5. The Conjuring (2013)
Box Office Total: $317.7million
Saw and Insidious director James Wan launched a new horror franchise in 2013 with The Conjuring, earning himself a slice of the box office pie by taking horror back to the roots of its most successful historical outings: those films apparently based on true stories.
The director’s prowess for mixing eerie atmospheres with shocking scares perhaps rescued The Conjuring’s less mature dialogue from tanking the film, and the power of film language specialities such as cinematography, sound design and editing were tremendously effective in creating an engaging and at times terrifying horror movie.
By no means is The Conjuring an ever-rewatchable masterpiece or zeitgeist-piercing special feature like the films to come on this list, but as an exemplification of the filmmaking principles horror brings to the fore and for the way it can be the source of an enjoyably thrilling rollercoaster-type collective experience, it is undoubtedly an exceptional mainstream horror movie.
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4. A Quiet Place (2018)
Box Office Total: $334.9million
Best enjoyed on the big screen alongside dozens of people collectively holding their breath, A Quiet Place was one of those special and memorable experiences that transcended horror, or even film fandom, to pierce the zeitgeist and affect the masses.
A surprise hit that earned almost twenty times its budget at the box office, A Quiet Place is the eighth highest-grossing horror film of all time. It was such a success that a sequel was quickly greenlit, making this a franchisee just like eight of the other nine films on this list.
In a genre that squeezes great manipulation out of its use of sound, A Quiet Place leant all the way into the concept, celebrating talented real-life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt with sequence after sequence of unspoken horror cinema. A Quiet Place was by no means a silent film, but was (by its nature of being a quiet film) experimental by the standard of the other films on this list; an exciting film told through challenging methods that rightly earned an audience.
3. It (2017)
Box Office Total: $701million
The mid-2010s is considered something of a renaissance period for classic horror, with Andy Muschietti’s It considered alongside Get Out and Hereditary as vitally important to the re-emergence of high quality horror filmmaking for good reason. Critically acclaimed horror had existed somewhere in the shadows, exceptions only proving the rule for much of the previous twenty to thirty years, so when It was released to critical and audience acclaim, and subsequently earned the largest box office total in horror history, it changed everything.
It was scary, but it was also accessible – merging a Goonies-esque adventure of childhood friends with the nightmarish qualities of a killer clown proved to be a winning formula. With thrills-a-minute and all the chills to strip you to the bone, It delivered one of this century’s go-to movie night staples, a tremendous two hours or so of all the goodness you’d want from both a horror film and a blockbuster; a 2010s version of Jaws. This imaginative and balanced film was so well received that even author Stephen King gave it his blessing, a rarity reserved only for the very best of the dozens of adaptations of his sixty-plus stories released to date.
Clowns had long been nightmare fuel to many, but the rebirth of Pennywise introduced several new generations to the absurdly unsettling monster once more, solidifying It as an unmissable modern horror in the process.