The new version of Ghostbusters is finally upon us, and what better way to celebrate than looking back at some of the Snooty Ushers favourite ghosts in film. The entries on this list are comprised of those spirits, both good and bad, who’ve had the most significant effect on us in film. Now just to be clear, when we talk about ghosts we’re usually talking about the spirits of those people who’ve departed this planet for better or for worse. Demons on the other hand are supposedly something completely different, and of course will make up another list in the future. Let us start the countdown…
20. Lew Hayward – Scrooged (Richard Donner)
I’ll be honest, I don’t think too much of Scrooged, that being said it has become quintessential Christmas viewing for many. Now as much as I wasn’t enamoured by the film on a whole, the ghosts who come to visit Frank Cross (Bill Murray) are great, and I’m a sucker for prosthetics and animatronics in film. The best of them though is the ghost of Lew Hayward. Frank’s mentor comes to inform him that he’ll be visited by three ghosts, all the while exposing a golf ball in his skull, and trying to drink Bacardi. For a rather light hearted ghost, he looks pretty creepy.
19. Fatso, Stinkie, & Stretch – Casper (Brad Silberling)
The Ghostly trio that make up Casper the Friendly Ghosts uncles are by far more interesting than Casper himself, or at least they were as an 8 year old watching the film. A combination of juvenile actions and eventual antihero behaviour make them rather endearing, especially after they thwart the Halloween prank that would ruin the party at Whipstaff Manor.
18. The Headless Horseman – Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton)
Really any ghost that can take out Casper Van Dien in a film deserves a place on any top list, even more so when said ghost is played by Christopher Walken. The Hessian Horseman is incredibly ruthless in the search for his head, decapitating pretty much everyone getting in his way, as well as acting on the behalf of the mysterious person who is controlling this deadly ghost. Sleepy Hollow is one of Tim Burton’s best Gothic films, and is not the only film of his to feature on this list…
17. Santi – The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo Del Toro)
Before Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Crimson Peak (Whose plethora of ghosts just missed out on this list) Guillermo Del Toro made this brilliant film, which he considers to be his most personal. The ghost of Santi wanders around an orphanage in Spain during the end of the Spanish Civil War. The kids who live there have heard the stories about him, but they don’t know how and why he is there. You’ll have to watch the film to find out yourself.
16. Jennet Humfrye – The Woman in Black (James Watkins)
For a 12A, The Woman in Black is a crafty supernatural horror film. Though it only goes to show it could have been even better had they opted for a higher rating. The ghost of Jennet Humfrye has a significant presence throughout the film despite getting little screen time, which is a testament to the chilling atmosphere created by James Watkins and crew.
15. Jamie (and friends) – Truly Madly Deeply (Anthony Minghella)
After the death of her partner Jamie (Alan Rickman), Nina (Julie Stevenson) is full of grief, until one day he returns as a ghost. The return of Jamie helps console Nina, but he decides to bring with him some ghost friends, as well as some mildly annoying behaviour that starts to make Nina question how good their relationship was in the first place. Truly Madly Deeply is a film more people should see, it contains a wonderful blend of humour, drama and human emotion that saw it nominated for 3 BAFTA awards in 1992. Now if only Alan Rickman could come back as a ghost and console us all after his passing.
14. Mary Shaw – Dead Silence (James Wan)
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, James Wan and Leigh Whannell are horror geniuses. Throughout their careers they’ve continually raised the bar for contemporary horror films. Now Dead Silence is a vastly underrated horror film, it’s creepy, fun, and is chock full of frightening ventriloquist dummies. At the heart of it though is the ghastly creation of Mary Shaw, a vengeful ghost of a once famous ventriloquist whose last wish was to be buried with her 101 dummies, and turned into one herself. Thanks to some wonderfully monstrous imagery Dead Silence is a treat to watch. Just look at that Gif to the left man, and try to get a good nights sleep. Just remember “Beware the stare of Mary Shaw”.
13. The Dagmar Family – We Are Still Here (Ted Geoghegan)
A film discussed recently on one of our Perusing Prime pieces, We Are Still Here is a solid little horror. It’s a film with enough mystery, supernatural events, and canny direction that keeps you engaged until an absolute bloodbath of a finale. And it’s this finale that gets the Dagmar family on this list. I’ll say no more because its a horror film that has flew under the radar, and I’d recommend you watch it. Obviously wait until you’ve finished the list before you go do it though.
12. Nazgûl/Ringwraith – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
There are a few ghosts dossing around Middle-earth throughout the films but the crown for the best one goes to those men corrupted by Sauron’s Rings of Power. They’re the first real threat to Frodo and company, they look cool and they have a nasty ass shriek that is rather unsettling. Throw in an ability to sword fight and you have yourself a wicked combination that makes a truly great ghost.
11. Reverend Henry Kane – Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Brian Gibson)
Admittedly this is a character that may not find himself on many other lists of a similar nature, but on a personal level Rev. Kane freaked me out. I was young, staying up past my bedtime watching films I’d never heard of on BBC 1. This was a weekly ritual which exposed me to some of the greatest films I’ve ever seen, then it brought me this and I did not sleep well that night. Rev. Kane may not look like much, but there is something about his skeletal features and the creepy tune he sings that freak me out. Oh did I mention he’s a ghost that relentlessly pursues the soul of a child?
10. Slimer – Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters 2 (Ivan Reitman)
Due to the overwhelming popularity Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters 2, there is a litany of iconic imagery and characters that are just as popular as the team themselves. Slimer is not just one of the most identifiable ghosts, he’s the first ghost the team catch (Quick fire thought, imagine if there was a Ghostbusters version of Pokemon Go?). He’s luminous green, loves hot dogs, and leaves trails of slime everywhere. Despite a limited amount of screen time Slimer made a lasting impact on the Ghostbusters universe, and personally we think he’s more lovable than Casper.
9. Ghost of Room 237 – The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
The sole reason I’ll never stay in a hotel room numbered 237, this ghost is all sorts of nope.
8. Sadako Yamamura – Ring (Hideo Nakata)
No spirit in the history of film has encapsulated such a horrible sense of dread as much as Sadako has. The ghost of a supernaturally gifted girl murdered by her father is the subject of cursed videotape that supposedly kills the viewer 7 days after viewing the tape. With some impeccable pacing and direction, director Hideo Nakata crafted one of the most memorable film ghosts of all time, so good that it spurred on an entire decade of Western remakes. And that scene at the end of the film…shivertastic.
7. Johnny Bartlett – The Frighteners (Peter Jackson)
Haven’t seen The Frighteners? Well you should, it’s a wicked blend of humour and frights that make it stand out more than so many other horrors. The key to the humour is Michel J. Fox and his ghoulish friends, and the key to the darker side of the film is the nasty grim reaper looking ghost of Johnny Bartlett (Jake Busey), a long dead serial killer looking to continue his streak of murder. Relentless and demented, Johnny Bartlett is one of the deadliest ghosts to haunt the silver screen.
6. Kayako – Ju-On: The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu)
Thanks to characters like the vengeful ghost of Kayako Japan became a hot bed for unsettling horror films, and another reason for Hollywood to pillage the Japanese film industry for material. The best horror films always have those memorable scenes that you can’t shake from your memory because you never forget that moment your rectal muscles relaxed when you watched them. This picture to your left is a snapshot of one of them. A scene that I can guarantee will never allow you to look at a set of stairs or banister the same way again.
5. The Bride in Black/ Parker Crane – Insidious Franchise (James Wan, Leigh Whannell)
My affinity for the Insidious films and the work of James Wan and Leigh Whannell could well be clouding my judgement but you can’t deny the utterly frightening Bride in Black. First appearing in Insidious, the mysterious ghost of an old woman is seen haunting the images of a young Josh Lambert. In the second film we get a fully blown thoroughly intriguing backstory that makes the ghost more than just an entity there to scare. With a few similarities to Norman Bates, The Bride in Black is one of the best creations of contemporary horror.
4. Bathsheba – The Conjuring (James Wan)
Are you starting to see a trend? Another horrifying creation from one of James Wan’s films finds its way into this list, and this one is simply the worst (in a good way). Bathsheba is a witch that sacrificed her child to the devil and then committed suicide in the 1800s, cursing all those who took her land from then on. Her presence throughout the film, with her many scenes make The Conjuring one of the most intense film experiences I’ve ever sat through. And that scene, on top of the cupboard….Dear lord give me strength.
3. Betelgeuse – Beetlejuice (Tim Burton)
The ghost with the most was not quite able to make the top of the list, but he got damn near close. The distinctive look of the practising bio-exorcist helped the character stand out. But his personalty traits elevated him to another level. He’s morbid, crass, the definition of a miscreant, and Michael Keaton played the role with such vigour the character has became an icon of film. Just be sure not to call his name three times.
2. Sam Wheat – Ghost (Jerry Zucker)
He’s not quite ‘the’ ghost to make the top of this list but he most certainly is a worth second place. Instead of scaring his way through the rankings, Sam Wheat simultaneously made us feel warm and fuzzy inside and broke our hearts as he said “See ya” before making his way into the light. Patrick Swayze made so many roles memorable, and this is just one of them.
1. Fred Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven)
You have to be a pretty outstanding ghost to make the top of any list, and quite frankly is there any ghost more prolific than that of Fred Krueger? He terrorised your dreams, killed you in your sleep, and did so with glee whilst spouting some unforgettable, often laughable lines like “Wanna suck face” or “How’s this for a wet dream?” before offing his teenage prey. Through eight films, a remake, and a TV show, Freddy has made an identifiable scar on film and popular culture and can be bestowed with the honour of the Snooty Ushers best ghost in film.
So there we have it, our top twenty ghosts in film. Like any list we couldn’t include every ghost on here, are there any notable exclusions? Do you think we’ve got any horribly wrong? Let us know, I just hope our decisions don’t come back to …haunt us… (Freddy would be proud of that one, wouldn’t he?)