One of the main claims against horror films in recent years is the “recycling” of characters, films, and ideas. Every year we hear about quite a few sequels, prequels, remakes, spin-offs, and god knows what else. Whether the reason is that you should “Never change a winning horse”, or whether it is a lack of ideas or originality, one fact cannot be ignored: it usually works. The following list of the most successful and highest grossing horror franchises of all time shows just how many.
In the following review, we will refer to the 25 highest grossing horror franchise of all time, and above all – to the undisputed status of the cinematic universe of “The Conjuring” which totally rocks. And it’s really not the end of the story for him
What Is The Highest Grossing Horror Franchise? Here’s The Full List
25. The Vampire Chronicles
We start the review with a horror franchise that currently includes only two films, although a few years ago we heard about intentions to add new adaptations (which have not yet come to fruition). “The Vampire Chronicles”, by writer Anne Rice (who died in late 2021) includes 13 films. Two of them were adapted for the big screen: “Interview with a Vampire” from 1994 with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, and Kirsten Dunst, which grossed over 223 million dollars worldwide. “Queen of the Damned” from 2002, released shortly after the death of the main star Aaliyah, currently completes the series.
Total gross: about 269 million dollars
In 1999, “The Blair Witch Project” was released and became almost immediately a sensation. The film, with a budget of only about 60,000 dollars, was a huge success with a total gross of almost a quarter of a million worldwide. It is also considered the prototype of the found footage films (aka “films based on raw video materials that were found. Yes, like The Blair Witch Project”), although there were Found Footage films before it.
The franchise currently includes two other films: The sequel “Book of Shadows” which basically destroyed everything the first film did, and “Blair Witch” from 2016. This movie was a direct sequel to the first film while ignoring the original sequel (and a good thing). In practice, this movie mostly gave us headaches.
In April 2022, Lionsgate announced plans to produce another film in the series.
Total gross: about 341 million dollars
23. “Ju-on” / “The Grudge”
Here’s something you might not know about the Japanese grudge film series (originally: “Ju-On”): it includes no less than nine full-length films, several more short films, TV series, and many spin-offs. Likely, you saw mainly the American version from 2004, with Sarah Michelle Gellar. it earned about 187 million dollars worldwide and produced two very problematic sequels and a reboot in 2020. If you prefer Asian horror, which many consider being better, you can choose between films in one of three timelines.
Total gross: about 369 million dollars
22. “Friday the 13th”
At last, we come to Jason Voorhees and the “Friday the 13th” film series, which also goes far beyond the limits of the big screen. It started in 1980 with the original “Friday the 13th”, which grossed about 60 million dollars worldwide. Over the years, Jason has passed quite a few stops: in Manhattan, in space, in the future, and other unclear plot directions.
The truth is that this franchise has been asleep since 2009 when the “Friday the 13th” reboot came out. The most successful movie is actually “Freddy vs. Jason”, which brings together two of the biggest horror icons.
Total gross: about 465 million dollars
21. “The Purge”
In 2013, “The Purge” arrived and showed us what would happen if crime in the United States were allowed for 12 hours every year. The film, starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, grossed nearly $90 million worldwide. Then came four more films: “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014),
“The Purge: Election Year” (2016), “The First Purge” (a prequel to the trilogy from 2018, which is considered the most successful of all gross of approx. 136 million dollars) and “The Forever Purge” from 2021 – the sequel to the politically oriented “Purge 3”, which was released a year late due to the Corona crisis.
Total gross: about 533 million dollars
The truth is that quite a few people believe that the “Insidious” films belong to the extended cinematic universe of “The Conjuring” – perhaps because of the presence of director James Wan and Patrick Wilson – but the truth is that it is a totally separate franchise. It currently includes four films: “Insidious” (2010), “Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013), the prequel “Insidious: Chapter 3” (2015) “The Last Key” (2021), the most successful of the series so far. The “Insidious” films have so far grossed approximately 540 million dollars worldwide, an amount that will surely increase significantly with “Insidious: Fear the Dark”, which will be released in June 2023.
Total gross: about 542 million dollars
19. “Nightmare on Elm Street”
In 1984, Freddy Krueger was born and entered our nightmares. Wes Craven, one of the fathers of the horror genre in cinema, wrote and directed the first film in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series with a modest budget of fewer than 2 million dollars. The film was praised by critics and became iconic almost every day. Afterward, we got eight more films: among them the sequels whose quality is questionable, a remake by Rob Zombie, and also the same crossover with Jason Voorhees, the most successful in the extended series.
Total gross: about 545 million dollars
18. “The Exorcist”
“The Exorcist” from 1973 is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror films in the history of cinema, and it is not difficult to understand why. William Friedkin’s supernatural horror thriller, based on an American novel published two years earlier, has several scenes etched in the memory of every horror fan. The four sequels bring the franchise’s total gross to about $589 million, but don’t worry: In October 2023 we’ll get to see a sequel of that classic. Later, two more films are planned.
Total gross: about 589 million dollars
17. “I Am Legend”
The 2007 post-apocalyptic horror film “I Am Legend”, starring Will Smith, ranks third on the list of the highest-grossing horror films of all time with earnings of more than $585 million. You may not know that the film is based on a novel of the same name by Richard Matheson from 1954, which got two films earlier: “The Last Man on Earth” starring Vincent Price from 1964 and “The Omega Man” from 1971 starring Charlton Heston.
In March 2023, the expected sequel, “I Am Legend 2”, was announced, starring Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan. There is no doubt that this sequel will raise the film at least a few places on the list. Unless the audience decides to boycott the film due to Will Smith’s behavior on the world’s biggest stage.
Total gross: about 589 million dollars
16. “A Quiet Place”
With only two films, “A Quiet Place” manages to secure the super respectable 16th place. The 2018 post-apocalyptic horror film, starring Emily Blunt, features a world ruled by monsters that detect their prey with the help of their sense of hearing. The film, with a budget of about 18 million dollars, grossed about 350 million dollars worldwide. The sequel came two years later and also approached 300 million dollars. In 2025, the third film in the series is expected, minus Emily Blunt, when it is not yet clear exactly where it will fit in with the previous films.
Total gross: about 646 million dollars
15. “The Ring”
“The Ring”, or “Ringo” in Japanese, is an empire of horror films centered around a murderous videotape and an equally terrifying girl named Samara. In total, you can find under this franchise eight Japanese films, three American films – “The Ring” from 2002 which grossed almost a quarter of a million dollars, and the two sequels from 2005 and 2017 – a Korean remake, manga adaptations, TV series, video games and more. In total, the “The Ring” films grossed over 654.5 million dollars worldwide. Currently, it is not known if another movie is planned, as a few years ago we heard about an idea to make an american movie that combines “The Ring” and “The Grudge” movies, a combination that was already made in Japan.
Total gross: about 655 million dollars
14. “Final Destination”
The “Final Destination” movies show, quite literally, that you can’t avoid death. They influenced many horror fans – who are still afraid to this day, for example, to stand in traffic behind a truck carrying wood – and also did quite well at the box office. The five “Final Destination” films – from the first in 2000 to the fifth released 11 years later – have so far grossed more than $665 million worldwide. The number will surely increase significantly with the sixth film, which is in the advanced stages of development.
Total gross: about 665 million dollars
Here’s the trailer of “Final Destination 6”:
If you like horror movies and grew up in the 2000s, you’ve likely seen “Scream” movies more than once. Wes Craven’s modern slashers, which center on a bloody “who the killer is” mystery, introduced the world to Ghostface for the first time in 1996. The film is still considered the most successful in the series, with a total gross of approximately 173 million dollars. However, the following films were also quite successful and so far have generated almost 750 million dollars worldwide.
Here too, it is a number that is expected to change very soon: February 2023, when the sixth film in the series will hit the screens and will probably raise it to the top ten.
Total gross: about 744.4 million dollars
The “Predator” film series began in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fight against the terrifying alien in the heart of the jungle, which was produced with a budget of about 15 million dollars and grossed approximately four times as much. Then came the sequel, without Arnold, which moved the playing field to Los Angeles and got approximately 30 million dollars. The series continued in the 2010s, with two problematic adaptations: “Predators” (2010) and “The Predator” (2018) – which were reasonably successful, though not astronomical.
The most interesting thing came in 2022, with “Prey” which emerged directly on Hulu and skipped cinemas. This fact teaches us that with the rise of streaming
services, at the same time or instead of distribution in cinemas, lists of the highest grossing horror franchises such this may be less relevant in the future.
Total gross: about 744.5 million dollars
Now, the film which is considered the “first blockbuster in the history of cinema” – Steven Spielberg’s masterful “Jaws” from 1975, which has so far generated over 470 million dollars (including re-screenings made in the decades that have passed since then, the most recent this year). Then came an average sequel in 1978 and two more terrible films in the 80s. The first of them tried to introduce the world to the news of 3D movies, which was only partially successful with 45 million dollars at the box office. So far the “Jaws” movies have generated about 820 million dollars.
In recent years we have heard about several ideas that have been thrown into the air, for example, Spielberg’s desire for a prequel that takes us back to the time of World War II. As far as we know, a new chapter in the deadly shark saga is no longer in development.
Total gross: about 819 million dollars
Another horror franchise that continues to be relevant today is “Halloween”. John Carpenter’s masterpiece from 1978, which gave birth to the horror icon Michael Myers and contributed to the development of slasher films, is still considered successful in the series with earnings of more than 255 million dollars. Then came no less than 12 sequels, and it’s easy to get lost between the timelines, the sequels, the remakes,
and other vegetables. Only recently “Halloween Ends” arrived in the theatres and got over 100 million dollars worldwide. Something tells us that Michael Maris is still not done murdering everyone who comes by.
Total gross: about 877 million dollars
9. "Paranormal Activity"
The first film in what would become the "Paranormal Activity" franchise is considered one of the sensational successes of horror cinema in recent decades. The movie, with a ridiculous budget of 15,000 dollars (!), grossed more than 193 million dollars worldwide (!!). In the following years, we got prequels, sequels, and even one 3D movie, which brings the franchise to more than 890 million dollars. The franchise may reach the super impressive mark of one billion dollars in 2023, with the eighth film expected to hit the cinema screens.
Total gross: about 890.5 million dollars
The eighth place is occupied by the most famous vampire in the world, the creation of Bram Stoker. Dracula is the horror character that has been portrayed by the largest number of actors, with the number of adaptations that are currently considered the most extensive. A total of 15 films in the vampire from Transylvania and the secondary characters - including of course the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. The 2004 film starring Hugh Jackman grossed around $300 million, the franchise's highest gross to date. Also worthy of mention are "Dracula the Beginning" from 2014 (about $217 million) and "Dracula" from 1992 (about $215 million). The rest of the processing yielded amounts ranging from several tens of thousands of dollars to several tens of millions of dollars.
Total gross: about 892 million dollars
7. "Scary Movie"
The parody, which is amusing in some episodes and disappointing in others, "Scary Movie", is in seventh place. The most successful film, "Scary Movie" starring Anna Faris from 2000, generated approximately 278 million dollars. Next on the list, you will find "Scary Movie 3" (about 220 million dollars), "Scary Movie 4" (about 178 million dollars), "Scary Movie 2" (about 141 million dollars), and the last film in the
franchise as of now - "Scary Movie 5" from 2013, with gross of about 78 million dollars. Perhaps the terrible reviews it received contributed to this.
Currently, we are not aware of any intention to produce more silly parodies under the franchise.
Total gross: about 896.5 million dollars
The sixth place is occupied by another gruesome horror villain: the brilliant psychiatrist, serial killer, and cannibal Hannibal Lecter, the product of novels by Thomas Harris that has received numerous film and television adaptations. There is no doubt that the masterpiece here is "The Silence of the Lambs" from 1991, the only horror film to win an Oscar so far. The film grossed nearly $273 million across the globe but surprisingly isn't the highest-grossing under the franchise. The honorable title goes to "Hannibal" from 2001 with total gross of almost 352 million dollars.
Total gross: about 924 million dollars
John Kramer's ("Jigsaw") morbid puzzles and Billy the doll, under the "Saw" franchise, are the first in our review to cross the billion-dollar mark. The first film from 2004, however, is the most sensational success: over 103 million dollars, worldwide, for a film produced with a budget of only about 1.2 million dollars.
The franchise manages to maintain impressive stability, with seven of the nine films so far managing to cross the $100 million mark worldwide. This may explain why in 2010, "Saw" was listed in the Guinness world records as the most successful horror franchise. Even tough it lost the lead in the next years, This number is far from the end of the story. A 10th film is expected in the coming years, with the good news being that Tobin Bell will not return to play the psychopathic killer.
Total gross: about a billion dollars
"It" is the franchise with the least amount of movies on our list: only two movies, so far. But when the first of them is considered the highest-grossing horror film of all time, and its direct sequel is in the top five as well, you can understand how it happens. Pennywise, the clown from Stephen King's Derry, kills it. The first film from 2017 grossed an unimaginable amount of about 700 million dollars, and the sequel - despite the R rating and the fact that it lasted over two and a half hours - settled for "only" about 473 million dollars.
Total gross: about 1.2 billion dollars
Highest Grossing Horror Franchise Of All Time: "The Conjuring"
The first place is not expected to surprise you, and here too it seems that very soon we will continue to break records. The cinematic universe of "The Conjuring", starring the investigators Eddie and Lorraine, the doll Annabelle, the nun, and very soon also other characters, has so far grossed about 2.1 billion dollars worldwide. In the first place, by the way, is actually the weak "Nun" from 2018, which grossed about 365 million dollars. It is followed on the list by "The Conjuring 2" (about 322 million dollars), "The Conjuring" (about 320 million dollars), "Annabelle: Creation" (about 306 million dollars), "Annabelle" (about 257 million dollars"), "Annabelle Comes Home" (about 231 million dollars"), "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" (about 206 million dollars) and "The Curse of La Llorona" with only 123 million dollars.
It probably won't end here, as the 3 billion dollar threshold is not astronomical. In 2023 the sequel to "The Nun" is expected to hit the theatres. A fourth film in the "The Conjuring" series (a direct sequel to "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It") is also expected later, and probably a fifth as well. Horror fans may be disappointed to hear that the planned "The Crooked Man" movie from "The Conjuring 2" has been canceled, as for now.
Total gross: about 2.13 billion dollars