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Top 10 grossing horror-movie franchises of all time

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From Jason to Jaws: Monster hits at the box office

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $1,014,195,828 Total worldwide gross: $873,319,880 Centering on the Jigsaw Killer, the “Saw” series put a psychological twist on the classic horror film genre by using new ways to tap into fear. Rather than kill his victims outright, Jigsaw prefers to plan out traps to pit them against one another and to test their will to live, by way of both physical and emotional torture. And even after his death, Jigsaw’s character is preserved through a series of flashbacks th
Photo: Lions Gate Entertainment

What makes a good horror movie?

"If you ask me, practical effects make a good horror movie — something tangible. Something that feels real world," said Box Office Mojo Editor Brad Brevet. "I think that's what people respond to — something that generates a communal dread that can be felt within the theater, creating an atmosphere of fear."

And, it's important to have a central ominous character — human or otherwise. From Alien to Jaws, Jason to Freddy, there was one guy — or thing — that scared the bejeezus out of us.

So which monster is king at the box office? From the ocean to space — and even your own bed — no place is safe! But here's a hint: It's often the small-budget screamfests that scare up the most money.

Click ahead for the Top 10 horror franchises for 2015, including how much they made in U.S. ticket sales, what that number is adjusted for inflation — and the highest-grossing film in the franchise.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

Click ahead to see the top 10 highest grossing horror film franchises of all time, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

——By Josh Weiss
Posted Oct.
26, 2015

10. "Resident Evil" (5 films)

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Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $244.4 million
Adjusted for inflation: $298 million
Highest-grossing film: "Resident Evil: Afterlife" — $69.2 million

This is the only franchise on the list to be based on a series of video games. Usually, cinematic adaptations of video games don't fare so well but "Resident Evil" was successful enough to spawn four sequels with one of them making $69 million. The movies are about a shady organization called the Umbrella Corp., a producer of biological weapons that unwittingly causes a zombie apocalypse. One of its former security officers (Milla Jovovich) becomes an enemy of the corporation. The blend of sci-fi, fantasy and horror can be summed up by Cinema Blend's Sandy Maynard: "Butts are kicked with style, people are diced (literally) with style, and zombies shuffle about and moan with style."

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

9. "Paranormal Activity" (5 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $395,338,846.10 Total worldwide gross: $ 362,716,975 With the release of “Paranormal Activity 3” on Oct. 21, 2011, the Paranormal Activity enters film franchisedom. The series has already proven it can run with the big boys of Hollywood horror. Revolving around a young couple who find themselves spooked by a supernatural presence in their home, the first and second films are set within documentary-style footage. It is this “found footage” that brings out a realisti
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $383.1 million
Adjusted for inflation: $409.6 million
Highest-grossing film: "Paranormal Activity" — $119 million

This film, part of the "found footage" genre of horror movies, is about a young couple that moves into new home and is haunted by a supernatural presence. One of the most amazing things about the first movie is that it was made for $15,000 and went on to make $119 million.

"This was apparently a film made without a director, a writer, a producer, grips, makeup, sound, catering or a honey wagon," wrote Roger Ebert about the first movie's feeling of authenticity. Since 2009, the budgets have gotten steadily larger, the effects better — and the plots less plausible. The sixth installment this fall, "The Ghost Dimension," is set to be the last in the series.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

8. "Saw" (7 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $1,014,195,828 Total worldwide gross: $873,319,880 Centering on the Jigsaw Killer, the “Saw” series put a psychological twist on the classic horror film genre by using new ways to tap into fear. Rather than kill his victims outright, Jigsaw prefers to plan out traps to pit them against one another and to test their will to live, by way of both physical and emotional torture. And even after his death, Jigsaw’s character is preserved through a series of flashbacks th
Photo: Lions Gate Entertainment

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $415.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $513.5 million
Highest-grossing film: "Saw II" — $113.9 million

The "Saw" franchise is a classic blood-soaked, bone-cracking style of horror that some like to call "torture porn."

And, it's another example where low budgets made big money: The first "Saw" movie, about a sadistic killer who puts people in twisted life-and-death situations, cost just $1.2 million to make and then went on to make over $100 million.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

7. "Scream" (4 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $951,057,819.30 Total worldwide gross: $605,365,245 “Scream” was a success out of the gate, hitting the $100 million mark with the original in 1996. From then on, the franchise’s profits skyrocketed — its two sequels were also blockbuster hits, giving the series the highest average gross per film on the list. The series spotlights Ghostface, a successsion of serial killers who stalk and torment their prey, invoking panic and paranoia throughout each film. In many w
Photo: Dimension Films

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $331.7 million
Adjusted for inflation: $551.5 million
Highest-grossing film: "Scream" — $189.2 million

The 1996 film by Wes Craven about friends who were obsessed with horror movies and stalked by a murderer in a ghost-face scream mask was so popular, it inspired three sequels and even a television series — and the mask has become a staple for Halloween year after year.

"When 'Scream' stabbed its way into theaters in 1996, it reignited horror … the genre-bending flick dared to kill off its most famous actress in the opening sequence [like Hitchcock did with Janet Leigh in 'Psycho']; fleshed out the cast with established actors rather than nubile nobodies; pushed the gore quotient as far as the studio allowed; fronted the story with a shrewd, gutsy heroine who fought back hard; and satirized itself with humor within the horror," Terri Clark wrote in Entertainment Weekly.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

6. "Halloween" (10 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $698,704,593.70 Total worldwide gross: $ 371,137,526 “Halloween” gave us one of horror film history’s oldest and most popular characters — Michael Myers — a man who was sent to a sanitarium as a young boy after murdering his own sister. John Carpenter's original movie, released in 1978, has rightfully earned its place as the original slasher among horror filmdom. With a budget of about $300,000, and starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis in her first film role, the movi
Photo: Dimension Films

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $308.5 million
Adjusted for inflation: $627.6 million
Highest-grossing film: "Halloween" — $168.5 million

John Carpenter's 1978 classic is often credited with starting the slasher genre, along with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The ominous masked figure of murderer Michael Myers is one of the most iconic horror movie antagonists.

A few fun facts: Tony Moran, the older brother of "Happy Days" star Erin Moran, played Michael Myers in the 1978 original. And the mask he wore was based on "Star Trek" star William Shatner's face but painted white for added creepy effect. Why William Shatner? According to IMDB, the film was on a shoestring budget and this $2 mask was the cheapest they could find! In an interview years later when Shatner was told the mask used was, in fact, his face, he said he was honored.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

5. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (9 films)

Tuesday Knight screams from the grasp of Robert Englund in movie art for the film 'A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master'
New Line Cinema | Getty Images

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $370.5 million
Adjusted for inflation: $660.8 million
Highest-grossing film: "Freddy vs. Jason" — $124 million

The 1980s was a golden age of dark slasher movies with eerie practical effects (think "The Thing" and "An American Werewolf in London"). Made around the same time as "Friday the 13th," Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" introduced Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a monster with a deformed face and knives on every finger who killed teenagers in their dreams. It was like the original "Inception," making you wonder what was dream and what was reality.

A few interesting facts about the movie: It was based on real-life events — Craven had read a few Los Angeles Times articles about a group of Khmer teenagers who immigrated to the U.S. from refugee camps and died in their sleep after severe nightmares. Craven added a few details from his own childhood scares: Freddy was the name of his elementary-school bully and the hat was derived from one worn by a neighborhood drunk. This was also Johnny Depp's film debut. It was down to two actors and Craven asked his teenage daughter who should be Nancy Thompson's boyfriend and she picked Depp. A teen heartthrob was born!

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

4. "Friday the 13th" (12 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $876,562,404.20 Total worldwide gross: $465,239,523 Despite critics’ distaste for the films, “Friday the 13th” raked in plenty of heavy-duty profit. First released in 1980, the original film reeled in more than 50 times the cost of its production. The series’ biggest hit was “Freddy vs. Jason” in 2003, which pit its own antagonist, Jason Voorhees, against Freddy Krueger, the killer in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Photo: Paramount

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $380.6 million
Adjusted for inflation: $778.1 million
Highest-grossing film: "Freddy vs. Jason" — $124 million

Hockey masks and chainsaws never look the same once you've seen a movie in the "Friday the 13th" franchise. It's one of those classic horror franchises that started in the 1980s, when haunted camp monsters that murdered young teenagers were not yet cliché. In fact, the original "Friday the 13th" helped start that trend.

And like so many other great horror movies, it was made for a meager $500,000, then went on to make over $50 million at the box office.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

3. "Alien" (7 films)

Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection | Getty Images

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $515.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $945.4 million
Highest-grossing film: "Prometheus" — $263.9 million

Made in a decade of gritty, realistic-looking movies, the "Alien" franchise starring Sigourney Weaver is about an extraterrestrial life form that terrorizes a space ship. The screenwriters actually pitched it as "Jaws in space."

Box Office Mojo's Brad Brevet said the creepiness factor of the creature is key.

"Creepy movies scare me more than anything because I think it's much harder to creep someone out than just scare them with a cat popping up out of nowhere or loud noises. Movies like 'The Ring,' 'The Shining,' 'The Exorcist,' 'Repulsion,' 'Alien,' 'The Brood,' 'It Follows,' 'The Orphanage' … stuff like that creeps me the most," he said.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

2. "The Exorcist" (5 films)

Adjusted for inflation (2011): $2,255,431,170 Total worldwide gross: $661,478,540 Consisting of five horror films, “The Exorcist” franchise received both criticism and critical acclaim for bringing the notion of grotesque to a new low. Beginning with the original, which earned 10 Academy Award nominations after its released in 1973, the series’ perverse mix of spirituality, satanism, ecstasy and exorcism spelled out a blood-curdling storyline unlike any other. And a series of misfortunes — inclu
Photo: Warner Bros.

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $291.9 million
Adjusted for inflation: $1.09 billion
Highest-grossing film: "The Exorcist" — $865.9 million

With "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen," "The Exorcist" carried the torch of demonic children movies in the 1960s and 1970s. "The Exorcist" took on an added creepiness with rumors of having a "cursed" set during production and the iconic "pea soup" and "head-turning" scenes. It scared audiences so much that many people simply walked out of the theater, unable to cope with what they were seeing.

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

1. "Jaws" (4 films)

Actors Richard Dreyfuss (L) and Robert Shaw lean off the back of their boat, holding ropes as they watch the giant Great White shark emerge from the water in a still from the film, 'Jaws'.
Universal Pictures | Getty Images

Total U.S. gross ticket sales: $404 million
Adjusted for inflation: $1.52 billion
Highest-grossing film: "Jaws" — $1.07 billion

And the creature that scared up the most money at the box office is … isn't even human!

This tale of a giant man-eating shark is not only the top box office horror franchise but it was also the very first summer blockbuster when "Jaws" came out in 1975. Not to mention, it made us afraid to go in the water (even in our own pools).

When asked if he found anything surprising on the list, Box Office Mojo's Brad Brevet said, "Perhaps most impressive is that 'Jaws' is ranked so high," given that it was 40 years ago!

What's more, the first film in the franchise is still the highest grossing, given the nature of sequels, and if you look at the average per-movie rate, it is the No. 1 franchise at $101 million per film." They're gonna need a bigger boat for all that cash!

* Ranked by U.S. ticket sales adjusted for inflation (2015)

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