15 Horror Movies That Completely Flopped (And 15 That Were Massive Hits)
Horror has always been one of the most proven genres at the box office. No matter what, people will always turn out to see them. However, the genre has always had swings of great success as well as quieter periods where it hasn’t performed as well. Recently, horror has experienced a massive upswing. James Wan’s The Conjuring series has expanded to become the MCU of the genre, with various spinoffs and sequels, each outperforming the last, with the most recent The Nun being the highest grossing of the bunch.
Many other recent movies in the past year or two have proven to be astronomical successes, from Get Out to It. Between the box office draw and the critical acclaim, horror appears to be as big as it’s ever been — if not bigger. Audiences love to be scared, as long as the movie accomplishes that or is at least an entertaining and well crafted time, people will always turn out to see it.
Of course, not every movie has had the same luxury. Sometimes, even great films get swept away. There are some horror movies now regarded as classics that absolutely bombed when first released, and others that fell flat at the box office by simply failing to connect with an audience or achieve what they set out to do.
With that in mind, here are the 15 Horror Movies That Completely Flopped (And 15 That Were Massive Hits).
30 Flopped: The Thing (1982)
Now known as one of the most iconic and revered horror/science fiction hybrids ever made, The Thing is widely regarded by fans as a masterpiece of body horror.
However, it was far from successful at the time, tanking at the box office and doing nothing to win over critics as well.
In fact, it performed so abysmally that director John Carpenter was even fired off of his next project, an adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter. Carpenter’s next movie would wind up being a Stephen King vehicle anyway, as he would go on to direct Christine.
29 Hit: IT (2017)
Many fans were skeptical going into the remake of Stephen King’s It. After the huge success of True Detective, people were incredibly excited for Cary Fukunaga’s take on the material. He left only weeks from the start of shooting his version and the new director and new cast were met with lukewarm reception by fans.
Add to that the fact that people were still incredibly nostalgic for the 1990 miniseries and Tim Curry’s performance, and winning over the audience was definitely an uphill battle. However, people flocked to see it and they loved it. Not only did the movie turn out to be genuinely scary, but it captured the heart of the story and the characters as well.
28 Flopped: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween was a dynamite success that, while not the first slasher, kicked off the huge wave of slasher movies throughout the early '80s, inspiring the likes of Prom Night and Friday the 13th. The second movie picked up immediately where the first one ended, continuing the story of that night.
However, after this, writers/producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill felt that the story of Michael Myers was done. They decided to push the series in an anthology direction with an unrelated third movie about an evil mask maker’s plan to destroy children on Halloween night. While it found an audience over time, it utterly bombed, and Michael Myers returned for further sequels.
27 Hit: Jaws
Jaws is still one of the highest grossing movies ever made. For all intents and purposes, it’s the first blockbuster and the first big summer genre picture that opened wide and took the world by storm. It made an entire generation terrified to go in the water.
No shark movie, however popular, has ever come close to its impact.
Many are still terrified of the ocean to this day, thanks to the effect Jaws had on them when they were younger. Even though many don’t consider it horror, it’s widely regarded as one of the scariest ever made and definitely earns its place.
26 Flopped: Mary Reilly
Mary Reilly tells the story of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde’s housekeeper. Despite the A-list cast including Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, and Glenn Close, it didn’t prove to be a story that audiences necessarily wanted to see.
Although the novel it was based on was successful, something was lost in translation, and the story of the woman who witnessed Jekyll’s turn to evil was not as engaging for viewers as witnessing that evil firsthand. There was already poor word of mouth before it was released due to reports of tension between the leads, which didn't help. It earned $5 million domestically on a $47 million budget.
25 Hit: The Nun
The most recent entry on the list, The Nun is still going strong thanks to the spike in interest in horror around the Halloween season. It’s the highest grossing movie to date in the overall Conjuring universe, which also includes The Conjuring 1 and 2 and Annabelle 1 and 2.
The main movies in the franchise are smart about presenting intriguing new characters and setting up larger mythology that can then be explored in further spinoffs. It’s a model that clearly appears to be working, as The Conjuring 3 has been green lit. Although James Wan directed both of the first two, he will only be producing the next installment.
24 Flopped: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most celebrated, wildly successful horror movies ever made. Many people, for years, truly believed that it had really happened.
The original movie left a lasting impact, and while the first two sequels weren’t as successful as the first, they don’t compare to how badly the fourth one flopped at the box office.
Originally completed for release in 1994 as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was held off from release until 1997 after its two lead stars Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger became hugely successful. It was heavily recut and only wound up grossing $185,898.
23 Hit: The Conjuring
After spinning the haunted house concept on its head with the Insidious movies, James Wan opted for a more traditional ghost story with The Conjuring. He based the movie on the real-life case files of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, a couple who chronicled countless investigations over the course of many years, obviously leaving room for sequels if the first movie proved to be successful.
The first movie became a massive hit. In fact, it became so successful that it launched one of the biggest horror franchises of the modern era and let James Wan skyrocket to massive blockbusters like Furious 7 and Aquaman.
22 Flopped: The Wolfman (2010)
People were excited for The Wolfman when it was first announced, especially after the first photo reveal of Benecio del Toro in the werewolf makeup. However, it was plagued with production problems almost immediately. Director Mark Romanek was hired in 2007 and left the project in January 2008 over creative differences. The Rocketeer and eventual Captain America director Joe Johnston replaced him.
The movie was shot in 2008, but re-edited and re-shot until it was released in 2010. Rick Baker, who won the first special makeup FX Oscar for American Werewolf in London, left the industry after seeing so much of his work replaced with CGI on this movie.
21 Hit: The Exorcist
The Exorcist was a huge, huge hit and it might still be considered the most widely regarded horror movie ever made. The stories of its initial theatrical run are legendary. People were not prepared for it, and many fainted in the aisles.
Its amazing financial success also translated to Oscar recognition, as the movie was nominated for ten awards including Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actress.
This was especially surprising given that reviews were actually mixed at the time, with The Village Voice review even calling the movie “evil.”
20 ~~28. Flopped: Addams Family Values
The two early '90s Addams Family movies are celebrated as two of the best spooky kids comedies of the decade. People still look back on them with incredible fondness and they continue to be revered as cult classics. However, while the first was successful, the second, Addams Family Values, was not.
This was surprising, as many genuinely prefer it to the first, citing Joan Cusack’s performance as the black widow Debbie and the subplot depicting Wednesday’s time at summer camp as things that surpass the first film entirely. Audiences at the time didn’t see it that way, though, which is why the third went straight-to-video with a new cast.
19 Hit: Friday the 13th
Sean Cunningham took out an ad in Variety that said “Friday the 13th: the most horrifying picture ever made!” He didn’t have a script at this point. In fact, he didn’t even have an idea. However, he wanted to make a horror movie and this got the ball rolling. The movie was shot quickly and cheaply at a boy scout camp in New Jersey.
Shot on an estimated budget of $550,000, it wound up grossing over $39 million in 1980, even briefly dethroning The Empire Strikes Back at the box office. While Jason would not take up the mantle until the sequel, the original movie struck audiences with its intense gore gags that were created by Tom Savini.
18 Flopped: R.I.P.D.
R.I.P.D. actually had a lot going for it at first. The comic book Rest In Peace Department had been successful, it had a strong premise, and the movie's approach as a buddy cop comedy felt like the right one. This is not to mention the great cast, including Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Bacon.
Despite all of this, though, the movie was a complete financial and critical failure.
It only grossed $12 million opening weekend and went on to end its theatrical run with $78 million on a budget of $130 million. Luckily, the movie’s failure didn’t seem to impact the careers of any of its stars one bit.
17 Hit: Halloween
John Carpenter had only completed two movies when he hired to direct Halloween, one of which had begun life as a student film. The goal was to make a quick, hopefully effective little shocker on a budget of $350,000. However, what they made was so perfectly effective, so technically well executed, and so genuinely scary that it wound up making several times this amount.
Until the release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, it held the record for the most successful independent movie ever made. It spawned dozens of imitators and is widely regarded as one of the most influential horror movies of all time.
16 Flopped: The Mummy (2017)
The Mummy was Universal’s second attempt at getting their Dark Universe off the ground. Dracula Untold was originally meant to be the launching point and even underwent reshoots to service a larger narrative and tease the upcoming movies, but all of that was scrapped when it didn’t do as well as they had hoped at the box office.
Instead, they decided to launch with another reboot of a proven success, The Mummy. However, The Mummy only turned out to be an even bigger financial (and critical) disaster than Dracula had been, ending the Dark Universe before it ever even really got off the ground.
15 Hit: The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense was one of two horror movies that completely took the world by storm in 1999, with the other being The Blair Witch Project. The film felt prestigious all around, even though M. Night Shyamalan was a relatively new director.
It was an Oscar-calibre ghost story and people couldn’t get enough of it.
It became best known for its twist ending, which felt like the biggest twist since Psycho simply because of the buzz surrounding it. It was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, as well as Best Supporting Actor for Haley Joel Osment.
14 Flopped: A Cure for Wellness
Starring Dane DeHaan and Mia Goth, this movie from The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski came and went at the box office. Already, people tend not to remember it, even though it only came out in 2016.
A drug-induced psychological horror story, A Cure For Wellness felt like it was only ever intended for indie success, which made its $40 million budget and wide-scale release all the more surprising. It did not even make its budget back during release, only grossing $8 million domestically and $26 million total worldwide, with critical response that was largely mixed.
13 Hit: The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project was legendary before it was even released. People couldn’t stop talking about it during the marketing campaign, the promotional trailers, and TV documentaries that seemed to insist that this didn’t happen, even if the cast was appearing on Good Morning America.
The movie set a new standard for success. It accomplished unrelenting terror with nothing but sticks and rocks. The film was designed to look homemade, and it did. It has since spawned countless found footage features trying to recapture this movie’s wild success, though only Paranormal Activity has come close.
12 Flopped: Slither
Slither was a movie that felt designed to become a cult classic, and that’s exactly what happened. With a cast including Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Elizabeth Banks, it should have caught on, but at the time, none of these actors were as popular then as they are now.
The movie is an inventive twist on classic sci-fi and horror B-Movie tropes, but this didn’t catch on with mainstream audiences.
The film slowly found an audience on video instead. Slither’s gross alien invasion antics do win it a place with fans, but it took years for it to gain a reputation. Writer/director James Gunn eventually found mainstream success with Guardians of the Galaxy.
11 Hit: Hannibal
The Silence of the Lambs was a monumental success, making Hannibal Lecter’s return feel like a no-brainer. The sequel seemed like a surefire success. Anthony Hopkins returned and Ridley Scott was hired to direct just after the monumental, Oscar-winning success of Gladiator. While Jodie Foster did not opt to return as Clarice Starling, she was replaced with the capable Julianne Moore.
Critical response was middling, however. Still, this did not stop Hannibal from being a titan at the box office, based both on the extremity of its violence and the sheer anticipation of it following the success of Silence of the Lambs. It grossed $58 million in its opening weekend and reached a worldwide total of $351 million.
10 Flopped: The Monster Squad
The Monster Squad is fondly remembered by horror fans as a gateway film, a movie depicting a group of kids doing battle with the classic Universal Monsters. It’s a feature that many grew up with, but it was not a success at the time.
The movie was considered a failure at the time, making under $4 million at the box office on a $12 million budget. Because of this, it’s surprising that — until very recently — there were serious attempts to get a remake off the ground. The Monster Squad is also notable for being co-written by Shane Black, who recently reteamed up with the film’s director Fred Dekker for The Predator.
9 Hit: Van Helsing
No one remembers just what a hit Van Helsing actually was at the time. When Universal tried to get its Dark Universe off the ground recently, there seemed to be an attempt to pretend that this movie had never happened, as it was already the kind of massive monster crossover that they seemed to want to build toward.
Though critically divisive, Van Helsing catered to the success of both X-Men and Underworld in the respective casting of Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale.
It won over fans of monster action, making $300 million at the box office.
8 Flopped: Grindhouse
Grindhouse was an experiment that seemed catered only to die-hard movie fans, which is part of why it probably tanked at the box office. Despite the talent both behind and in front of the camera, audiences did not turn out for this Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez passion project.
A double feature of two full-length movies padded by fake trailers, audiences did not get it and most of them left after the first feature. This was because, until the MCU came along, modern audiences were trained to leave when the credits rolled.
7 Hit: The Ring
Ringu was a horror movie from Japan that was released in 1999. It became very popular in the USA due to how intensely scary it was. Because of this, a US remake was tossed into production from director Gore Verbinski.
The movie became an instant hit thanks to its story revolving around an inescapable curse and the sleek, unsettling visual style that Verbinski brought to the production. The Ring kicked off a whole slew of remakes from Japan, including The Grudge and The Eye. It also spawned two sequels of its own that were not as successful.
6 Flopped: Event Horizon
Paul W.S. Anderson is mostly known as a director of massive blockbusters, from Alien vs. Predator and Mortal Kombat to the bulk of the Resident Evil films. While most of his movies have been based on well known material, his 1997 horror film Event Horizon was not, and suffered at the box office for that fact.
While it is not as widely known as some of his others, Event Horizon has gone on to become a cult classic with most agreeing that this space horror feature is genuinely scary.
However, when it was initially released, it tanked, grossing only $26 million.
5 Hit: The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is still known as one of the most successful horror movies of all time, and probably always will be. It not only proved to be a major hit at the box office, but it also won all five of the major Academy Awards, from Best Picture, Actor, and Actress to Screenplay and Director.
It followed as a soft reboot/sequel to the mildly successful Manhunter, based on the first book in the series, Red Dragon. Audiences fell in love with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, leading the actor to reprise the role for two sequels.
4 Flopped: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
In 1991, an actual funeral was held for Freddy Krueger in Los Angeles to promote the release of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. After a string of hits, the box office had started to wane with Nightmare 5, so the decision was made to make the sixth installment the final.
When it proved to be another hit, New Line reconsidered, but kept true to their supposed final chapter by bringing creator Wes Craven back to direct a movie about Freddy breaking through cinema into reality to stalk the people who created him. Now regarded as one of the best critically, this meta, serious approach went over fans’ heads and did not translate into ticket sales.
3 Hit: Signs
After The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, people could not wait to see what M. Night Shyamalan would do next. There was some incredible anticipation and the concept of Shyamalan tackling an alien invasion thriller was enough to get people excited.
Reception to Signs was mixed, but that did not affect box office in any way, shape, or form.
Like The Sixth Sense, Signs proved to be a massive hit. Even those who didn’t love it seemed to at least agree on how surprisingly scary the movie was, especially for a subject that wasn’t taken as seriously anymore.
2 Flopped: The Mist
Stephen King adaptations usually tend to be pretty successful. Coming from the director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, The Mist seemed like a surefire box office hit. However, that didn’t happen.
The movie barely made its budget back in the US and simply came and went in theaters. Audiences had expected a more dramatic adaptation from Darabont instead of a straightforward monster movie, and there was some confusion with The Fog, which had seen a remake only a few years earlier. Still, The Mist was met with generally favorable reviews even if it didn’t make a lot of money.
1 Hit: Get Out
It can’t be overstated just what an insane hit Get Out turned out to be. It was a horror movie from Jordan Peele, a man well known for comedy, that was also his directorial debut, and yet it took the world by storm. It came at just the right time, feeling politically charged but also telling a great story at the same time.
Nominated for several Oscars and winning Best Screenplay, Get Out might be the closest a horror movie has come to recapturing the stunning critical success of The Silence of the Lambs. On a budget of $4 million, it made $255 million at the box office. Those numbers are staggering and almost unprecedented.
Did your favorite horror movie make the list? Let us know in the comments!