ⓘ The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

ⓘ The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American supernatural psychological thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear, a boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist 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 well-received by critics; praise was given to its acting performances, atmosphere, and twist conclusion. The Sixth Sense was the second-highest-grossing film of 1999 behind Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, taking about $293 million in the US and $379 million in other markets.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Shyamalan, Best Supporting Actor for Osment, and Best Supporting Actress for Collette.


1. Plot

Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist in Philadelphia, returns home one night with his wife Anna after having been honored for his work. A young man appears in their bathroom and accuses Malcolm of failing him. Malcolm recognizes him as Vincent Grey, a former patient he treated as a child for hallucinations, but before he can talk Vincent down, Vincent shoots him and then himself.

The next fall, Malcolm begins working with Cole Sear, a young boy. Malcolm feels he must help him in order to rectify his failure and reconcile with his wife, who has become distant and cold. Coles mother Lynn worries about his social skills, especially after seeing signs of physical harm. Cole eventually confides his secret to Malcolm: he sees ghosts walking around like the living, unaware that they are dead.

Initially, Malcolm thinks Cole is delusional and considers dropping his case. After listening to an audiotape from a session with Vincent, Malcolm hears a weeping man begging for help in Spanish and believes that Cole is telling the truth. He suggests that Cole try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts and helping them finish their business. Cole is unwilling at first, then finally agrees to try to help.

Cole awakens one night to discover a ghost girl vomiting. After finding out who she is, Cole goes with Malcolm to the funeral reception at her home where he is directed to a box holding a videotape, which he gives to her father. The tape shows the girls mother poisoning her daughters food. By doing this, Cole has saved the girls younger sister from the same fate.

Learning to live with the ghosts he sees, Cole begins to fit in at school and is cast as the lead in the school play. Before departing, Cole suggests that Malcolm should try speaking to Anna while she is asleep. Stuck in traffic, Cole tells his mother his secret, and says that someone died in an accident down the road. When Lynn does not believe him, Cole tells her his grandmother visits him and describes how she saw Lynn in a dance performance when she was a child, giving details he could not have known.

Malcolm returns home to find his wife asleep and their wedding video playing. While still asleep, Anna asks why he left her and drops Malcolms wedding ring. Recalling what Cole told him about how dead people only see what they want to see, Malcolm starts to see things he did not see earlier. Malcolm suddenly remembers being shot and locates his gunshot wound that reveals he was actually killed by Vincent and he has been dead the whole time. Malcolm tells his wife she was never second to anything and that he loves her. Because of Coles efforts, Malcolms business is finally complete, and his spirit departs in a flash of light.


2. Cast

  • Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe
  • M. Night Shyamalan as Dr. Hill
  • Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey
  • Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe
  • Toni Collette as Lynn Sear
  • Trevor Morgan as Tommy Tammisimo
  • Peter Tambakis as Darren
  • Bruce Norris as Mr. Stanley Cunningham
  • Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear
  • Jeffrey Zubernis as Bobby
  • Angelica Page as Mrs. Collins
  • Greg Wood as Mr. Collins
  • Glenn Fitzgerald as Sean
  • Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins

3. Production

David Vogel, then-president of production of Walt Disney Studios, read Shyamalans spec 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 films box office receipt.

During the casting process for the role of Cole Sear, Shyamalan had been apprehensive about Osments video audition, saying later he was "this really sweet cherub, kind of beautiful, blond boy." Shyamalan saw the role as darker and more brooding but admitted that "He nailed it with the vulnerability and the need. He was able to convey a need as a human being in a way that was amazing to see."

The color red is intentionally absent from most of the film, but it 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 Coles sweater at the birthday party; the tent in which he first encounters Kyra; the volume numbers on Crowes tape recorder; the doorknob on the locked basement door where Malcolms office is located; the shirt that Anna wears at the restaurant; Kyras mothers 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 Malcolms 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.

Location filming took place mostly in streets and buildings of Philadelphia, notable at St. Augustines Church on 4th and New Streets and on Saint Albans Street in Southwest Center City.

Marisa Tomei was considered for the role of Lynn Sear.


4.1. Reception Box office

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. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 57.5 million tickets in the US. In the United Kingdom, it was given at first a limited release on nine screens, and entered at No. 8 before climbing up to No. 1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.


4.2. Reception Home media

After a six-month online promotion campaign, The Sixth Sense was released on VHS and DVD by Hollywood Pictures Home Video on March 28, 2000. It would go on to become the top-selling DVD of 2000, with more than 2.5 million units shipped, as well as the top video rental title of all-time.


4.3. Reception Critical response

The Sixth Sense received positive reviews; Osment in particular was widely praised for his performance. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 86% of 154 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, along with an average rating of 7.63/10. The sites consensus reads: "M. Night Shayamalans 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, meaning" generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.

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 Bravos 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the scene where Cole encounters a female ghost in his tent. It was named the 89th best American film of all time in a 2007 poll by the American Film Institute.

The line "I see dead people" from the film became a popular catchphrase after its release, scoring No. 44 on AFIs 100 Years.100 Movie Quotes.

The Sixth Sense also scored 60th place on AFIs 100 Years.100 Thrills, honoring Americas most "heart pounding movies".


4.4. Reception American Film Institute lists

  • AFIs 100 Years.100 Movie Quotes
  • AFIs 100 Years.100 Thrills – No. 60
  • "I see dead people." – No. 44
  • AFIs 100 Years.100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition – No. 89
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