The Sixth Sense
|The Sixth Sense|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Written by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Andrew Mondshein|
|Box office||$672.8 million|
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American supernatural thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. The film established Shyamalan as a writer and director, and introduced the cinema public to his traits, most notably his affinity for surprise endings.
Released by Hollywood Pictures on August 6, 1999, the film was received well; critics highlighted the performances (especially by Osment and Willis), its atmosphere, and twist conclusion. The film was the second highest grossing film of 1999 (behind Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), grossing about $293 million domestically and $672 million worldwide. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Osment.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist living in Philadelphia, returns to his home with his wife, Anna Crowe, after having been honored for his work. Anna tells Malcolm that everything is second to his work. Their private moment is interrupted when an obviously agitated young man appears in their bathroom, accusing Malcolm of failing him. Malcolm recognizes him as Vincent Grey, a former patient whom he treated as a child for severe hallucinations. Vincent shoots Malcolm before killing himself.
The next fall, Malcolm begins working with another patient, 9-year-old Cole Sear, whose case is similar to Vincent's. Malcolm becomes dedicated to the boy, though he is haunted by doubts over his ability to help him after his failure with Vincent. Meanwhile, his wife hardly pays any attention to him. Cole eventually confides his secret to Malcolm: he sees dead people, who walk around like the living unaware they are dead.
At first, Malcolm thinks Cole is delusional and has reservations about keeping him as a patient. However, remembering Vincent, Malcolm listens to an audiotape from a session with Vincent, then a child. On the tape, Malcolm is heard leaving the room, and when he returned, Vincent was crying. Turning up the volume, Malcolm hears a weeping man begging for help in Spanish, and now believes that Cole is telling the truth and that Vincent may have had the same ability. He suggests to Cole that he should try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts and perhaps aid them with their unfinished business. At first, Cole is unwilling since the ghosts terrify him, but he finally decides to do it. That night, Cole is confronted by the ghost of Kyra Collins, a young ill girl who recently died and despite his initial fear, he speaks with her, asking if there's anything she needs to share with him. The next day, Cole goes to Kyra's funeral reception with Malcolm. Kyra's ghost has directed Cole to a box holding a videotape, which Cole then passes on to her father. The video shows Kyra's step-mother poisoning her, revealing the true reason she died and saving Kyra's younger sister who had become the mother's new victim.
Learning to live with the ghosts he sees, Cole starts to fit in at school, even securing the lead in the school play, which Malcolm attends. The doctor and patient depart on good terms, and Cole suggests to Malcolm that he should try speaking to Anna while she is asleep. Later, while stuck in a traffic jam, Cole confesses his secret to his mother, Lynn, telling that someone died in an accident up ahead and explaining that he knows because the person is right next to him (the victim, a woman cyclist showing signs of the trauma of the accident, is shown next to Cole in one shot, but is invisible in another which favors his mothers perspective). Although Lynn is at first distraught by the apparent signs of mental illness in her son, Cole proves his ability to her by talking about how his grandmother visits him. Lynn becomes even more concerned by Cole's comments, but by discussing emotional details about the past relationship between his mother and grandmother (details that neither he nor anyone else could know of, aside from Lynn), he is able to convince her of the truth, and she tearfully embraces him.
Malcolm returns home, where he finds his wife asleep with their wedding video playing. Still asleep, Anna asks Malcolm why he left her, and then drops Malcolm's wedding ring; looking at his hand, Malcolm finds the ring missing, though it has been present in past scenes. He remembers what Cole said about ghosts not realizing that they are dead and comes to understand that he was actually killed by Vincent that night, and was unknowingly dead the entire time he was working with Cole. Because of Cole's efforts, Malcolm's unfinished business – rectifying his failure to understand and help Vincent – is finally complete. Having only one unfinished piece of business, he bids an emotional farewell to his wife, telling her she was never second, and that he loves her. Realizing that, far from being emotionally distant from him, his wife has not been able to move on from his death. He tells her to sleep well and that "everything will be different in the morning"; the camera pans to the wedding video and the shot fades out with the implication that Malcolm, now at peace, has moved on from the world of the living.
- Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe
- Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear
- Toni Collette as Lynn Sear
- Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe
- Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey
- Glenn Fitzgerald as Sean
- Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins
- Trevor Morgan as Tommy Tammisimo
- Bruce Norris as Mr. Stanley Cunningham
- Angelica Page as Mrs. Collins
- Greg Wood as Mr. Collins
- M. Night Shyamalan as Dr. Hill
- Peter Tambakis as Darren
- Jeffrey Zubernis as Bobby
David Vogel, then-president of production of The Walt Disney Studios, read Shyamalan's speculative script and instantly loved it. Without obtaining corporate approval, Vogel bought the rights to the script, despite the high price of $3 million and the stipulation that Shyamalan could direct the film. Disney later dismissed Vogel from his position at the studio, with Vogel leaving the company shortly thereafter. Disney—apparently in a show of little confidence in the film—sold the production rights to Spyglass Entertainment, while retaining the distribution rights and 12.5% of the film's box office receipt.
The color red is intentionally absent from most of the film, but is used prominently in a few isolated shots for "anything in the real world that has been tainted by the other world" and "to connote really explosively emotional moments and situations". Examples include the door of the church where Cole seeks sanctuary; the balloon, carpet, and Cole's sweater at the birthday party; the tent in which he first encounters Kyra; the volume numbers on Crowe's tape recorder; the doorknob on the locked basement door where Malcolm's office is located; the shirt that Anna wears at the restaurant; Kyra's step-mother's dress at the wake; and the shawl wrapped around the sleeping Anna.
All of the clothes Malcolm wears during the film are items he wore or touched the evening before his death, which included his overcoat, his blue rowing sweatshirt and the different layers of his suit. Though the filmmakers were careful about clues of Malcolm's true state, the camera zooms slowly towards his face when Cole says, "I see dead people." In a special feature, the filmmakers mention they initially feared this would be too much of a giveaway, but decided to leave it in.
The film had a production budget of approximately $40 million (plus $25 million for prints and advertising). It grossed $26.6 million in its opening weekend and spent five weeks as the No. 1 film at the U.S. box office. It earned $293,506,292 in the United States and a worldwide gross of $672,806,292, ranking it 35th on the list of box-office money earners in the U.S. as of April 2010. In the United Kingdom, it was given at first a limited release at 9 screens, and entered at No. 8 before climbing up to No. 1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.
The Sixth Sense received positive reviews; Osment in particular was singled out for his acting. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 86% of 148 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 7.6/10. The site's consensus reads: "M Night Shayamalan's The Sixth Sense is a twisty ghost story with all the style of a classical Hollywood picture, but all the chills of a modern horror flick." Metacritic rated it 64 out of 100 based on 35 reviews.
By vote of the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Sixth Sense was awarded the Nebula Award for Best Script during 1999. The film was No. 71 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the scene where Cole encounters a female ghost in his tent. It was named the 89th Best Film of all time by the American Film Institute in 2007.
The line "I see dead people" from the film became a popular catchphrase after its release, scoring No. 44 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. The Sixth Sense also scored 60th place on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills, honoring America's most "heart pounding movies". It also appears on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition), a list of America's 100 greatest movies of all time.
The Sixth Sense has received numerous awards and nominations, with Academy Award nomination categories ranging from those honoring the film itself (Best Picture), to its writing, editing, and direction (Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Original Screenplay), to its cast's performance (Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress). Especially lauded was the supporting role of actor Haley Joel Osment, whose nominations include an Academy Award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, and a Golden Globe Award. Overall, The Sixth Sense was nominated for six Academy Awards and four British Academy Film Awards, but won none. The film received three nominations from the People's Choice Awards and won all of them, with lead actor Bruce Willis being honored for his role. The Satellite Awards nominated the film in four categories, with awards being received for writing (M. Night Shyamalan) and editing (Andrew Mondshein). Supporting actress Toni Collette was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Satellite award for her role in the film. James Newton Howard was honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for his composition of the music for the film.
American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 60
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "I see dead people." – No. 44
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 89
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- Producer Barry Mendel, "Rules and Clues" bonus featurette on the DVD.
- Producer Frank Marshall, "Rules and Clues" bonus featurette on the DVD.
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- The Sixth Sense at the Internet Movie Database
- The Sixth Sense at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Sixth Sense at AllMovie
- The Sixth Sense at Rotten Tomatoes