The Sixth Sense is a 1999 horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan that tells the story of Cole, a troubled, isolated boy (played by Haley Joel Osment) who claims to be able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist (played by Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. The film, like much of Shyamalan's work, is known for its twist ending.
As the film opens, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) a prominent child psychologist, returns home one night with his wife from an event in which he was honored for his efforts with children. The two discover they are not alone - a disturbed, nearly naked man named Vincent Gray (Donnie Wahlberg) appears in the doorway of their bathroom with a gun. He says, "I don't want to be afraid anymore." Cole, a central character in the movie, later says the same thing. Vincent is upset that Crowe has not helped him, and Malcolm realizes that Vincent is a former patient Malcolm treated as a child for his hallucinations. He condemns Malcolm for his inability to help him and shoots him in the stomach, and seconds later turns the gun on himself. The scene fades away with Malcolm's wife by his side, aiding him.
Months later, next fall, Malcolm returns to work with another frightened boy, 9-year old Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), with a condition similar to Vincent's. Malcolm becomes dedicated to this patient, though he is haunted by doubts over his ability to help him, after his failure with Vincent. Meanwhile, he begins to neglect his wife, with whom his relationship is falling apart. Malcolm earns Cole's trust and Cole ultimately confides in him that he is clairvoyant and can "see dead people". Though Malcolm is naturally skeptical at first, he eventually comes to believe that Cole is telling the truth, and that Vincent may have had the same ability as Cole. He suggests to Cole that he try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts, perhaps to aid them in their unfinished business on Earth. Cole is at first skeptical about this advice, as the ghosts terrify him, but soon decides to try it.
Cole communicates with the ghost of one girl who appears in his bedroom and appears to be sick. He finds out where the girl, Kyra Collins (Mischa Barton), lived and goes to her house, where a funeral reception is being held for her. Kyra's ghost gives Cole a videotape, which Cole gives to Kyra's father. The tape reveals that when Kyra was bedridden with illness, her mother was poisoning her food, which led to Kyra's death (it has been suggested that the mother's behavior was due to a condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy or Factitious Disorder). Empowered now by his ability to use his gift to positive effect, Cole confesses his ability to his mother, Lynn (Toni Collette). Although his mother is troubled by his story, Cole tells Lynn that her mother (Cole's grandmother) went to see her perform in a dance recital one night when she was a child, though Lynn was not aware of this because her mother stayed in the back of the audience where she could not be seen. Lynn accepts this as the truth, and her relationship with Cole is strengthened.
His faith in himself now restored as a result of his success with Cole, Malcolm returns to his home, where he finds his wife sleeping on the couch, watching their old wedding video. This prompts Malcolm to recall Cole's advice about talking to his wife while she's asleep, so that way she'll have to listen. A short 'conversation' with his sleeping wife follows, revealing the twist ending of the film Ã¢â‚¬â€ that Malcolm himself is one of Cole's ghosts, having been killed by his ex-patient in the opening scene.
All of the clothes Malcolm wears during the movie are items he wore or touched the evening he died, including his overcoat, his blue sweater and the different layers of his suit.
Bruce Willis, who is left-handed, learned to write with his right hand for the film to hide from the audience that Crowe was no longer wearing his wedding ring. Though the filmmakers were careful about such clues of Malcolm's state, the camera zooms slowly towards Crowe's face when Cole says he sees dead people. The filmmakers initially feared this shot would be a dead giveaway, but they decided to leave it in. The color red is also used prominently throughout the movie in situations where the dead are present, such as the color of the balloon and Cole's sweater at the birthday party, the tent in which he first encounters Kyra, the numbers on Crowe's tape player, the doorknob to the locked closet and the grieving mother's dress. Shyamalan's film The Village similarly portrayed the color red as having connotations with evil and the supernatural Ã¢â‚¬â€ specifically, the mysterious monsters that inhabit the woods surrounding the village.
M. Night Shyamalan said that the "The Tale of the Dream Girl" episode of Nickelodeon's television series Are You Afraid of the Dark? was inspiration for the film.
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 stripped Vogel of the title of President of Walt Disney Pictures, and Vogel left the company. Disney, apparently in a show of little confidence in the film, sold the profits to Spyglass Entertainment, and kept only a 12.5 percent distribution fee for itself.
The film, with a production budget of approximately $40 million (plus $25m prints and advertising budget), earned $293,501,675 in the United States and a worldwide gross of $672,806,292, making it the #23 on the list of box-office money earned in the U.S. as of August 2006.
The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (M. Night Shyamalan), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Haley Joel Osment), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Toni Collette, who played Osment's mother), and Best Editing (Andrew Mondshein). The Sixth Sense is one of only four horror films that have been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
This film was #71 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
In popular culture:
In the TV series Scrubs, the Janitor is absorbed in a DVD of the film, and neglects to clean up a spill that caused Dr. Cox to fall over. Cox retaliates by taunting the janitor with "Bruce Willis is a ghost. He's been dead the whole time" but the janitor later threatens Dr. Cox with the score of the Lakers Heat basketball game. They settle their dispute by the janitor receiving a home-cooked meal, and an hour in Dr. Cox's massage chair.
"My Screw Up", an episode of Scrubs, is a homage to the film involving many similar aspects.
In the TV series My Name is Earl, one of Earl's transgressions on his list is that he gave away the film's twist ending to his ex-wife Joy.
Following the series finale of the British Sitcom One Foot in the Grave, in which the lead character, Victor Meldrew, died, a special short was made for a charity telethon showing Victor visiting a sick relative with his wife Margaret. The scene involves a long dialogue from Victor, which Margaret, true to character, seems to ignore. After some time and after making some references to this movie, Victor finally realizes that he is a ghost whom no one can see or hear. In addition, after the TV showing of this, Lenny Henry (who was presenting the telethon) remarked, "I see dead people".
In reference to the over-saturation of the line, the film 50 First Dates uses The Sixth Sense as a plot device for Lucy's condition and the toll it takes on her family, as she sees it for the first time every day.
In the episode "Letters from Pegasus" from the first season of Stargate Atlantis, Dr McKay says that he has only seen the first half of the film and that he has "... always wondered how that ended."
In the Nickelodeon television series Danny Phantom everytime he senses a ghost he can see his breath as a reference to when it gets cold Cole can see his breath.
An episode of The Cramp Twins is entitled "6th Senseless," a play on the film's title.
"I See Dead People":
The line "I see dead people" became a popular catchphrase after the film's release, reaching #44 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Quote List.
That line had previously been invoked by Billy Crystal at the Academy Awards in the spring of 2000. In one of his sketches, the TV camera would zoom in on various celebrities in the audience, and Crystal would speak a joking line that was supposed to be what the actor was "really thinking". When the camera focused on Michael Clarke Duncan of The Green Mile, Crystal said, "I see white people!" In the movie Twelve Monkeys, released 4 years before this film, Bruce Willis says the line "All I see are dead people." Whether this is coincidental or not, both movies share the same actor, not to mention the name Cole, and were filmed principally in Philadelphia.
The line and scene are parodied in the Family Guy episode "No Meals on Wheels," with Peter Griffin replacing Cole. Rather than tell Bruce Willis' character that he "sees dead people," Peter encourages him, through a similar line, to come to the restaurant Peter's family had created. In the South Park episode "The Death of Eric Cartman," the character Butters says "I'm like this kid, I see dead people!" In the chalkboard gag during the opening sequence of the Simpsons episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze," Bart writes "I can't see dead people."
In Scary Movie, shortly after smoking marijuana, Shorty imitates the 'I see dead people' line before laughing uncontrollably and saying, "Man, this shit is awesome!" MADtv showcased a skit parodying the old Pepsi commercials with the little girl who got mad whenever someone confused Pepsi and Coca-Cola. In it, the girl said, "I see dead people... and live ones too..." In an episode of Blue Collar TV, A ghost who is frightened of the rednecks remarks "I see rednecks."
An episode of Alias is entitled "I See Dead People." An episode of Duck Dodgers is titled "I See Duck People."
In an episode of the television series Hannah Montana, Haley Joel Osment's younger sister Emily Osment's character says she sees dead people.
In an episode of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Carson Kressley discovered a hideous-looking puppet in the straight man's house and said, "I see straight people!"
In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, while Sara Sidle is at a funeral home, one of the morticians tells her that morticians see things differently than other people. She replies "You see dead people. Yeah, so do I!"
In Universal Studios's Shrek 4-D attraction, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) says "I feel dead people." In The Haunted Mansion, Michael Evers tells his fathers(played by Eddie Murphy), "I see dead people," while in a carriage filled with ghosts.
In the 2002 film Undercover Brother, the title character undergoes a form of brainwashing by an African-American spy group to absorb white culture. Undercover Brother finally has a "Caucasian overload" and whimpers "I see white people!"
In The Lion King 1Ã‚Â½, when Timon witnesses Mufasa rescuing Simba and Nala from hyenas, he says, "I see carnivores".
In the trailer to the movie Harsh Times the character Jim David who is played by Christian Bale delivers the line "I see dumb people."
In Blizzard Entertainment's strategy game Warcraft III, a Necromancer says "I see undead people" amongst other comical lines when the player clicks him repeatedly in a short period of time. "IseeDeadPeople" is also a cheat in the game that reveals the entire map. In Jagex's MMORPG RuneScape, a character notes "I see dead people" when the player examines an opened coffin. In the PC game Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide, the kobold Deekin mutters "Deekin sees dead people" when the player encounters a ruined camp.
Rapper Redman has a song titled "I C Dead People" featured on the Ill at Will Mixtape Vol. 1 released March 13th, 2004. The song features samples from dead emcees Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Big L and Big Pun. The song "Standing Ovation" by Young Jeezy features the line "Got it by the truckload, like the bread people / I got a sixth sense, I stack dead people."
In a 2005 edition of the BBC Radio comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, panelist Graeme Garden parodied the title and the "I see dead people" line with the title The Third Sense: I See Deaf People.
The line made the lore of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling when Planet Jarrett "buried" the careers of Team 3D in October 2005 (James Storm, before making a joke, said mock-frightened, "I hear dead people!").
In the 2006 movie Zoom, when showing her powers in the audition, Summer says, "I see things." To which Jack Shepard replies, "Do you see dead people?"