Box art for The Frighteners

The Frighteners

Peter Jackson directs Michael J. Fox as a "ghost buster" who is in over his head in this special-effects-packed supernatural chiller that's so fiendishly entertaining, it's frightening!

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
Positive messages
1 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
2 out of 5
5 out of 5

Violent, frenzied, foul-mouthed ghost comedy.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this horror-comedy includes over-the-top violence, with glowing ghosts (some in various stages of decomposition) dismembered, squished, slashed, mashed, and shot. Abundant gunfire includes a Columbine-style massacre, with multiple fatalities. One shotgun blast blows up a head off. Nightmarish visuals include zombie-like rotting-corpse ghosts and mummies and one closeup of a recently dead, worm-eaten face. Don't-try-this-at-home stuff ranges from reckless driving to drug-induced comas and falls from high places. Swearing is pretty constant. Off-color jokes refer obscurely to sex and hemorrhoids (not at the same time, at least).

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the popularity of ghost stories. Ask kids if they like them straight-up scary or funny.
  • The undead villain in this movie is obsessed with serial killers, dropping the names of several and aspiring to "score" higher body counts. Why are so many people fascinated by serial killers? Do the media glamorize them?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 18
    see all The Frighteners reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: An incredibly underrated scare-comedy from Peter Jackson that deserves a much wider audience.

- Blake Davis, KFOR Channel 4 News, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: Despite being awful in almost every respect, The Frighteners does offer one small pleasure: R. Lee Ermey parodying his Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant character.

- Chuck O'Leary, Fantastica Daily, Thursday, June 24, 2010


- Dragan Antulov,, Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Audience Reviews

3 stars

"Death is no way to make a living!" After a tragic accident, Frank Bannister uses his new psychic powers to con people into "exorcising" their houses. But when an evil spirit appears, Frank may be the only one who can stop this "Reaper" that can kill both the living and dead. REVIEW The Frighteners, Peter Jackson's fifth feature film and the first to have major studio backing, is a near perfect blend of comedy and horror-a mix so many fail to get right but which is nailed right on the head by the Kiwi prodigy. The always superb Michael J. Fox stars as psychic conman Frank Bannister, who, along with his three ghostly pals, makes a living 'cleansing' haunted properties in the town of Fairweather (in reality the 'hauntings' are planned by Frank, with his dead chums doing the spooky stuff). But the people of Fairweather have more to worry about than the paranormal scam artist and his buddies; someone or something is killing the citizens of the small town and no-one has a clue what is going on. That is until Frank witnesses one of the slayings; a supernatural cloaked figure (resembling The Grim Reaper) is behind the deaths and Frank, his three deceased companions, and the wife of one of the recent victims set out to solve the mystery of exactly who or what the killer is. With an amazing cast including horror faves Dee Wallace-Stone and Jeffrey Combs, toothy Jake Busey, and Lee R. Ermey from Full Metal Jacket, Jackson expertly crafts a tense tale of terror, punctuated with loads of funny moments. This film also marks the moment that Jackson started his love affair with CGI, and he pushes the technology of the day to its limits, delivering some truly astounding effects. As the story unfolds, Jackson cranks up the horror aspect, building slowly and carefully to a great finale in which all of the plot threads tie up nicely.

- LorenzoVonMatterhorn, Wednesday, August 22, 2012

4 stars

A good ghost story, it's exciting, dramatic, and funny. I don't think I would have picked Fox for the leading man, but the rest of the cast is pretty good. Overall this is an enjoyable movie.

- ajv2688, Saturday, July 9, 2011

4 stars

Peter Jackson's The Frighteners is departure from his previous films. Those familiar with Peter Jackson's first cinematic outings, know what I'm talking about. Jackson conjure's up a visual feast for the eyes as he tells the story of charlatan Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) who has actual psychic powers, but doesn't use them to help, instead he uses them to make a quick buck off of un expecting people. The Frighteners is a terrific horror film, one of many others that Peter Jackson has put out. The cast are great and the special effects are terrific. Considering that this was made in 1996 and CGI was still in it's infancy, the results are impressive. The film looks good, and the cast all deliver great performance. I especially enjoyed Jeffrey Combs, who is always a nutcase in everything he does. Jake Busey was also good here. Peter Jackson would later find fame with The Lord Of The Rings, but The Frighteners was really the stepping stone for him to make that film. He wanted to explore more the use of special effects so he went on to create one of the best trilogies ever filmed. The Frighteners is a terrific, underrated horror comedy and if you love Peter Jackson's films, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. The film is a lot of fun, and is one of Peter Jackson's best along with the LOTR Trilogy, Bad Taste and Dead Alive.

- TheDudeLebowski65, Saturday, July 9, 2011