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Best Movies to Watch on Halloween: Biggest Films Over the Past 5 Decades

Best Movies to Watch on Halloween: Biggest Films Over the Past 5 Decades

Don’t look under the bed after watching these Halloween movies

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Halloween spans more than just one day for fans of the holiday. For many, the spooky occasion is a month-long affair filled with carving pumpkins, picking apples and watching endless scary movies. But with so many to choose from, how can you fit them all into 31 nights? Based on domestic box office data, these are the movies you can’t skip this Halloween.

Methodology

Methodology

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There are many different factors that go into a great Halloween movie depending on what you’re in the mood for and who you are watching with. Maybe it’s a family movie night and you need something everyone can watch. Or maybe you’re looking to be truly terrified. To find the top Halloween movies over the decades, we scoured IMDb’s box office earnings in the U.S. for feature films over the past 50 years. We focused on movies categorized as horror, thriller, fantasy, comedy and family and took the top box office earners in all things slasher, wizards, witches, ghouls, vampires and spirits, as well as some of the classics set around this spooky holiday.

Horror and thriller

Horror and thriller

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When you think about Halloween, your mind probably jumps right to horror and thriller flicks. They get the blood pumping, make you jump and are chock-full of icons from Michael Myers to Pennywise. These 20 films, categorized as horror or thriller by IMDb, have each grossed more than $100 million in the U.S. over time.

‘Annabelle: Creation,’ 2017: $102.09 million

‘Annabelle: Creation,’ 2017: $102.09 million

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A possessed doll named Annabelle kicks off the list of big thrills. Although there are a few different “Annabelle” movies, the highest domestic gross of the franchise was the 2017 release “Annabelle: Creation,” which made more than $102 million in the U.S. The franchise as a whole made more than $260 million.

‘Scream,’ 1996: $103.04 million

‘Scream,’ 1996: $103.04 million

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Filled with scorned lovers, thrilling chase scenes, big-name celebs and more iconic Halloween horror, the original “Scream,” released in 1996, grossed more than $103 million domestically. There have been three more “Scream” films released since then, with the series bringing in 331.73 million in the U.S.

‘Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,’ 1994: $105.26 million

‘Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,’ 1994: $105.26 million

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In between baking your favorite Halloween-themed desserts, be sure to make time for “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,” starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The film was released in 1994 and has made $105.26 million in the U.S.

‘Paranormal Activity,’ 2007: $107.92 million

‘Paranormal Activity,’ 2007: $107.92 million

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The first of another popular horror film franchise, “Paranormal Activity,” was released in 2007 and made $107.92 million. Since then, five more “Paranormal Activity” movies have been released, grossing more than $400 million in the U.S.

‘The Grudge,’ 2004: $110.36 million

‘The Grudge,’ 2004: $110.36 million

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If you’re really in the mood to get goosebumps, “The Grudge” — about a mysterious supernatural curse — may be about as horrifying as they come. A few more movies were added to the franchise since, but the top earner in the U.S. is still the 2004 film, which made $110.36 million.

‘The Nun,’ 2018: $117.45 million

‘The Nun,’ 2018: $117.45 million

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If you’re planning to visit some of the country’s abandoned churches leading up to Halloween, don’t watch “The Nun” before going. The spooky movie about a demonic nun brought in $117.45 million, putting it among the top-grossing horror and thriller films in the U.S.

‘The Ring,’ 2002: $129.13 million

‘The Ring,’ 2002: $129.13 million

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Although horror and thriller movies might not be conducive to a great night's sleep, they’re a right of passage during Halloween. And Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” is one of those must-watch films. Released in 2002, “The Ring” and “The Ring Two” grossed a total of $205.36 million in the U.S. combined.

‘Silence of the Lambs,’ 1991: $130.74 million

‘Silence of the Lambs,’ 1991: $130.74 million

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Time to pour yourself a nice chianti. Even though “Silence of the Lambs” was released nearly 30 years ago, it still competes with movies that hit theaters just last year. In the U.S., “Silence of the Lambs” — which is about a manipulative cannibal killer — has grossed more than $130 million.

‘The Conjuring,’ 2013: $137.40 million

‘The Conjuring,’ 2013: $137.40 million

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Get together some of your favorite snack foods before watching “The Conjuring” — the paranormal film is sure to have you eating nervously from start to finish. The first movie was released in 2013 and earned 137.40 million, with the sequel earning $102.47 million.

‘Split,’ 2016: $138.20 million

‘Split,’ 2016: $138.20 million

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The James McAvoy film “Split” was released in 2016 and made $139.20 million in the U.S. It tells the story of the kidnapping of two girls by a man with multiple personalities.

‘The Blair Witch Project,’ 1999: $140.54 million

‘The Blair Witch Project,’ 1999: $140.54 million

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You might want to steer clear of your favorite state and national parks after watching “The Blair Witch Project.” The 1999 film features the recovered footage of three students who go missing in a Maryland forest. The first movie made over $140 million in the U.S., but the sequel only earned $26.44 million.

‘Gremlins,’ 1984: $153.37 million

‘Gremlins,’ 1984: $153.37 million

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Although it’s set during Christmas, “Gremlins” still gets the blood pumping for the Halloween season. The 1984 film has earned $153.37 million in U.S. box offices, keeping it in high rankings with the biggest of modern films. And if you happen to find a Gremlin of your own, remember: don’t feed them after midnight.

‘What Lies Beneath,’ 2000: $155.46 million

‘What Lies Beneath,’ 2000: $155.46 million

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You don’t have to travel to a haunted house to get your ghostly fix. “What Lies Beneath” was released in 2000 and centers around a woman who believes her house is haunted. The film, starring heavy-hitters Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, earned more than $155 million in the U.S.

‘Halloween,’ 2018: $159.34 million

‘Halloween,’ 2018: $159.34 million

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Perhaps the movie that pops into your mind most when you think of Halloween is, well, “Halloween.” There are plenty of movies from the franchise to choose from, but the top-grossing film was released in 2018 with Jamie Lee Curtis making her return as Laurie Strode. The mandatory holiday namesake films go all the way back to 1978. The first film, which brought in $47 million at the box offices, is a must-see, but another option is “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” which earned $55 million.

‘Us,’ 2019: $175.08 million

‘Us,’ 2019: $175.08 million

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Jordan Peele’s second feature film, “Us,” hit theaters in 2019 and earned $175.08 million at the box offices. The movie stars Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as she and her family try to escape their doppelgangers.

‘Get Out,’ 2017: $176.04 million

‘Get Out,’ 2017: $176.04 million

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Before “Us” came Jordan Peele’s first feature film, “Get Out.” The social thriller was released in 2017 and has earned $176.04 million in U.S. box offices.

‘A Quiet Place,’ 2018: $188.02 million

‘A Quiet Place,’ 2018: $188.02 million

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You’ll feel the need to whisper during “A Quiet Place,” a film about monsters that track the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world through sound. Since its release in 2018, the movie has earned $188.02 million in the U.S.

‘World War Z,’ 2013: $202.36 million

‘World War Z,’ 2013: $202.36 million

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“World War Z” is a film you can’t miss this Halloween, especially if you love zombies. The movie made $202.36 million in U.S. box offices, landing it in the top 10 for all things horror and thriller. The film stars Brad Pitt, Oklahoma’s most famous celeb. Here is a guide to the most famous celebrity from your state.

‘Signs,’ 2002: $227.97 million

‘Signs,’ 2002: $227.97 million

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There are plenty of strange wonders in the world, but crop circles are one of the most mysterious. In 2002, thrill-seekers were treated to “Signs,” M. Night Shyamalan's popular film about a family that finds crop circles on their farm. The movie earned a hefty $227.97 million in U.S. box offices.

‘The Exorcist,’ 1973: $232.91 million

‘The Exorcist,’ 1973: $232.91 million

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The popular 1973 demonic possession film “The Exorcist,” an undeniable horror classic, has grossed $232.91 million in the U.S. The worldwide gross is an eye-popping $441.31 million.

‘War of the Worlds,’ 2005: $234.28 million

‘War of the Worlds,’ 2005: $234.28 million

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Entering the top three biggest movies for Halloween horror and thriller flicks is “War of the Worlds,” a 2005 movie about an invasion of aliens. The original movie was released in 1953, but the version recognized as the highest-grossing was released in 2005 and earned more than $234 million.

‘The Sixth Sense,’ 1999: $293.51 million

‘The Sixth Sense,’ 1999: $293.51 million

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Everything about “The Sixth Sense” is sure to give you that spooky fall feeling. From the leaves changing colors to the ghosts at every turn, there’s a reason the 1999 film has grossed more than $293 million in the U.S.

‘It,’ 2017: $328.83 million

‘It,’ 2017: $328.83 million

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While clowns are something you might see at a child’s birthday party, the horror film “It” will probably make you wonder why. The film, based on a novel by Stephen King, is about a monster that disguises itself as a clown. The film released in 2017 and its sequel, released in 2019, have grossed a sum of about $540 million in the U.S.

Classics

Classics

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Classic films have been defined as unique pieces of cinema that have withstood the test of time and remain a quality film watch after watch after watch. While these influential scary movies didn’t hit the $100 million gross mark, they have inspired some of the most iconic Halloween costumes and decorations, and have all grossed over $25 million domestically.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ 1984: $25.50 million

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ 1984: $25.50 million

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You won’t want to fall asleep after watching the 1984 classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” in which the infamous Freddy Krueger invades the dreams of teenagers. The original film in the hit franchise grossed more than $25 million.

‘Child’s Play,’ 1988: $33.24 million

‘Child’s Play,’ 1988: $33.24 million

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If you’re from a part of the country that loves Halloween, you’ve likely seen “Child’s Play,” commonly known as Chucky, loads of times. The evil doll comes to life in this 1988 classic that made more than 33 million in box offices across America.

‘Carrie,’ 1976: $33.80 million

‘Carrie,’ 1976: $33.80 million

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Based on a novel by Stephen King, “Carrie” is an undeniable Halloween must-watch. Although the film made just $33.80 million in U.S. box offices, it remains a cult classic. So put on your favorite fall sweater and hit the prom from your couch with Carrie White.

‘Friday the 13th,’ 1980: $39.75 million

‘Friday the 13th,’ 1980: $39.75 million

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You can’t have Freddy without Jason. The iconic slasher film “Friday the 13th” centers around a group of teens who are murdered while preparing for summer camp. The film made more than $39 million in U.S. box offices.

‘The Shining,’ 1980: $45.33 million

‘The Shining,’ 1980: $45.33 million

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While there are some haunted hotels you can actually spend the night in, “The Shining” will make you question doing so. The movie is based on the life of a family that looks after a hotel during its off-season until the father, played by Jack Nicholson, slowly goes mad. “The Shining” hit theaters in 1980 and earned $45.33 million in U.S. box offices.

‘Pet Sematary,’ 1989: $57.47 million

‘Pet Sematary,’ 1989: $57.47 million

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You’ll be looking at your pets differently after watching the 1989 film “Pet Sematary.” The movie, which grossed more than $57 million, is sure to give you a thrill when demonic pets are brought back from the dead. If you like the first film, be sure to watch its sequel, which made $17 million.

‘Poltergeist,’ 1982: $77.14 million

‘Poltergeist,’ 1982: $77.14 million

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Written in part by Steven Spielberg, “Poltergeist” will give you all of the vintage spooky feels. When youngster Carol Anne vanishes, her parents are forced to seek the help of an exorcist to deal with the ghosts that are haunting their house. The 1982 film earned $77.14 million in box offices across the country.

Fantasy

Fantasy

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Instead of giving you a true scare like the aforementioned films, the following movies still feel spooky but will add an element of wonder and magic to your Halloween. These movies grossed more than $20 million and fit into the fantasy category, according to IMDb.

‘The Craft,’ 1996: $24.82 million

‘The Craft,’ 1996: $24.82 million

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“The Craft” is sure to get you breaking out the Ouija board and playing light as a feather, stiff as a board. The 1996 film about teens practicing dark magic earned $24.82 million in U.S. box offices.

‘Teen Witch,’ 1989: $27.84 million

‘Teen Witch,’ 1989: $27.84 million

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What’s a better way to kick off Halloween than with some vintage witchy-woo. “Teen Witch” first appeared in theaters in 1989 and has since grossed more than $27.84 million. Watch as teen outcast Louise discovers that she’s a witch.

‘Practical Magic,’ 1998: $46.73 million

‘Practical Magic,’ 1998: $46.73 million

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Life in a small town isn’t easy for two witch sisters who are cursed to never find love in the 1998 film “Practical Magic.” The movie, which stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, has grossed $46.68 million to date.

‘The Crow,’ 1994: $50.69 million

‘The Crow,’ 1994: $50.69 million

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A murdered man is brought back to life in the 1994 film “The Crow,” which made $50.69 million in box offices across the country.

‘Edward Scissorhands,’ 1990: $56.36 million

‘Edward Scissorhands,’ 1990: $56.36 million

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“Edward Scissorhands” is about as whimsical as a movie can get. Starring teen heartthrobs Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, this film tells the story of a man with scissors for hands. Since hitting theaters in 1990, Tim Burton’s fantasy film has earned more than $56.36 million.

‘Hellboy,’ 2004: $59.62 million

‘Hellboy,’ 2004: $59.62 million

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Action-packed and fantastical, “Hellboy” was released in theaters in 2004 and has earned $59.62 million in U.S. box offices to date.

‘The Witches of Eastwick,’ 1987: $63.77 million

‘The Witches of Eastwick,’ 1987: $63.77 million

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Pop sensation Cher teams up with Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon in “The Witches of Eastwick.” The film was released in 1987 and drummed up $63.77 million in box offices.

‘Beetlejuice,’ 1988: $74.22 million

‘Beetlejuice,’ 1988: $74.22 million

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Whatever you do, don’t say his name three times in a row. “Beetlejuice” is a topsy-turvy film about a dead couple that hires a spirit named Beetlejuice to scare away the new living inhabitants of their home. Since it was released in 1988, the film has brought in $73.71 million.

‘Dark Shadows,’ 2012: $79.73 million

‘Dark Shadows,’ 2012: $79.73 million

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Johnny Depp plays a vampire that returns to his home after being buried alive two centuries prior. The funny and whimsical movie was released in 2012 and has since made $79.73 million.

‘Sleepy Hollow,’ 1999: $101.07 million

‘Sleepy Hollow,’ 1999: $101.07 million

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Like “Dark Shadows,” the 1999 film “Sleepy Hollow” also stars Johnny Depp. The movie, which is based on the infamous Headless Horseman, brought in more than $100 million at box offices in the U.S.

‘Into the Woods,’ 2014: $128 million

‘Into the Woods,’ 2014: $128 million

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A film adaptation of the musical “Into the Wood” starring big names like Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep and Chris Pine was released in 2014 and has earned $128 million in the U.S. During its opening weekend alone, the film grossed more than $31 million.

‘Ghostbusters,’ 1984: $238.19 million

‘Ghostbusters,’ 1984: $238.19 million

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Who you gonna call? “Ghostbusters” hit theaters in 1984 and has grossed $238.63 million domestically. The film tells the story of former professors who save New York from ghosts. It was so successful that a sequel was released in 1989 and made more than $112 million.

‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,’ 2010: $300.53 million

‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,’ 2010: $300.53 million

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There are plenty of movies from “The Twilight Saga” to choose from, but the top-grossing film was released in 2010 and made $300.53 million. Cumulatively, the franchise has earned more than $1 billion in U.S. box offices.

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,’ 2011: $381.41 million

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,’ 2011: $381.41 million

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Of course, you can’t have fantasy without Harry Potter. The series leads the genre with the top-grossing film of the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” In total, the Harry Potter series has grossed $2.39 billion in the U.S.

Comedy

Comedy

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If you love Halloween but you’re not someone who likes to keep on every light in the house after a horror flick, then these are the movies for you. According to IMDb data, these comedies that are related to Halloween have each grossed over $35 million domestically. Satisfy your spook without getting goosebumps.

‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ 1986: $38.98 million

‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ 1986: $38.98 million

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Like your favorite happy shows on Netflix, “Little Shop of Horrors” is sure to bring some joy to your Halloween season. The 1986 comedy and musical about a florist who owns a giant man-eating plant earned $38.75 million in the U.S.

‘Bewitched,’ 2005: $63.31 million

‘Bewitched,’ 2005: $63.31 million

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A great movie to watch with your significant other, “Bewitched” is a 2005 romantic comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman. The witchy watch earned more than $63 million in box offices and should be added to your list of lighthearted Halloween movies.

‘Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween,’ 2016: $73.21 million

‘Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween,’ 2016: $73.21 million

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The Madea franchise gets spooky during “Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween.” The film hit theaters in 2016 and earned $73.16 million. While the sequel, which was released a year later, earned $47.32 million.

‘Scary Movie,’ 2000: $157.02 million

‘Scary Movie,’ 2000: $157.02 million

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What is the reason that “Scary Movie” is so hilarious? It makes light of classic horror and thriller films by adding a comedic spin. The movie earned $157.02 million in U.S. box offices when it came out in 2000. There are plenty of films in the franchise to fill your October, but highlights include “Scary Movie 2,” which earned 71 million, and “Scary Movie 3,” which earned $110 million.

Family

Family

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Although laughs can help take some of the spook out of spooky season, it’s no secret that Halloween is all about the kids, and they need their own set of films. The following movies grossed more than $20 million in box offices according to IMDb data, and they’re all suitable to watch as a family. Some, though, are better for the older kids, so ratings are included and trailers can be viewed online to decide whether the films are right for your crew.

‘The Black Cauldron,’ PG, 1985: $21.29 million

‘The Black Cauldron,’ PG, 1985: $21.29 million

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“The Black Cauldron” was released in 1985 and grossed more than $21 million in the U.S. The animated film follows a group of misfit friends as they look for an item possessing dark magic. Walt Disney’s “The Black Cauldron” is sure to get you and your rugrats in the Halloween spirit.

‘Hocus Pocus,’ PG, 1993: $39.51 million

‘Hocus Pocus,’ PG, 1993: $39.51 million

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The Sanderson sisters run amuck, amuck, amuck through the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts, when they’re brought back from the dead in this ‘90s classic. Although the film has grossed just $39.51 million in U.S. box offices, it’s cherished to this day as a must-watch Halloween movie.

‘Corpse Bride,’ PG, 2005: $53.36 million

‘Corpse Bride,’ PG, 2005: $53.36 million

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When it comes to spending time with family this Halloween, be sure to make time for Tim Burton. His 2005 animated film “Corpse Bride” is voiced by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter — the king and queen of spooky films. The family-friendly film grossed over $53 million in the U.S.

‘ParaNorman,’ PG, 2012: $56 million

‘ParaNorman,’ PG, 2012: $56 million

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A little boy who can talk to ghosts saves his town from a curse in “ParaNorman,” an animated film that hit theaters in 2012 and grossed $56 million in U.S. box offices.

‘Monster House,’ PG, 2006: $73.66 million

‘Monster House,’ PG, 2006: $73.66 million

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What would you do if your neighbor’s house came to life? That’s the problem plaguing three teens in the 2006 animated film “Monster House.” The movie earned $73.66 million in box offices across the country.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ PG, 1993: $75.08 million

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ PG, 1993: $75.08 million

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The song says it all, “This is Halloween.” After a long day at your state’s favorite pumpkin patch, give your kids something to remember with the 1993 film “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Despite hitting theaters nearly 30 years ago, the animated film remains quite popular to this day. It has grossed $75.08 million in the U.S.

‘Coraline,’ PG, 2009: $75.29 million

‘Coraline,’ PG, 2009: $75.29 million

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This film is all about the relationship between parents and their children. “Coraline” follows the life of a young girl who finds a portal to a secret world that whimsically mirrors her own life. The 2009 film grossed more than $75 million in box offices.

‘The Haunted Mansion,’ PG, 2003: $75.85 million

‘The Haunted Mansion,’ PG, 2003: $75.85 million

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You might look at America’s mansions differently after watching the “The Haunted Mansion.” The eerie Disney film, which stars Eddie Murphy, hit theaters in 2003 and grossed $75.85 million in the U.S.

‘Goosebumps,’ PG, 2015: $80.08 million

‘Goosebumps,’ PG, 2015: $80.08 million

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R.L. Stine’s eerie and timeless novels are brought back to life in the 2015 film “Goosebumps,” a movie about imaginary demons that are released from Stine’s books and terrorize a town. It earned $80.08 million in box offices, and the film’s sequel grossed $46.7 million.

‘Casper,’ PG, 1995: $100.33 million

‘Casper,’ PG, 1995: $100.33 million

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Visit the ‘90s this Halloween with everyone's favorite ghost, “Casper.” A great kid-friendly film to watch this Halloween, “Casper” made more than $100 million in U.S. box offices when it was released in 1995 with the help of Christina Ricci and Devon Sawa.

‘The Addams Family,’ PG-13, 1991: $113.50 million

‘The Addams Family,’ PG-13, 1991: $113.50 million

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When you hear the words “mysterious and spooky,” one family likely comes to mind. “The Addams Family,” starring Anjelica Huston, made its way to theaters in 1991 and grossed $113.50 million. The sequel, “Addams Family Values,” earned $49 million.

‘Scooby-Doo,’ PG, 2002: $153.29 million

‘Scooby-Doo,’ PG, 2002: $153.29 million

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What’s the most popular dog breed around Halloween? The mystery-solving kind. Pile into the Mystery Machine with Scooby, Shaggy and the rest of the gang in the 2002 film “Scooby-Doo.” The film grossed more than $153.29 million in box offices across the country.

‘Hotel Transylvania 2,’ PG, 2012: $169.7 million

‘Hotel Transylvania 2,’ PG, 2012: $169.7 million

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This Halloween, visit Dracula’s high-end resort with “Hotel Transylvania,” which took theaters by storm in 2012 and has since made two more films. The highest-grossing film of the franchise was the sequel that earned $169.70 million, followed by the third film that earned $167.51 million.

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,’ PG, 1982: $435.11 million

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,’ PG, 1982: $435.11 million

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Absolutely dominating the family genre for Halloween films is Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” which has grossed $435.11 million to date in the U.S. The film first appeared in theaters in 1982 and tells the story of a boy named Elliott who befriends an alien. But, every spooky film needs some comfort food to go along with it. Before popping in one of the movies on the list, be sure to try out some of these festive Halloween dishes that you can make at home.

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