Movies Like 'Poltergeist' to Watch Next

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of 'Poltergeist' with even more scares!
by Taylor Freitas — 


Courtesy of YouTube

Poltergeist tells the story of the California-based Freeling family, whose youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) becomes targeted by a titular ghost (known as The Beast) who is intent on destruction. Her concerned parents, Steven and Diane (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams), work to understand what's going on with their daughter, calling in medical experts and spiritual guides, leading to a traumatizing confrontation with the spirits.

The triple Academy Award-nominated, BAFTA Award-winning film was released in 1982 and became the world's eighth-highest-grossing movie that year. Thanks to its success at the worldwide box office, Poltergeist spawned two more movies (1986'sPoltergeist II: The Other Sideand 1988's Poltergeist III) and a 2015 remake co-produced by Sam Raimi.

The original film was directed by acclaimed horror director Tobe Hooper (who also directed, produced, and co-wrote The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and written and produced by Steven Spielberg. It celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.

To commemorate this milestone, Metacritic has compiled the following list of 10 similar movies to watch after you've finished the Poltergeist series. All of the films fit within the horror or thriller genres, and some share Poltergeist's theme of paranormal spirits interacting with human beings (see Paranormal Activity and The Sixth Sense). Others are included on the list because they feature a storyline that includes children who are possessed by spirits or other demonic forces (including The Omen and The Ring).

Here, Metacritic offers 10 movies like Poltergeist to add to your queue.



Courtesy of United Artists


Metascore: 85
Best for: Fans of gory horror flicks
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 98 minutes

Carrie is a 1976 horror movie based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It follows high-school student Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), an unpopular girl who is constantly bullied by her peers and shamed by her ultra-religious mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie) — until she uses her newfound telekinetic powers to flip the script on them. Directed by Brian De Palma, the moviewas nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Carrie was King's first published novel and his first book to be adapted into a film. It later got a remake in 2013.

"De Palma's grasp on King's material is never in doubt: this is a truly throat-grabbing horror movie, sporting a handful of pitch-perfect set-pieces." — Tom Huddleston, Time Out London


'The Exorcist'

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Exorcist

Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of religious-themed horror
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 122 minutes

Released in 1973, The Exorcist is a horror-thriller written by William Peter Blatty (who also wrote the book that the movie is based on). The story revolves on Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a pre-teen girl who starts acting erratically. Believing that her daughter is possessed, Regan's mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), takes her to see Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a local priest near their home in Georgetown — not realizing that he's struggling with several crises of his own. Although The Exorcist was mired in controversy around the time of its release, it went on to receive ten Oscar nominations (winning two). It also received sequels and a television show adaptation.

"This truly terrifying film version of the best-selling Blatty novel is far superior to the book." — Frank Lovece, TV Guide Magazine


'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'

Courtesy of Vortex

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Metascore: 78
Best for: Fans of slasher films
Where to watch:

, fuboTVGoogle Play, iTunes, Showtime, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 83 minutes

Another classic horror film directed by Hooper, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, is about siblings Sally and Franklin Hardesty (Marilyn Burns and Paul A. Partain) and three of their friends, who visit the Hardestys' grandfather's grave after hearing that it had been vandalized. While there, they cross paths with a hammer-wielding man named Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who attacks and kills several of the teens — forcing the rest to fight for their lives. The movie spawned a number of sequels and remakes, including 1994's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, which helped launch the careers of Texas natives Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger.

"Like any decent slasher movie, there's something unsettling about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that goes beyond the blood and gore." — Tom Coates, BBC


'A Nightmare on Elm Street'

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of villain-centric horror flicks
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 91 minutes

Written and directed by Wes Craven, another visionary in the horror genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 slasher film about Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), one of Hollywood's most notorious villains. In the film, Freddy terrorizes the residents of a small town by haunting their dreams and murdering them while they sleep. Realizing this, local teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) tries to warn her friends and family about Fredd — with varying degrees of success. The movie was an instant success with audiences, leading to a slew of follow-up films and introducing viewers to several up-and-coming actors, including Englund and Johnny Depp.

"Here the idea of sleep as the ultimate threat is still fresh and marvelously insidious, and Craven vitalizes the nightmare sequences with assorted surrealist novelties." — J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader



Courtesy of Columbia Pictures


Metascore: 75
Best for: Fans of psychological thrillers
Where to watch:

fuboTV, Google Play, iTunes, Showtime, Vudu
Runtime: 107 minutes

Misery is the Rob Reiner-directed film adaptation of King's 1987 book of the same title. It tells the story of Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a highly successful writer who gets into a car crash and is rescued by his self-proclaimed biggest fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). While under her care, Paul's condition fails to improve, and he begins to realize that Annie's intentions may be sinister. Even though the plots are quite different, Misery shares the same type of creepy, unsettling theme as Poltergeist. For her performance, Bates won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.

"Misery is one of the best movies made from a Stephen King story." — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel


'Paranormal Activity'

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Paranormal Activity

Metascore: 68
Best for: Fans of ghost movies
Where to watch:

, EPIX, Google Play, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 86 minutes

Paranormal Activity, a 2009 horror thriller from director Oren Peli, takes audiences into the home of Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat), a young couple in San Diego. Shortly after moving in, they start noticing flickering lights, strange noises, and other odd things happening around their house, particularly at night. As the occurrences intensify, Katie and Micah grow increasingly nervous and try to seek out professional help before it's too late. The movie was the first installment in a series and was followed by Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), Paranormal Activity 3(2012), and several other follow-up films.

"An Amityville for the YouTube age: potent, primal and genuinely frightening." — Simon Crook, Empire


'The Shining'

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Shining

Metascore: 66
Best for: Fans of King and Stanley Kubrick
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 146 minutes

The Kubrick-directed film The Shining is another horror classic based on a King novel. It stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, who accepts a new job as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. But when he relocates his family to the remote hotel, his young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) begins having disturbing visions and encountering paranormal spirits, which aggravates Jack and terrifies his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall). Although The Shining wasn't nominated for any major awards, it has become a quintessential American horror flick and has been added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. It also spawned a miniseries adaptation in the late '90s and a straight sequel, centered on adult Danny (Ewan McGregor) in 2019.

"It's a horror story even for people who don't like horror stories — maybe especially for them." — Bruce McCabe, The Boston Globe


'The Sixth Sense'

Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

The Sixth Sense

Metascore: 64
Best for: Fans of mysterious dramas
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 107 minutes

The Sixth Sense is a psychological thriller featuring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Following a tragic encounter with a former patient, he's hired to work with Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy who claims to see ghosts. As the two begin to build a relationship, Cole opens up and shares more about his visions, which helps him come to terms with his abilities. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense was a critical, awards, and financial success, earning six Academy Award nominations and becoming the second-highest-grossing film of 1999

"The Sixth Sense might not scare you out of your wits, but it could reward them." — Richard Schickel, Time


'The Omen'

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Omen

Metascore: 62
Best for: Fans of violent horror movies
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 111 minutes

After his newborn son dies in the hospital, U.S. diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) decides to adopt another baby whose mother has just passed away during childbirth. Robert's wife Kathy (Lee Remick) is unaware of their biological son's death or the adoption, and the couple raises the new child as if it was the one she birthed. Years later, a series of eerie events begin to occur, all revolving on their now-5-year-old son Damien (Harvey Stevens), eventually culminating in tragedy. The Omen, which was released in 1976, received Oscar nominations for Best Original Song and Best Original Score (winning the latter). It also spawned sequels and an early-aughts remake.

"The Omen contains some of the most memorable untimely deaths in cinema history." — Anna Baddeley, The Telegraph


'The Ring'

Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures

The Ring

Metascore: 57
Best for: Fans of haunting thrillers
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Netflix, , Pluto TV, Vudu
Runtime: 115 minutes

The Ring, an English-language remake of a Japanese film, stars Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, a journalist investigating several deaths that appear to be related to a particular videotape. As she starts digging into the facts around the story, she begins to experience strange and inexplicable things, which all turn out to be connected to a disturbed young girl named Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase). After it premiered in 2002, the Gore Verbinski-directed The Ring grossed nearly $250 million worldwide and was followed by a pair of sequels: The Ring Two (2005) and Rings (2017).

"Has its creepy moments, but also its cliches." — Desson Thompson, The Washington Post