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Ghosts of Mars is a 2001 American science fiction horror movie written, directed and scored by John Carpenter


It is set in Mars in the year 2176. Mars has been colonized and it has been terraformed by 84%, allowing humans to walk on the surface without pressure suits. Partial breathers, however are still necessary. The human colony there is also matriarchal.

The story is about police officer Lt. Melanie Ballard, who is sent with a team of policemen to a remote mining outpost at night in order to transport prisoner James 'Desolation' Williams, who has been arrested for several murders. Arriving at the remote mining town, Ballard and her team find all of the people missing despite of the fact, that it is a Friday night. They investigate and, in time, they discover that part of them have been murdered. They have been hung and decapitated. She also discovers, that another part of them have become savages, who killed the murdered ones and also intended to kill all of them, too. Only a few are still alive there.

After the murder of the team leader Helena Braddock, Ballard has to take her place. She learns from a survivor that the miners in the outpost had discovered an underground doorway created by an ancient Martian civilization. When the door was opened, it released disembodied spirits or "ghosts", which took possession many of the miners, who now behave savagely and begin to kill everyone else, because they see them as an invading species that has to be wiped out so that the planet will be theirs again.

She allies herself with the criminals there under the leadership of Williams, who turns out to be innocent of the murders, to survive. To worsen things more, if they kill one of them, the ghost will leave the body and posess another human. Ballard casually manages to find a way to fight them by casually taking a drug, which enables her to be immune to them and even find out their intentions.

Only she and Williams survive the fight and ignite the nuclear powerplant there to go critical, turning it into a small atomic bomb in the hopes of preventing them to kill everyone else on this planet. Not wanting to be blamed for the massacre, Williams later handcuffs Ballard to her cot and escapes from the train on the way to the capital which she reaches.

After that she reports what happened to her superiors, but noone believes her. Later it turns out that the quest to stop the ghosts has failed. They now attack the capital and Williams and Ballard join forces again to survive.


  • Ice Cube as James 'Desolation' Williams
  • Natasha Henstridge as Lieutenant Melanie Ballard
  • Jason Statham as Jericho Butler
  • Clea Duvall as Bashira Kincaid
  • Pam Grier as Helena Braddock
  • Joanna Cassidy as Whitlock
  • Richard Cetrone as Big Daddy Mars
  • Liam Whaite as Michael Descanso
  • Duane Davis as Uno


The script originally started off as a potential Snake Plissken sequel. The title was Escape from Mars. The story would have been largely much the same; however, after Escape from L.A. failed to make much money at the box office, the studio did not wish to make another Plissken movie. The character Snake Plissken was therefore changed to "Desolation Williams," and the studio also insisted that Ice Cube be given the part.

Natasha Henstridge replaced Courtney Love (the original choice) in her role at the last minute, because the ex-wife of her boyfriend ran over her foot in her car while she was in training for the motion picture. The actresses Michelle Yeoh, Franka Potente and Famke Janssen were also briefly considered for that role. 

The filming began on 8. August 2000 and ended on 31. October 2000.


The movie was a box office failure and received mostly negative reviews. Because of that, John Carpenter left the business of filmmaking for several years.

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