The Highest-Grossing Slasher Movies of All Time

Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface's Greatest Hits

Few movies genres thrill like slasher movies. Though many of them are as silly as they are scary, they're always entertaining to watch—and because they're cheap to make (they rarely feature expensive, big-name actors), they tend to do very well at the box office. After all, almost everyone likes going to the movie theater for a good scare.

Because slasher movie icons like Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger starred in movies that didn't cost much, many of them made a killing at the box office (pun intended). Here are the top ten highest-grossing slasher movies at the U.S. box office after adjusting for inflation (with figures provided by Box Office Mojo).

Honorable Mention: Psycho (1960) - $369.5 million

Psycho
Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho isn’t a slasher film as we think of them today – in fact, it's more of a psychological thriller. However, its creepy villain, fast-paced editing, frightening score, and, most of all, massive box office success became a standard that the slasher genre would try to follow.

10. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) - $85 million

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Paramount Pictures

Any horror movie fan will tell you that whenever a movie is labeled the “final chapter” or something else with an air of finality, don’t believe it. In the case of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – the fourth film in the series – it actually was intended to close the book on Jason Voorhees because Paramount Pictures executives thought the genre was losing interest. The box office success of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter proved them wrong. After chasing Camp Crystal Lake teenagers in this film (including Corey Feldman), Jason appears to be gone for good at the end.

Though the next film in the series, 1985’s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, only has a tangential connection to the hockey mask-wearing killer, the low box office take meant that producers bought Jason back in 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) - $99.2 million

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
New Line Cinema

1985's A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was even more successful at the box office that the original 1984 film, so another sequel was sure to follow. Series creator Wes Craven returned to the series and co-wrote the screenplay for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with the intention that it would end the series.

Craven's plan backfired when A Nightmare on Elm Street 3—which depicted Freddy Krueger's victims fighting back against the serial killer after discovering Krueger's dark past—became the biggest hit of the year for New Line Cinema. No way the series was going to end after that!

8. Halloween: H20 (1998) - $101.6 million

Halloween: H20
Dimension Films

After John Carpenter's Halloween and Halloween II were followed by four more sequels of varying quality, writers wiped the slate clean and set this sequel 20 years after the events of first two films. It also brought back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and was directed by veteran slasher movie filmmaker Steve Miner.

Audiences were very interested in seeing Curtis' character return to the franchise to face her masked, murderous brother, Michael Myers, in what was presumed to be their final battle – until, of course, the success of this film meant another sequel would follow.

7. Friday the 13th Part III (1982) - $101.9 million

Friday the 13th Part III
Paramount Pictures

After the success of the first two Friday the 13th movies, producers took the opportunity of having "III" in the title of Friday the 13th Part III to release the film in 3-D. Obviously the 3-D gimmick worked, as Friday the 13th Part III was more successful at the box office than the previous sequel. Most importantly, this sequel established Jason wearing a hockey mask, which has become the character’s definite look in pop culture.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) - $104 million

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
New Line Cinema

Despite Wes Craven’s intentions to end the franchise with the previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was the most successful film of the series yet. In it, the children from the previous film accidentally bring Freddy Krueger back into the dream world – with terrible results, of course.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - $115.7 million

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
New Line Cinema

Many remakes of slasher films—like A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) —have fared poorly at the box office. One major exception is the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is the most successful slasher remake ever made.

One of the reasons why 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fared so much better than other remakes is because director Marcus Nispel specifically tried to make his film in a different style than the original. Nispel later also directed the 2009 Friday the 13th remake.

4. Freddy vs. Jason (2003) - $118.7 million

Freddy vs. Jason
New Line Cinema

Though it was never going to live up to fan's expectations, the highly-anticipated crossover between Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street was released with lots of hype. It's no surprise then that it was the most successful A Nightmare on Elm Street film as well as nearly the most successful Friday the 13th movie. Fans waited 20 years to see the horror icons battle, and the box office success reflected that.

3. Friday the 13th (1980) - $128 million

Friday the 13th
Paramount Pictures

Critics might not understand why fans love slasher movies, but the success of the original Friday the 13th explains why studios keep making them. Creator Sean S. Cunningham produced this on a budget of just $550,000 ($1.6 million in 2016 dollars). Audiences discovering the film today are still surprised at the twist on the identity of the killer—and it's those kind of scary surprises made the franchise into a fan favorite.
 

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) - $142.9 million

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Vortex

Often cited as the first "true" slasher film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was produced on a low budget by director Tobe Hooper, who was inspired by real-life serial killer Ed Gein to create a chainsaw-wielding mass murderer named Leatherface. Audiences flocked to theaters—except for the many places where the film was banned because of its excessive violence. Though modern audiences might notice that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn't as polished as its later imitators, that low-budget aesthetic adds to the film's grindhouse appeal and is part of why it's considered one of the most influential horror films ever made.
 

1. Halloween (1978) - $173.9 million

Halloween
Compass International Pictures

When horror fans talk about the greatest slasher films ever made, John Carpenter's Halloween usually tops the list. So many elements that became trademarks of slasher films—chilling music, first-person camerawork, a menacing monster, and screaming teenage girls—were perfected in this classic about mysterious killer Michael Myers and his obsession with teenager Laurie Strode (a then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis). Its low-budget aesthetic inspired countless filmmakers, and though sequels and remakes of Halloween have followed, nothing beats the original.

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McKittrick, Christopher. "The Highest-Grossing Slasher Movies of All Time." ThoughtCo, Jan. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/highest-grossing-slasher-movies-4088988. McKittrick, Christopher. (2017, January 12). The Highest-Grossing Slasher Movies of All Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/highest-grossing-slasher-movies-4088988 McKittrick, Christopher. "The Highest-Grossing Slasher Movies of All Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/highest-grossing-slasher-movies-4088988 (accessed October 24, 2017).