Sally and Jack Skellington in ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas.’
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Highest-grossing movies released on Halloween weekend

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October 26, 2023
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This story originally appeared on Casino Bonus Canada and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Highest-grossing movies released on Halloween weekend

Halloween weekend might seem like the perfect time to catch a flick that will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you grip the person next to you. And it's true, there have been lots of horror films that have dominated the box office around those final days of October when the appetite for "fright nights" is at an all-time high.

But Halloween also offers an interesting time for studios to release other types of movies that don't fit into the "summer blockbuster" mold or the feel-good, family-friendly films that start rolling out during the holiday season in November and December.

The most successful box office hits around that period haven't necessarily offered the biggest chills and thrills. Casino Bonus Canada compiled a ranking of the highest-grossing movies in the U.S. on Halloween weekend from the last 40 years, using data from The Numbers. Box office gross figures are adjusted for inflation. All films in theaters during the years when Halloween landed between Friday and Sunday were considered.

Whether you're a certified screamfest streamer, a creature feature newbie, or a genre-inclusive cinephile, you may be surprised by the movies that dominated Halloween box office weekends from the early 1980s until 2022. Read on to see the top 20, and be warned, some spoilers are ahead.

Charlize Theron, Keanu Reeves, and Al Pacino attend the New York premiere of "Devil's Advocate."
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#20. Devil's Advocate

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $17,979,416
- Total domestic gross: $121,800,332
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 144 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 17, 1997
- Cast: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron

While more of a supernatural thriller than a horror movie per se, "Devil's Advocate" has one element that makes for a spine-chilling moviegoing experience during the Halloween season: the demon from down below, Satan himself.

Demonic apparitions, boiling holy water, and hallucinations helped make this R-rated release a hit beyond its opening weekend earlier in October. Audiences were clamoring to see Al Pacino as the Prince of Darkness in the lead role, surrounded by a stellar cast including Keanu Reeves (in between "Speed" and "The Matrix") and Charlize Theron, in one of her earliest roles.

Richard Gere and Bai Ling in a scene from the film 'Red Corner'.
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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

#19. Red Corner

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $18,064,850
- Total domestic gross: $44,830,232
- Genre: Thriller/Suspense
- Run time: 122 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 31, 1997
- Cast: Richard Gere, Bai Ling, Bradley Whitford

The 1997 spooky season contributed three entries to this top-grossing Halloween weekend movies list—including "Red Corner," a whodunit film released on All Hallows' Eve. This Richard Gere-led thriller was a pivot for director Jon Avnet, who'd been at the helm of the 1991 dramedy "Fried Green Tomatoes."

While ghosts and goblins are notably absent from this Halloween release, "Red Corner" does revolve around a murder—and a blood-curdling scream that implicates the main character. The plot thickens as he partners up with his lawyer (portrayed by Bai Ling) to unravel the mystery of how he was framed—and who actually did it.

Michael Douglas and Glenn Close on the set of ‘Fatal Attraction.’
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Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

#18. Fatal Attraction

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $18,354,470
- Total domestic gross: $365,196,992
- Genre: Thriller/Suspense
- Run time: 120 minutes
- Release date: Sept. 18, 1987
- Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer

"Fatal Attraction" had already been in theaters for more than a month by the time Halloween rolled around in 1987—and its box-office longevity helped the erotic thriller spend eight weeks at #1. The film terrified audiences with its story of a woman (portrayed by Glenn Close) who relentlessly pursued a married man (portrayed by Michael Douglas) she had a weekend affair with.

In what one Hollywood Reporter critic called a "horror-of-personality" movie, the spurned lover takes her pursuit further than audiences expected—by (now infamously) boiling a pet rabbit in a pot in just one of the film's horrifying moments. According to The Washington Post, the finale elicited screams from sold-out audiences, who jumped from their seats in terror.

Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet attend a red carpet screening of the movie "Dune."
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Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis // Getty Images

#17. Dune

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $18,423,810
- Total domestic gross: $109,676,342
- Genre: Action
- Run time: 156 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2021
- Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson

In 2021, director Denis Villeneuve treated sci-fi fans to an adaptation of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel "Dune." It was the third such retelling of the book, after a 1984 David Lynch feature and 2000 TV miniseries.

The 2021 iteration starred Oscar-nominated heartthrob Timothée Chalamet and two-time Emmy-winner Zendaya, among others. The movie's box office success was particularly impressive since the COVID-19 pandemic bumped its planned debut from late 2020, and it was released in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time.

It ended up being a win for the studio behind the film, Warner Brothers, which got its most significant release since 2019 with "Dune"—thanks, in part, to an aggressive campaign that encouraged audiences to see it in IMAX (or the biggest screen they could find).

Cast member Andrew Bryniarski arrives at the premiere of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
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Kevin Winter // Getty Images

#16. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $20,093,875
- Total domestic gross: $122,523,204
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 98 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 17, 2003
- Cast: Andrew Bryniarski, Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker

The version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" that hit the big screen in 2003 was a remake of the Tobe Hooper-directed original from 1974—which, according to Time, "set a new standard for slasher films to come."

Over the nearly three decades after the original film's release, its villain, Leatherface, had become part of what one Entertainment Weekly critic called "the template for modern horror." Given the remake's box office success, it's clear that audiences hadn't had enough of the killer-on-the-loose subgenre of scary movies—or of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise, considering this was the fifth installment.

James Woods holds a crossbow with his crew in a scene from the film 'Vampires.'
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Columbia Pictures // Getty Images

#15. Vampires

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $21,746,861
- Total domestic gross: $39,581,095
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 108 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 30, 1998
- Cast: Sheryl Lee, James Woods, Daniel Baldwin

Director John Carpenter was a seasoned horror director by the time "Vampires" hit theaters in 1998; he was previously at the helm of the Stephen King adaptation "Christine," the classic "The Thing," and, perhaps most notably, "Halloween."

"Vampires," based on a novel by John Steakley, involves a team of vampire hunters coming upon a nest of blood-suckers and embarking on a journey to chase down and destroy their master—as well as the victims who get "turned" along the way. The movie—considered a horror Western—challenged audiences' expectations of charming, seductive vampires with a harsher, more grotesque take.

Still frame from ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ with Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws handing a gift to a child.
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Touchstone Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

#14. The Nightmare Before Christmas

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $22,217,328
- Total domestic gross: $144,665,342
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 76 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 13, 1993
- Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Reubens

The stop-motion animation feature film by Tim Burton leveraged its spookiness rather than its Christmas charm to bring moviegoers into theaters during the Halloween season of 1993.

The protagonist of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a singing skeleton named Jack Skellington who dreams of giving up his macabre existence and transforming Halloween Town—replete with bats, pumpkin heads, a mummy boy, and a ghost dog named Zero—into a land of seasonal cheer. He goes so far as to kidnap Santa Claus from Christmas Town and transform himself into "Sandy Claws"—but it doesn't go as planned when Jack fails to heed the warnings of clairvoyant rag doll Sally (voiced by Catherine O'Hara).

Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt in a scene from the film 'I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.'
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Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

#13. I Know What You Did Last Summer

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $22,952,182
- Total domestic gross: $144,265,108
- Genre: Horror
- Release date: Oct. 17, 1997
- Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar

By the time "I Know What You Did Last Summer" was released in theaters in 1997, co-writer Kevin Williamson had already made a name for himself in the horror genre—having penned the wildly successful "Scream" franchise in 1996. Like "Scream," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" fell into the teen slasher movie genre—with career-launching performances from Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar (who also began starring on the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that same year), and Jennifer Love Hewitt (who was starring on the teen TV drama "Party of Five" at the time).

The plot device—a group of teenagers covering up an accidental killing and then a serial killer hunting them—spawned not only a franchise with two sequels ("I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" in 1998 and "I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer" in 2006) but also a parody film with the 2000 release of "Scary Movie."

Micah Sloat, filmmaker Oren Peli and Katie Featherston attend a screening and Q&A at Screamfest in 2015.
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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For Paramount

#12. Paranormal Activity 2

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $23,433,558
- Total domestic gross: $113,110,670
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 91 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 20, 2010
- Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Brian Boland

"Paranormal Activity 2" was the sequel to the extremely successful, low-budget 2007 film "Paranormal Activity"—but it couldn't quite outdo the original's performance at the box office. Both films used the same found-footage convention that transformed the horror genre when it was used to great effect in "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999.

While the "Paranormal Activity" franchise kept audiences leaping out of their seats with plenty of traditional means, like jump scares (thanks to objects launching across the room seemingly on their own), it also set in motion the groundbreaking use of security cam footage and night vision. The storyline of the second volume overlaps with that of the first, although the whole connection between the two isn't revealed until the film approaches its scream-inducing finale.

Ashley Tisdale, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Corbin Bleu attend the U.K. premiere of 'High School Musical 3.'
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Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images

#11. High School Musical 3: Senior Year

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $23,891,370
- Total domestic gross: $115,640,486
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 112 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 24, 2008
- Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale

Disney's "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" offered a healthy dose of counterprogramming during the Halloween season of 2008, when it was up against the horror sequel "Saw V" and the action thriller "Max Payne." The timing of the release was perhaps a relic of the original plan for the third film in the franchise—"Haunted High School Musical"—which never came to fruition.

Instead, "HSM3," as fans would call it, centered on the high school student characters graduating and going off to college. But it had something else going for it, too: It was the first film in the wildly successful Disney Channel franchise to receive a theatrical release. And given that fans were promised it would be the final installment in the series, it was the first, last, and only chance to see the East High students on the big screen.

Co-stars Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in 2009 soon after the release of 'Paranormal Activity.'
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Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

#10. Paranormal Activity

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $24,471,742
- Total domestic gross: $151,513,559
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 96 minutes
- Release date: Sept. 25, 2009
- Cast: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Mark Fredrichs

"Paranormal Activity" tells the chilling story of a possible demonic presence in an everyday suburban home through surveillance footage. The movie puts audiences in the position of flies on the wall when things start to turn supernatural with the two lead characters, Katie and Micah (portrayed by relatively unknown actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, using their real first names).

Katie claims to have been haunted by something since childhood—and the more she and Micah try to figure out what's causing all the disturbances in their home, the worse they get. Midnight screenings helped propel this horror film through the spooky season, though it was first released in theaters more than a month before Halloween.

Jamie Lee Curtis holds a knife in a scene from the film 'Halloween.'
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Compass International Pictures/Getty Images

#9. Halloween II

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $30,928,262
- Total domestic gross: $84,224,854
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 92 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 30, 1981
- Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers

"Halloween II" picks up right where the 1978 "Halloween" film left off—with serial killer Michael Myers again pursuing local teenager Laurie Strode (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis). When the sequel begins, she's in the hospital because of the injuries she sustained from surviving Myers' last attack in the first film. It's a continuation of the "final girl" trope established in the first "Halloween." While the antagonist continues to stalk Laurie, he kills several people who hinder him along the way.

In another classic element of horror movies, Myers can't seem to die—making "Halloween II" the second in a long series of 13 films, most recently including 2022's "Halloween Ends."

Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes and Shawnee Smith at a "Saw" screening in Park City in 2004.
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L. Busacca/WireImage

#8. Saw

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $32,962,395
- Total domestic gross: $82,357,411
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 103 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 29, 2004
- Cast: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter

Costing just $1.2 million to make, "Saw" became a massive hit and went on to be one of the most successful horror franchises ever, with nine sequels as of 2023. The first film was shot primarily on the set of a locked bathroom over just 18 days, helping to stick to the tight budget.

The result is a psychological thriller combined with the gore of a slasher film—and with the twist that the antagonist, the Jigsaw Killer (also known simply as "Jigsaw"), gives each character an impossible choice during the games he plays with his victims.

Cast and director at a screening of Lionsgate's "Saw 3D" at the Manns Chinese Theater in 2010.
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

#7. Saw 3D

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $34,395,110
- Total domestic gross: $61,004,828
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 91 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 29, 2010
- Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell

"Saw 3D" isn't the third installment in the "Saw" franchise, but rather the seventh, a sequel to "Saw VI." The movie earned its name because it employed RealD 3D technology, pushing its $17 million production budget—a stratospheric rise from the $1.2 million spent on "Saw."

The plot follows the main character from the first installment in the series, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (portrayed by Cary Elwes), who previously hacked off his foot to escape death at the hands of Jigsaw.

The cinema Le Grand Rex for the Michael Jackson 'This is it' Paris premiere in Paris.
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Dominique Charriau/WireImage

#6. Michael Jackson's This Is It

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $34,696,693
- Total domestic gross: $101,215,782
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 111 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 28, 2009
- Cast: Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Michael Bearden

A concert documentary is not necessarily what you might consider Halloween weekend movie fare, but Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 certainly gave an eeriness to this film. Released right before Halloween 2009, "Michael Jackson's This Is It" looks behind the scenes at the King of Pop's planned concert residency at London's O2 Arena, originally scheduled to kick off 18 days before his unexpected death.

The movie became the second-highest-grossing concert film of all time. It also served as a swan song for the pop star who had become a bona fide Halloween icon, thanks to the 1983 release of his zombie-themed "Thriller" music video.

Co-stars Ali Larter and Taye Diggs attend the Sugar and Spice, Naughty and Nice Fundraiser.
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Djamilla Rosa Cochran/Getty Images

#5. House on Haunted Hill

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $35,156,610
- Total domestic gross: $73,695,008
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 92 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 29, 1999
- Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter

Based on the 1959 version of "House on Haunted Hill" directed by William Castle and starring Vincent Price, the 1999 iteration also involves a group of guests invited to try to survive the night in a former psychiatric institute burned down by patients in protest nearly 70 years prior.

In the original, the guests vie to win $10,000—while in the remake, the stakes are $1 million. As you might expect, the partygoers are dying to get rich—figuratively and literally.

Joaquin Phoenix attends a screening at The Orpheum in New York City in 2003.
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Jim Spellman/WireImage for Miramax // Getty

#4. Brother Bear

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $36,041,510
- Total domestic gross: $129,683,525
- Genre: Adventure
- Release date: Oct. 24, 2003
- Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis

Another unexpected entry on this list is Walt Disney Pictures' animated family feature "Brother Bear," a G-rated alternative to the more adult-oriented movies released in theaters at the same time.

It's now notable as one of the last of its kind in the Disney animation world as a final entry in the 2D, hand-drawn style that the studio moved away from in favor of the 3D, computer-generated look and feel of Pixar (whose "Finding Nemo" was also released in 2003).

Jamie Foxx after winning an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "Ray."
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J. Vespa/WireImage

#3. Ray

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $36,142,512
- Total domestic gross: $111,030,397
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 152 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 29, 2004
- Cast: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King

"Ray" is a music biopic about singer/musician Ray Charles, who died in June 2004, just months before the film's debut.

The film's critical acclaim helped it achieve incredible commercial success upon its Halloween weekend release—with accolades coming from many major media outlets. The praise was exceptionally high for actor Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the film's subject, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2005.

Actress Anna Faris arrives for the European Premiere of "Scary Movie 3" in London.
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Dave Hogan/Getty Images

#2. Scary Movie 3

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $37,180,035
- Total domestic gross: $167,261,130
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 85 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 24, 2003
- Cast: Anna Faris, Charlie Sheen, Regina Hall

The only film in the "Scary Movie" horror spoof franchise to make this list is "Scary Movie 3," which shifted its attention to poking fun at "The Ring," "Signs," and even some nonhorror subjects like "8 Mile" and "The Matrix" franchise.

Shawn, Marlon, and Keenan Ivory Wayans created the series, but the brothers were not part of the third installment, reportedly getting fired by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. "Scary Movie 3" introduced some new faces to the franchise, including Pamela Anderson, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Hart, and Jenny McCarthy.

Sarah Michelle Gellar arrives at the premiere of "The Grudge" in 2004 in Los Angeles.
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

#1. The Grudge

- Halloween weekend domestic gross: $39,348,971
- Total domestic gross: $162,962,207
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 92 minutes
- Release date: Oct. 22, 2004
- Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Bill Pullman

By May 2004, actor Sarah Michelle Gellar had wrapped up her seven-season run on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"—and with the release of "The Grudge" five months later, she traded immortal blood drinkers for supernatural curses.

The film is a remake of a Japanese horror original—following in the tradition of "The Ring" in 2002, the American version of Japan's 1998 movie "Ringu." One of the producers who helped bring it to U.S. audiences was none other than Sam Raimi, the director of the 1981 cult horror classic "The Evil Dead."

Data reporting by Karim Noorani. Story editing by Jaimie Etkin. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

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