Friday the 13th: 13 Highest-Grossing Horror Films

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By Andrew DePietro, Staff Writer

Friday the 13th is here and that means fear and superstition is on people's minds. The holiday is so well known and feared, in fact, the term friggatriskaidekaphobia means the fear of Friday the 13th, and experts say businesses like airlines lose significant business on the day.

To celebrate, GOBankingRates assembled a list of our favorite highest-grossing horror films for you to enjoy this Friday the 13th. To give the greatest variety, only one movie per franchise is included. Box office data was gathered from BoxOfficeMojo.com.

'Scream' -- $173 Million

No scary movie list would be complete without "Scream," released Dec. 20, 1996, one week after Friday the 13th. Wes Craven directs Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox as they try to outwit a masked killer who enjoys asking his victims, "What's your favorite scary movie?"

Like other top horror films, "Scream" produced a number of successful sequels, including "Scream 2" and "Scream 3" before "Scream 4" proved to be a dud. "Scream" actually grossed more money in its second and third weekend than in its opening, something most movies don't pull off.

Bloody and self-referential, "Scream" nearly landed an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. Luckily, executive producer Bob Weinstein stepped in and secured an R rating in a novel manner: he told the MPAA to view the movie as a comedy.

'The Grudge' -- $187.3 Million

Like "The Ring," the 2004 horror movie "The Grudge" is based on a Japanese original, "Ju-on: The Grudge." Set in Tokyo, "The Grudge" stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as an American nurse battling an angry spirit.

"The Grudge" didn't score with critics -- it holds a 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes -- but it did score with audiences. It raked in over $110 million at the domestic box office on a budget of $10 million. Its $39.1 million opening weekend was so good the studio greenlit the sequel, "The Grudge 2," the following Monday.

'Paranormal Activity' -- $193.4 Million

"Paranormal Activity" accomplished what so many horror films aim to do: score big box office returns on a small budget. Of the top horror movies on this list, "Paranormal Activity" ranks highest in gross-to-budget, making over $108 million domestically on a minuscule $15,000 budget. It also spawned a slew of "Paranormal Activity" sequels, though the most recent, "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," made a mere $18 million at the domestic box office.

"Paranormal Activity" ranked No. 30 among the highest-grossing films of 2009 and comes second as the highest-grossing found footage movie based on return on investment, behind "The Blair Witch Project."

'Interview with the Vampire' -- $223.7 Million

Horror films don't all need to be filled with cheap thrills, teens on the run and thin plots. "Interview with the Vampire," starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, is one of the best horror movies because of its layered plot and Oscar-worthy drama. If you want to watch a classy horror flick this Friday the 13th, "Interview with the Vampire" is the way to go.

Released in 1994, "Interview with the Vampire" had to compete with blockbusters like "Forrest Gump" and "The Lion King," both of which grossed over $300 million. What's impressive is that "Interview with the Vampire" grossed over $36 million its first weekend, beating both blockbusters and topping the 1994 chart for biggest opening weekend.

'The Blair Witch Project' -- $248.6 Million

"The Blair Witch Project" might not have been the first found footage horror movie, but it's definitely the horror film that made it mainstream. Released July 1999, "The Blair Witch Project" proved big gains can be made on small budgets -- in this case, a $60,000 budget netted $140 million domestically.

"The Blair Witch Project" ranks as one of the best scary movies due to the then-novel found footage approach, blurring the line between documentary and fiction. Production of "The Blair Witch Project" was unusual as well, with actors reportedly using GPS trackers to find their acting instructions for the day's shoot.

'The Ring' -- $249.3 Million

"The Ring" holds a notable record among the best horror movies: It's the highest-grossing horror remake. Based on the Japanese horror film "Ringu," "The Ring" stars Naomi Watts as she struggles to protect herself and her son after watching a video tape haunted by a ghost that kills its victims after seven days.

The Academy Awards might have skipped on "The Ring," but the 2002 scary movie did win the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Best Actress. Naomi Watts starred in the 2005 sequel, "The Ring 2," which grossed twice as much as the original during its opening weekend. In total, however, the sequel only earned a little more than half as the original.

'What Lies Beneath' -- $291.4 Million

"What Lies Beneath" recalls a time when Harrison Ford could star in a box office hit that wasn't either Star Wars or Indiana Jones. "What Lies Beneath" pairs Ford with Michelle Pfeiffer and director Robert Zemeckis in a classic tale of the living being haunted by the dead.

"What Lies Beneath" might not make the critics' list for best horror films, but it does hold some interesting distinctions among scary movies. "What Lies Beneath" is one of only three horror films since 2000 -- the other two being "I Am Legend" and "Signs" -- to finish in the top ten highest-grossing films for the year it was released.

'Shutter Island' -- $294.8 Million

Martin Scorsese took a break from mob films to direct the 2010 mystery horror film "Shutter Island." Based on the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, "Shutter Island" tells the story of U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and partner Chuck Aule, played by Mark Ruffalo, as they investigate the disappearance of a patient from a remote mental hospital in 1954. The plot thickens as DiCaprio unearths sinister details about the hospital and its staff.

"Shutter Island" marks the fourth time Scorsese and DiCapario have worked together on a movie, the other films including "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator" and "The Departed." "Shutter Island" raked in $41 million its opening weekend, the highest-grossing weekend among Scorsese films.

'The Conjuring' -- $318.0 Million

"The Conjuring" ranks as one of the best horror movies thanks to its solid box office performance and exceptional critical reviews, holding an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "The Conjuring" stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators who try to save a family from a supernatural haunting.

"The Conjuring" set a few records for horror movies when it was released in the summer of 2013. The film's $41.9 million opening weekend marked a new record for an original R-rated horror film. Equally impressive, "The Conjuring" grossed $22.2 million in its second weekend, dropping only 47 percent where many other horror movies drop well over 50 percent from the first weekend.

With a production budget of just $20 million, "The Conjuring" was a bona fide box office hit. The studio took notice, too. "The Conjuring 2" is expected to hit theaters June 2016.

'The Exorcist' -- $441.3 Million

"The Exorcist" accomplished what most top horror movies have not: It was a box office hit when released and scored a slew of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. In fact, "The Exorcist" was the first horror film to receive the nomination.

"The Exorcist" made demon possession a staple of horror movies in Hollywood. Linda Blair plays the iconic, possessed daughter Regan MacNeil, while Max von Sydow stars as the Catholic priest Father Merrin.

"The Exorcist" captured audiences, grossing over $230 million domestically since its box office release in 1973. Like many other of the best horror films, "The Exorcist" sparked a series of films, which have collectively grossed $630.5 million worldwide.

'Jaws' -- $470.7 Million

Adventure, drama, thriller, horror, "Jaws" is a movie that spans multiple genres, but the fear it instilled in audiences makes it one of the better horror films. Steven Spielberg directs Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss in a Moby Dick-style tale of hunting down a great white shark terrorizing a small beach town.

With an estimated budget of $7 million, "Jaws" doesn't seem like an expensive undertaking, but studio executives agonized over production delays. Then, "Jaws" hit theaters in June 1975 and earned back its budget, becoming the first film to earn more than $7 million its opening weekend.

'I Am Legend' -- $585.3 Million

Starring Will Smith as the seemingly last human survivor of a plague, "I Am Legend" is a sci-fi film that has a survival horror plot at its core. What makes "I Am Legend" one of the top horror movies isn't just its story of survival amid a world of ravenous zombies. It's the fact that Will Smith single-handedly carries the movie -- and it proved to be the one of the highest-grossing movies of his career, second only to "Independence Day."

'The Sixth Sense' -- $672.8 Million

"The Sixth Sense" is a rare example of a Hollywood film that performed well at the box office but didn't spawn a sequel. "The Sixth Sense" tops the list of the best scary movies, tallying up a domestic box office gross of over $293 million.

"The Sixth Sense" tells the story of child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe, played by Bruce Willis, as he helps his new patient Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment, come to terms with his demons -- or ghosts, in this case.

"The Sixth Sense" was the highest-grossing movie of 1999, second only to blockbuster juggernaut "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace." "The Sixth Sense" garnered six Academy Awards nominations, a feat most of even the best horror movies can't claim.

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