The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American psychological 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. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
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. She 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 Grey, a former patient whom he treated as a child for hallucinations. Grey shoots Crowe in the abdomen, and seconds later kills himself with the gun.
The next autumn, Crowe begins working with another patient, nine-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 the surprise ending of the film: Crowe himself 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 became the part of Cole’s life.
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First Published: May 6, 2012 – Last Updated: May 5, 2013