close [×]

Dear Flixster Community,

After seven fabulous years with you all, we are sorry to let you know that we're going to be retiring the Flixster Community site on September 30, 2014. Please note that you can still access your ratings, reviews, and quizzes on Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes using your same login. We have had so much fun building this community with you.

Thanks for all the memories,

Get movie widget Recommend it Add to Favorites

Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins ... see more see more... , Heather O'Rourke , Zelda Rubinstein , Martin Casella , Richard Lawson , Michael McManus , Virginia Kiser , James Karen , Jane Feinberg , Mike Fenton , Clair E. Leucart , Jeff Bannister , Lou Perry , Dirk Blocker , Allan Graf , Joseph Walsh , Noel Conlon , Robert Broyles , Sonny Landham , William Vail , Philip Stone , Lou Perryman , Michael Mc Manus , Dominick Dunne , Oiiver Robins

With Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hopper, Steven Spielberg had his first great success as a producer. Released around the same time as Spielberg's E.T., the film presents the dark side of Spielberg's... read more read more... California suburban track homes. The film centers on the Freeling family, a typical middle class family living in the peaceful Cuesta Verde Estates. The father, Steve (Craig T. Nelson), has fallen asleep in front of the television, and the dog saunters around the house revealing the other family members -- Steve's wife Diane (JoBeth Williams), sixteen-year-old daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne), eight-year-old son Robbie (Oliver Robins), and five-year-old Carol Ann (Heather O'Rourke). Soon strange things begin to happen around the house; the pet canary dies, mysterious storms occur, and Carol Ann is summoned to the TV set, where a strange shaft of green light hits her and causes the room to shake ("They're he-e-ere!"). As curious events continue, Carol Ann is repeatedly drawn to the television, where she begins to talk to "the TV people." Soon Carol Ann is sucked into a closet, disappearing from this reality plane. Unable to find his daughter, Steve consults Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), a para-psychologist from a nearby college. Lesh finds that paranormal phenomena is so strong in the Freelong household she is unable to deal with it and sends for clairvoyant and professional exorcist Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) to examine the house in hopes of finding Carol Ann. Tangina makes a horrifying discovery: Carol Ann is alive and in the house, but is being held on another spectral plane. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Flixster Users

78% liked it

179,726 ratings


87% liked it

55 critics

DVD Release Date: April 18, 2000

Stats: 7,121 reviews

Your Rating

clear rating

Flixster Reviews (7,121)

  • fb100000040220993
    June 1, 2012
    When researching Horror films, you will undoubtedly come across, "Poltergeist". You'll also notice that the film is often showered with adulation. I have no idea why. The attraction to this movie has always been lost on me. I didn't think it was scary when I was a kid, and af... read moreter a recent viewing, I still can't establish a connection to the film. If anything, the recent screening caused me to dislike "Poltergeist" even more. The film's biggest weakness, is that all of the scares are derived through special effects. For me, this style always comes up lame. Although state-of-the-art at the time, 30 years certainly hasn't done the effects any favors. There isn't any tension or atmosphere to make the viewer uncomfortable, so once the special effects are rendered useless, all you're left with is annoying characters and poor acting. Speaking of the acting, it may unintentionally, be the most horrific part of the whole spectacle. What also makes "Poltergeist" suffer, is the fact that the film seems very impressed with itself. That's actually common in Spielberg movies, so it's not a surprise here. It also carries a constant hint of optimism, that ends up detracting from the horror. "Poltergeist" is corny nonsense. It might beat today's paranormal efforts, but that doesn't say much.
  • June 1, 2012
    A suburban home is invaded by an evil presence which befriends the family's young daughter and draws her into its spirit realm. Although Tobe Hooper is credited as director of Poltergeist, producer Steven Spielberg's fingerprints are all over it. Hooper's pedigree within the cult... read more horror fraternity as creator of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is combined with Spielberg's consummate skill as entertainer to create a hybrid that contains many of the horror standards including living trees, evil clowns, self mutilation and corpses aplenty but maintains its mainstream crowd-pleasing sensibilities. It shares a lot of ingredients with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind but this snap shot of likeable suburban America is disturbed by something far less benevolent. The special effects have actually dated surprisingly well considering and there are some great moments, particularly the disturbing kitchen scene and a great finale when coffins literally start erupting out of the ground. Kind of like Jaws for ghosts, Poltergeist is warm and funny plus creepy and chilling when it means to be and succeeds at everything it sets out to do. One of the classic family-orientated horror films.
  • fb100000716838411
    May 2, 2012
    The first time I saw this was when I was about 7 years old and it scared the everlasting crap out of me. How does it hold up now that my perspective on movies is more mature? It's still incredibly frightening. The film revolves around a normal family whose house is built on a Nat... read moreive American burial ground and the spirits are all pissed. The haunting begins with simple stuff like chairs moving and the pet bird dying, but it's all just build up to what will be the ultimate scares. One night the daughter claims to be able to hear people talking from the TV in the parents room and the parents become increasingly concerned. (Even though nowadays they would've just put her in a straight-jacket and dragged her off to an asylum.) The daughter eventually gets sucked into her closet by the spirits and she disappears. To make things more crazy, a tree outside the house comes to life and tries to eat the son. Now the rest of the movie is focused on trying to rescue the daughter. The thing I like most about the movie is the scares are genuine. There's no jump scares or predictable cliches, it's all about the possibility of the afterlife and the evil side it has. The atmosphere and mood of the movie is really well done too. The setting feels realistic enough and when the characters are in trouble, you actually feel the intensity, confusion and fright behind what is happening. One particular scene that is going to stay etched in my brain is the scene with clown. The son has a really creepy toy clown sitting at the end of his bed and all it does it stares. The kid puts a shirt over it, but I would've taken a more drastic decision. I'd take it, break into a house and plant it in a random kids room. That clown is his problem now, if I don't have to deal with it staring at me, then I'm fine if the other kid has sleepless nights. Well the clown comes to life and attacks the kid. It is still a really scary scene. To start, we've all had to deal with a scary looking toy we don't like at least once in our life. For me, it was a Chucky doll my dad bought to mess with me when I was 9. (Things didn't improve when he put it in my bed when I was sleeping and I had to wake up to it staring at me.) Another thing scary about the scene is the tension. We don't immediately see the clown come to life, we just see it has moved from where it usually sits. We know the clown is alive and somewhere in the room, and the suspense is just perfect. Another terrifying scene is when one guy is looking in the mirror and he starts to tear apart his face. It may have looked really good back then, but now it looks fake. Still, you have to appreciate the special effects guy for not relying on CGI for the scene. Most horror movies today overuse CGI and try to make it look scary, when really it just sucks. Puppetry and animatronics are the way to go. This will be remembered as one of the scariest movies of all time, it's also influential for pop culture and other horror movies. Poltergeist had a couple sequels, but I still like to remember it as a lone film because it's just that great.
  • March 7, 2012
    It's scary, tense and filled with memorable characters and lines. Poltergeist most intriguingly never fails to break it's eery feeling once the ghostly activity begins despite it's utter silliness.
  • fb1341085175
    October 25, 2011
    This is like riding The Haunted Mansion at a Disney park when you are a kid - consistently creepy but also with a foot well set on the fantastical side of the macabre, which is enough for you to know that you will get safely to the end. As a "right of passage" film (for those who... read more are old enough to watch it but not old enough for something to the likes of "The Exorcist"), it is one of the essential ones. As movie magic goes, it is one of those that haunts our childhood dreams. No matter that Tobe Hopper gets the directing credits, it has Spielberg's fingerprints all over it. And even then the disruption of the American family came out of the TV.
  • October 1, 2011
    POLTERGEIST is an entertaining, original (at the time, as there have been so many closely related films such as INSIDIOUS, THE OTHERS, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, to name the very recent) thrill-fest.

    This film stars JoBeth Williams, is produced by Steven Spielberg, and is direct... read moreed by Tobe Hooper. JoBeth Williams performed solidly; Tobe Hooper, who had already had experience with horror movies from directing THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, directed phenomenally; and as for Steven Spielberg, this has to be his best film for which he does not serve as director.

    POLTERGEIST tells the frightening story of a family that is haunted by a mysterious entity. Their toddler-aged daughter can easily tell that "they're here", and at first her parents think she is fooling around. But when she is suctioned into the television set and cannot possibly escape, their minds have changed.

    Like I said, this was one of the very first haunted house movies, and even for that, it had a twist, which was the girl being sucked into the TV. It isn't overly complex (though slightly), and it is original, well-processed, and a full-speed thrill ride.
  • August 17, 2011
    One of the scariest movies I have ever seen.
  • fb729949618
    August 9, 2011
    Modern horror classic. It could've used better visuals, but it's 1982.....who's complaining?
  • August 2, 2011
    Tobe Hooper's horror classic is clearly produced by Spielberg. The happy but somewhat chaotic families, with the male kids having Star Wars toys all over their rooms, much like in many Spielberg films of the era, still give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Here the haunting of the... read moreir house starts slowly but gets wilder by the minute, culminating in a pretty fiery showdown. That's the only part of the film that still labels as scary, making the most of the genre within 15 minutes. But even before that, the lovable (minor) characters and good set up still keep the audience's interest after all these years. While the effects may not have aged all that well, the film still works as a relic from those good old times.
  • fb619846742
    July 23, 2011
    A well-conceived and delivered horror film from the mind of Steven Spielberg, detailing a family of five and their encounters with out-of-this-world forces and how they must rescue their youngest daughter who these forces have inexplicably taken from them. Although at times it is... read more rather corny and not as scary as it thinks it really is, this movie is still undeniably thrilling while still possessing a sweet side to it few horror movies possess. Just when you think things have wrapped up nicely, Spielberg inserts a few nicely developed twists into the mix, and the result is something irrefutably satisfying. Not a great movie but any means, but definitely solid popcorn entertainment, with a more than capable cast leading the way.

Critic Reviews

June 1, 2011
TIME Magazine

The film delivers honest special-effects shocks without forfeiting its good nature. Full Review

Variety Staff
September 25, 2007
Variety Staff, Variety

Given the talents, Poltergeist is an annoying film because it could have been so much better. Full Review

Dave Kehr
September 25, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Though the shocks are well conveyed, it's the sweetness that lingers, making this the first cute and cuddly entry in the genre. Full Review

February 9, 2006
Time Out

It is consistently redeemed by its creator's dazzling sense of craft. Full Review

Roger Ebert
October 23, 2004
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Hooper and Spielberg hold our interest by observing the everyday rituals of this family so closely that, since the family seems real, the weird events take on a certain credibility by association. Full Review

Vincent Canby
May 20, 2003
Vincent Canby, New York Times

Poltergeist is like a thoroughly enjoyable nightmare, one that you know that you can always wake up from, and one in which, at the end, no one has permanently been damaged. It's also witty in a fashio... Full Review

Alan Jones
September 11, 2013
Alan Jones, Radio Times

Hooper's direction may lack its usual edgy personality -- apparently over-ruled by Spielberg's script suggestions -- but he puts on a dazzling show, and the intuitive performances are uniformly on the... Full Review

Ralph Novak
September 11, 2013
Ralph Novak, People Magazine

Hooper and Spielberg have worked long and hard to bring the ghost story to its fullest potential. They have succeeded. Full Review

David Keyes
June 29, 2013
David Keyes,

"Poltergeist" is a lot more dedicated to its cause than most viewers today are probably used to. It builds to something of value. That may not make it the most profound film of its genre by any stretc... Full Review

Emanuel Levy
February 19, 2013
Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com

Spielberg, here credited as producer as co-writer, shows the other (darker) side of suburbia in this horror film, made in the same year as the superior E.T. Full Review

Critic ratings and reviews powered by

Fresh (60% or more critics rated the movie positively)

Rotten (59% or fewer critics rated the movie positively)

More Like This

Click a thumb to vote on that suggestion, or add your own suggestions.

  • 1408
    1408 (98%)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
    A Nightmare on Elm Street (96%)
  • Insidious
    Insidious (94%)
  • Saw
    Saw (87%)


    • Carol Anne: They're here!
    • Steve: [shouting in Teague's face] You son of a bitch! You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! You-only-moved-the-headstones! Lies! Lies!
    • Tangina: This house is clean.
    • Steve: Look, something's funny going on here next door. Something.
    • Diane: We were wondering if maybe you had experienced any disturbances.
    • Tuthill: What kind of disturbances?
    • Diane: Oh, you know, like dishes or furniture moving around by themselves.
    • Diane: Now reach back into our past when you used to have an open mind, remember that? Just try to use that for the next couple of minutes.
    • Diane: It's like another side nature, that you and I aren't qualified to understand. When you overreact, it makes what happened much to important.

Poltergeist : Watch Free on TV

Poltergeist Trivia

  • A number of unusual deaths has happened to the cast of what movie?  Answer »
  • "Poltergeist" - "Tootsie" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" were released in what year?  Answer »
  • In the Harry Potter movies, which ghost is not tied to a specifuc Hogwarts house?  Answer »
  • In which California city does Poltergeist take place?  Answer »

Movie Quizzes

Video Clips

No video clips yet. Want to upload one?

Recent News

Recent Lists

Most Popular Skin