Released by Hollywood Pictures on August 6, 1999, the film was received well; critics highlighted the performances (especially by Osment, Collette and Willis), its atmosphere, and twist conclusion. The film was the second-highest-grossing film of 1999 (behind Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace), grossing about $293 million domestically and $672 million worldwide. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Shyamalan, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Osment, and Best Supporting Actress for Toni Collette.
Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist in Philadelphia, returns home one night with his wife, Anna, after having been honored for his work. Anna tells Crowe that everything is second to his work, and that she believes he is truly gifted. A young man then appears in their bathroom, and accuses Crowe of failing him. Crowe recognizes him as Vincent Grey, a former patient whom he treated as a child for hallucinations. Vincent shoots his former doctor before killing himself.
The next fall, Crowe begins working with another patient, nine-year-old Cole Sear, whose case is 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 and his wife seldom, if ever, speak or do anything together. Crowe feels he must help Cole in order to rectify his failure to help Vincent and reconcile with his wife. Cole's mother, Lynn worries about his social stamina, especially after seeing signs of physical abuse. Cole eventually confides his secret to Crowe: he sees ghosts, who walk around like the living unaware they are dead.
At first, Crowe thinks Cole is delusional and considers dropping his case. Remembering Vincent, the psychologist listens to an audiotape from a session with Vincent when he was a child. On the tape, when Crowe leaves the room, Vincent begins crying. Turning up the volume, Crowe hears a weeping man begging for help in Spanish, and now believes that Cole is telling the truth and that Vincent may have had the same ability. He suggests to Cole that he should try to find a purpose for his gift by communicating with the ghosts and perhaps aid them with their unfinished business. At first, Cole is unwilling since the ghosts terrify and sometimes even threaten him, but he finally decides to attempt helping.
Cole talks to one of the ghosts, a young girl named Kyra who recently died after a chronic illness. He goes with Crowe to her funeral reception at her home, where Kyra directs him to a box holding a videotape, which he then gives to her father. The tape shows Kyra's stepmother poisoning her stepdaughter's food. By proving she was a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, Cole has saved Kyra's younger sister, the stepmother's next victim.
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, which Crowe attends. The doctor and patient depart on positive terms and Cole suggests to Crowe that he should try speaking to Anna while she is asleep. Later, while stuck in traffic, Cole confesses his secret to his mother, saying that someone died in an accident ahead of their traffic and he knows because the person is next to him. Although his mother at first does not believe him, Cole proves his ability to her by talking about how his grandmother visits him. He describes how his grandmother saw his mother in a dance performance, even though Lynn thought her mother was not there. He further relays the answer to a question his mother privately asked at her mother's grave. When Cole says that his grandmother feels proud of Lynn, his mother tearfully accepts the truth and they hug each other.
Crowe returns home, where he finds his wife asleep with their wedding video playing. While still asleep, Anna asks her husband why he left her, and drops Crowe's wedding ring, which he suddenly discovers he has not been wearing. He remembers what Cole said about ghosts and realizes that he was actually killed by Vincent and was unknowingly dead the entire time he was working with Cole. Because of Cole's efforts, Crowe's unfinished business - rectifying his failure to understand and help Vincent - is finally complete. Crowe fulfills the second reason he returned; to tell his wife she was never second, and that he loves her. His goal complete, he is free to leave the world of the living.Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe
Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear
Toni Collette as Lynn Sear
Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe
Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey
Glenn Fitzgerald as Sean
Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins
Trevor Morgan as Tommy Tammisimo
Bruce Norris as Mr. Stanley Cunningham
Angelica Page as Mrs. Collins
Greg Wood as Mr. Collins
M. Night Shyamalan as Dr. Hill
Peter Tambakis as Darren
Jeffrey Zubernis as Bobby
David Vogel, then-president of production of The Walt Disney Studios, read Shyamalan's 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 film's box office receipt.
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 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.
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 too much of a giveaway, but decided to leave it in.
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 at 9 screens, and entered at No. 8 before climbing up to No. 1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.
The Sixth Sense received positive reviews; Osment in particular was singled out for his acting. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 85% of 148 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 7.6/10. The site's consensus reads: "M. Night Shayamalan's 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.
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 Bravo's 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 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. There have been various parodies of this quote.
The Sixth Sense also scored 60th place on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills, honoring America's most "heart pounding movies".
The Sixth Sense has received numerous awards and nominations, with Academy Award nomination categories ranging from those honoring the film itself (Best Picture), to its writing, editing, and direction (Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Original Screenplay), to its cast's performance (Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting 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 Publishers for his composition of the music for the film.
In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #50 on its list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written.AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 60
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
"I see dead people." – No. 44
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 89