Ghosts and Ghouls

Casper
Casper

A collection of films exploring the scary, spooky and often sensitive world of ghosts and ghouls. This list includes adaptations of much-loved literature, new spins on old ideas, enchanting animations, frightening tales, notorious stories and modern horror, spanning many decades across the history of cinema.

You can also check out our Ghosts and Ghouls-themed podcast suitable for primary-aged clubs.

The Children's Film Foundation: Scary Stories

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration183 mins

The Children's Film Foundation: Scary Stories(1985)

Three classic ghost stories from the BFI Children's Film Foundation: The Man from Nowhere, Haunters of the Deep and Out of the Darkness.

These archive films are from the 1970s and 1980s, brought together by the BFI in their Children’s Film Foundation series of titles. Each explores ghostliness in its own way, as everyday scenarios soon take a cautionary turn via the spirits of the past.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration85 mins

The Muppet Christmas Carol(1993)

Kermit, Gonzo and the rest of the Muppet gang appear in this fun musical take on the classic Charles Dickens story.

A different type of classic film here, as the much-loved Muppets put a musical spin on Charles Dickens’ fabled tale of greed and repentance. This is a story where spirits are a clear force for good, as the three Ghosts – of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come – show Scrooge the errors of his ways.

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Goosebumps

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration103 mins

Goosebumps(2015)

Thrilling and funny adaptation of the well-known Goosebumps books that sees havoc unleashed on an unsuspecting American suburb.

From one cherished adaptation to another, with Goosebumps – originally a series of horror novellas published by R. L. Stine followed quickly by a TV show, both formed in the mid-to-late 1990s – given the big-screen treatment in 2015. Here, monsters are unleashed onto an unsuspecting town and it’s up to Zach and his friends to save the day.

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When Marnie Was There

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration103 mins

When Marnie Was There(2014)

A shy girl sent to the country to recover from asthma discovers an abandoned mansion and begins to explore its mysteries with her new friend Marnie.

This is a lesser-known adaptation, based on Joan G Robinson’s novel of the same name, made into a film by Japanese animation pioneers Studio Ghibli. The question of a spiritual presence is subtler in this instance but – like much of Ghibli’s work – lingers firmly in the background. A beautiful, emotional journey of self-discovery and friendship.

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ParaNorman

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration93 mins

ParaNorman(2012)

The film follows the adventures of a misfit eleven-year-old who sees and talks to ghosts.

Speaking of young protagonists who see visions, ParaNorman – from stop-motion animators LAIKA – embraces his ability to talk to the dead in this typically charming tale from the studio. As with their other films, it certainly has its scary moments, but is ultimately a progressive tale of growing up.

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Corpse Bride

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration74 mins

Corpse Bride(2005)

Enchanting stop motion feature from the imagination of Tim Burton, set in a 19th century European village, following the spooky adventures of Victor.

Another stop-motion presentation, this time from gothic aficionado Tim Burton. On this occasion we see things from the point of view of the ghosts, as Victor is transported to the Land of the Dead and meets his undead intended. An uncharacteristically romantic ghost story.

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Frankenweenie

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration83 mins

Frankenweenie(2012)

When Victor loses his beloved pet, he conducts an experiment to bring him back to life. When he succeeds, things escalate beyond Victor's control.

Another foray into the afterlife by Tim Burton though, in the case of Frankenweenie, events take place in the real world. Our protagonist here is also called Victor – for very deliberate reasons – and the narrative is packed full of horror references from the history of cinema, as well as being a heartfelt meditation on loss and letting go.

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Hotel Transylvania 2

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration89 mins

Hotel Transylvania 2(2015)

A return to the well-known sanctuary for monsters, where this time Dracula is worried his little ghoul grandson is not scary enough.

A spooky sequel which continues to riff on horror tropes, including well-known characters from the genre. This hotel for monsters hosts Dracula and his friends – Frankenstein, a werewolf, a mummy and a blob – as they seek to transition his grandson from a feeble to feared creature.

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Casper

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration96 mins

Casper(1995)

Fun animated haunted house adventure featuring an unusually friendly ghost.

The quintessential friendly ghost, Casper is a likeable little ghoul who refuses to follow in the human-hating footsteps of his three uncles. Casper simply seeks the comfort of companionship in this fairly gentle haunted house drama which blends CGI and live-action to good effect.

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The Haunted Mansion

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration84 mins

The Haunted Mansion(2003)

Claiming it to be a holiday, estate agent Jim Evers takes his family to a prospective property, only to become trapped in the haunted mansion!

A live-action haunted house adventure from Disney, based on a theme park attraction. Eddie Murphy takes on the central role in this favourite amongst film clubs, which does a good job of combining comedy, scares and special effects.

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Monster House

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration87 mins

Monster House(2006)

Scary, funny animation about a group of friends who go to investigate the scary house on their street.

And finally, an animated haunted house tale. A story about a group of friends who are unable to resist the lure of a spooky-looking property nearby. After they enter, the three kids soon that they’re in for more than they bargained for in this smart film, set at Halloween.

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The Sixth Sense

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration103 mins

The Sixth Sense(1999)

A finely-crafted, chilling tale with a shocking twist about an eight-year-old haunted by ghostly visions who seeks help from a child psychologist.

The Sixth Sense remains one of the most iconic ghost stories of all-time, with a stunning central performance from child star, Haley Joel Osment. Cole sees dead people, and is traumatized by these visions on a daily basis. A chilling portrayal of loss, mental health and family bonds.

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Ghost Town

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration102 mins

Ghost Town(2008)

In this supernatural comedy, grumpy dentist Bertram Pincus develops the ability to communicate with the dead.

If The Sixth Sense is about not wanting to see dead people because it’s harrowing, Ghost Town is a comedy-drama whereby a man suffers the same affliction to the point of extreme annoyance. As well as having laugh-out-loud moments, this also contains tender meditations on the letting go of loved ones.

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Ghostbusters

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration116 mins

Ghostbusters(2016)

Supernatural comedy about four women who save New York from disaster by coming together to form a ghostbusting service.

An all-girl squad of spirit-destroyers provide laughs aplenty in this fresh and fierce reboot of an adored classic. As well as comedy galore, Ghostbusters has large-scale action and simultaneously references its predecessor as well as looking forward, making stars of its four-strong female team.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration137 mins

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl(2003)

Swashbuckling adventure in which a young blacksmith enlists the help of a rogue pirate to help rescue a kidnapped Governor's daughter.

Back into the realm of fantasy here – though with plenty of comedy and adventure retained – as ghosts and pirates crossover in this pitch-perfect period film. Most may remember it for Johnny Depp’s beguiling interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow, but Geoffrey Rush also shines as the mutinous villain, Captain Barbossa.

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Sleepy Hollow

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration100 mins

Sleepy Hollow(1999)

Classic creepy tale, done with humour, about a nervy 18th-century investigator looking into a vengeful headless horseman in a small town.

Another of Depp’s better films, this time teaming up with regular collaborator Tim Burton to create a gothic horror set in the 18th century. Centring on an unforgiving headless horseman, this highlights the director’s trademarks in an engaging and enjoyable way.

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The Witch

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration93 mins

The Witch(2015)

Psychological horror about a family torn apart by a sinister presence in 17th century New England.

Travelling even further into the past, The Witch is based in the 17th century, steeped in the authentic Ye Olde English language of the time. With a clever construction – set just prior to the Salem witch trials – this is an intricate and measured genre-piece, designed to challenge, unnerve and engross its audience.

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The Woman In Black

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration92 mins

The Woman In Black(2012)

Prepare for a scare, as Daniel Radcliffe tackles a ghostly terror in his first film post-Harry Potter.

Another legend about a ghostly woman haunting the town in the form of The Woman in Black, a production famous for its terrifying qualities in the theatre, transposed to the big screen. The film version draws upon distinctly British horror in order to provide a tense environment which allows it to thrive.

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The Blair Witch Project

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration78 mins

The Blair Witch Project(1999)

Disturbing low-budget horror about three students who go missing and all that's left of them is the footage they were filming about a local legend.

And a third mysterious witch at large – this time in the woods – in the form of the micro-budget, box-office-smashing sensation that was The Blair Witch Project. A lesson in escalating tension and marketing genius, the film opened the floodgates for found-footage horror and changed the landscape of the genre evermore.

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Paranormal Activity

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration86 mins

Paranormal Activity(2007)

Terrifying horror made to look like real home-video footage capturing supernatural activity occurring in a couple's suburban home.

One of the consequences of The Blair Witch’s success (aside from the proper sequel it eventually received in 2016) was Paranormal Activity, which played with the idea of reality vs. fantasy and used the found-footage trope to impressive effect in the franchise’s original film. Properly scary, with an authentically homemade feeling.

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The Others

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration104 mins

The Others(2001)

Atmospheric chiller that sees a mother raise her children alone in a dark, creepy house on Jersey after World War Two.

Ghostly presences lurking within a family home have long been a favoured subject within cinema, but this turn of the century historical horror chills to the bone. Led by Nicole Kidman as the terrified mother doing all she can to protect her kids, The Others is a superb example of apparitions at their most frightening, for more reason than one.

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The Innocents

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration99 mins

The Innocents(1961)

Psychological horror set in Victorian England, as a governess fears for the safety of two orphans in her charge from supernatural goings-on.

A classic title which explores a similar subject to The Others is The Innocents, one of the foundations of British horror. Based on a novel, this chilling tale has terrorised audiences for decades, posing questions over the sanity of both the children and their governess.

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The Babadook

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration90 mins

The Babadook(2014)

Psychological horror about a mysterious character from a children’s book plaguing a young boy and his widowed mother in their home.

Australia’s The Babadook is also a film which descends into the nightmarish, as a mother and son fear that a storybook character has come to life to kill them. Brilliantly exploring issues such as special educational needs, loss and mental health, this is a heartfelt story which packs an emotional and visceral punch.

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An Inspector Calls

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration77 mins

An Inspector Calls(1954)

Alastair Sim is perfect as the all-knowing visitor in this adaptation of JB Priestley's most famous play.

From a family being hunted to quite the opposite, as J.B. Priestley’s cautionary tale of the far-reaching consequences our actions can have transfers from stage to screen. After a mysterious Inspector reveals that each member of the upper-class Birling family member has ties to a girl’s suicide, events take a strange and unsettling turn.

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The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

CertU

Age group11+

Duration66 mins

The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari(1919)

Visually stunning silent horror, as the spooky Dr Caligari parades his fairground attraction, the sleepwalking Cesare, in a tale of madness and murder

The oldest film on this list is a silent masterpiece and also has murder at its core. Hailing from Germany, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the forefathers of the genre, dazzling the viewer with astonishing visuals and a voyage into the depraved mind doctor and his sidekick, Cesare.

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It Follows

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration98 mins

It Follows(2014)

19-year-old Jay discovers that she’s being relentlessly stalked by a deadly spirit after spending the night with her new boyfriend.

From sleepwalking to stalking, this indie horror from talented director David Robert Mitchell is a unique take on sexual awakening. After spending the night with her boyfriend, Jay discovers that a deadly spirit is stalking her wherever she goes. This is a fascinating foray into the coming-of-age genre, complete with an offbeat synth soundtrack and 1980s references galore.

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Julia's Eyes

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration112 mins

Julia's Eyes(2010)

Brilliantly made, excellently acted and beautiful looking film that avoids cheap thrills, while still giving us a decent fright.

The idea of an external presence takes on a new meaning in this Spanish-language thriller-cum-horror, a Hitchcockian tale of a woman investigating the death of her twin sister, despite her ever-flailing eyesight. As well as being a valuable insight into disability within a genre setting, the film builds tension throughout via intelligent writing.

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The Orphanage

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration105 mins

The Orphanage(2007)

Spooky film about an abandoned orphanage with past secrets taken over by a couple, whose son has some strange experiences before vanishing.

And another Spanish film to finish, a superb horror from director J.A. Bayona. Executively produced by Guillermo del Toro – a masterful creator of gothic fairytales such as Pan’s Labyrinth – the film is a scarring viewing experience with beautiful imagery, and its curriculum links to language-learning further enhances this already impressive and gripping drama.

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