Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist in Philadelphia, returns home one night with his wife, Anna Crowe (Olivia Williams), after having been honored for his work. He says that everything in the world is second to his job including her. The two then discover that they are not alone; a young man appears brandishing a gun. He says that he does not want to be afraid anymore and accuses Crowe of failing him. Crowe recognizes him as Vincent Gray (Donnie Wahlberg), a former patient whom he treated as a child for hallucinations. Gray shoots Crowe in the abdomen, and seconds later kills himself with the gun.
The next autumn, Crowe begins working with another patient, eight-year-old Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who has a condition similar to Vincent's. Crowe becomes dedicated to the boy, though he is haunted by doubts over his ability to help him after his failure with Vincent. Meanwhile, he is also very worried that his relationship with his wife is beginning to end due to his dedication to his work.
Once Crowe earns his trust, Cole eventually confides in him that he "sees dead people... walking around like regular people". One ghost who appears to Cole is an overworked wife, abused by her husband, who has slit her wrists. Another that tries to hurt Cole is only heard as a voice who pleads with Cole to let him out of a dark cupboard, then yells that he didn't steal "the Master's horse" and threatens to attack Cole. A third ghost is a boy with a large gunshot exit wound on the back of his head who asks Cole to come with him to find his father's gun.
Though Crowe at first thinks Cole is delusional, he eventually comes to believe that Cole is telling the truth and that Vincent may have had the same ability to perceive ghosts. He suggests to Cole that he should try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts, perhaps to aid them with their unfinished business on Earth. Cole at first does not want to, because the ghosts terrify him, but he finally decides to try it. He talks to one of the ghosts, a very ill girl who appears in his bedroom and promptly vomits in his tent. He finds where the girl, Kyra Collins (Mischa Barton), lived and goes to her house during her funeral reception. Kyra died after a prolonged illness and funeral guests note that Kyra's younger sister is starting to get sick, too. Kyra's ghost appears and gives Cole a box, which is opened to reveal a videotape. When Cole gives it to Kyra's father, the videotape shows Kyra's stepmother putting floor cleaner fluid in Kyra's food while she cared for Kyra during her illness.
Cole confesses his secret to his mother, Lynn (Toni Collette). Although his mother at first does not believe him, Cole soon tells Lynn that her own mother once went to see her perform in a dance recital one night when she was a child, and that Lynn was not aware of this because her mother stayed in the back of the audience where she could not be seen. He also tells her that the answer to a question she asked when alone at her mother's grave, "Do I make you proud?", was "Every day". Lynn tearfully accepts this as the truth.
Crowe returns to his home, where he finds his wife asleep on the couch with the couple's wedding video playing, not for the first time. As she sleeps, Anna's hand releases Malcolm's wedding ring (which he suddenly discovers he has not been wearing), revealing to Crowe that he was actually killed by Vincent and was unknowingly dead the entire time he was working with Cole. Due to Cole's efforts, Crowe's unfinished business—rectifying his failure to understand Vincent—is finally complete. Recalling Cole's advice, Crowe speaks to his sleeping wife and fulfills the second reason he returned, saying she was "never second", and that he loves her. Letting her live her own life, he is free to leave the world of the living and Cole had learned to live with the ghosts as it had become a part of his life.
- Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe
- Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear
- Toni Collette as Lynn Sear
- Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe
- Trevor Morgan as Tommy Tammisimo
- Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey
- Peter Tambakis as Darren
- Jeffrey Zubernis as Bobby
- Bruce Norris as Stanley Cunningham
- Glenn Fitzgerald as Sean
- Greg Wood as Mr. Collins
- Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins
- Angelica Torn as Mrs. Collins
- Lisa Summerour as Bridesmaid
- Firdous Bamji as Young Man Buying Ring
- Samia Shoaib as Young Woman Buying Ring
- Hayden Saunier as Darren's Mom
- Janis Dardaris as Kitchen Woman
- Neill Hartley as Visitor #2
- Sarah Ripard as Visitor #3
- Heidi Fischer as Visitor #4
- KaDee Strickland as Visitor #5
- Michael J. Lyons as Visitor #6
- Samantha Fitzpatrick as Kyra's Sister
- Holly Rudkin as Society Lady #1
- Kate Kearney-Patch as Society Lady #2
- Marilyn Shanok as Woman at Accident
- M. Night Shyamalan as Dr. Hill
- Wes Heywood as Commercial Narrator
- Nico Woulard as Hanged Child
- Carol Nielson as Hanged Female
- Keith Woulard as Hanged Male
- Jodi Dawson as Burnt Teacher
- Tony Donnelly as Gunshot Boy
- Ronnie Lea as Secretary
- Carlos X. López as Spanish Ghost on Tape
- Gino Inverso as Young Vincent
- Ellen Sheppard as Mrs. Sloan
According to the book DisneyWar, Disney's David Vogel read Shyamalan's speculative script and instantly loved it. Without obtaining approval from his boss, Vogel bought the rights to the script, despite the high price of US$2 million and the stipulation that Shyamalan could direct the film. Disney later dismissed Vogel as President of Walt Disney Pictures, and Vogel left the company. Disney, apparently in a show of little confidence in the film, sold the production rights to Spyglass Entertainment, and kept only a 12.5% distribution fee for itself.
In the commentary from the film Superbad, Michael Cera said that his first film audition was for the role of Cole Sear.
Donnie Wahlberg lost 43 pounds to achieve his character's emaciated form.
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 color of 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 mother's dress at the wake; and the shawl wrapped around the sleeping Anna when Malcolm realizes he is a ghost.
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 a dead giveaway, but decided to leave it in.
The film received positive reviews from critics, with an 85% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 64 rating on Metacritic.
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 #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 #8 before climbing up to #1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.
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 #71 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the scene where Cole encounters a female ghost in his tent. It was also recently named the 89th Best Film of all time by the American Film Institute during 2007.
The line "I see dead people" from the film became a popular catchphrase after its release, scoring #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 nomination categories ranging from those honoring the film itself (Best Film), to its writing, editing, and direction (Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay), to its cast's performance (Best Actor/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 Publisher for his composition of the music for the film.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills - #60
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes:
- "I see dead people." - #44
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - #89
- The Sixth Sense at the Internet Movie Database
- The Sixth Sense at AllRovi
- The Sixth Sense at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Sixth Sense - M. Night Shyamalan Online
- Recognition Values: Seeing The Sixth Sense Again for the First Time, essay by Laurence A. Richels, Other Voices, March 2002.
- Radio Interview with Sixth Sense Producer Frank Marshall from FBi 94.5 Sydney Australia
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