The definition of horror and dread can differ from person to person, but sometimes there comes along these masterpieces of horror film making that capture an emotion or touch a nerve that stays with you forever. Here are the 5 scariest ghosts of American films in the modern era. We decided to stick to movies made in this millennium, since it would be otherwise impossible to narrow this list to only 5 entries.

The Ring 2002


This is easily one of the most successful horror films of all time and a large part of that is due to the exceptional Japanese movie it is based on. The American version takes things in a different direction and while horror connoisseurs might prefer the original, the remake is very scary as well.

Samara Morgan, the vengeful ghost in the movie, almost makes the audience empathize with her situation until the very end, when she achieves her objective and then decides to just keep killing. The buildup and revelation is very Un-American in its story structure and this is probably another reason why it captivated the audience so much.

The movie forgoes the usual blood and gore kind of slasher films that were so popular around that time and instead decided to focus on the paranormal aspect of it. Samara is an 8 year old sadistic serial killer that makes you want to help her even though you get a bad feeling about it all along. That’s psychological horror done right.

Oh and the scene of her crawling out of the television? It is burned in our minds forever.

The Grudge 2004


This is another excellent American remake of a Japanese movie. The Grudge is pretty simple in its plot. There is a Japanese legend that people who die with great rage and anger in them become vengeance seeking ghosts.

Kayako has suffered a violent death in the house now inhabited by an American nurse and all that her ghost wants to do is to serve up violence of her own. She does not care who the inhabitant is or what kind of a person it may be.

Oh and each of her victims gets ‘cursed’ to follow in her footsteps as a ghost as well. There is a scene in the movie where Kayako almost slithers down the stairs all contorted which scared the living daylights out of everyone who saw it, however most of her scariness was down to the mythos that she was a part of. Although her appearance and actions were pretty scary as well! This is what made her as effective as a ghost. The setting inside of a house where unknown horrors have taken place in the past makes it immediately relatable to people since they start wondering what lurks in the dark corners of their houses! 

Insidious 2010


This movie was directed by James Wan, who has developed a bit of a cult following thanks to Saw and the many rip offs it inspired. Insidious is different. There are no over the top set ups requiring people to mutilate themselves or die in the process. There is also no one scary entity in the movie, but a lot of creepy paranormal activity happening all throughout. It all starts with a boy going to sleep and never waking up.

The family in question begins to be bombarded by ghosts and paranormal occurrences at every nook and corner of their house. This non-stop succession of ghosts can be nerve wracking as you wait and wait for the next scare around the corner. The scariest ghosts are those that lurk in normal unassuming settings and this was the case with Insidious. We were literally jumping at every moving shadow in the house for a week after watching this movie!

The plot of the film begins to fall off once they try and explain what the hell has been happening in the universe they set up but a strong finale once again pulls the audience right back in.

This movie will leave you gasping for air and turning the lights on the next time you are alone in your house lest creepy kid ghosts start to arrive in droves.

The Innkeepers 2012


If this were a list about the best horror movies of the modern era then there is no doubt that the innkeepers would not have made it on this list. This however is a list of the scariest ghosts of film and Madeline O’Malley walks on to this list quite easily.

The movie itself is a throwback to the classic horror movies of the past and so it is fitting that the story is set in a decrepit soon to be closed down hotel. Madeline was a former guest of the hotel who hung herself after her newlywed husband decided to abandon her.

This jilted ghost has been inhabiting the hotel ever since. There is a scene in which the titular character wakes up in the middle of the night to find the forever bride next to her in bed. It is legitimately one of the scariest scenes that we have ever seen.

The character fits perfectly in the gothic feel of the movie and even though the scares can seem somewhat few, the slow pace only serves to build up the tension throughout the movie.

The ending of the movie has an interesting twist as well which will leave you wondering about it for quite a while!

The Woman in Black 2012


Jennet Humfrye, the woman being referred to in the title has been depicted in print, on television and the latest in the 2012 movie also starring Daniel Radcliffe. The ghost of Jennet Humphrey haunts the town preying on children of the locals in unrepentant vengeance since she too lost her children to a drowning incident.

The portrayal of the ghost is eerie and extremely disturbing. There are also plenty of creepy children ghosts that provide for jump scares throughout the movie.

Jennet is an unhappy ghost that wants to ensure the town people are as unhappy as her. She strikes without warning and with contempt. This small isolated community that has been overridden with fear is petrified of every shadow in which Jennet may be lurking.

There is no escape from this unadulterated evil. Add to this the unassuming stranger who has no idea of what’s in store and you have a horror classic on your hands. The slow reveal of the many mysteries of the movie also keep you hooked till the very end.


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