The Sixth Sense (1999)

1999, Buena Vista. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Mischa Barton.

Decent Films Ratings

Entertainment Value
Value (+4/-4)
? +1-1
?Teens & Up

External Ratings


Content advisory: Much creepy menace and fleeting gory images; a subplot involving a murdered child.

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The Sixth Sense (DVD & Blu-ray)

From a National Catholic Register review

By Steven D. Greydanus

A ubiquitous tagline and a mind-bending climactic twist made M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout hit The Sixth Sense a monster sensation — yet this deliberately paced, psychologically sensitive paranormal thriller is much more than a one-trick puzzle movie, and holds up well to multiple viewings. Redemption, self-understanding, catharsis, and coming to terms with life and death are all deftly woven into a moving character study that makes confident use of cinematic conventions even as it turns them upside down.

Consider the bold prologue, which finds child psychiatrist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis in an effectively muted performance) dramatically confronted with a tragic failure in his past practice. When the story resumes one year later and we see Crowe involved with a troubled young boy (10-year-old Haley Joel Osment in a star-making virtuoso turn) with familiar issues and symptoms, it’s clear from the prologue that Crowe has lost confidence in his ability to make a difference and hopes to redeem himself by helping Cole. It’s a familiar device, yet Shyamalan invests it with far more than the typical motivational significance.

Despite the unsettling ambiance and moments of real fright and horror, The Sixth Sense is fundamentally a story of three relationships. Cole’s single working mother (Toni Collette) is worried about her sensitive, unusual little boy, whose secretive unhappiness and odd behavior may be only the usual (bullies, adjustment issues) but may be something more. Crowe tries to earn Cole’s trust and understand his problems, while at the same time being sadly, ineffectually aware of what seems to be a growing rift between himself and his wife (Olivia Williams).

A few points are sketchier than they should have been. A couple of fleeting lines ("Even the scary ones"; "They only see what they want to see") gesture at ground rules that should have been more clearly established. Yet the film’s logic holds both emotionally and narratively, and Shyamalan brings satisfying closure to all of his characters and their sorrows.

Tags: Ghostly, Top Movie Moms, Drama, Horror, Thriller

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