The 25 Highest-Grossing Horror Movies of All Time
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 25 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)
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 85 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)
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)
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. A QUIET PLACE (2018)
The collaboration between real-life married couple John Krasinski as director/star and Emily Blunt as his co-star already made A Quiet Place one of the year's most anticipated films. Fortunately, the film turned out to be one of the best horror films of the year for many critics and viewers, earning $188,024,361. Krasinski is reportedly writing a sequel now.
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)
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)
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)
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)
One of the most highly-anticipated horror movies of this year was no doubt The Nun, the sixth film in The Conjuring Universe. Although the movie completely bombed with critics and fans alike, scoring a measly 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it has made an impressive $116,888,393 so far (and counting).
10. THE GRUDGE (2004)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 came it 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. 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.
25. MAMA (2013)
Andy Muschietti’s second 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.