Top Ten Tuesday: Friendly Ghosts
From Japanese ghost stories such as RINGU (1998) and JU-ON (2002, remade as THE GRUDGE) to modern revisionist ghost stories such as Brad Anderson’s SESSION 9 (2001) and Ti West’s THE INNKEEPERS (2011), cinematic specters have nearly always been evil, or at the very least, malicious. Scary movies have long held the belief that ghosts should frighten us, and Hollywood had lined their pockets with that notion, but is it possible to make a good movie about “good” ghosts? We think so, and here’s our proof… our Top Ten Movies About Friendly Ghosts.
10. HEART AND SOULS (1993)
Anything starring Robert Downey, Jr. is worth checking out in my book, but this comedy was surprisingly enjoyable. Downey plays a guy used by four ghosts to reconcile their lives before moving on into the afterlife. The catch is, Downey is less than enthusiastic, but finds himself the catalyst for something bigger than himself and goes along for the ride. The cast is comprised of several well-known actors making the film that much more enjoyable.
9. TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY (1990)
The 1991 charming, English love story of a woman, Nina, (Juliet Stephenson) who’s inconsolable with grief over the death of her lover and cellist, Jamie (Alan Rickman). Just when Nina thinks she’ll never recover from her loss, Jamie’s ghost returns and, much to her dismay, begins to muck about in her daily life, which includes bringing other ghosts along to watch, of all things, videos to pass the time. TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY was Anthony Minghella’s (THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE READER) directorial debut, universally loved by the critics, and was called the British version of GHOST.
8. THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (1944)
The popular short story by Oscar Wilde came to life in 1944 when Charles Laughton stepped into the role of the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville. Cursed to roam an English manor until a descendant can redeem the family name through an act of bravery, the character is one for the ages, and Laughton’s interaction with co-star Robert Young is timeless. The first of eight adaptations of the story for film, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST is a timeless comedy that is just as beloved now as it was nearly 70 years ago.
7. FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)
“If you build it, he will come.” The ghosts of the Chicago Black Sox in FIELD OF DREAMS aren’t, exactly, bad, but that voice the serves as their prelude has got to go. Creepy as it may be, it, and the ghosts themselves, help Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) rekindle that loss feeling of youth and helps subside that foreboding feeling he has that he is turning in this father. The ending of FIELD OF DREAMS would make a grown man cry, and I’m sure it’s done just that time and time again. You’ll never look at playing catch with your father the same way twice.
6. THE FRIGHTENERS (1996)
Not only was this a pivotal film as director Peter Jackson’s American breakout film, it was also one helluva funny good time! Michael J. Fox plays a guy who develops the ability to see and talk to ghosts, working with them to con unsuspecting suburbanites into paying for spirit extractions. The ghosts may have the act down in this film, but they were anything but mean… more like completely harmless.
5. THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947)
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) is the impossible love story between a young widow, Mrs. Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) and deceased Sea Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison, in one of his most colorful roles). Being a penniless widow, Mrs. Muir, along with her young daughter Anna (Natalie Wood), move into Gull Cottage on the English coast only to discover that it’s haunted by the previous owner, a loud-mouthed ghost reluctant to entrust it to a woman. The two form a friendship (with Lucy being the only one who can hear and see the Captain) and when seeing that she’s in need of money, the captain persuades “Lucia” to be the ghostwriter for his memoirs in the book Blood and Swash and they end up falling in love. With a great, moody score from Bernard Hermann and the Oscar nominated B & W cinematography from Charles Lang, THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR is one of those entrancing ghost stories and a fan- favorite.
4. BEETLEJUICE (1988)
Tim Burton’s dark comedy about a married couple who die and come back as ghosts is one of the most enjoyably original films from the last three decades. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are confined to their earthly home as a rich, dysfunctional family moves in and begins changing everything, leading the nice couple to employ the not-so-nice tactics of Michael Keaton’s “Beetlejuice” to scare them off.
3. GHOST (1984)
The late, iconic Patrick Swayze stars in the dramatic love story as a man who returns as a ghost in an attempt to protect Demi Moore, his wife, from impending danger with the help of a reluctant psychic, played by Whoopi Goldberg. The film is a staple for many women, but is also a great film on it’s own merit, earning Goldberg a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
2. TOPPER (1937)
You need only take a gander at the cast list for TOPPER to realize there’s no nefarious dealings with the ghosts involved here. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as George and Marion Kerby, respectively, are among some of the more memorable “good” ghosts around. Granted, they are charged by the minions of Purgatory to do one good deed, but that deed comes easy, and it is to the benefit of all that these wayward souls find their ultimate path to redemption. TOPPER is a laugh-riot classic. The characters and those who play them are among the main elements that make it so.
1. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
The big reveal of M. Night Shyamalan’s THE SIXTH SENSE is that Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is in fact one of the ghosts that little Haley Joel Osment sees. This was not only a huge kick in the gut for audiences, but also cemented the fact that the film was one of the best modern ghost stories, period. Willis’ performance might be one of the strongest and most emotionally resonant of his career. While the ending is memorable, the ghostly leading man in THE SIXTH SENSE is what makes the picture enduring, even after you’re in on the twist.