The DataHero Blog

Are Horror Films On Their Way Out?

October 29th, 2015

Slasher movies saw their heyday in the 80’s, while it looks like the supernatural thrillers may have seen their peak in the early 2000’s. The chart below seems to suggest we may be approaching a slump in horror films after a significant upswing from 1999 – 2012. What’s the next wave in horror film culture? Or is the horror genre on its way out?

DataHero Lifetime Box Office Earnings In Horror Genre

It looked like horror films were on the uptick after 1999’s stellar year with the release of The Sixth Sense, The Haunting and The Blair Witch Project, all supernatural films in the horror genre and three of the horror genre’s heavy hitters. The following horror movie seasons fell short after that though, until 2004’s The Grudge, Van Helsing and The Village.

You’ll notice beginning even before the huge spike in box office earnings in 1999, horror films were trending upward but around 2010 even the spikes in revenue are diminishing. Does this mean the horror genre had its peak and will return to the previous standard in box office revenue of the 70’s and 80’s? Or is there just a shift in what types of horror movies are released?


If we break the horror genre down into further subcategories, we see a distinct trend in the types of horror movies based on their release dates.

DataHero Lifetime Gross by Year and Genre (3)

The first horror movie in the chart above is from the supernatural phenomenon, the Exorcist. The spike in “Terror in the Water” is the original terror in the water, Jaws. Throughout much of the 80’s and even into the 90’s, the horror genre was dominated by slasher films. Then the huge spike in 1999 in supernatural horror set the precedent for much of the 2000’s. There was also an increase in Horror Period films like Van Helsing and the Village, as well as horror remakes from the slasher time like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. The Horror Torture subcategory saw some success starting with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, followed by the even more successful, Saw franchise.

In fact, the Saw franchise accounts for six of the top ten torture films in the chart below:
DataHero Top Torture Films (1)

Note that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre also has a solid showing in torture films. Texas Chainsaw Massacre actually ranks number five in the top grossing horror films of all time.

DataHero Top 20 Grossing Horror Films (1)

As we learned in this post on viewer ratings vs. box office revenue though, gross earnings don’t always mean a movie is high quality. It’s possible that Hollywood is churning out great horror movies, but they’re not heavy hitters in the box office. Did we miss some of your favorite horror movies? Weigh in in the comments below.

Ready to dig into the data yourself? Check it out here from Box Office Mojo.

By Kelli Simpson

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