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The Top 10 Opening Days for Horror Movies

So the new Harry Potter movie shattered a record for largest single day/opening day ever at a movie theater – 92 million dollars, well surpassing New Moon’s 72 million.  @BlackEveMovie on Twitter asked me if I knew the top grossing single-day for a horror film ever, and I didn’t.  I guessed it was The Grudge, but after asking around I’ve come up with the following list:

1.     I Am Legend – $30,059,386

2.     Signs – $20,884,660

3.     Paranormal Activity 2 – $20,109,273

4.     Friday the 13th (2009) – $19,293,446

5.     Cloverfield – $17,164,536

6.     Alien Vs Predator – $16,442,987

7.     A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – $15,735,956

8.     The Ring 2 – $14,805,208

9.     Saw IV – $14,755,978

10.     The Grudge (2004) – $14,557,965

When I mentioned on Twitter that I Am Legend was number one, I got a huge backlash of people claiming that it isn’t horror. You may not like the film, and it may have a big budget, but everything about the movie, from its plot structure through its antagonists through its key sequences are all straight ahead horror. And it’s based on a classic horror book.  Normally I’d say it’s just a case of semantics, and it doesn’t really matter. But in this case, I’d say you’re completely fucking crazy for thinking I Am Legend isn’t horror.

And, personally, I think it’s better than almost every movie on this list, which isn’t saying a whole lot, as most of the films here suck. I adore Cloverfield, and I have a soft spot for the Saw movies, but that’s about it. In fact, looking at this list and the shitty taste Americans have in horror films makes me never want to never make a horror film again.

I think the horror-movie-ness of Signs is more debatable. The science fiction and dramatic elements are stronger but, in the end, I still think it’s horror.  (That said, I hate this movie with a passion.  As I’ve said before, aliens are smart enough to travel millions of light years by spacecraft, but they land on a planet that’s 70% water and walk around with no clothes even though water is deadly to them?!!  It would be like us flying to the moon and stepping out without a spacesuit saying, ‘Wow, I kinda hope we can breathe out here!’  Dumber than anything in Plan 9 from Outer Space.)

Other movies I decided DON’T belong on the list: New Moon (a tween romance), Hannibal (a thriller), Shutter Island (a psychological thriller).  Feel free to make your arguments below if you think otherwise.

I’ve just put this list together over the past hour or so with help from The Numbers and Box Office Mojo.  If there’s something that belongs here, let me know below and I’ll add it in. I have possibly missed something.

In case you don’t think some of the movies above count, the next five are Saw III, Saw V, Freddy Vs Jason, Scream 3, and Saw II.

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Category: LISTS, Uncategorized


  • I know this is an old post, but I have to say that you can’t diss the
    2009 remake of Friday the 13th, which I really enjoyed. It condenses the
    first three Friday the 13th films into one and fixes some of the
    problems. I especially love how the give homage to when Jason gets the
    hokey mask in part 3. Originally, it’s so hum drum (they had no idea how
    big that moment was, or so I assume) and the remake turns it into an
    almost god-like moment.

  • I know this is an old post, but I have to say that you can’t diss the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, which I really enjoyed. It condenses the first three Friday the 13th films into one and fixes some of the problems. I especially love how the give homage to when Jason gets the hokey mask in part 3. Originally, it’s so hum drum (they had no idea how big that moment was, or so I assume) and the remake turns it into an almost god-like moment.

  • Lady_sprite

    curious… does this list take inflation into account?

  • The Village  $20,382,664
    Van Helsing $19,519,430
    Almost hate to mention The Village but any M Knight. is by definition a horror!

  • The Village  $20,382,664
    Van Helsing $19,519,430
    Almost hate to mention The Village but any M Knight. is by definition a horror!

    • Shawnbaby

      The Sixth Sense- Not Horror
      Unbreakable – Not Horror
      The Last Airbender – Not Horror

      I have to question your “definition”

  • Big openings are based on powerful marketing, and what helps marketing is if it’s an established brand and/or fronted by a bankable star. With the exception of “Cloverfield” (which depended upon unusual marketing hooks) all these horror films fall into that category. They are sequels and remakes. And big openings are often the credit of the marketing arm and not the quality of the film. In the case of “Friday the 13th” it dropped off by 25% in its second day of release, and made roughly three times it’s first day gross in its entire theatrical run. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” dropped off 32% on its second day of release.

    While frontloading is the manner in which Hollywood opens most films nowadays it doesn’t mean that films don’t break out. Even in horror, where it would seem everything is a remake/rehash there’s something made that breaks out without a history to it. “Paranormal Activity” was a word of mouth sensation (carefully marketed to ignite as such). “Incidious” this year was a surprise hit as well, made for a million and a wish. “Bridesmaids” became the biggest Judd Apatow movie against all odds. Leading up to the opening I read about how it tracked soft, articles talking about how some in Hollywood rooted against it… It opened over two months ago and I still read favorable headlines about its success. I don’t remember when the last time I saw a headline about “The Hangover Part II” was, and that made more money than “Bridesmaids” (but because of it being frontloaded fell off the radar fairly quick).

    While it’s depressing to read some of these stats the opening grosses have more to do with marketing than the film itself. Good films do break through and become hits.

  • Anonymous

     I have to say i really didn’t love any of these movies.  I am legend and cloverfield were ok. 

    I thought the first Saw movie was epic, but kind of went downhill in the series after that.  Of course that’s not even on the list.

    Would the final destination movies qualify as horror? 

  • Kurt Fischer

    I have only seen two of those movies…the top two.  I Am Legend was OK but I was no fan of the CGI mutants and Signs was only OK too (to quote Robot Chicken: “What a twist!”).  They probably wouldn’t even crack my top 100 horror movies.

  • M Ryan Andrews

    Hi, this is the Writer, Director of the new 80’s style slasher, BLACK EVE, Ryan M. Andrews. I personally think everything on that list is horror. The beauty about horror is it’s not just slasher. Just like romantic and slapstick are sub genres of comedy horror has many sub genres, including but not limited to, psychological, monster, apocalyptic, sci/fi, weird, Noir, etc, etc.
    I am Legend, just like The Omega Man, may not be a straight out horror film, but is still definitely horror. My second feature, A New Design was more like a David Lynch style movie, but still falls into horror noir.
    In my opinion, the best horror always have strong dramatic tones to it as well. The Shining, The Exorcist, Dawn Of The Dead, I even saw this great new straight to video horror called “Stag Night” about people chased in the subway system by cannibals. It was very much a bloody, fun horror, but what made it stand out amongst other horrors was the emotions behind the deaths. 

    Make no mistake though, BLACK EVE, which will start playing festivals this fall, is a straight up fun, 80’s style slasher. I would be curious as to what the top one day grossing SLASHER horror films are. Though considering the limited number of theaters Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would have had access to, it’s obvious that it will all be from films of the past ten years.

  • Matthalaboo

     I’m ok with the whole water thing in Signs because they’re aliens and we can’t know what goes on in their minds.  There could be circumstances where the behavior of the aliens can be explained.  One telling moment in the film is a radio broadcast in the background that said the aliens came on a raid for food, not to take over.  This could mean that they were hungry and desperate, which is why they would come to a planet with an environment that is largely hostile to them.  They may not have protection against the environment because they’re not valued either because they’re of a lower class or part of a hive mind with no autonomy.  It could also be that they aliens aren’t particularly bright at all because they’ve been traveling for many, many generations, lost their records, and only know how to live aboard their ships.  Since the movie is told from the point of view of the humans and is essentially about how people deal with the situation, none of this needs to be explained.

    Personally, I like Signs quite a bit because of its cinematography and atmosphere and I think M. Night is very good (at least he used to be) at constructing suspenseful sequences.

    • I applaud the rationalization, but that doesn’t make sense (at all, really) considering they’re able to figure out how to build, or at least fly, a spacecraft.  That means they have basic logic and can make elementary choices that preserve their own lives.  Otherwise, they would have been dead long ago.  Landing on our planet without protection is about the same as them trying to reach the stars by jumping as high as they can.  But let me say that’s not the only reason I hate Signs – that they can’t get through wood is also ridiculously stupid (and convenient) and the whole last act is an utter mess.

      • I was just watching one of those I Love the New Millennium shows where Wil Wheaton was talking trash about Signs saying that if these creatures can build a space ship and travel across the galaxy then landing on a planet that’s 80% water is pretty fucking stupid.

      • Matthalboo

         But we don’t know that they know how to build or even fly the spacecraft.  It could be that something else built them and something else is flying them.  Their flight could be completely automated.  The movie gives us very little information about the aliens.  We don’t even know that they are aliens.  They could be demons from hell for all we know, which would fit with the “spiritual” themes of the film.  My main point is that we can’t extrapolate human behavior or logic on something that isn’t human. 

    • They create crop circles out of vegetation that has water! They get out of their ships and walk among the vegetation! If a cup could kill couldn’t moisture at the very least cause alarm? They stayed on earth for a long enough period of time to notice that water is in abundance, yet instead of leaving they stay for the taking? Not to mention how could the aliens, who seem built akin to that of humans, from skin to form, be created by something other than water?

      I hate “Signs” so much.

  • Slither should be ?1 Rooker was an amazing monster.

  • “I Am Legend” is sort of horror with action elements, and not purely horror, which is why I think there was backlash. Plus it’s hard sometimes to draw the line of where horror ends and sci-fi begins (your film “Slither” is a good example of blurring that line, plus it also threw in comedy).   Also 6 of those films are PG-13, which draw form a wider audience pool than any R rated film can, which skews the stats a bit.

    It might be better to look at what horror films have the best home video sales to truly gauge popularity.

  • What a truly depressing outlook on horror. Mostly brainless shit and re hashes. Id live for the day to have seen Drag Me To Hell at the top of this list. 
    Is it the in thing for the regular Joe to have the most fucking limited taste in horror films?

  • James have you seen some russian horror films? 

  • Oh, and for some reason, I’m just not on board with HP.  I think I saw the first one and hated it.  Then I saw the fifth one (maybe the Phoenix one) and then I think I saw parts of the second.  I was always told by peers that I might dig it when it got all dark and shit.  But really, I don’t like Harry Potter as a character so it’s kind of hard for me to latch on like the rest of society.  Because you know I have to be like everyone else to be accepted. 

  • Yeah, I’m not clear on what today’s audience wants in horror.  It seems like this is a very serious generation.  Fuckers need to start growing down and actually enjoy shit.

  • Twilight is obviously a ridiculous franchise but as much as it pains me to say it, I feel that it is, by definition, a horror franchise.  I find Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and R.L. Stine books to be in the horror genre as well.  While those two properties are infinitely cooler than Twilight, they could also be considered “tween” franchises. 

    • I very much disagree. R.L. Stine is definitely in the horror genre, but the other two are generally not.  The intent and effect of the Twilight franchise is one of romance, not of horror.  Just because there are vampires and werewolves in them doesn’t make them horror. Buffy is a genre mash-up, but the movie was a comedy and the TV show has more elements of action and drama than it does horror.  I Am Legend spends much of it’s time being scary/trying to be scary.  It’s a very different story.

      • I agree that Twilight isn’t horror.  It’s like calling Pulp Fiction an action flick just because people are shooting at each other. 

  • Billy

    I actually think Signs is better than pretty much every movie on that list. The water thing doesn’t get to me in the same way it gets to everyone else. I can suspend my disbelief enough to say “well…maybe they didn’t know? I mean, it’s safe to assume that since they don’t need it to live they developed on a planet without it”. But that aside, they’re still killed by water. And that’s just stupid, silly, and evidence that M. Night was completely losing it.

    But still, I enjoy the movie immensely up until the last 10 minutes or so.


      • Lukabop

        And that vomit is inevitably interesting than anything M. Knight has every produced.

  • Also, keep in mind, that “opening days” have nothing to do with the quality of the movie…. only the quality of the marketing.

    • Yes, that’s true. These aren’t the highest grossing horror films, just highest grossing single days.  They’re people going to the movie and not knowing what to expect.

  • I think one interesting thing to point out though is eight of those movies are either sequels or remakes.  And the two that aren’t had a lot of buzz behind the people creating them.  Cloverfield had the buzz of it’s producer, and people wanted to see what M. Night Shajsdtdman was doing next.  I think American’s have the potential to have great taste in horror… There are lots of great horror films made here.  It’s just that studios would rather play it safe with established franchises than take a chance on up and coming writers, directors, or new ideas.

    • I don’t think of I Am Legend as a sequel really – just a movie based on the same book as Omega Man was. But your point is a good one.  In some cases, these are films that are successful because the quality of the preceding project was good (i.e. the original Nightmare or the first Ring remake).

  • Ya know, I laughed at your statement, “looking at this list and the shitty taste Americans have in horror films makes me never want to never make a horror film again.” because I agree, but then I remembered, before moving to Austin, and finding Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest, I didn’t know the exceptional foreign horror stuff even existed! I knew I was a fan of horror, but it too often left me wanting.  I’ve since exposed a lot of friends to genre film who never thought they were fans of horror. 

    • There are many good American horror films too! Most of them just aren’t on this list.

      • We should live in a world where DRAG ME TO HELL made 70 million. I LOVED that one!