth Sense.

Sep 17 - 05:52 PM

the_reasons

Shane Cotier

I could not love Ghostbusters any more than I do.
It is, hands down, my favorite "blockbuster" film.

Sep 17 - 06:17 PM

agniyo

Matt Willmott

Why does the blurb on "The Innocents" have the preview for "Miller's Crossing"?

Sep 17 - 06:48 PM

mgloco

Mark Garcia

lol..i think alot of websites confuse these movies. netflix also shows the same preview i believe.

Sep 18 - 03:04 AM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

What about It's a Wonderful Life? Jimmy Stewart gets a visit from a holy ghost. Or another Xmas classic: A Christmas Carol? Scrooge gets a visit from several ghosts. The Frighteners may not have a good enough tomatometer to qualify but it was a big stepping stone for Peter Jackson.

Sep 17 - 08:29 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Well, maybe the Xmas films I listed don't use a ghost as a central plot element so I digress. Wholeheartedly agree with collex though. The Others is a fantastic horror film. Probably top 3 of the decade with 28 Days Later and Descent being the other two.

Sep 17 - 08:42 PM

blinkybrown

John Blincoe

They're top 10 reviewed ghost films. The Others was mediocre, and received the mediocre reviews it deserved. That's why it's not on the list.

Sep 17 - 09:31 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Well, The Others has an 83% rating which is good enough for 7th. Of course, that is if this list is ranked purely based on tomatometer which I'm not convinced that it is. If this is just a sampling of the staff's favorite ghost films, then it's hard to argue with the choices. I was just picking some films which I belive are great ghost stories.

Sep 18 - 09:00 AM

Guardia

Ryan Gobbe

It's funny how no ghosts in films are every very scary whereas a blurry, fraudulent CCTV image achieves much more than the maufactured garbage I've sat through.

Sep 17 - 11:09 PM

mgloco

Mark Garcia

lol..i think alot of websites confuse these movies. netflix also shows the same preview i believe.

Sep 18 - 03:04 AM

gibbyg2001

Chris Gibson

Without "It's A Wonderfull Life" the list is incomplete.

Sep 18 - 07:04 AM

kenekgo

David Blandino

Hey, where are The Orphanage and The Devil's Backbone??? Their score in the tomatometer is 86% and 92% respectively! Justice!

Sep 18 - 08:11 AM

Hamboner

Brian Lorenzen

What about Scrooged? I know that A Christmas Carol has been beaten dead, but that had a lot of ghosts and I thought it was funny and effective.

Sep 18 - 08:18 AM

CFM

'schak Attack

I whole-heartedly second the notion for adding The Orphanage and The Devil's Backbone. I just saw both this summer, and Damn! they were good. Del Toro is The Man.

And I too liked The Others, but the timing with The Sixth Sense couldn't have been worse.

Sep 18 - 08:43 AM

CFM

'schak Attack

The more I think about it, the more pissed I get at The Orphange and The Devil's Backbone not making this list. These movies (especially the latter) are The Blueprint to what a great ghost story should be.

Boo to the RT Staff. *raises middle finger*

Sep 18 - 08:51 AM

Prosper761

Brian Bara

Um... Robert Wise's 1963 version of "The Haunting?" Just about the most frightening movie ever. Shame on RT for omitting a true classic.

Sep 18 - 08:58 AM

Beef Jerky

Lawrence Tonsick

Amen, and thank you.

Sep 19 - 07:43 AM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Well, The Others has an 83% rating which is good enough for 7th. Of course, that is if this list is ranked purely based on tomatometer which I'm not convinced that it is. If this is just a sampling of the staff's favorite ghost films, then it's hard to argue with the choices. I was just picking some films which I belive are great ghost stories.

Sep 18 - 09:00 AM

CFM

'schak Attack

*still raises middle finger*

Sep 18 - 09:08 AM

Racer Z

Shannon Potratz

Yeah, I'd like to see Devil's Backbone on this list. Not to mention The Frighteners, The Ring (Ringu for that matter), and maybe a little film some of you may have heard of called The Shining (I know, it's debatable whether it was "ghosts" Jack was seeing or just his descent into madness, but still).

Sep 18 - 10:01 AM

reapermad

Ryan Kelley

What about SCROOGED? Great ghost flick! DEVIL'S BACKBONE IS ONE OF THE BEST THOUGH.

Sep 18 - 12:11 PM

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