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The Scariest Ghost Stories On Netflix

Perhaps more than any other genre, horror has a talent for dabbling in metaphor. In horror stories, monsters can represent some of our greatest immaterial fears — not just real-life concerns like night stalkers and serial killers, but grief, loss, trauma, and death itself. 

Arguably, no horror subject holds more metaphorical power than the ghost story. As spectral figures chained, by choice or by curse, to the waking world, ghosts can act as powerful and spine-tingling stand-ins for all manner of nightmarish possibilities. What ails you? Unfinished business? Posthumous rage,? Perhaps a trauma so potent you refuse to remain buried, six feet deep? The idea that there is life after death, and that it is defined by restless, pain-riddled entropy is terrifying. At least zombies look like they're having a good time.

Below, we've assembled 14 of the scariest ghost stories currently streaming on Netflix. Some of them feature terrifying ghostly encounters of rattled spirits hellbent on revenge. In others, the ghosts, however terrifying, can't hold a candle to their dastardly human peers. From haunted houses to haunted people, there's no shortage of ooky spooky films theorizing about what goes bump in the night. So without further ado (a-boo?), here are some truly terrifying ghost films available for your streaming pleasure.

"The Ring" (2002)

You couldn't throw a rock in the late 1990s and early 2000s without hitting a Japanese Horror remake. Arguably, the patient zero of the J-horror boom was Hideo Nakata's "Ringu," a global hit whose success spawned a remake in the US four years later. "The Ring," directed by Gore Verbinski, boasts a simple, and terrifying, premise: Watch a cursed video tape. Die seven days later.

A newspaper reporter, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), is skeptical of the urban legend. But when four dead teens spark her curiosity, she tracks down the tape to see what all the fuss is about. Then, to her horror, Rachel receives a phone call. With only seven days to decipher the tape's cursed imagery, Rachel begins to experience supernatural phenomena, including the ghostly appearance of a pallid little girl with long black hair. 

Rachel's quest to identify the girl leads her to a small island community, a distraught widower, and a dark, disturbing secret. Few images in horror are as iconic as the little girl crawling out of a television set, dripping water over the screen, gazing upward through strings of soaking hair. VHS tapes may be dead and gone now, but the haunting power of "The Ring" survives to this day. 

But maybe put your phone on airplane mode while you watch. Just in case.

"Shutter" (2004)

If you've been looking for ways to add more international spectral encounters to your Netflix queue, "Shutter" is sure to please (and terrify!). 

A young photographer named Tun (Anada Everingham) and his girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) accidentally run over a young woman while driving home after a friends' party. At Tun's insistence, the pair flee the scene, leaving the girl dying on the road. Later, Tun discovers strange white shapes in the photographs he took that night. While Tun digs deeper into the photographic phenomenon, Jane becomes convinced that the ghost of the dead girl is haunting them and that their connection might extend beyond the accident.

Boasting a constant sense of dread and an effective melding of technology and the supernatural, "Shutter" offers an exploration of guilt and ghosts that will have you side-eyeing your old Polaroid camera. With genuinely spine-tingling moments (getting stuck on a ladder with a ghost crawling down towards you ... face first?), "Shutter" is an excellent introduction to what the world of Thai horror has to offer.

"The Lovely Bones" (2009)

A supernatural thriller from "The Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, "The Lovely Bones" tells of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old freshman who is brutally murdered by her neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). From her personalized purgatory, Susie observes the comings and goings of her grief-stricken family, attempting to thread the needle of hot-blooded revenge and allowing her loved ones the space to grieve. But her ghostly hand is forced when Harvey targets her sister, Lindsey.

Oscillating between sentimental supernatural elements and those of a cold-blooded thriller, the dual identity of "The Lovely Bones" is decidedly not for everyone. But, as a crime narrative that frames its story from the perspective of the victim rather than the perpetrator, "The Lovely Bones" deserves its dues.

All told, "The Lovely Bones" is worth the price of admission for its two lead performances, particularly Tucci's turn as the terrifyingly ordinary George Harvey, which nabbed the actor an Oscar nomination. Ever wanted to crawl out of your skin for 135 minutes? This is the film for you.

"Shutter Island" (2010)

A brilliant murderer has implausibly escaped from a secluded mental hospital for the criminally insane. The event has summoned the U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo). Housed on a wind-swept island, the facility is like a fortress. The missing patient appears to have vanished from her locked cell, leaving a subtle trail of unsettling deeds in her wake.

Blurring the line between the astral plane and waking nightmares, leave it to director Martin Scorsese to excavate a supremely-horrifying portrait of repressed personal trauma under the guise of a procedural thriller. Don't let its ostensible ties to the world of murder-mysteries fool you, "Shutter Island" is a regret-tinged gothic fever dream, more in-line with the German Expressionist tradition than any sterile psychological whodunit. 

Boasting a notoriously stomach-churning third act twist, "Shutter Island" is an unforgettable tale of tragedy infecting dreams infecting real life: an unconventional "ghost" movie, but a haunting one nonetheless. Hey Martin Scorsese, can you make another horror movie? For us? Please?

"ParaNorman" (2012)

Norman Babcock isn't like other kids. For one thing, his tastes run a bit on the macabre side. For another: he can talk to ghosts. 

As if all of that weren't hard enough, only his open-hearted friend Neil believes in his special ability. Then, one day, the spirit of Norman's eccentric uncle Mr. Prenderghast warns him of an impending catastrophe: the curse of a centuries-old witch, sure to upend the sleepy town of Blithe Hollow unless Norman can perform the necessary ritual.

Sure, "ParaNorman" has kids in mind with its spooks and scares. But the film still boasts a reputable and impressive amount of spine-tingling set-pieces, brought to life with a chilly autumnal flair certain to put you in the right mood. To boot, Laika's polish notwithstanding, the kinetic qualities of stop motion animation always seem to carry an intrinsically creepy quality. 

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shudder with fear while "ParaNorman" uses horror as a vehicle for historical trauma, scapegoating, and the importance of making peace with your own strangeness.

"The Conjuring" (2013)

It's 1971 and Roger and Carolyn Perron have moved into a Rhode Island farmhouse with their five daughters. The paranormal events begin almost immediately: the clocks all stop at 3:07 AM, the family dog dies mysteriously, and something begins attacking the girls in their bedrooms. 

Terrified and unsure of where to turn, Carolyn hires Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a husband and wife demonologist team who quickly become convinced that the house requires an exorcism. Further investigation reveals that the farmhouse once belonged to an accused witch, who performed unspeakable rituals to curse her land and doom anyone who dared to call it home.

The first, and most critically-acclaimed, entry in James Wan's ooky spooky cinematic universe, "The Conjuring" is an unnervingly well-shot and anxiously-paced terror trip well worth a watch from even the boldest horror fan. Moral of the story: if your beloved family pet refuses to enter the dilapidated house you bought for a killer price, it's time to find a new house. No real estate deal is worth the heartache of being trapped in the basement by a malevolent spirit.

"Unfriended" (2014)

Despite what cinema snobs will tell you, some films are actually better when they're watched on a laptop. "Unfriended" follows six high school friends during an otherwise innocuous group video chat. Things take a turn for the uncanny when they receive a Skype message from someone who might be pretending to be a classmate who committed suicide the previous year. Held hostage and forced to engage in sick, deadly games, the teens desperately try to untangle the true identity of the digital presence.

While many films have attempted to leverage the spooky potential of the "desktop perspective," no film has leaned in harder or made better use of the format than "Unfriended." Seriously. If you've been avoiding desktop and second-screen horror films, this one is well worth your time. 

However corny an invasive supernatural Skype presence may seem, in the context of frantic tabs, delayed messages, and malignant connectivity, "Unfriended" is inventive and positively terrifying. An online time capsule that remains strikingly relevant years later, "Unfriended" takes the idea of digital permanence to its terrifying conclusion.

"Crimson Peak" (2015)

After a whirlwind courtship with the charmingly morose Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), aspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) moves into her new husband's ancestral home: a dilapidated gothic mansion perched atop a hill made up of blood-red clay. Shocked by the cold shoulder of Thomas' sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Edith begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Sure enough, Edith is visited by terrifying skeletal apparitions — though their intentions, to harm or to warn, are unclear.

Director Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to ghost stories. His third feature film, "The Devil's Backbone" offered a similarly haunting vision of tortured spirits and twisted souls. Likewise in "Crimson Peak," ghosts, however terrifying, are not the true monsters. Instead, they act as liminal echoes of past violence and a mangled plea from beyond the grave for resolution and justice. 

An unapologetic love-letter to the gothic romance tradition, "Crimson Peak" is a gorgeously grotesque feast for the eyes, one with atmosphere to spare. But don't let the film's striking production design and evocative monster makeup fool you — benevolent or otherwise, these ghosts are damn freaky.

"The Conjuring 2" (2016)

Everyone's favorite demonology duo are back for round two. Before they can properly recover from their most recent encounter with an evil spirit, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are off to London. The mission: to help Petty Hodgson, a frazzled single mother of four whose house is absolutely crawling with paranormal activity. As the Warrens dig deeper into the Hodgson case to suss out its legitimacy, they learn that an angry ghost may be the least of the family's worries.

The only thing creepier than a disgruntled spirit, it seems, is a disgruntled spirit under the command of a powerful demonic nun. Praised by critics as a frightful follow-up filled with anxiety-piquing scares and grounded performances, "The Conjuring 2" is the rare sequel that manages to measure up to its predecessor. Compellingly character-driven, suspenseful, and yes, full of hair-raising moments (steel yourself for that painting scene), "The Conjuring 2" is a surefire way to secure a spooky night in. 

"Under the Shadow" (2016)

A ghostly Iranian gem with a slow-burning sensibility, Babak Anvari's "Under the Shadow" is a tense, decidedly-different take on the haunted house genre. 

Set in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, a young mother named Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is horrified when her apartment building is hit by a missile that fails to detonate. A superstitious neighbor plants an unnerving thought in Shideh's mind: the missile, while unexploded, has brought something sinister with it that now lingers in the apartment. Steadily, unsettling events convince Shideh that a supernatural force has, indeed, permeated the building. More disturbingly, it appears to be intent on possessing the body of Dorsa, her young daughter.

Blending blood-curdling notions of PTSD, war-torn lives, and Middle Eastern mythology, "Under the Shadow" boasts a near-perfect 99% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Intimate and anxious, the film mixes a quiet suggestive atmosphere with an increasingly bold playbook of nerve-wracking shocks. The idea of malevolent spirits trailing war zones like ravenous buzzards is terrifying and evocative. You'll never look at your curtains the same way again.

"I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House" (2016)

Written and directed by Osgood Perkins (son of "Psycho" star Anthony Perkins), "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House" is a divisive pick to be sure. But if the following sounds like it might be up your alley, you should give it a peek. 

A live-in nurse named Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) is hired to care for aging horror writer Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), who lives alone in a large, remote house. Lily starts to notice strange events: upturned carpets, mysterious mold patterns, and unsettling, grotesque visions. Lily grows convinced that the strange events are connected to Iris' most popular novel, which may not have been a work of fiction after all.

Graceful, patient, and deviously slow, "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House" is a dread-filled watch that squeezes terror out of an excellent sense of formalism. This is no fast-paced thriller, but a steadily-dripping exploration of a distinctly chilling, gothic space. A haunted house film with a commanding sense of atmosphere, it is the cinematic equivalent of the hairs on the back of your neck rising when you're home alone.

"A Ghost Story" (2017)

A recently-deceased composer refuses to leave the land of the living, choosing instead to silently follow his bereft wife (Rooney Mara) back to their small home in Dallas, Texas. Clothed in the same sheet that covered his body in the hospital, the ghost finds himself in an untethered state. Unstuck in time and fruitlessly seeking resolution, the ghost hurtles through the past, present, and future, forced to passively watch as the life he knew and the woman he still loves slowly slip away.

"A Ghost Story" may not dabble in jump scares or grandiose, blood-curdling exorcism scenes. But it has existential dread in spades. The idea that our souls are in a permanent state of entropy and unrest is indeed a terrifying one. As is the central, melancholic thesis of "A Ghost Story": that death is coming for us all. Silently impactful and gorgeously shot, "A Ghost Story" is a grief-stricken, hauntingly beautiful examination of love, loss, and the inescapable passage of time that will make you want to crawl under a sheet yourself.

"Girl on the Third Floor" (2019)

Don Koch (C.M. Punk), an ex-criminal hoping to turn over a new leaf, buys an old house in the suburbs for his growing family. While renovating the dilapidated property, Don begins to experience supernatural phenomena: the walls leak black sludge, and he can't seem to figure out where all these marbles are coming from. 

A schmuck with a history of bad decisions, the house's sordid history latches onto Don's fragile moral compass, dragging him down to depraved and terrifying depths. Don, of all people, should know that the past rarely stays buried. And that retribution, even from beyond the grave, has a way of clawing its way towards offending sinners.

"Girl on the Third Floor" marks the directorial debut of Travis Stevens, the producer behind indie genre hits like "Starry Eyes," "We Are Still Here," and "Jakob's Wife." Unapologetically goopy with an uncanny atmosphere, "Girl on the Third Floor" is an unconventional, thoroughly unsettling genre flick that feels like David Cronenberg, "The Shining" and "Hellraiser" got into a three-way car wreck.

"His House" (2020)

Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) are refugees fleeing with their daughter from war-torn South Sudan. Their escape takes them from a crammed flatbed pickup truck to an overstuffed motorboat, from which they attempt to cross a perilous, storm-swept sea. 

Bol and Rial survive the crossing, but their daughter and many others do not. Haunted by loss and wracked with guilt at their survival, the couple are finally granted probational asylum in Great Britain. Assigned to a run-down house in the suburban outskirts, the couple are repeatedly told that they are lucky to enjoy such spacious accommodations. But despite the hopeful glimmer of a fresh start, the ghosts of Bol and Rial's past are not so easily forgotten. Soon, the couple begins to suspect that something sinister has followed them across the ocean to their new would-be home.

An assured and unsettling feature directorial debut from Remi Weekes, "His House" is as clever as it is chilling. Exposing the horrors of a dehumanizing immigration system while tapping into the stomach-sinking realities of survivor's guilt, even if you've seen a hundred haunted house movies, you've never seen anything quite like this. 

Deploying dream logic and inventive staging, "His House" repurposes overly-familiar tropes to breathe life into substantial thematic concerns. There are haunted houses ... and then there are haunted people.