Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 24.
Horror movies are a Halloween staple, but they're typically a box-office nightmare.
When you take a look at the 100 top-grossing U.S. films of all time, adjusted for inflation, there are only a few examples of the horror genre scattered among the bunch. The 1975 mother-of-all-blockbusters Jaws ranks No. 7 with $1.1 billion in receipts (adjust for inflation from $260 million), while the 1973 possession of Linda Blair in The Exorcist ranks No. 9 of all time with an inflation-adjusted $952 million in box office revenue ($232.9 million without the adjustment).
It gets scarce after that. If you generously consider 1984's Ghostbusters a "horror comedy," it comes in at No. 34 with $612.8 million (adjusted from $242.2 million). After that, it's only 1999's The Sixth Sense at No. 67 with $495.7 million (up from $293.5 million).
Sure, others like 1953's House of Wax, 1954's Rear Window, 1984's Gremlins and 1987's Fatal Attraction make the Top 200. However, when it comes to the beloved slasher film, only one that could be considered even remotely part of the genre stands among the crowd: Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho. Though known more for the gore it didn't show than what it did, Psycho is about the closest the slasher genre has ever come to a firmly mainstream hit.
Why is that? Well, a lot of it has to do with just when that genre peaked. In the late '70s and early '80s, when Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Kreuger and Jason Vorhees were all making their big-screen debuts, the PG-13 rating didn't exist. You either went for the R with as much blood and nudity as you could muster, or you aimed for PG and came away with, well, Gremlins. That rating debuted in 1984, but the slasher genre had grown so accustomed to the freedoms that the R rating offered that it left PG-13 to supernatural fare like The Sixth Sense and to summer blockbusters looking to put a few more teens in the seats and naughty words on screen.
Even at its broadest, the slasher film has had a limited audience. Nobody involved seems to mind that too much, and it's helped bail out the genre during some of its darker-yet-sillier moments. The following 25 slasher movies were the genre's biggest box-office successes, according to Box Office Mojo, but also a reminder that there are films in this genre that are horrifying for reasons beyond grisly murders and doors that should never be unlocked: