With the success of this year’s horror movies, like Get Out and It, the New York Times reports that 2017 has been the biggest box-office year ever for horror movies. According to Box Office Mojo, the horror genre is responsible for a total $733 million in ticket sales just this year.
It and Get Out rank as the top two most profitable movies. It made $300 million—and counting—at the box office, while Get Out made $175 million. Because many horror movies are released in October, the total box-office profits are likely to rise. In addition to Happy Death Day, which premiered at No. 1 on Friday the 13th, the latest Saw installment and Jigsaw are set to hit theaters this month.
While this is history in the making, successful horror movies have been profitable throughout the years. Times writer Mekado Murphy used data from Box Office Mojo to analyze the best years for horror, financially speaking. Looking at the past four decades, the year in which horror movies rake in the highest profits tends to coincide with that decade’s most successful horror film.
For example, in the 1970s, the best year for horror was 1973, when the genre made $232.9 million at the box office. This was also the year The Exorcist was released, so a very large portion of that year’s horror profits came from that movie alone. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist's earnings dwarf even this year's movies, grossing $983 million dollars.
During the 1980s, it was Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger who made the biggest impact. Jason's Friday the 13th made $380.6 million, while Freddy’s A Nightmare on Elm Street brought in $370.5 million. But the highest-grossing year was 1987 that decade, when the release of the third Elm Street movie and Predator helped bring in $293.6 million dollars.
Horror did not make big waves in the early 1990s—at least in terms of financial success. One of the biggest hits of the decade was the Scream franchise, which brought in $331.7 million. The subsequent success of The Blair Witch Project ($140.5 million) helped to make 1999 the most profitable year for horror movies in the '90s.
The 2000s saw the continuation of the Scream franchise, which led to the parody of the entire genre in Scary Movie. The decade then turned gory, as the Saw films started bringing in figures like $415.9 million. The best year for horror in that decade was 2000, which brought in $616.7 million at the box office.
With just over two years left in this decade (yeah... I know), the current figures can definitely change. But the decade has already brought in the most amount of money since the '70s, with 2017 racking up a whopping $733.5 million, thanks to It and Get Out.
In fact, both of those movies have broken records of their own. It is the first horror movie to earn $300 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing domestic horror film of all time. Get Out, due to its small, indie-sized budget, is the most profitable movie of the year, and the highest-grossing original screenplay debut. To top it all off, Jordan Peele's first foray into horror has a near-perfect 99 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Will other movies in 2018 or 2019 be able to break 2017's horror record? We’ll just have to wait and see.