The 10 Best Horror Movie Franchises
Before horror movies rose in popularity again for their self-contained stories and independent nature, they were often mocked for their attempts to set up sequels that would be more outlandish and extreme than its predecessor. Though some memorable franchises suffered from sequel-itis, they still have earned their spots on the best of all time thanks to either their original films or their primary characters. Let’s take a look back at the 10 best horror franchises in the genre.
- First Release: 2013
- Films: 4
- Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joseph Bishara
- Total Box Office: $1.2 billion
So many horror franchises choose to focus on one sole character or a group of characters that when The Conjuring franchise came around and introduced branching spin-offs that still held implications for the primary films, it was hailed as the most ambitious structuring for a franchise since Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Primarily following paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in their true cases while following the fictional story of the real Annabelle doll and the origin of a demon created in the series, the films have primarily earned positive reviews, with critics hailing both Conjuring pictures while giving negative reviews to the first Annabelle film and generally positive reviews to its sequel. The films have also proven to be major financial hits, drawing in over $1 billion at the box office on only an $81.5 million combined budget, making it the third-highest grossing horror franchise in history. A third film in The Conjuring series is currently in development, while the second spin-off The Nun is set for a September 2018 release, and a fourth spin-off focusing on The Crooked Man entity seen in The Conjuring 2 is also currently in development.
- First Release: 1981
- Films: 4
- Star: Bruce Campbell
- Total Box Office: $154.2 million
All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up! The Evil Dead franchise is one of the longest-running horror series in the industry, while also being one of the smallest in history, only carrying four films and a TV show over the course of almost 40 years. And yet, it’s one of the most celebrated franchises in history, being credited as revolutionary for the films’ minimalist approach to its gruesome visual effects and stylish direction, while also acting as the launching point for actor Bruce Campbell, who would go on to be a cult star, and director Sam Raimi, who gave audiences the first and most beloved live-action Spider-Man saga to date. Aside from the reboot, the franchise follows Ashley J. Williams, a clerk from the S-Mart Housewares Department, as he fights the forces of evil that come from the reading of the Sumerian text, Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. The films have all earned rave reviews from critics, aside from the reboot which earned generally positive reviews, and the TV series has been a hit for network Starz, every season earning exclusive critical acclaim and being a ratings hit across its current three-season run.
- First Release: 2000
- Films: 5
- Star: Tony Todd
- Total Box Office: $665 million
As many recent horror films have proven so well, sometimes the scariest thing is what you can’t see, and though Supernatural has given it a personification, Death is one of the most invisible and terrifying things out there. No more is Death more evident or invisible than in the gore-filled Final Destination series, which follows a different group of teens or young adults as they escape their demise thanks to one who has a premonition, only for Death to come back for revenge for cheating him. The films have not been critical darlings, earning mostly mixed reviews from critics for their lack of plotting and rote characters, while receiving some merits for the death sequences and visual effects, the fifth film earning the highest reviews of the films. Rumors of a sixth film in development began circling just after the fifth entry, but nothing new has been mentioned since, leaving fans to wonder whether or not the series will ever return.
Friday the 13th
- First Release: 1980
- Films: 12
- Stars: Kane Hodder, Ken Kirzinger
- Total Box Office: $464.67 million
Known for tearing camp counselors apart and wearing a hockey mask, Jason Voorhees has been thrilling audiences for nearly four decades and is widely regarded as one of the key icons in the horror genre. While not appearing as the actual villain until the second film and not donning the mask until the third film, Voorhees has racked up one of the largest body counts in movie killer history, and while none of the films have earned positive reviews from critics, they have amassed large fan bases and box office returns to become one of the most influential series in history. After a moderately successful reboot in 2009, Paramount Pictures sought to further the franchise with another reboot planned and a TV series, but due to a rights issue, the reboot was cancelled and it’s still unclear what the future holds for the franchise.
- First Release: 1978
- Films: 10
- Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, George P. Wilbur, Tyler Mane
- Total Box Office: $396.1 million
While Jason Voorhees might be infamous for the hideous face hiding under the mask, Michael Myers is infamous for having never shown his face to the audience, aside from the childhood origin stories of the primary antagonist in the Halloween franchise. Co-created by horror masters Debra Hill and John Carpenter, the series following Myers and his need to kill people in in Haddonfield, Illinois around the titular holiday initially earned acclaim for its quiet nature and realistic terror, but subsequently became a target of mockery and scorn for its ridiculous plots to bring Myers back for more. After being rebooted by Rob Zombie and giving him a sequel, the franchise will return with the October 2018 entry, co-written by Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, and directed by Green. The film will act as a direct sequel to the original and ignore all sequels seen thus far.
- First Release: 1986
- Films: 5
- Star: Anthony Hopkins
- Total Box Office: $924.2 million
Making Bruce Banner mad turns him green, but irritating Hannibal Lecter will get your liver eaten with some farva beans and a nice Chianti. The psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer has been one of the most quoted killers in horror history, as well as one of the most celebrated, making his debut through the words of Thomas Harris’ novels followed by the adaptations of the novels beginning with 1986’s Manhunter, based on Red Dragon, in which Brian Cox portrayed Lecter, only to be succeeded and surpassed by Anthony Hopkins in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins would win the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance, in which he would reprise the role twice more, one of which was a box office success, while the other was a critical success. After a panned prequel film, a TV series was broadcast by NBC which earned widespread praise from critics, namely for the lead performances of Hugh Dancy as FBI profiler Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter. Though it was cancelled by NBC after three seasons, talks of a revival from the stars and creator have been going on for years, with the most recent coming from Fuller discussing plans for a Silence of the Lambs miniseries.
- First Release: 2010
- Films: 4
- Stars: Lin Shaye, Joseph Bishara, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson
- Total Box Office: $536.3 million
While we’ve always believed a haunting is delegated strictly to a location, what if it was connected to one person? That’s what the Insidious franchise has shown us could happen, as the Lambert family seen multiple times throughout are haunted by demons specifically out for the souls of the patriarch and oldest son. Always guided by the support of parapsychologist Elaine, the films have all received either mixed reviews or negative reviews, with critics noting the technical skills in the scares and performances as highlights, while also criticizing the lack of originality in the storytelling. They have, however, amassed a cult following from viewers and been box office successes every time, with a fifth installment in the works after the major financial hit of the fourth entry.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
- First Release: 1984
- Films: 9
- Star: Robert Englund
- Total Box Office: $457 million
While horror movies have kept audiences awake at night for years in the fear of having to revisit the scariest moments in their dreams, one horror franchise kept audiences awake for fear of becoming an actual victim to the killer in their sleep. That franchise is A Nightmare on Elm Street, created by horror veteran Wes Craven. Following a serial killer come back from the grave to kill the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio, the series of Freddy Krueger and his bloody path is considered just as iconic as the Friday the 13th franchise, even featuring a crossover between the two in an all-out battle between Freddy and Jason, which has become a cult classic. The Nightmare series has earned generally mixed reviews from critics, but has been a major financial success, earning a reboot in 2010 that was critically panned but commercially a hit, with a second remake currently in the works.
- First Release: 2004
- Films: 8
- Stars: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell
- Total Box Office: $975.4 million
You wake up in an unknown bathroom with a piercing headache and no memory of how you got there. You initially brush it off as a bad hangover, only to hear the words “I want to play a game,” and know you’re in a world of trouble. The Saw franchise has become infamous for its excessive gore and bizarre death traps, but despite the mostly negative critical reception across all eight films, they have all been box office hits and amassed a large fan base, helping the franchise last for 13 years thus far. After the box office success of Jigsaw, the first entry in seven years following the “final installment,” and positive fan response to the film, Lionsgate has begun talks to develop a ninth installment in the series.
- First Release: 1996
- Films: 4
- Stars: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Roger Jackson
- Total Box Office: $604.4 million
After creating the Nightmare series, Wes Craven has become an icon in the horror genre, but what truly gave him is legendary status was his meta-fueled Scream franchise, that specifically poked fun at the slasher genre he so famously helped launch. Set around a killer dressed in a Halloween costume terrorizing young Sidney Prescott, the films have primarily earned solid reviews from critics and audiences for its blend of self-aware humor and traditional slasher tropes, being cited as a revitalization of the slasher genre in the ’90s and spawning a successful franchise, comprised of three sequels and a TV show currently on the air on MTV, which is set to air its rebooted third season sometime 2018.