Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Others (2001)

Go To

The Others is a 2001 supernatural horror film directed by Alejandro Amenábar, and starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston and Fionnula Flanagan. It became the first English-language film ever to receive the Best Film Award at Spain's Goya Awards.

The film is set on the British Channel Island of Jersey in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and follows devout Catholic Grace Stewart and her two young children, Anne and Nicholas, who both suffer from a rare disease which means that they cannot risk exposure to sunlight as it will be fatal to them. The arrival of three servants coincides with a number of odd and increasingly disturbing events - disembodied voices, strange noises and the children claiming to have seen several ghostly figures - causing Grace to fight to save her children while struggling to keep her sanity.

Known for its multiple reveals and Twist Ending. Beware of spoilers below.

This film provides examples of:

  • Afterlife Angst: It turns out that all the main characters (Grace Stewart, her children, and three servants) are dead; it was difficult for the Stewarts to accept this, but once they did, it allowed them to overcome their family issues. Despite this, one of the servants (the girl called Lydia) went mute as a result of this difficulty when she realized that she was dead.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Grace discovers that her new servants are all dead when she finds a post-mortem photo of them in their quarters, the three having died from an outbreak of tuberculosis. In reality, tuberculosis can eat away at an infected person for years, making it highly unlikely that the three would have died simultaneously even if they all got infected in the outbreak.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Stewarts were dead all along, and died in a very tragic manner, but realising and accepting this has allowed them to overcome their dysfunctional family issues.
  • Break the Haughty: Grace is very adamant and almost smug in her rock solid belief in Catholic doctrine. She completely breaks when she realizes she is in the afterlife and it is not at all what her faith promised her. When Anne asks why, she quietly responds that she simply does not know.
  • Broken Bird: Lydia, who has been left mute due to an unspecified (until the ending) trauma, and is generally very shy and constantly looks miserable. Grace also qualifies, as she's been through World War II, her husband is missing and presumed dead, and has been stuck raising her young children in darkness and isolation.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When Anne refuses to tell Grace what she saw, Grace demands that she tell the truth. Anne snaps back that last time she told her the truth about the others, she was punished for it.
  • Cassandra Truth: Anne has teased and lied so much about ghosts that when she tries to warn Nicholas away from real ones, he won’t believe her.
  • Catapult Nightmare: At the very beginning of the film, Grace is shown awaking from a nightmare (which the audience doesn't witness) by screaming in horror. Later events, however, imply that it was no dream - that she was reliving the memory of killing her own family and then herself. Technically though, it's not a Catapult Nightmare - she remains lying down throughout the traumatic awakening.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The "book of the dead." It's filled with photographs of the corpses of recently deceased people; a practice that's supposed to help bring them back as spirits.
    • Grace's shotgun.
    • The graves, first seen when the servants deliberately cover them up and brought back into play at the climax.
  • Circles of Hell: Grace teaches the children Dante's divisions of hell and reminds them which one they’ll go to if they are liars.
  • Creator Cameo: Alejandro Amenábar appears as one of the photographed corpses in the book of the dead.
  • Creepy Catholicism: Frank discussions about the Circles of Hell (not Catholic doctrine, since they are an invention of Dante Alighieri, but relatable to concepts of sin) and violent martyrdom may not be creepy per se, but discussing them with two very young children can be unsettling.
  • Creepy Child: Anne has her moments. Mostly because the "others" seem particularly drawn to her.
  • Creepy Good:
    • As the film goes on, the servants, Mrs. Mills in particular, gradually get more and more sinister, leading up to the revelation that they're ghosts. Ultimately, however, they mean no harm and only want to help Grace and her children.
    • The old woman is terrifying in several of her appearances. In the end, it turns out that she's a very much alive medium who is merely trying to contact the spirits of Grace and her children.
  • Dead All Along: Grace and both of her children, as well as the servants.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Anne. Also Bertha Mills, towards the end:
    Grace: [in a state of hysteria] Someone has taken the curtains!
    Mrs. Mills: I have noticed, ma'am. There's no need for you to raise your voice. [she sees Mr. Tuttle] Oh, Mr. Tuttle. I was just on the point of calling you. Did you know that someone has taken all the curtains?
  • Death of a Child: When Grace is flipping through the "book of the dead", there are photographs of deceased children as well as adults. Also, as it turns out, both Anne and Nicholas are dead, having been smothered to death.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Grace is a very cold and harsh woman with the things she has been through. As her fears for her children and her own guilt eat at her, she becomes gradually more gentle with them and friendly towards Mrs. Mills. When she finally comes to terms with her own death, her demeanor becomes much softer and loving.
  • Demonic Possession: When Anne is left alone to play she's possessed by the ghost of an old blind woman. Subverted, however, when it's revealed the family are ghosts, and thus Anne was the possessor - though it was completely unintentional on her part. In fact, the old woman may have been allowing herself to be possessed.
  • Driven to Suicide: Grace was driven to suicide by the realisation that she killed her own children.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Grace can be haughty and smug about her dogmatic Catholic beliefs. She harshly warns the children against being liars and self serving, but displays these traits herself and refuses to acknowledge them.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Throughout the movie there is the palpable sense that something has happened in the house and that everyone knows something that they're not talking about - but what it is remains a mystery to each character and to the audience until the conclusion.
  • Empathic Environment: Throughout the film, the weather surrounding the house is damp, gloomy, and foggy. At the end, it's bright and sunny. With what we've learned by now, the gloomy weather represented the land of the dead, while the sunny weather was that of the living (also possibly symbolizes Grace and the children's acceptance of their situation).
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The film is seemingly about a woman and her children being haunted by spirits known as the "others". In truth, it's the other way around- Grace, her children, and the servants were Dead All Along, and the "others" are living people trying to contact their spirits.
  • Ethereal White Dress: The children are often in their white nightclothes. Anne fully embodies the trope in her first communion gown.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: After finding out that the ghosts haunting their new house are a mother and her two children she murdered, Victor’s mother believes this of the house and insists they move.
  • Fake-Out Twist: In the final act of the film, it turns out that the Stewart family has been seeing ghosts because they were Dead All Along. But wait! It actually turns out that they're the ghosts and the "ghosts" they've been seeing were the living family who now owns the Stewarts' old house, who are holding a séance to try to reach out to the former owners who are haunting them.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Mother: Grace initially acts like this towards Anne and Nicholas' belief in ghosts, and at one point tells Mrs. Mills that she dislikes "fantasies; strange ideas."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Grace's reaction when she first picks up the shotgun when attempting to hunt down the "intruders" foreshadows the film's Twist Ending.
    • "Stop breathing like that... Stop breathing!"
    • Lydia's muteness, which Mrs. Mills seems rather uncomfortable with discussing at any great length, and Grace is insistent that something horribly traumatic must have happened to Lydia to result in her refusal to speak. It did indeed.
    • Mrs. Mills mentions the island being evacuated in the past due to an outbreak of tuberculosis. That was the same outbreak that killed her, Mr. Tuttle, and Lydia.
    • During the seance scene, Anne appears out of nowhere next to the old woman. Just like a ghost would.
    • When Anne is made to read the Bible aloud, she reads out part of the story of the Binding of Isaac, where Abraham prepares to kill his own son. Just like how Anne herself was killed by her own parent.
  • Friendly Enemy: While their relationship is mostly offscreen, Anne and Victor appear to be at the very least civil enemies. Even though one of them is a ghost, the other isn't scared, and even though they don't seem to like each other much, Anne says that they regularly hold conversations with each other about the going-ons in the house anyway.
  • Ghost Amnesia: All of the deceased characters suffered from this after their deaths. The servants have long ago come to terms with it and do their best to help the Stewarts overcome theirs.
  • Ghost Butler: Doors open and close on their own throughout the house. This terrifies Grace all the more because an errant open door in her house isn’t just creepy, it can be lethal to her children if it lets in stray light.
  • Go to Your Room!: After Grace forbids Anne from saying that there are "intruders" which causes the latter to angrily breathe, she orders her to go to her room with "no dessert for her today".
  • Good All Along: The servants get more and more sinister throughout the film. Mrs. Mills in particular says that they "know what needs to be done" and that there are going to be "changes", hinting at some kind of evil plot. However, they are actually helping the Stewarts to gradually come to terms with their own death. All the secrecy is so the fact won't be revealed too soon, as it would be a horrible shock if not handled carefully.
  • Gothic Horror: The haunted castle kind.
  • Haunted Castle: A magnificent English country manor with 50 rooms, surrounded by unnaturally thick fog.
  • Haunted House: Inverted. The house is haunted, but it's Grace's family that are the ghosts.
  • Headache of Doom: Grace suffers migraines throughout the film, and it's heavily implied that the cause is supernatural in nature: it's eventually revealed that she's actually a ghost. After realizing that her husband had been killed in action, Grace smothered her children to death, then blew her own head off with a shotgun; given that her children continue to suffer uneven breathing even as ghosts, it's possible that Grace's headaches are also echoes of the wound that killed her.
  • Healthy in Heaven: While the ghosts are not all perfect specimens (resembling their physical selves at the time of their deaths), ailments do disappear once they accept their discorporeal state. The servants show no symptoms of the tuberculosis that killed them, Grace has no wounds from her fatal gunshot, and the children are cured of their light sensitivity. In contrast, Charles never seems to understand his death and comments that “sometimes I bleed.”
  • Here We Go Again!: The final shot of the film shows the gate leading to the house with a "For Sale" sign attached to it.
  • Hero Antagonist: Turns out the "intruders", which include a living family with their son Victor and the blind old medium, are this, as they were trying to drive the spirits, who happens to be Grace and her two children, out of the haunted house for the sake of the "intruder" family's well-being.
  • The Hero Dies: Grace herself, although she died prior to the film's events.
  • Heroic BSoD: It's this, combined with Sanity Slippage, that causes Grace to snap and kill her children and herself prior to the events of the film, but she is also well on her way to another episode towards the end of the film. Also, Charles suffers this after returning home from the horrors of war.
  • I See Them, Too: Mrs. Mills says this word-for-word to a highly upset Anne, when Grace is in severe denial about the presence of the "others."
  • I Want My Mommy!: Anne says she wants her daddy.
  • Jerkass: Anne psychologically bullies her brother and is cruel to Lydia, making fun of the latter's muteness. However, her mother's way of raising her isn't exactly ideal, so that does explain a lot of the behaviour, and by the end Anne is firmly in Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
  • Jump Scare:
    • Several: The first shot of the mansion having its silence suddenly interrupted by Grace's ear-splitting scream, the part during the "piano room" scene when the door suddenly slams into Grace's face, knocking her backwards, and, of course, the old woman bursting into the cupboard.
    • Subverted in a scene where Grace is searching the house and a face suddenly appears in the shadows over her shoulder (the audience sees it, but she does not). A moment later, the light from her lamp reveals that the face belongs to a painting on the wall.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "We're not dead! WE'RE NOT DEAD!"
    • "This house is ours. This house is ours."
  • Mama Bear: Grace. She is very quick to grab her shotgun when she believes there is danger to her children. Her demeanor suggests she would not hesitate to shoot anyone threatening them. Subverted as she’s the one who killed them.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Anne’s battle with Victor over the curtains. The entire scene plays out in a way where it is perfectly plausible that Anne is doing everything she blames on Victor to scare Nicholas. When Victor speaks, it is even in a harsh whisper that could easily be Anne’s voice. The camera shot is behind her head when he speaks, and her chin visibly moves though it doesn’t quite line up with Victor’s speech. However, when the hand reaches out to touch Nicolas's cheek, you can see the sleeve of the owner's pyjamas, which are striped and not at all like Anne's white nightgown.
  • Mirror Scare: Played with. When Grace begins ripping the sheets off the furniture in the junk room, she comes face to face with herself in a mirror. No ghost is behind her, but she watches the door close which she absolutely closed when she entered the room. Nothing is behind her in the mirror, but something definitely was and just left.
  • Musical Spoiler: Averted. During the "piano room" scene, the film's scary score increases in volume, leading the viewer to believe that something frightening is about to happen. It doesn't. After a minute or so of tenseness, however, the Jump Scare does eventually happen - when there's no music playing.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Grace has a moment of clarity after smothering her children. It causes her to go for the shotgun.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Used throughout much of the film.
  • Offing the Offspring: Grace went mad and killed her children before killing herself.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Anne and Nicholas realise that they aren't alone when they are hiding in the cupboard.
    • Grace, when she discovers the photograph of the corpses of the servants - and the scene cuts away to Anne pulling a similar face after finding the servants' gravestones. Then Anne turns around and sees that they're walking towards her and Nicholas...
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They're actually alive and the characters we've been following the entire movie are the ghosts.
  • Otherworldly Communication Failure: Inverted. While Grace and her kids believe their house is haunted, it is really they who are the ghosts. The "spirits" they encounter are actually humans now currently living in the house who have hired a spirit medium and have been trying to communicate with them as the dead can't interact with the living otherwise.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: Grace shreds several sheets of paper in a desperate attempt to prove she and the children are alive.
  • Parental Issues: Anne and Grace do not get along, but as the film goes on it becomes clear how deeply they care about each other.
  • Perspective Flip:
    • Grace charges "the others'" table, shaking it and tearing up the papers in an effort to prove that she and the children are alive. We then see it from the living persons' POV where these things happen on their own. Afterwards, they discuss the tragedy that took place and we realize that, from their point of view, it's Grace and the children's ghosts who have been terrorizing the living family, rather than the other way around as we've been led to believe.
    • The movie in general. Since when has there been a haunted house movie from the POV of the ghosts doing the haunting? (Though they don't know it as yet.)
  • Poor Communication Kills: Happens towards the end, when Anne is trying to warn Nicholas about the servants.
    Anne: Nicholas, don't speak to them!
    Nicholas: Why?
    Anne: They're dead!
    Nicholas: WHAT??
    Anne: They're ghosts! Come over here!
    Nicholas: But you said "ghosts wear sheets and carry chains"!
    Anne: I don't care what I said! Get away from them!
    Nicholas: You're always teasing me, and telling lies. I'm sick of it!
    Anne: Nicholas, I'm telling the truth! COME HERE!
  • Prophet Eyes: The old woman, although this is presumably because she is blind.
  • Psychic Powers: The old woman, who turns out to be a medium.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: Discussed throughout. Grace explains to the children that lying would send them to Limbo when they died when they both agreed they would deny Christ to save their lives. Anne later calls her on this, saying she knows Limbo is only for the unbaptized. In the end, they contemplate their existence as ghosts and wonder if they are in some form of either, but at this point Grace admits she has no answers.
  • The Reveal: Not only are Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle and Lydia all ghosts, but so are Grace and her family, and the "others" are, in fact, living people who have bought the house and, none too pleased about the fact that it's haunted, are using the services of an old blind medium to try to contact and exorcise the spirits of Grace and her children.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • If you watch the film again after learning that Grace and her children were Dead All Along, you'll notice how a lot of the things they do are common with what people usually associate ghosts with (erratically moving things, wearing creepy clothing, talking/making noises in acoustic hallways/rooms, not leaving their home etc.)
    • Charles's reaction when he first sees Grace. Well, how would you react if you discovered your wife and children were also dead?
    • There's a point in the movie where Grace kisses her children while they're asleep. Anne in particular looks extremely pale and lifeless. It's Foreshadowing that she's a ghost.
    • When Grace first picks up the shotgun, she's seen looking at it curiously - as if she remembers something. The same shotgun she killed herself with.
    • Grace frequently complaining about migraines since she shot herself in the head.
    • It's said that the postman didn't collect a letter last week. The postman didn't go to the house as it was unoccupied. This also explains why the priest never turned up, despite Grace complaining that he used to make regular visits.
    • Grace discovers the book of the dead and asks Mrs. Mills how people can be so superstitious. Mrs. Mills's response is that "Grief over the death of a loved one can lead people to do the strangest things", but the look she gives Grace is oddly pointed and almost understanding. Her pointed look makes more sense when you discover that Grace killed her children and then herself, likely driven to madness by the grief of finding out her husband was never coming home from war.
  • Sequel Hook: While it's unlikely an actual sequel was ever planned, the film ends with Grace saying "nothing can make us leave this house"...and the scene immediately shifts to a bitter-looking Victor glaring up at the house as he's leaving, making it seem like Grace is Tempting Fate and Victor will be back and mean business when he's grown up.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Charles, upon his return from the war.
  • Small, Secluded World:
    • Used to make the presence of the "others" more eerie. The entire film takes place on a very empty island estate, occupied only by the Stewart family and three new servants. To add to this effect, almost every time we see outside it's misty, creating a bigger sense of isolation.
    • Grace keeps her children locked in the house, because they have a condition that makes them allergic to direct sunlight. They aren't even allowed to enter or leave a room without someone first checking there's no sunlight leaking in.
  • The Speechless: Lydia is mute. The reason why later becomes clear: she became severely traumatised upon discovering that she and her colleagues are dead. There is a moment when she does make a valiant attempt to speak, but she just cannot get the words out, no matter how hard she tries.
  • Spooky Photographs:
    • The memento mori - pictures taken of very recently deceased corpses.
    • To add to the creepy factor, all of them appear peaceful enough that Grace first believes they're sleeping. The variety in the photos themselves is also unnerving; there are a lot of group photos, twins, and even babies.
  • Spooky Séance: From the ghosts’ perspective. It gives the scene a new and utterly terrifying twist.
  • Team Mom: Mrs. Mills. She's very kindly, comforts Anne and Nicholas several times, acts as something of a mother towards Lydia, and gently offers to make Grace a cup of tea after The Reveal.
  • Thicker Than Water: Despite his sister's constant teasing and lying, Nicholas still sides with Anne over their undead servants when forced to make a snap decision.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: When Charles finds out Grace murdered their children. He cannot forgive it and his soul leaves the house for good.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare:
    • Charles does this a lot, presumably because of the horrors he's seen while fighting in World War II.
    • During the ending, Grace is slumped against the wall, staring into space, after learning that she and her children are dead, by her own hand.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: ALL of the characters are ghosts, except for the "intruders" Anne keeps seeing. They're a living family trying to make peace with the spirits that appear to be haunting their new house.
  • Twist Ending: Grace and the kids have been dead all along.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How Grace killed her children.
  • Weakened by the Light: Because of a genetic disorder (Xeroderma pigmentosum), the kids cannot be exposed to sunlight or they might die. Once they realize they are already dead, they get to enjoy sunlight for the first time.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Is that how she killed you?"
    • There's also one a little while earlier, after the revelation that the servants are all ghosts and Grace has just sent her children to hide:
    Mrs. Mills: And suppose we do leave you, ma'am, do you suppose that they will?
    Grace: Who?
    Mrs. Mills: The intruders.
  • Wham Shot: A double whammy occurs near the end of the movie, when Grace searches the servants' room and notices an envelope left under the bed. She opens it to reveal a group post mortem photo of deceased Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle, and Lydia. Cut to Anne staring — in utter shock — at a gravestone with Mrs. Mills' name on it.
  • Whispering Ghosts: The first evidence of the presence of the others is disconnected whispers, crying, and talking. During the seance scene, Anne whispers in the old lady's ear, shortly before the reveal that she's dead and SHE'S a ghost.
  • Wight in a Wedding Dress: A hauntingly childish version with Anne in her communion dress and veil possessed by the old blind medium.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Others


The Others

After Grace forbids Anne from saying that there are "intruders" which causes the latter to angrily breathe, she orders her to go to her room with "no dessert for her today".

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / GoToYourRoom

Media sources: