Occasionally, the houses that we live in can cause the greatest amount of fear. Our homes are supposed to be places of sanctuary, so when that sanctuary gets taken away, it can be devastating.
Perhaps that's why horror films featuring haunted houses are so engaging. They get to the heart of this idea, and the subversive, almost mundane function of a killer house is why I enjoy this subgenre so much.
Are you a fan of horror cinema? Here are my picks for the best haunted house movies that are worth checking out!
15. Winchester (2018)
Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Starring Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey
Biography, Drama, Fantasy (1h 39m)
Winchester never made as much buzz as some of the other haunted house films on this list, but with Helen Mirren as the titular heiress, we definitely think you should give it a look.
In the early 1900s, rifle heiress Sarah Winchester is haunted. After receiving a huge inheritance, she becomes convinced that she's being stalked by spirits of those who were killed by Winchester firearms.
And when a company doctor comes to strip her of corporate control, he discovers that her ghosts might be real.
14. The Cellar (2022)
Directed by Brendan Muldowney
Starring Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Abby Fitz
Horror, Mystery (1h 34m)
If there's ever been a big red flag when visiting (or living in) a big old house, it's when one door is off-limits to many family members. Whether it leads to a fantasy world or a torture chamber, no one knows.
In The Cellar, mother Keira (played by Elisha Cuthbert) sends her daughter down into the cellar, not knowing that there's an entity lurking in its depths. Things go south when the daughter goes missing, which the police believe is just some kind of teen problem.
The Cellar features Baphomet, a demonic deity that's been a prominent character in many stories involving witchcraft and occult. The film further escalates the creep factor with its symbolism and images.
13. The Lodgers (2017)
Directed by Brian O'Malley
Starring Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon
Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 32m)
The Lodgers follows the story of twins Rachel (played by Charlotte Vega) and Edward (played by Bill Milner), who are bound within a decrepit house by a curse that runs through their family.
The hauntings and supernatural phenomenon here aren't limited to the insides of the house, but also includes the property grounds.
More than just a haunted house story, The Lodgers explores the dark and twisted curse of these incestuous siblings, giving the tale an even more ominous mood complete with disturbing themes and imagery.
12. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Directed by Oren Peli
Starring Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs
Horror, Mystery (1h 26m)
How could we skip the first film in the Paranormal Activity franchise? Like the iconic The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is part of the found footage horror subgenre that was popular during the 2000s.
Homebody Katie (played by Katie Featherston) and her significant other Micah (played by Micah Sloat) move into a new home, but Katie is convinced she's being haunted by an evil ghost.
Believing it to be her overactive imagination, Micah sets up a camera in their bedroom to record any strange occurrences while they sleep.
To their horror, they do capture strange events on camera—events that get stronger and more severe as the supernatural entity gets bolder.
11. The Others (2001)
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 44m)
The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a young wife who lives with her chronically ill children on a gloomy island estate.
When strange events begin to occur, Grace discovers that her house may be haunted and that her children are in danger.
The Others has one of the best twist endings I've seen in a horror film, and without giving that ending away, I strongly recommend that you watch it.
10. Sinister (2012)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 50m)
To get inspiration for his work, crime writer Ellison Oswalt (played by Ethan Hawke) moves his family to the house where a family was killed. Little does he know that the thing behind the killing is far beyond what he can imagine or handle.
And it's not just about the death of a single family, but of a few others, which were all performed and executed by an unknown assailant and recorded by a mysterious cameraman.
The film Sinister perfectly blends elements of a cursed videotape, an evil character, and a haunted house plot into one compelling story, delivering a truly disturbing experience worth watching.
9. Hell House LLC (2015)
Directed by Stephen Cognetti
Starring Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini
Horror, Mystery (1h 33m)
While most haunted houses are actual houses haunted by vengeful spirits, the film Hell House LLC features a haunted house attraction.
The attraction, which was supposed to be fun and thrilling for visitors, instead gives its customers a tragic end—all of them except one end up dying on the attraction's dreadful first night.
Hell House LLC's found footage and documentary approach follows the story of a team that investigates the case of that tragic night at Abaddon Hotel. However, the deeper they dig into the mystery, the closer they get to an impending tragedy.
8. Personal Shopper (2016)
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz
Mystery, Thriller (1h 45m)
Personal Shopper has less to do with haunted estates and more to do with the ghosts that we keep close to our hearts.
Starring Kristen Stewart as Maureen—an assistant for a well-known celebrity supermodel—the story starts off with Maureen still reeling from her brother's death by genetic heart condition.
Before he died, they had a pact: that whoever died would send a signal from the afterlife. Maureen tries to "contact" him, and in doing so opens up a can of worms with other spirits who may be lurking.
7. Crimson Peak (2015)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 59m)
Crimson Peak isn't so much horror as it is Gothic romance, but it's directed by Guillermo del Toro and is absolutely gorgeous to look at.
In Crimson Peak, aspiring novelist Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska) meets the English siblings Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (played by Jessica Chastain).
When Edith becomes romantically involved with Thomas, she marries him and returns to England—only to discover that his mansion is haunted. If you like Guillermo del Toro, you'll like this one!
6. The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Drama, Horror (2h 26m)
The Shining is considered a classic of modern cinema: not just for horror, but film overall. It's also the film on this list that left the strongest impression on me, so if you're looking for a horror movie that lingers in your mind, watch this!
Based on the 1977 novel by Stephen King, The Shining follows Jack (played by Jack Nicholson) and his family as they move to a mountain hotel to act as caretakers. At the same time, Jack is trying to recover from rampant drinking issues while working on his book.
Unbeknownst to Jack's wife, the previous caretaker went crazy and killed his entire family. The spirits that linger in this place begin to have an undue influence on Jack, who's urged to repeat this gory history.
5. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long
Crime, Horror, Mystery (1h 15m)
Not to be confused with Netflix's horror series The Haunting of Hill House, House on Haunted Hill follows a group of strangers who are offered $10,000 if they stay in an abandoned building for the entire night. (That's over $100,000 in today's dollars!)
The group that arrives doesn't believe that the place is haunted, but as the night drags on, they realize they're in serious danger. As it turns out, being locked in a spooky place—and with everyone being given guns for self-protection—leads to some disturbing events.
4. The Woman in Black (2012)
Directed by James Watkins
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 35m)
The Woman in Black is an adaptation of a 1983 gothic horror novel of the same name, written by Susan Hill. The film version stars Daniel Radcliffe as a lawyer who has to retrieve some documents from an estate.
When he arrives, the townsfolk are very unwelcoming towards him. It doesn't take long to discover that their distrust is due to the house itself, which is possessed by a spirit that's targeting the town's children.
3. Poltergeist (1982)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
Horror, Thriller (1h 54m)
For horror enthusiasts, the original Poltergeist by Tobe Hooper is way better than the 2015 remake by Gil Kenan. However, both deliver a spine-chilling haunted house story packed with the horror elements we need.
In this one, the Freeling family is haunted by the spirits of the dead. What's worse is that the ghosts aren't content with just showing their presence—they also resort to physical contact with the family.
What makes the setting creepy is that the house was built above a graveyard, meaning these spirits are the original tenants of the lot that were disturbed by the development of the housing structures.
2. The Conjuring (2013)
Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 52m)
The Conjuring is so good that it kicked off an entire franchise of films, now known as The Conjuring Universe, which includes other Conjuring films plus spin-offs like Annabelle and The Nun.
Even so, the first film remains the absolute best of them all, and if you're only going to watch one film about haunted houses, let it be this one.
Paranormal investigators Ed (played by Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga) decide to check out a Rhode Island farmhouse at the request of the Perron family, who have been experiencing weird, supernatural events.
What's creepy is that Ed and Lorraine Warren were real-life demonologists who reportedly experienced and investigated cases of hauntings, which were the basis of this film.
1. The Amityville Horror (2005)
Directed by Andrew Douglas
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jimmy Bennett
Horror (1h 30m)
Since the 1970s, The Amityville Horror franchise has been putting out movie after movie. The two films we're going to recommend are the original The Amityville Horror from 1979 and the 2005 remake of it.
In the 1979 version, a young couple—George (played by James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (played by Margot Kidder)—purchase a beautiful home for themselver and their children in Amityville, New York.
In the 2005 remake, the Lutz couple (played by Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) once again moves into a new home, but this time learns that its low price point has to do with the fact that a man murdered his entire family on the property several decades ago.
A bit wary about this history but too poor to pass up the deal, the Lutz decide to spring for it anyway. Unfortunately, their idyllic life soon goes south when George starts acting strange due to the supernatural forces that lurk in the basement.