Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Absolute Best Ghost Story Movie, According To Reddit Horror Fans

Slasher, monster, and zombie horror movies are great, but there's something to be said for a good, old-fashioned ghost story. There's a reason those tales of the beyond have haunted and fascinated us for so long, and continue to be a staple of the horror genre to this day. Few things can make the spine tingle more quickly than a run-in with an extra-corporeal being, molded by death itself, with the power to bend and twist our reality in ways we can't begin to understand. Ghost stories are particularly fertile ground for movies, where their clash between material and spiritual realms can be richly expressed through visuals and sounds. Think about the horror movies that made the biggest impression on you, and there's a good chance a handful of them, if not most, will be ghost stories.

But what is the best ghost story movie? That's what a poll on Reddit's horror subreddit, Dreadit recently attempted to answer. As a group of over 2.3 million horror fans, it was maybe inevitable that members of Dreadit would ultimately elect a bona-fide classic of the genre. But their Top 20 list as a whole might surprise you — and horrify you, if you dare to watch all the movies on it.

The Shining is still the peak of ghost story cinema

Say what you will about Stanley Kubrick's controversial 1980 masterpiece The Shining, but it hasn't come close to leaving our collective imagination. After decades of being the object of endless analysis, fan homages, and extravagant theories, it is still, per Dreadit, the best that the ghost story subgenre has ever had to offer. It's easy to understand why: Even if you don't care for Kubrick's changes to Stephen King's novel or don't subscribe to the wildest fan readings, the trials and tribulations of Jack (Jack Nicholson), Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and little Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) at the mysterious Overlook Hotel hit the perfect sweet spot between fear of the occult, psychological anguish, shocking violence and just plain inexplicable WTF-ery. It's maybe the most visceral horror movie ever, and a lot of that stems from just how deftly it plays on our innate anxieties about the past and the ways in which it haunts us.

Kubrick himself used to say that supernatural horror had a way of reaching into us viscerally. In an interview at the time of The Shining's release (via VisualMemory.co.uk), the director remarked that "Fantasy may deal best with themes which lie primarily in the unconscious. I think the unconscious appeal of a ghost story, for instance, lies in its promise of immortality. If you can be frightened by a ghost story, then you must accept the possibility that supernatural beings exist." That core understanding of the appeal of ghost stories, and the way he knew how to mobilize said appeal through his filmmaking, is why horror fans still agree that Kubrick was able to make the best one.

The rest of the list contains some usual suspects, and some surprises

The rest of the best chosen by Dreadit users is pretty on par with what you might expect. In addition to The Shining in the top spot, notorious trauma-fest Hereditary was chosen as the runner-up, and the podium was rounded out by megahit The Conjuring. The '80s haunted-house classic Poltergeist came in fourth, with André Øvredal's The Autopsy of Jane Doe rounding out the top five.

The full top 20 list gets more interesting when you start looking at some of the spots further down. In addition to The Others, Sinister, Insidious, and Hell House LLC, the original Candyman also found a well-deserved spot in the Top 10, after years of being consistently underrated, perhaps boosted by anticipation for the upcoming Candyman reboot. Other great, surprising selections include 1408 — the John Cusack/Samuel L. Jackson hotel flick that's well-remembered for its mind-bending multiple endings, but not enough for being a top-shelf horror movie in its own right — and The Changeling, a Canadian classic that doesn't get talked about nowadays as much as some of the '80s/'90s films it influenced. And, of course, if you're looking for mainstays, The Others,, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, The Ring and The Sixth Sense are all there too. All in all, Dreadit's list is great, whether you're looking to knock some classics off your watchlist or discover new, under-appreciated gems.