The 50 Highest-Grossing Horror Movies of All Time

korionov/iStock via Getty Images
korionov/iStock via Getty Images

Although horror movies aren’t usually met with the highest of critical acclaim, year after year, the big blockbuster scares come through and make some major cash. No matter how ridiculous a horror movie might be, if it seems the slightest bit scary and is backed by effective marketing, it’ll sell.

If you’re looking for a flick to get you in the mood for Halloween, here are the 50 highest-grossing horror movies of all time, according to Box Office Mojo. You can decide if they were worth the hype—and major earnings—or not.

1. It (2017)

Pennywise the clown from It (2017).
Warner Bros.

Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It was so highly anticipated, it could’ve bombed with viewers and still would’ve made a ton of money. Thankfully, the film performed well critically, holding a solid 86 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, and even the most die-hard King fans were impressed by it. The film earned a hefty $327,481,748.

2. The Sixth Sense (1999)


Buena Vista Pictures

One of the most iconic horror films of the 1990s, The Sixth Sense showcased a new side of Bruce Willis’s talent and shot child actor Haley Joel Osment—who earned an Oscar nomination for the role—to the top of Hollywood's A-List. The M. Night Shyamalan film, best known for its classic “I see dead people” line, earned $293,506,292.

3. The Exorcist (1973)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Undoubtedly one of the best horror movies of all time, William Friedkin's The Exorcist is a true classic. It went on to become the first horror movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and earned $232,906,145.

4. It: Chapter Two (2019)

Bill Skarsgård in It Chapter Two (2019)
Warner Bros.

Two years after Andy Muschietti’s It took the top spot on this list, its sequel has been quickly working its way up since it debuted in early September. The film has made more than $195 million so far—and is still earning.

5. What Lies Beneath (2000)

Though it had the double star power of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath was not exactly met with critical acclaim. However, the creepiness of a haunted house never fails to bring in big audiences, and the film made a substantial $155,464,351.

6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)


Artisan Entertainment

Regarded as the movie that made the “found footage” approach so popular today, The Blair Witch Project was indeed a sleeper hit, and really drew attention to itself by listing the cast as “missing” or “deceased” during promotion. It earned $140,539,099, making it one of the most successful independent films ever.

7. The Conjuring (2013)


Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

Considered one of the best horror movies of the 2010s, James Wan’s The Conjuring started a major franchise, generating popularity from the fact that the first film was rated R simply for being too scary. Marking the second time the Saw director worked with star Patrick Wilson (the first being for 2010’s Insidious), The Conjuring was an automatic success and saw $137,400,141 in earnings.

8. The Ring (2002)


DreamWorks

Gore Verbinski’s The Ring started a cultural phenomenon of passing on chain mail or else, as the Naomi Watts-led film saw her trying to figure out the mystery of a videotape which seemingly killed people if they didn’t get someone else to watch it within a week. The film spawned a 2005 sequel and a reboot in 2017. The original made $129,128,133.

9. The Nun (2018)

Bonnie Aarons in 'The Nun' (2018)
Martin Maguire, Warner Bros. Entertainment

One of the most highly-anticipated horror movies of 2018 was The Nun, the sixth film in The Conjuring Universe. Although the movie completely bombed with critics and fans alike, it made an impressive $117,450,119 in the U.S.

10. The Grudge (2004)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Directed by Takashi Shimizu, the same person who wrote and directed the Japanese original, Ju-on: The Grudge (2002), The Grudge received mixed reviews. But it was a hit with horror fans simply for the creepiness of it. The film earned $110,359,362.

11. Paranormal Activity (2009)

No doubt inspired by The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity started a franchise of “found footage” films, with the first movie’s trailer including “real footage” of moviegoers watching the film in theaters to see their terrified reactions. The first film earned $107,918,810.

12. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Jessica Tyler Brown and Chloe Csengery in 'Paranormal Activity 3' (2011)
Paramount Pictures

The third film in the Paranormal Activity series, which explored where it all began with the protagonist’s childhood, made almost as much as the original, coming in at $104,028,807.

13. The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The sequel to The Conjuring was nowhere near as popular as the first, but it still attracted viewers who wanted to see the continuation of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s story. The film made $102,470,008.

14. Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Lulu Wilson in Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Warner Bros. Entertainment

Another film in The Conjuring Universe, Annabelle: Creation is an origin story for the possessed Annabelle doll, and although it wasn’t met with much praise at all, it still managed to earn $102,092,201.

15. The Others (2001)

Photo of Nicole Kidman and Alakina Mann in The Others (2001)
Miramax

A creepy mind-bender starring Nicole Kidman, The Others is a perfect example of how desperately audiences are looking for a genuinely scary film without special effects and with limited jump scares. The movie earned $96,522,687.

16. The Haunting (1999)

The 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson has been adapted for the big and small screen numerous times, with 1999's The Haunting being the most commercially successful among them. Despite the film bombing with critics (it has a 16 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes), it still brought in $91,411,151 in earnings.

17. The Amityville Horror (1979)

James Brolin and Margot Kidder in The Amityville Horror (1979)
MGM Home Entertainment

Based on a true story, the original Amityville Horror is surprisingly still the highest-grossing in the sea of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes. It earned $86,432,000.

18. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

The “found footage” approach worked well the second time around, as although the third film surpassed it, the sequel still made $84,752,907.

19. Annabelle (2014)

The creepy doll at the center of 'Annabelle' (2014)
Warner Bros. Entertainment

Fans of The Conjuring were definitely curious to find out more about Annabelle, the creepy doll briefly included in the 2012 film—curious enough to shell out $84,273,813 at the box office.

20. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

The second film in the Insidious series surpassed the original, as horror fans were clearly eager to see what would happen next in James Wan’s world. The sequel made $83,586,447.

21. Poltergeist (1982)

Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist (1982)
Warner Home Entertainment

One of the most iconic horror movies to come out of the 1980s, Poltergeist spawned multiple sequels, spin-offs, and even a remake. It also inspired countless horror movies to come after—not many of which came even close to its $76,606,280 in box office receipts.

22. The Ring Two (2005)

Noami Watts and Kelly Stables in 'The Ring Two' (2005)
Gemma La Man, DreamWorks Pictures

Fans of The Ring were still hooked to the deadly VHS tape and were desperate to find out what happened to Naomi Watts following the first film. The sequel didn’t do nearly as well as the first, but still managed to earn a respectable $76,231,249.

23. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Bringing in a new angle to possessions and exorcisms, The Exorcism of Emily Rose showed the legal issues that come with a supernatural death. The film received modest appreciation from critics, but earned a hefty $75,072,454.

24. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

A still from 'Annabelle Comes Home' (2019)
Warner Bros. Entertainment

While the latest entry in The Conjuring Universe couldn't surpass many of its predecessors, the creepy doll storyline was still interesting enough that Annabelle Comes Home managed to scare up a total of $74,149,597 at the box office.

25. 1408 (2007)

Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 was a pretty divisive film, however the box office didn’t represent so. The movie, which stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, earned $71,985,628.

26. Mama (2013)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jessica Chastain, Megan Charpentier, and Isabelle Nélisse in 'Mama' (2013)
George Kraychyk, Universal Pictures

Andy Muschietti’s third film on the list is Mama, which wasn’t exactly met with critical acclaim, but had a creepy enough story and big-name stars Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to sell. The film earned $71,628,180.

27. Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

The fourth time proved to be yet another charm for the Insidious series, with the fourth and most recent installment collecting $67,745,330 at the box office—an impressive amount that managed to out-earn both the original 2011 film and its third installment.

28. Lights Out (2016)

Teresa Palmer and Alexander DiPersia in 'Lights Out' (2016)
Warner Bros. Entertainment

Supernatural entities tormenting generations of family members seem to be a staple story of today's horror genre, and David Sandberg's Lights Out—which earned $67,268,835 and holds an impressive 86 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes—is yet another example of the haunted house subgenre.

29. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Oscar-winning horror legend Guillermo del Toro produced and helped develop the story for this adaptation of Alvin Schwartz's best-selling horror series for kids. The film earned $66,962,903 nationwide.

30. The Final Destination (2009)

Justin Welborn, Shantel VanSanten and Bobby Campo in The Final Destination (2009)
Warner Home Video

The grim reaper struck box office gold yet again with the fourth (but still not the final) installment in the Final Destination series. With a haul of $66,477,700, 2009's The Final Destination is the franchise's biggest box office hit

31. The Amityville Horror (2005)

Before Ryan Reynolds became "Ryan Reynolds," he starred in this poorly received remake of the 1979 original. Though it holds a 23 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, it still managed to take in $65,233,369 at the box office.

32. The Omen (1976)


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Richard Donner's satanic kid flick boasted an all-star cast that included Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, which led to an impressive haul of $60,922,98. It also ruined "Damien" as a kid's name.

33. White Noise (2005)

Michael Keaton took a surprising dive into the world of horror with Geoffrey Sax's White Noise, the story of a bereaved widower who is drawn into a mysterious world of paranormal investigation when he is led to believe that is wife is trying to communicate with him from beyond. The movie made a solid $56,386,759.

34. The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)

Kyle Gallner in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Lionsgate

This 2009 film, which is purportedly based on a true story, sees a family move into a new home, which used to operate as a mortuary, in order to be closer to the cancer hospital where their teenage son has been undergoing treatment. But the house's past catches up to the family and, as is so often the case in a movie like this, all hell breaks loose. The movie earned $55,389,516.

35. THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

Michael Chaves directed this sixth installment in The Conjuring series, which was released as The Curse of the Weeping Woman in some markets. After making its debut at SXSW in 2019, the film went on to earn $54,733,739 at the American box office (despite largely mixed reviews).

36. The Omen (2006)

In 2006, John Moore took on the rather unenviable task of re-creating Richard Donner's classic devil-of-a-kid movie. While the effort was valiant, neither the film—nor its box office earnings—couldn't compete with the original. It made $54,607,383 at the box office.

37. The Woman in Black (2012)

Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black (2012)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Daniel Radcliffe proved his post-Harry Potter power in this well-received supernatural thriller based on Susan Hill's 1983 novel. Radcliffe plays a grieving widower in Edwardian London who is sent to a remote country village to attend to the affairs of a local eccentric. The film earned $54,333,290 in the U.S.

38. Evil Dead (2013)

This 2013 remake may have been missing much of the fun spirit of Sam Raimi's original 1981 cult classic, but it still collected $54,239,856 in ticket sales.

39. Final Destination 3 (2006)

The third film in the Final Destination saga, which takes place five years after the original film and sees death coming for Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her friends, out-earned the original film, but not by much: $54,098,051 vs. $53,331,147.

40. Insidious (2011)

Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in Insidious (2011)
FilmDistrict

The original film in the Insidious series, directed by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, kicked the franchise off to a profitable start with its $13,271,464—enough of a profit (not to mention the critical acclaim) to spawn three additional films.

41. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

With a box office haul of $53,900,335, the fourth film in the Paranormal Activity series also happens to be its fourth most profitable film (two more movies followed).

42. Final Destination (2000)

Though it may seem counter-intuitive that a film with "Final" in the title would kick off a horror franchise, this surprise 2000 hit—which sees Devon Sawa narrowly escape death, only to have death try to finish the job—made $53,331,147 and kicked off a five-film franchise.

43. THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012)

Suzan Crowley in The Devil Inside (2012)
Paramount Home Entertainment

Just as box office insiders worried that the found footage genre had met its own end, William Brent Bell's The Devil Inside—in which a daughter uses an exorcism to get to the truth about why her mother is locked away in a hospital—managed to take the top spot at the box office during its first week in release and earn a total of $53,261,944.

44. Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Leigh Whannell wrote and directed the third film in the Insidious series, which worked as a prequel to the original two films. The film cleaned up, earning $52,218,558.

45. Ouija (2014)

Shelley Hennig in Ouija (2014)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A young woman learns about the evil powers contained within a Ouija board in this 2014 supernatural thriller, which—despite poor reviews—earned more than $103 million worldwide on a $5 million budget ($50,856,010 in the U.S.). That box office success led to 2016's Ouija: Origin of Evil, which worked as a prequel.

46. STIGMATA (1999)

Oscar winner Patricia Arquette plays a Pittsburgh hairdresser with no religious beliefs ... until she starts speaking in tongues, being attacked by unseen forces, and being affected by stigmata. Though the 1999 film was panned by critics, it has managed to out-earn many of the horror films that have come in its wake with its $50,046,268 take.

47. THE POSSESSION (2012)

Reportedly based on a true story, The Possession tells the story of a young girl who becomes fixated on a wooden box she found at yard sale—a box that, it turns out, was built to contain an evil spirit. The film wasn't a hit with critics (it has a 39 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but it did earn $49,130,154.

48. Sinister (2012)

Ethan Hawke in 'Sinister' (2012)
Summit Entertainment

Scott Derrickson, who would go on to become a part of the Marvel Universe with Doctor Strange (and its upcoming sequel), co-wrote and directed this tale of true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) dealing with a 10-year-long bout of writer's block. His solution? Move his family into a new home, whose previous owners were murdered in an unsolved case that Oswalt hopes to make the basis for his next book, without telling his family about the home's past. Never a good idea. The movie earned a total of $48,086,903.

49. The Skeleton Key (2005)

In the midst of her run as rom-com queen of the 2000s, Kate Hudson took a detour in the horror genre with The Skeleton Key, which saw her leaving her job as a hospice nurse to care for an elderly couple (played by Gena Rowlands and John Hurt) in New Orleans, whose house—she begins to discover—is full of dark secrets.

50. Poltergeist (2015)

This remake of the Steven Spielberg-produced horror classic didn't make much of an impact on moviegoers when it landed in theaters in 2015, but it drummed up enough in U.S. ticket sales ($47,425,125) to land the last spot on this list.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

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