Cinematical Seven The Ghosts That Always WANT Something

    Watching 'Ghost Town' gives you that haunted feeling. It's not like someone's watching you; instead, you're watching something you've seen before. Strip away its particular trappings -- Ricky Gervais' sublime performance as a bitchy dentist, Tea Leoni's neurotic turn as a widowed Egyptologist -- and 'Ghost Town' belongs to an offbeat but popular genre: needy ghosts, and the living who help them. In honor of David Koepp's comedy, we count down others films of its ilk, from best to worst. -- By Raven Snook

    Dreamworks

    7. 'Heart and Souls' (1993)
    Robert Downey Jr. has the misfortune of being born at the exact moment that four folks with unfinished business die in a bus crash. When he grows up, he's forced into fixing their messes. As he helps the quartet of quirky characters (played by Charles Grodin,Alfre Woodard, Kyra Sedgwick and Tom Sizemore), he learns the joys of selflessness. Much as we love vintage Downey, the film could have used a little more help from the living.

    Universal / Everett Collection

    6. 'Just Like Heaven' (2005)
    Reese Witherspoon gets into a car accident and ends up in a coma. Somehow, her amnesia-stricken spirit finds a way to haunt her old apartment as well as its new tenant, Mark Ruffalo, who must help her remember who she is. This goofy romantic comedy tweaks the premise -- after all, she isn't dead, technically -- but it's pretty much the same old story, except here it's the living helping the unconscious.

    AP

    5. 'Heaven Can Wait' (1978)
    A star quarterback gets to heaven before his time. The powers that be send him back to earth in the body of Warren Beatty, a millionaire who's just been killed by his wife and secretary. Not only does Beatty insist on trying to lead his old team to the Super Bowl, he also makes up for his dead host's dastardly deeds. Chris Rock remade this movie as 'Down to Earth' in 2001, but adding racial humor wasn't an improvement.

    Paramount Pictures / ZUMA Press

    4. 'The Time of Their Lives' (1946)
    A flop in its day, this Abbott and Costello comedy features two executed Revolutionary War "traitors" trying to clear their names 170 years later -- with the help of the living, of course. Surprisingly, A&C are not the spirits in question. Costello's partner in dieing is Marjorie Reynolds, while Abbott plays two roles: the villain who framed them, and his guilt-ridden descendant, who helps them get to heaven. A real curio and decidedly ahead of its time.

    ZUMA Press

    3. 'Angels in the Outfield' (1951)
    God's emissaries and a little orphan girl help a baseball team and its surly manager hit a winning streak. An inversion of the premise -- here the living need the help of the dead -- the film and its 1994 remake have still got that dead/alive synergy going on.

    Everett Collection

    2. 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)
    It's hard to remember back to a time when cinephiles took M. Night Shyamalan seriously, but this engrossing ghost tale impressed filmgoers with its eerie mood and twist ending. From the moment Haley Joel Osment admits, "I see dead people" you know he's going to have to help them. What you don't know, though, is that he's going to have to help his therapist Bruce Willis face the fact that he's deceased. Oh snap!

    Spyglass Entertainment Group,LP

    1. 'Beetlejuice' (1988)
    The ultimate living-assisting-the-dead flick, the "strange and unusual" Winona Ryder helps a pair of deceased newlyweds take back their house from pretentious urban art folk. Along the way she battles animated sculptures, her strident step-mom and a sex-crazed Michael Keaton in white pancake and prison duds. Plus she lip-syncs "Jump in the Line." The dead clearly have a lot more fun than we do.

    Geffen Pictures / ZUMA Press

categories Cinematical