In Charlie St. Cloud, the Zac Efron weepie opening today, the title character is a young man so traumatized by his little brother’s death that he makes a deal to play catch with his sibling’s ghost every day at sunset, indefinitely. Five years later, Charlie is a very handsome, very weird guy who has abandoned college, women, sailboats, and friends because it’s hard to have a normal conversation, let alone be a normal person, when you’re talking to ghosts at rigidly scheduled, daily intervals. Of course, compared to other movie spirits, Charlie’s brother is low maintenance — he’s not asking Charlie to go hunt down his murderer, or convince his girlfriend that he really, truly loves her. He just wants to play catch. Click through the slideshow to see some other ghosts who have been significantly more demanding.
Put-Upon Human: Lydia (Winona Ryder), the ghost-seeing Goth girl living in a haunted house.
Pushy Ghost: The unhinged, dangerous, grotesque Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton).
Inconvenient Request: “Request” is perhaps too polite a term for how Betelgeuse asks for things. What he demands of the teenage Lydia is her hand in marriage (and kindly supplies her with a ring from a dismembered finger).
Put-Upon Human: Streetwise medium and con woman Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg, in her Oscar-winning performance).
Pushy Ghost: Loving husband Sam (Patrick Swayze), who has been recently murdered by a friend.
Inconvenient Requests: Sam makes quite a nuisance of himself, asking Oda Mae to convince his wife (Demi Moore) he’s still lurking around; to prove his so-called friend is actually a murderer; to stop the so-called friend from macking on Sam’s wife; to stop the so-called friend from stealing Sam’s money; to stop the so-called friend from murdering Sam’s wife; to let Sam possess her body to have sex with his wife; to let Sam possess her body so he can sexily throw pots with his wife. Even with an Oscar in return, that is above and beyond what qualifies as a “favor.”
Put-Upon Human: Curmudgeonly dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais).
Pushy Ghost: Bad husband in life, keen to be good husband in death Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear).
Inconvenient Requests: Frank’s request for Pincus is simple. His wife Gwen is getting married to a “real scumbag lawyer, a bad, bad guy” and, guess what? “Somebody’s got to stop this.” Of course Pincus ends up falling for Gwen himself, but before he can deserve her, he has to entertain some other lesser ghosts’ wishes. As a result, Pincus finds himself not only breaking up a relationship, but fetching one long-lost letter and one long-lost stuffed animal at the behest of some dead people.
Put-Upon Human: Cole “I See Dead People” Sear (Hayley Joel Osment).
Pushy Ghost: [Spoiler alert?] Child psychologist and oblivious ghost Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis).
Inconvenient Requests: Cole’s relationships with ghosts is a bit more problematic than any of the other humans on this list. In other films, ghosts ask for what they want (“keep my wife from marrying that guy!”), but in The Sixth Sense, the ghosts aren’t always so articulate since they don’t always even know they’re dead. (Plus, they’re scary.) One murdered spirit (played by Mischa Barton at the pinnacle of her theatrical accomplishments) asks Cole to deliver a videotape to her father; another asks to be let out of a cupboard; all the rest are asking to be relieved of their misery.
Put-Upon Humans: The three children of Elliott Hopper (see below).
Pushy Ghost: Overworked father of three, Elliott Hopper (Bill Cosby).
Inconvenient Requests: In the critically savaged, Sidney Poitier–directed film, the tables have turned, and it’s largely humans making the demands. Despite no longer having a body, Elliot’s still got responsibilities. His boss wants him on the job, his family needs his income, and his son is demanding to learn magic tricks. Of course, it turns out Elliot’s not a ghost in the strictest sense, rather he’s just not quite dead yet. Before returning to his body, and life, he makes his one major request as a spectre, and it’s not so inconvenient, asking his half-dead daughter to choose life.
Put-Upon Human: Unhinged, not-very-good medium Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon)
Pushy Ghost: Raped, murdered, mentally disabled woman Samantha Kozac.
Inconvenient Requests: Samantha wants Tom to find out who killed her and almost drives him crazy in the process. She haunts him continuously, eventually demanding that Tom “dig.” He starts in the backyard, but moves onto the house, which he takes apart with a jack and sledge hammer before finding her body in the basement. She finds peace; he stops going nuts.
Put-Upon Human: Widow and mother Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney).
Pushy Ghost: Swashbuckling seaman Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison).
Inconvenient Requests: When Mrs. Muir moves into a haunted house, she falls in love with the resident ghost, who makes himself a bother in only one, good intentioned way. He tells her to go be with a living dude, apparently lacking the sixth sense (ba dum dum) to see that said man is already married.
Put-Upon Human: Grieving girlfriend Nina (Juliet Stevenson).
Pushy Ghost: Dead boyfriend Jamie (Alan Rickman).
Inconvenient Requests: Jamie’s requests aren’t as inconvenient as most ghosts’, since Nina wants him around. When he first shows up she couldn’t be happier to see him, and the two go back to rapturously co-habitating. With time, Jamie becomes more of a nuisance, which may well be the point of his return — getting Nina to a place where she can “let go.” Still, he does have some annoying habits, like expecting Nina to keep the apartment scorching hot and to put up with the loud, nerdy ghost friends he brings back to the apartment late at night.
Put-Upon Human: Uptight, married banker Cosmo Topper (Roland Young).
Pushy Ghosts: Rich, rambunctious, fabulous married couple George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett).
Inconvenient Requests: The dead Kerbys get it in their head that Topper must lighten up and learn to have some fun, which is to say they insist he get drunk and go to parties. As a direct result, Topper is arrested, charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, written up in the papers, and in big trouble with his wife. All in all, a small price to pay for hanging with Cary Grant.
Put-Upon Humans: The Ghostbusters.
Pushy Ghosts: There are hundreds, but the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is a standout.
Inconvenient Requests: Needing to be trapped, destroyed, and otherwise contained, all of the time. It’s a chore, really.