In this day in age, large budgets have become the norm when making movies, especially if a movie is being produced by a major studio. However, there is one genre that traditionally has used lower budgets when making movies. Horror films are typically made on a low budget, which makes it easier for a horror film to turn a profit. Paranormal Activity was originally made on a $15,000 budget in 2007, before Paramount acquired the rights and released it in 2009, and made $194 million globally. Horror fans are some of the most dedicated moviegoers out there, so it makes sense that the horror genre has an easier time making back the money spent on producing a film than other genres.
While many horror movies are made on a shoestring budget, every once in a while a movie will be made that is given a larger budget than most other films in the genre. Considering factors such as the popularity of the genre and the availability of newer technology, it is unsurprising that occasionally a studio provides a horror movie with a massive budget. The great thing about horror movies is that there is so much room to experiment with the story and how to execute the story. It allows filmmakers the opportunity to be creative. While a huge budget does not guarantee success at the box office, there are plenty of occasions when the amount of money spent absolutely pays off. Using data pulled from both IMDB and Watch Mojo, below are the 15 most expensive horror movies ever made (as well as how much they grossed):
15 The Ring (2002) – $48M
An urban legend regarding a videotape suggests that anyone who views it will die seven days after watching it. However, after a journalist’s niece dies after watching it, she discovers that it is not a myth at all, and she must race against time to save not only herself, but her son as well. The Ring is often considered a prominent film in the horror genre, and its $48 million budget is reflective of that notion as it has some pretty intense moments. The film made more than five times its budget at the global box office, earning over $249 million during its theatrical run.
14 Sleepy Hollow (1999) – $70M
Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow sees Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) as he is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the recent decapitations of three townspeople at the hands of the legendary Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken). The originally budget for this film was supposed to be significantly less at $30 million because they planned on filming in the United States. They decided to move the production across the pond over in England where they figured they could find a small town suitable for filming, but they couldn’t find one there either. According to Watch Mojo, the budget shot up to $70 million, so they could construct the perfect town to recreate Sleepy Hollow. It grossed over $209 million worldwide, so it more than made back what was spent on the production.
13 Signs (2002) – $72M
Preacher Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) moves in with his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) and his children after he looses faith in God when his wife dies in a tragic accident. When crop circles start to appear around his brother’s farmhouse property, Graham dismisses it at first until there are reports all over the world of the same strange occurrence. The late ’90s and early 2000s were a great time for M. Night Shyamalan, as he directed three hits in a row. With a budget of $72 million for Signs, he made back almost six times what was spent to make the film, grossing over $408 million worldwide.
12 Alien: Resurrection (1997) – $75M
The fourth film in the Sigourney Weaver-led Alien franchise takes place two centuries after Ellen Ripley’s death. A human/alien hybrid clone of Ellen is left to aid a crew of space pirates to stop the aliens from reaching Earth. Sigourney Weaver actually refused to do Alien: Resurrection, but when asked why she changed her mind, she said “they basically drove a dump truck full of money to my house.” It’s a comical response, but it also makes sense considering the budget to make the film was $75 million. The film was a financial success as it grossed over $161 million at the global box office.
11 It Chapter Two (2019) – $79M
27 years after the Losers Club first encountered Pennywise in their hometown of Derry, the kids have all grown up and moved away. They are drawn back to Derry after a devastating phone call suggests that the murderous clown that once terrorized them is back. While It Chapter Two didn’t make as much money as its predecessor, it was given a bigger budget at $79 million versus the $35 million budget for It. The sequel was still a hit with fans and was received decently by critics. It earned $473 million at the worldwide box office, earning back just shy of six times what it was made for. It was also the highest grossing horror movie of the 2010s.
10 The Haunting (1999) – $80M
A remake of the 1963 horror film of the same name, The Haunting had a star-studded cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Liam Neeson, and Lili Taylor. It follows a team of paranormal experts who investigate the occurrences in a haunted house but end up fighting for their lives as the house fights back. The movie was directed by Jan De Bont who directed successful films such as Speed and Twister, so the studio probably felt confident in dropping $80 million to have the remake made. Even though it was not by any means a critical success, it still managed to turn a profit by earning over $177 million globally.
9 Hannibal (2001) – $87M
Hannibal, the sequel to the Oscar-winning horror-thriller The Silence of the Lambs, sees Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) living in exile in Italy. He reaches out to the disgraced FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) but finds himself the target of a powerful former victim. The sequel was made on a budget of $87 million and made a massive $351.6 million globally, which is over four times what it cost to make the movie. It was also the highest grossing horror movie of the 2000s.
8 Hollow Man (2001) – $95M
After a group of scientists discover that they can turn animals invisible, they test the experiment on a human being. Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) volunteers himself as the subject, but when the experiment can’t be reversed, it takes a toll on his personality and causes him to hunt down and kill his colleagues. Hollow Man was received poorly by critics, but the movie grossed almost exactly what its budget was. It was made for $95 million and earned $190 million worldwide. It even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects despite the less than positive critical reception.
7 End of Days (1999) – $100M
At the end of the century, the Devil decides to visit New York City to inhabit a man’s body and search for his chosen bride, 20-year-old Christine York (Robin Tunney). If she has his child before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the world will end. It is up to an atheist ex-cop named Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to stop him. Even though Schwarzenegger was one of the most bankable stars of the ’80s and ’90s, the role he played was actually written for Tom Cruise, who turned it down to film Magnolia instead. Still, the supernatural action-horror flick was given a $100 million budget. While End of Days was critically panned and only made $66.8 million domestically, it earned a total gross of $211.9 million, making it a financial success.
6 What Lies Beneath (2000) – $100M
Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath begs the central question; is their lakeside Vermont house actually haunted by ghosts, or is Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) losing her mind? Zemeckis and the studio spent $100 million to answer that question, and earned back over $191 million after the movie made over $291 million worldwide. It was well-liked by audiences but received mixed reviews from critics, yet the movie ended up being the eighth highest grossing movie of 2000.
5 Prometheus (2012) – $130M
Prometheus may not be the first movie you think of when thinking about the horror genre, but the prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise goes back to its sci-fi/horror roots. A group of scientists following clues to the origins of humankind find a structure on a distant moon, but they soon realize they are not alone. The movie had a budget of $130 million, which would be an enormous budget for most movies, but probably wouldn’t shock most moviegoers considering the scale of a movie such as this. The movie easily made back more than what it spent in budget, raking it over $403 million across the globe.
4 I Am Legend (2007) – $150M
Years after an incurable virus kills off the majority of humanity and turns the rest into monsters, Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the only remaining human survivor in New York City. With the infected former humans lurking in the shadows, Neville makes it his mission to use his immune blood to create a cure to this horrific virus. I Am Legend had a pretty heft budget of $150 million. It was decently received by critics, mostly due to Will Smith’s performance. It performed better with audiences as it more than tripled its $150 million budget, earning over $585 million worldwide.
3 The Wolfman (2010) – $150M
An American man named Lawrence Talbot (Benecio Del Toro) on a visit to Victorian era London tries to make amends with his father, but gets bitten by a werewolf that leaves him with a savage hunger for flesh. The Wolfman was actually supposed to be directed by Mark Romanek, but he and Universal Studios parted ways and brought in Joe Johnston instead. It was agreed that he would make the movie on an $85 million budget in 80 days, but things again didn’t go according to plan. Filming took way longer than 80 days and the budget ended up rising to $150 million. Unlike the other horror movies on this list so far, The Wolfman did not make back it’s large budget, only grossing $139.7 million in total.
2 Van Helsing (2004) – $160M
The famous monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is sent to Transylvania by the Vatican to stop Count Dracula from using Dr. Frankenstein’s research, as well as a werewolf, for nefarious purposes. Van Helsing grossed $120 million domestically in 2004, which would normally be considered successful for most movies, but the budget for this fantasy-horror movie was $160 million. Luckily for Universal Pictures, the monster hunting movie earned an additional $180 overseas, making the total worldwide gross $300 million. Without the help of foreign sales, it would have fell short of just breaking even by $40 million, which is rare to see for a horror movie.
1 World War Z (2013) – $190M
Former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is sent on a mission to investigate a disease that is plaguing the world’s population and turning people into rampaging zombies. He braces horrifying dangers on his perilous journey to stop the spread of the disease before civilization falls for good. World War Z initially had a budget of $125 million, but rewrites and reshoots pushed the budget up to $190 million. In most cases, last minute rewrites and reshoots, in addition to an inflated budget, are not good signs of a film’s potential financial success. Nevertheless, this Brad Pitt-led zombie invasion picture proved to not fall victim to its last minute changes, as the movie grossed an impressive $540 million at the worldwide box, which also makes it the highest grossing zombie movie of all time.