October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best horror blockbusters is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Who made up the rule that horror movies don’t make money? Anytime a new movie makes bank at the box office, as Nope and The Black Phone (two excellent movies that were too recent for consideration on this list) did this year, box office analysis is always sure to include the qualifier “for a horror film.” Well, we’re here to say that not only can horror films bring home the big bucks, but also that moviegoers have often shown up to support horror films that are creative, original, crowd-pleasing, and scary.
A note for any mathematicians at home: this isn’t a ranked list of the biggest money makers in horror box office history, but rather of what we consider the ten best horror movies that made over $100 million at the box office. All numbers come via Box Office Mojo. Now grab some popcorn and recline your seat, the show’s about to begin.
10. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Budgets and box offices dictate a blockbuster, but so do the major Hollywood stars that populate it. And in 1994, were there any stars hotter – or more hunky – than Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas? That trio alone is enough to get butts in seats because, I mean, just look at them. But thankfully, they were supported by a rich story from Anne Rice’s iconic novel and a strong ensemble of performances to make this vamp-rom-dram ridiculously entertaining and a resounding box office success whose influence continues to reverberate through vampiric literature, cinema, and television. (Jacob Trussell)
9. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Of all the entries on this list, M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout film seems like the most baffling moneymaker in retrospect. Not because it isn’t a great movie – for my money, it’s one of the best ghost stories out there – but because the sensitive, rather small story at its core is in deep opposition to the type of loud-and-fast movies that seem to catch audiences’ eyes these days. A young, captivating Haley Joel Osment stars as the boy who sees dead people, while Bruce Willis is the child psychologist trying to help him work through his fears.
The film is most often discussed in relation to its big twist, which surely inspired watercooler conversations and word of mouth that led to its $672 million box office. Yet it has so much more to offer than a simple twist ending, including an emotional performance by Toni Collette and one of the most empathetic portrayals of the supernatural I’ve ever seen. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
8. It (2017)
It’s still difficult to accept that a Stephen King adaptation, an R-rated film running over two hours, earned over $700 million dollars at the box office. That’s an incredible feat made even better by the realization that the movie is a fantastically entertaining horror film that doesn’t shy away from the story’s grislier moments involving its cast of kids. Chapter two does not work in the slightest, but this film succeeds as a standalone powered by strong performances from the kid actors and some truly cool and creepy set-pieces crafted by director Andy Muschietti. Tim Curry is dark fun in the mini-series, but Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is horror incarnate. Add in gorgeous cinematography, and you have a horror film that delivers across the board and earns every single cent it raked in from theaters. (Rob Hunter)
7. Get Out (2017)
I know this isn’t the case, but I do like to think that Get Out’s 255.4 million dollar gross was the result of insecure white allies being all, “I would have paid full-price to see Get Out in the theater a third time if I could.” I joke, of course: Get Out gave the people something they’d been starved for. Which is to say: intelligent, original, socially-alert horror. In case you’re one of the five lighthouse keepers who didn’t see Jordan Peele’s feature directorial debut, Get Out follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a Black photographer who journeys to the countryside to visit his white girlfriend’s family. While the yuppy creep factor is made paratext through the use of horror conventions, Peele earned bonus points for not shying away from the genre’s gorier, b-movie roots. Move over “elevated horror.” this is how it’s done. (Meg Shields)
6. Ghostbusters (1984)
Family movies always seem to win big at the box office, and starter horror like Ghostbusters, and our #6 pick on this list, is no exception. The silly, imaginative 1984 comedy made $296 million at the box office upon its release and also became a pretty instantaneous – and ubiquitous – fixture in pop culture. It’s easy to see why people were willing to see this movie again and again: come for the popular Saturday Night Live alums who will entertain you; stay for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man monster who will entertain your kids. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Rick Moranis are the comedy dream team that makes Ghostbusters click, and while only a couple of sequences in the film are actually even remotely scary, it’s still an undeniably entertaining popcorn flick. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
This list of the ten best horror blockbusters in movie history concludes on the next page…
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