There are numerous ways to judge a movie. We're all film critics from the comfort of our own home or the cinema. For the filmmakers, one factor that matters above all others is the box office takings. What are the top grossing horror/thriller movies of all time? Here are the top five grossing horror/thriller films which prove that they don't necessarily need Halloween to bring in fans wanting to be scared.
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5. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Worldwide gross: $215,862,692
Adjusted for inflation (2010): $336,140,000
The Transylvanian count has been the subject of many film adaptations, but Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version was the most commercially successful of the lot. It earned over $200 million worldwide. Audiences overlooked the slightly off English accent of Keanu Reeves and flocked to the theater to see it. (For related reading, see Top-Earning Superhero Movies.)
4. Van Helsing (2004)
Worldwide gross: $300,257,475
Adjusted for inflation (2010): $347,260,000
"Van Helsing" was released in May 2004. Based on the vampire-hunting character in Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula," it starred Hugh Jackman in the title role. Helsing is cursed with a past he cannot recall and driven by a mission he cannot deny. Charged by a secret organization to seek out and defeat evil the world over, his efforts to rid the world of its nightmarish creatures have been rewarded with the title that now follows him - murderer. Jackman's presence in this movie may well have helped it hit the high stakes in box office takings. (For related reading, see The Economics Of Summer Blockbuster Movies.)
3. I Am Legend (2007)
Worldwide gross: $585,349,010
Adjusted for inflation (2010) $616,630,000
Will Smith's post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film may not have been a hit with the zombies in the film, but it was certainly a hit at the box office. This long-awaited big-budget adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic horror novel sees Smith playing the last man on earth surrounded by diseased human beings who have morphed into a zombie-vampire hybrid. Worthy of its position as number three, this sent fans and zombies alike running for their lives!
2. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Worldwide gross: $672,806,292
Adjusted for inflation (2010): $882,150,000
This thriller hit our screens in 1999 and starred Bruce Willis as a child psychologist and Haley Joel Osment as his patient. The boy claims to be able to "see dead people" among the living, but to reveal anything more than that would compromise the film's famous twist ending – which had viewers choking on their popcorn in surprise, rather than scoffing at the usually weak ending of horror movies. Audiences flocked to the film, which became a hit through word of mouth and very positive reviews. It earned over $670 million in 1999, which accounts for over $880 million against today's economy. (To see which movies have been successful in the past, see Top 10 Successful Movie Franchises.)
1. The Exorcist (1973)
Worldwide gross: $441,071,011
Adjusted for inflation (2010): $2,170,120,000
It may come as no surprise that the highest grossing horror movie is "The Exorcist." Forty years since its release, and it still seems the old ones are the best. "The Exorcist" created a high level of controversy after its release, many people where so scared by it they had to leave the cinema - there where even stories of people committing suicide as a result of the film. Today, "The Exorcist" is considered to be the first psychological thriller ever made, and continues to hold a reputation for being exceptionally frightening.
Franchise the Magic
Many horror films keep rehashing the same winning formula and thus producing very successful and profitable franchises. One of the most successful examples of this is The "Saw" Franchise. In fact, last year the "Guinness Book Of World Records" has named "Saw" as the most successful horror film franchise. The seven "Saw" films have made over $873 million at the box office in total. That's over $953 million adjusted for inflation.
Each year the franchise has released a sequel around Halloween, but the producers claim that "Saw 3D" was the last one they'll make. Saw beat off longer-running movie franchises to be awarded the world record. "Nightmare on Elm Street" has made nine sequels and "Friday the 13th" claims 12 films in the series. However, "Saw" has brought in the most money from its seven hit movies.
The Bottom Line
In today's terms, it cost an estimated $68 million to make all seven "Saw" movies, which shows just how profitable horror films can be when you consider the $873 million they took at the box office. Even though many horror movies don't break the $100-million mark at the domestic box office, they remain a profitable option. It doesn't seem to cost a lot of money to create scares, and the studios don't have to hire expensive actors either. So with decent profits to be made, we're likely to keep being scared for a long time to come! (For related reading, see Movie Genres That Make The Most Money.)