There’s nothing more frightening than an intruder in your home – especially when the unwanted visitors aren’t even human. It’s an unsettling invasion of privacy in the place where you’re supposed to feel the safest, and oftentimes you’ll come to realize that your house has a much more disturbing history than you ever could have imagined. It’s these feelings of fear, discomfort, and dread that make the haunted house tale one of the most beloved in the history of horror.
Admit it, you’ve watched a haunted house flick at home and slept with the lights on for a few days afterward, or seen ghostly apparitions that don’t exist. The best horror films get a rise out of you that you never even knew you needed… because life’s no fun without a good scare, right? Below are 8 of what we think are the best haunted house horror movies and TV shows that will make you question every door creak or light flickering for years to come.
American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
The season that started it all… and arguably the best one since Ryan Murphy went crazy with nuns, nazis, and circus freaks. The Harmons just wanted a fresh start, and thought they would find it in their gorgeous new Los Angeles mansion, until they discovered that the place was a murder hotspot (hence the title) and crawling with malicious spirits. In the nearly 10 years since American Horror Story has been airing, they still haven’t pulled off a better plot twist than Violet being unknowingly dead for half the season. In our opinion, this is the best haunted house tv series ever made. A bold statement, but it’s that good.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Technically, it’s the female protagonist Katie Featherston that’s being followed around by a ghost, not the house, but this film is still lots of spooky fun. Any horror enthusiast will remember all the hype around Paranormal Activity, with people jumping out of their seats in the trailer and critics hailing it as the scariest movie of the decade. We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely one of the best haunted house flicks in recent years. It’s been over a decade, and that ending still sticks in people’s minds…
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Creepy kid? Check. Jump scares? Check. Twist ending that you definitely didn’t see coming? Check. Everything about this horror classic is iconic – from the famous horror quote, “I see dead people” line to the surprise ending that made M. Night Shyamalan a (haunted) household name. Like any good paranormal movie, the human characters are very human, providing emotional arcs that keep you invested and remind you that plenty of monsters are very much alive.
Rose Red (2002)
Unlike IT, this TV miniseries from Stephen King didn’t go on to become a hit film franchise (yet,) but it’s still an underrated haunted house story. It takes place not in Maine, but Seattle… in a mansion with a deadly history and an uncanny ability to change shape and size every time you step through the door. As you watch the secrets of the mansion come to life, you’ll be reminded by Stephen King is forever the godfather of the horror genre.
The Haunting (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes: 16%
Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House (not to be confused with the series, we’ll get to that later,) this film challenges the age-old question surrounding paranormal encounters. Is some crazy sh** happening, or am I just losing my mind? Researchers study a group of siblings as they’re locked inside an old-timey mansion, and as you can imagine… it’s not pretty. There’s a lot of horror cliches and overdone CGI, but it’s a good pick for a scary movie night at home.
The Conjuring (2013)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Sometimes the paranormal entities in a home are harmless and just want to play. Other times they’re the ghost of an accused witch and baby killer who sets out to murder anybody who moves into her old house. Not cool. Bathsheba in The Conjuring is one terrifying spirit, and while multiple sequels have been released since this scary flick hit theaters in 2013… Annabelle the doll and the Nun have nothing on her.
The Changeling (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
An oldie but a goodie… this film follows a New York City composer as he moves into an old Victorian mansion after the devastating loss of his wife and child. Most people probably wouldn’t move into such a large and creepy house alone, but you do you. As you can imagine, a number of paranormal encounters begin to occur – from ghostly apparitions to loud banging. The story is a little slow to unravel, but you slowly learn that the mansion has a haunting history that’s probably worse than you imagined. The changeling is often referred to as one of the best haunted house movies.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Sure, you may have wanted to shout “your wand, Harry!” a few times throughout the film… but Daniel Radcliffe gave a killer performance in one of his first roles after Harry Potter. He plays a widower who tries to uncover the secrets of a vengeful spirit who is terrorizing the townspeople. While it’s a pretty typical ghost story, and doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table when it comes to horror… the cinematography is gorgeous and the ending will have you on the edge of your seat.
The Haunting of Hill House
This is a relative newcomer but it is a really great haunted house series coming from Netflix. In this haunted tale, a family is coming to terms with a tragic past that all started when they moved into Hill House to renovate it. The series jumps back and forth between the past tragedies and the future where the family is unraveling as they try and figure out exactly what happened at Hill House. It’s a must-see for any haunted house horror fans.
John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson put on a PHENOMENAL PERFORMANCE in 1408, also ranking a 10 out of 10 bones (admittedly a tip of the hat to the writers Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, and of course Stephen King!). John Cusack plays a haunted house journalist, traveling to a hotel Samuel Jackson manages called the Dolphin Hotel. Unlike all of his previous excursions, this hotel (particularly room 1408) is actually haunted. 1408 is an ‘edge of your seat’ horror story that does not have a single dull moment. Horror Enthusiast places 1408 in the second scariest haunted house horror movie of all time!
Session 9 (2001)
Session 9 is a truly scary movie. This horror film takes a few keynotes from House on Haunted Hill and sets the stage in an abandoned insane asylum with a bad rap in its past. Ultimately, a group of workers for a contractor are tasked with renovating the asylum and forced to work among the ghosts and hauntings within. There are a few intricate story lines which develop nicely throughout the movie, maintaining a thick, interesting plot that paves the way for plenty of suspense and scares. The creativity that has been injected throughout Session 9 separates it so much from other horror movies about insane asylums and haunted houses, that it has earned Horror Enthusiast ‘Best Haunted House Movies Ever’ spot #4!
The cinematic abilities of 1982 are definitely no match for the visual and graphical capabilities of today’s technology…however, Poltergeist still exploits many deep fears and immerses the audience into a terror-filled story that they will never forget. People often underestimate the power of a good psychological scare.
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Kate Hudson puts on a stupendous performance playing Caroline Ellis in Skeleton Key. Everyone is scared of the unknown, and there is a natural fear associated with working a new job. Skeleton Key features a hospice nurse who has to work in a creepy plantation house, filled with a dark and disturbing hoodoo history and haunts alike! This haunted house movie has scored so well for its truly immersive (and believable) acting, sincerely terrifying effects and fear-inspiring story line.
The Shining (1980)
Like Poltergeist, the Shining is an underdog competing against the incredible capability of today’s technology for shooting horror movies. Somehow, the Shining still pulls out a champion in beating so many of the horror films that have come after it simply because the fear is real! Horror does not require any vivid details…in fact, some of the scariest horror come from scenes with the blandest of special effects (or scenes with no special effects at all). The Shining is a psychological terror that stays with people for life and changed the horror movie genre forever.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Amityville Horror is about the demonic possession of a man (Ryan Reynolds) after the newlywed family moves into the eerie house. The character transformation from loveable family man to insane killer is gradual and well-developed. Reynolds plays an outstanding killer, keeping the Amityville Horror remake rather high on the list of Best Haunted House Movies Of All Time.
Ghostwatch, like Rose Red, was actually created for TV. However, it has become a horror movie fan cult favorite and is very frequently listed in a number of “favorite horror movies” lists. Being a British film, it took a little longer to pick up traction in the United States, and in fact still remains a little unknown. Still, this movie is absolutely thrilling and will keep the audience interested from start to finish.
A true crime journalist investigating a murder makes a ghastly discovery in realizing the murderer may be a serial killer responsible for murders dating all the way back to the 1960s. Only this serial killer and this house inflict a supernatural fear that leaves the audience shivering in terror.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Crimson Peak is one of the newer horror films that benefits from new-age CGI and effects. The story is not without great fantasy and plot twists that keep an audience enthralled! This haunted house thriller is set in the Victorian Era and is a suspenseful film to say the least.
House is about a horror novelist and Vietnam war vet on a mission to find his missing son. His son disappeared in his aunts house years ago, of which he has now inherited and moved into. Only he soon discovers the house is not the only thing he has inherited, but also the ghouls and zombies inside. For its time and low budget, this movie was an impressive psychological thriller!
The Others (2001)
The movie is set in the end days of World War II and Nicole Kidman plays a mother of two photosensitive children who realizes her family’s mansion is haunted. Haunting ghosts of the dead, a rich plot and suspenseful mystery…what more could a horror fan ask for?
The Changeling (1980)
A secluded historical mansion is always a good setting for a horror movie, especially about a haunting. The Changeling is about a man (played by George C. Scott), who is staying at said mansion who becomes terrorized by the spirit of a murdered child. This horror movie is more than suspenseful, but also offers an excellent mystery plot, securing the final rank of 15 on our list of the Best Horror Movies About Haunted Houses!
Still Want More? – Check these haunted house horror movies
Other horror movies that feature haunted houses or locations and receive honorable mentions include: The Orphanage (2007), the original Amityville Horror (1979), Stephen King’s IT (2017 remake), the Haunting (1999), and the original House on Haunted Hill (1959). There are many other horror movies out there, especially older-generation flicks, which are primarily about haunted houses or the ghosts that inhabit them…however, there has to be a cut off bar somewhere!
I am a lifelong pop culture junkie with immense passion for all forms of art and entertainment. On a typical weekend, I can be found at a concert or musical, chasing ghosts on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, or watching way too many makeup tutorials on YouTube.