The Highest-Grossing Horror Movies Of All Time

Forbes Finance 2 months ago
It: Chapter Two
It: Chapter Two

Back in 1896, Georges Méliès dropped his 3-minute short film Le Manoir du Diable, aka The Haunted Castle. Widely considered the first horror movie ever made, Méliès had an impish devil figure run around a castle and torment its occupants.

One-hundred twenty three years later? Films like Us, Child’s Play, Midsommar and Annabelle Comes Home have flooded theaters in 2019. And for the month of October, a new slew of horror movies is hitting theaters, including Zombieland, The Addams Family and Countdown—with more to come by year’s end.

Obviously horror movies have come a long way over the past century-and-a-quarter. And the genre of “horror” has stretched out to so many sub-genres—including slasher, supernatural, torture, comedy—that it’s hard to even succinctly define what “horror” means anymore.

But when we combine all of those sub-genres together into one massive list, which horror movies have made the biggest impact on the box office? Which movies have captured audiences the most? Which takes on the storied genre have had the biggest impact on how horror movies are made and marketed?

The answers might surprise you. Here’s the definitive list.

*Note: We’ll only be surveying U.S. box office results in order to properly account for inflation.

Domestic Gross

All of the domestic figures featured in this article come from Box Office Mojo. But as you’ll see on the site, the box office rankings are sorted by each sub-genre of horror. This article will sift through them all the rank every horror movie side by side.

Again, what one may constitute as a “horror movie” changes from person to person. So for the sake of this list, we’ll be treating every sub-genre equally. Which means Ghostbuster is every bit of a horror movie as Scream, and Shutter Island is every bit of a horror movie as The Blair Witch Project.

First we’ll look at lifetime domestic gross. Here are the 25 highest-grossing horror movies ever:

  1. It (2017) ($327.5 million)
  2. The Sixth Sense (1999) ($293.5 million)
  3. Jaws (1975) ($260 million)
  4. Ghostbusters (1984) ($242.2 million)
  5. The Exorcist (1973) ($232.9 million)
  6. It: Chapter Two (2019) ($195.7 million)
  7. Get Out (2017) ($176 million)
  8. Halloween (2018) ($159.3 million)
  9. Scary Movie (2000) ($159 million)
  10. What Lies Beneath (2000) ($155.4 million)
  11. Gremlins (1984) ($153.1 million)
  12. The Meg (2108) ($145.4 million)
  13. The Blair Witch Project (1999) ($140.5 million)
  14. The Conjuring (2013) ($137.4 million)
  15. The Ring (2002) ($129.1 million)
  16. Ghostbusters (2016) ($128.4 million)
  17. Shutter Island (2010) ($128 million)
  18. Van Helsing (2004) ($120.2 million)
  19. The Nun (2018) ($117.5 million)
  20. The Village (2004) ($114.2 million)
  21. Ghostbusters II (1989) ($112.5 million)
  22. The Grudge (2004) ($110.4 million)
  23. Scary Movie 3 (2003) ($110 million)
  24. Paranormal Activity (2009) ($107.9 million)
  25. Interview with the Vampire (1994) ($105.3 million)

Notice that we included the years with every film. Obviously, given higher ticket prices, a movie is more likely to be highly lucrative in 2019 than it would have been in 1973. This is why It sits atop the list.

That’s also why we have another list that accounts for inflation.

Adjusted Rankings

You might consider this a more definitive list of the highest-grossing horror movies ever. Using 2019 ticket prices for every film evens the playing field and truly speaks to which movies went the most viral during their respective years of release. Plus, it allowed a number of new films to enter the list.

Here’s the adjusted list:

  1. Jaws (1975) ($1.154 billion)
  2. The Exorcist (1973) ($996.5 million)
  3. Ghostbusters (1984) ($641.3 million)
  4. The Sixth Sense (1999) ($518.8 million)
  5. Gremlins (1984) ($409.8 million)
  6. It (2017) ($328.9 million)
  7. Jaws 2 (1978) ($312.8 million)
  8. The Amityville Horror (1979 ($310.3 million)
  9. Alien (1979) ($286.4 million)
  10. Scary Movie (2000) ($262.5 million)
  11. What Lies Beneath (2000) ($259.9 million)
  12. The Omen (1976) ($257.7 million)
  13. Ghostbusters II (1989) ($255.3 million)
  14. The Blair Witch Project (1999) ($249.3 million)
  15. Poltergeist (1982) ($234.8 million)
  16. Interview with the Vampire (1994) ($226.4 million)
  17. Aliens (1986) ($206.8 million)
  18. Scream (1996) ($203.2 million)
  19. The Ring (2002) ($200.1 million)
  20. Scream 2 (1997) ($197.3 million)
  21. It: Chapter Two (2019) ($195.7 million)
  22. The Deep (1977) ($191.3 million)
  23. Halloween (1978) ($181 million)
  24. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) ($179.2 million)
  25. Get Out (2017) ($179.1 million)

As landmark steps in new directions for the horror genre, both Jaws and The Exorcist were able to dominate theaters back in the 1970s in ways few movies ever could. These days, it’s much harder a “new” kind of horror movie that will shift the zeitgeist—which speaks to how impressive It’s No. 6 ranking is.

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