Horror movies continue to be an excellent source of revenue for the film industry for many reasons. Two of the biggest reasons are that horror films are generally less expensive to make than other movies, and they have a dedicated fan base that will continue going to the theaters to see these films on the big screen. Fans of the horror genre will continue to see the next installment of a franchise or a stand-alone film no matter what the critic rating is because they thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere that the genre provides. Obviously, horror movies can be entertaining, but they can also be thought-provoking, introspective, and meaningful. The genre has so much more to offer than meets the eye.
Considering that many horror films are made without utilizing a large studio budget, the money they earn at the box office can often turn a considerable profit. This creates an opportunity for countless franchises, expanded universes, and spinoff films to be made. The 2010s proved this to be true, as the decade saw the continuation of beloved horror series, the birth of new horror stories to become enraptured with, and the rise of elevated horror that has piqued audiences’ interest over the past few years. The decade also saw some incredibly high global box office earnings for the genre, starting and ending with impressive numbers. Here are the highest-grossing horror movies from each year of the 2010s.
10 Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) – $300.2M
The fourth installment of the Resident Evil franchise sees Alice (Milla Jovovich) joining a group of survivors living in a prison surrounded by the Undead. Still seeking to take down the Umbrella Corporation, Alice and the survivors set out to find a supposed safe haven in Los Angeles, but are met by thousands of Undead upon their arrival. Resident Evil: Afterlife earned a whopping $300.2 million at the global box office to start off the 2010s horror movie box office earnings. It beat out other major horror contenders such as Paranormal Activity 2, Saw 3D, and the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie landed at spot number 21 on the overall global box office list for 2010.
9 Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – $207M
Set in 1988, the third entry into the Paranormal Activity series centers around two sisters who have an imaginary friend named Toby who resides in their house. Strange things start to occur inside the house, so their mother’s boyfriend decides to put cameras up around the house to capture what goes on at night, and it is soon discovered that Toby is not an imaginary friend, but an evil entity that may be tied to a coven of witches.
Although it was considerably higher than the budget of the first film, Paranormal Activity 3 was made on a rather low budget of $5,000,000 and earned $207M worldwide, making it the top-earning horror movie of 2011. It made $107.4 million more than the second-highest-grossing horror movie that year, which was Insidious.
8 Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) – $240.1M
The 2010s saw a rise in popularity for franchises and that absolutely extended over into the horror landscape. Released two years after Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth movie in the long-running zombie series. It follows Alice as she discovers she has been kidnaped by the Umbrella Corporation and kept in their underground facility. She learns that a five-man team has been sent to rescue her, but that the Red Queen has also sent two mercenaries to hunt them down. While it earned less globally than Afterlife did at the start of the decade, it out-earned Underworld: Awakening and Paranormal Activity 4 with a total gross of $240.1 million.
7 The Conjuring (2013) – $319.4M
The Conjuring universe started almost 10 years ago with the original film, The Conjuring. The film depicts the supposed real-life events of what happened to the Perron family when they moved into a dilapidated Rhode Island farm home in 1971. They contacted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to help them figure out what their house is being haunted by and how to stop it.
The Conjuring ended up receiving two direct sequels, the Annabelle trilogy about the possessed doll, and a spinoff series titled The Nun, which will have its sequel released in September of this year. The Conjuring grossed $319.4 million worldwide, beating out another horror film directed by James Wan, Insidious: Chapter 2.
6 Annabelle (2014) – $257M
Released just a year after The Conjuring made huge waves in the horror genre, Annabelle tells the origin story of how the creepy doll turned into the host for a malevolent entity. Set in the 1950s, John gifts his pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis) a porcelain doll sporting a white wedding dress. The joy of receiving this gift doesn’t last long, as a satanic cult invades their home and conjured a sinister spirit that chose Annabelle as its new host. Despite the movie being ridiculed both by critics and audiences, it grossed $257 million in 2014, making it the highest-grossing horror movie of the year.
5 Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) – $112.9M
Serving as a prequel to the events that unfolded with the Lambert family in the first two movies, Insidious: Chapter 3 shows us how psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly used her gifts to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has become the target of a supernatural entity. Although it is the second lowest-grossing movie in the franchise, it was the highest-grossing horror movie in 2015 at $112.9 million, earning more than M. Night Shyalaman’s The Visit and the sixth installment of the Paranormal Activity series, The Ghost Dimension.
4 The Conjuring 2 (2016) – $320.3M
Six years after the Warrens went to Rhode Island to save the Perron family, they travel across the pond to London where a single mother of four children believes something evil lives with her home. When her youngest daughter begins to show signs of demonic possession, the Warrens are targeted when they try to free the girl. The Conjuring 2 grossed just a little bit more than its predecessor with $320.3 million globally, but earned more than Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Don’t Breathe, and Lights Out. It is the 29th highest-grossing movie of 2016.
3 It (2017) – $700.3M
After recent cases of disappearing local kids in the summer of 1989 in Derry, a group of misfit kids called the Losers Club encounter a demonic shape-shifting clown that preys on a person’s own personal fears. The kids decide to go after Pennywise and stop him once and for all. Based on Stephen King’s hit horror novel, It was a massive success both critically and commercially. It scored 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed over $700.3 million at the worldwide box office, making it the highest-grossing horror movie of 2017 and the 13th highest-grossing movie of 2017.
It beat out other horror movies such as Annabelle: Creation as well as blockbusters such as Justice League and Logan. It is also the highest-grossing horror movie of the entire 2010s. Given the praise the film received and the fan base that it acquired, it is unsurprising that it was top earning horror movie of the entire decade. What is perhaps a bit surprising is that during the decade when movies in The Conjuring universe were dominating the horror genre, they all lost out to a movie with only two entries into its franchise for the top earning spot of the entire 2010s.
2 The Nun (2018) – $365.5M
When The Conjuring 2 introduced audiences to the entity known as the Nun, it freaked a lot of people out. She is creepy, disturbing, and excellent at jump scares. The Nun shows the origins of the menacing character, following a priest haunted by his past and a soon-to-be nun (Taissa Farmiga) on the verge of taking her vows that are sent by the Vatican to Romania to investigate the death of a young nun. They uncover an unholy secret and must risk both their lives and their faith by confronting a demonic nun in a battle between the living and the damned.
The movie was pummeled by critics, with Rotten Tomatoes stating that it has inconsistent logic and narrative slackness and scoring a measly 25% on the Tomatometer. Still, the movie went on to gross $365.5 million at the worldwide box office thanks to die-hard fans of The Conjuring universe. It earned above John Krasinski’s highly praised A Quiet Place, the first film in David Gordon Green’s Halloween requel trilogy, and Insidious: The Last Key.
1 It: Chapter 2 (2019) – $473M
27 years after their first encounter with the murderous sewer clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the Losers Club have all grown up and moved away from Derry, Massachusets until a devastating phone call brings them back to their hometown. Together, the Losers must band together after years apart to face their fears and destroy the shape-shifting clown once and for all.
It was a huge success thanks to its talented cast of child actors, so it is unsurprising that horror fans lined up at the movie theaters to see It Chapter 2, also based on Stephen King’s famous novel. It earned a massive $473 million at the global box office. It ranked number 16 in the overall box office scores for 2019, beating out not only every other horror movie that year but also hugely popular movies such as Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and Knives Out.