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In this article, you will learn what horror films topped the U.S. box office from 1922-present day, essentially documenting every commercially available, chart-topping horror movie in North America recorded since Variety began keeping records in the early 1920s. To meet the criteria for inclusion, imdb.com must have 'horror' listed as one of the film's three primary genres. Some movies may have horror like elements, but can fall just short of the mark.

The sources for these are from Box Office Mojo, as well as from the chart archives published by the Greek movies enthusiast, Leonidas Fragias, that faithfully use the same data Variety gathered up all those years ago. 'Lost films' that were considered to be box office number one films due to their estimated gross, such as The Hypnotist - also appear here.

Films listed here that were released prior to 1982, are taken from Variety magazine's weekly top 50 grossing films chart, and earlier box office records. Around 1982, studios reported on the weekend grosses. That tradition has essentially carried on up to the present day, hereby offering a more accurate summary of box office record keeping than in way older decades.

In 2020, Box Office Mojo updated much of their data, so films not previously ranked #1 have now seemingly been rewarded this status, while a few select films that were #1 are now recognised as having gained a #2 box office earning.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus ordeal of 2020 has put a sad halt on box office recording, from March onward.

See also: https://horror.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_box_office_top_ten_horror_films_in_the_United_States

1920s Edit

  • The Monster (inaugural)
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • London After Midnight (lost film)
  • The Terror (lost film)

Note: The beginning of the U.S. box office is considered to have began in February of 1922. Variety started tracking film grosses from certain theaters and cities during that year.

The last known copy of "London After Midnight" (starring Lon Chaney) perished in a fire at MGM, in 1965.

A print of "The Terror" does exist, as does the soundtrack tapes. It hasn't been released commercially as of 2020.

1930s Edit

1940s Edit

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Hold That Ghost

1950s Edit

  • House of Wax

1960s Edit

Note: The top 50 grossing films chart started being published in Variety, during April of 1969. Only one motion picture ("The Mad Room") reached #1 in the 1960s on that chart, while the other two films listed here on this article, peaked on other Variety based charts, that were published prior to the creation of the top 50 grossing films chart.

According to Wikipedia, Variety ceased publication of that chart in 1990. However, the much more widely favored weekend box office really began in 1982.

1970s Edit

  • Dracula
  • Magic
  • The Omen
  • The Amityville Horror
  • Willard
  • King Kong
  • Carrie
  • When a Stranger Calls
  • It's Alive

Note: There was no weekend box office published prior to 1982, so the sources here are taken from Variety's weekly top 50 grossing films charts.

For motion pictures released prior to 1982, websites such as Box Office Mojo and The Numbers have very limited data available, which is why searching on the sites typically brings up little results.

1980s Edit

  • The Fog (Variety weekly #1)
  • The Howling (Variety weekly #1)
  • The Hand (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)
  • Student Bodies (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)
  • Motel Hell (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)
  • The Awakening (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)
  • Eyes of a Stranger (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)
  • Wolfen (Box Office Mojo recognizes it as a weekend #1)

Note: After 1981, the weekend box office began.

  • Amityville 3-D
  • They Live
  • Child's Play
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
  • Friday the 13th Part III
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  • Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Lives
  • Creepshow
  • The Fly
  • The Fly II
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
  • Pet Semetary

Note: Some films prior to 1982 listed here, are taken from Variety's top 50 weekly films charts.

1990s Edit

  • Anaconda
  • Blade
  • Wolf
  • From Dusk Till Dawn
  • Jacob's Ladder
  • The Exorcist III
  • The People Under the Stairs
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
  • Vampires
  • Death Becomes Her
  • Flatliners
  • Stigmata
  • The Craft
  • Sleepwalkers
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • The Relic
  • House on Haunted Hill
  • Graveyard Shift

2000s Edit

  • Saw II
  • Saw III
  • Saw IV
  • The Ring
  • The Grudge
  • The Grudge 2
  • Hostel
  • Jeepers Creepers
  • Jeepers Creepers 2
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Dawn of the Dead
  • When a Stranger Calls
  • AVP: Alien vs Predator
  • The Cell
  • Queen of the Damned
  • The Final Destination
  • Halloween
  • The Fog
  • The Amityville Horror
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Hide and Seek
  • What Lies Beneath
  • Hollow Man
  • Darkness Falls
  • 30 Days of Night
  • Cloverfield
  • Boogeyman
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  • Resident Evil: Extinction
  • Blade II
  • The Messengers
  • Zombieland
  • Silent Hill
  • Freddy vs Jason
  • Urban Legends: Final Cut
  • The Ring 2
  • Prom Night
  • Scary Movie 3
  • Scary Movie 4

2010s Edit

  • Friday the 13th
  • Halloween
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Paranormal Activity 2
  • Paranormal Activity 3
  • Paranormal Activity 4
  • It
  • It: Chapter 2
  • The Rite
  • Evil Dead
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
  • Mama
  • Us
  • Get Out
  • Split
  • Ouija
  • Jigsaw
  • Saw 3D
  • Piranha 3D
  • The Nun
  • Texas Chainsaw
  • Boo! A Madea Halloween
  • Boo 2: A Madea Halloween
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife
  • Resident Evil: Retribution
  • The Conjuring
  • The Possession
  • The Devil Inside

2020s Edit

  • The Invisible Man
  • The Rental
  • The New Mutants

Note: Films shown here in bold reached their peak position during the COVID-19 crisis. Most movies released in cinemas are independently produced, or are reissues of classic films, mostly being featured at drive-in theaters due to the policy on social distancing. Examples include, "Jurassic Park", or "Beauty and the Beast".

Most box office reporting has been halted since March of 2020, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This has caused confusion with some data being sent in for Box Office Mojo and The Numbers supposedly not being correct, as some people claim that "Trolls World Tour" was actually leading the box office for much of the initial stage of the pandemic, ahead of films such as "The Wretched". Although its overall gross hasn't been reported. Therefore, these websites are inclined to only report on what is possible, pending updates from companies that share their earnings. Deadline and Rotten Tomatoes are doing a better job of keeping tabs on the latest popular movies being shown across North America.

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