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.

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Mark Hamill Learned About The Empire Strikes Back's Big Darth Vader Reveal Before Anyone Else

Nope, not even Harrison Ford knew about it.
Nope, not even Harrison Ford knew about it.
Michael Tran/Getty Images

Few cinematic secrets were better kept—or more shocking when they came out—than that of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa's true parentage in the Star Wars saga. According to ComicBook.com, the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke and Leia's father was such a well-kept secret that it wasn't actually put into the script at all. Evidently, only three people on set knew about the moment in advance: Mark Hamill, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner. (Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was also aware.)

Hamill took to Twitter to explain the pivotal part of the franchise, during which a fake line was used so the actual reveal could be dubbed in afterwards, allowing the trio to keep the secret from the cast and crew for more than a year.

"The cast & crew first learned of it when they saw the finished film," Hamill said to his fans on Twitter. "When we shot it, Vader's line was 'You don't know the truth, Obi-Wan killed your father.' Only Irvin Kershner, George Lucas & I knew what would be dubbed in later. Agony keeping that secret for over a year!"

Props to them for not letting the spoiler slip early. Even with the pressure of keeping such a big plot twist under wraps, Lucas says financial concerns were what plagued him most.

“Well, to be very honest, the most challenging aspect was paying for [The Empire Strikes Back],” Lucas recently told StarWars.com. “In order to be able to take control of the movie, I had to pay for it myself. And in order to do that, I did something my father told me never to do, which was to borrow money. But there wasn’t much I could do because I only had maybe half of the money to make the movie, so I had to borrow the other half, which put a lot of pressure on me.”

If you feel like reminiscing about a galaxy far, far away, check out this year's May the Fourth celebration compilation here. And if you want to see the twist for yourself (whether it's for the first or the hundredth time), all nine movies in the Skywalker Saga are now streaming on Disney+.

[h/t ComicBook.com]

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.