Horror Franchises by the Numbers

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With Halloween almost upon us and the recent re-release of the original Saw movie, I wondered “which horror franchise is the best?” I am going to use Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and Box Office Mojo as my guide to hopefully answer that question. Full disclosure: I’m a devout Michael Myers fan and personally betting on Halloween to be victorious. Let’s see.

Here are the ground rules for sake of my mental well being and sanity. I am going to narrow the franchises to the following: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Saw. Sorry, no Hellraiser or Child’s Play this time. Since Metacritic data is not available for all of the films mentioned above, I will use their latest entries for their Metacritic score. If you’re ready, lets do this!

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, written and directed by Tobe Hooper, was released in 1974 and considered by most to be the film that kicked off the 70s slasher genre. The franchise has 7 entries and has grossed about $235 million at the box office. Its most recent release,  2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D, has a Metacritic rating of 31 and a user rating of 4.6 out of a possible 100. According to Rotten Tomatoes, its highest rated film is the original, with a score of 90, and its lowest rated film is a tie between the recently released 3D film and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, each with a score of 19. Its highest audience review is the original, with a score of 90, and its lowest is the fourth film, 1994’s The Return, with a score of 18. The two most notable actors to appear in this franchise are Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger, who both starred in The Return.

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Halloween, co-written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill and directed by John Carpenter, was released in 1978. The franchise has 10 entries (including Season of the Witch) and has grossed about $366 million at the box office. Its most recent release in 2009, Halloween 2, has no rating on Metacritic, so I will use the previous release, 2007’s Halloween. (Some may cry foul, but it’s the only way to keep this train on the tracks.) It has a Metacritic rating of 47 and a user rating of 5.6. According to Rotten Tomatoes, its highest rated entry would be the original film, with a score of 94, and its lowest would be Halloween 6: Curse of Michael Myers, with a score of 6. This is also the lowest rated film of all the franchises in this list. Its highest audience score is also the original, with a score of 89, and its lowest being Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, with a score of 24. The two most notable actors in this franchise are Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis. Honorable mentions to Deadwood’s Brad Dourif and Clockwork Orange’s Malcolm Mcdowell from Director Rob Zombie’s admirable but misguided reboot of the franchise.

PS – Deadwood is awesome!

laser time, halloween movies, nightmare on elm street, saw, friday the 13th, halloween, texas chainsaw massacre

Friday the 13th, written by Victor Miller and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, was released in 1980. The franchise has 12 entries and has grossed about $465 million at the box office. Its most recent release, 2009’s reboot Friday the 13th, has a Metacritic rating of 34 and a user rating of 6.2. According to Rotten Tomatoes, its highest rated entry would be the original, with a score of 59, and its lowest would be Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, with a score of 9. Its highest audience score is also the original, with a 62, and its lowest being Jason X, with a 25. The two most notable stars to appear in this franchise are Kevin Bacon and Kane Hodder.

laser time, halloween movies, nightmare on elm street, saw, friday the 13th, halloween, texas chainsaw massacre

Nightmare on Elm Street, written and directed by Wes Craven, was released in 1984. The franchise has 9 entries and has grossed about $455 million at the box office. Its most recent release, 2010’s reboot Nightmare on Elm street, has a Metacritic rating of 35 and a user rating of 5.2. According to Rotten Tomatoes, its highest rated film is the original, with a score of 93, and its lowest being the most recent reboot of the franchise with a score of 15. Its highest audience score is the original, with an 83, and its lowest being Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, with a score of 33. The two most notable actors in this franchise are Johnny Depp and Robert Englund. Honorable mention to Watchmen’s Jackie Earle Haley, who was a decent Freddy, but his makeup was atrocious and ultimately made him look too much like a cat, thus tanking the film.

laser time, halloween movies, nightmare on elm street, saw, friday the 13th, halloween, texas chainsaw massacre

Finally we have Saw, co-written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, released in 2004. The franchise has 7 entries and has grossed about $873 million at the box office. Its most recent release, 2010’s Saw 3D, has a Metacritic rating of 24 and a user rating of 5.4. According to Rotten Tomatoes, its highest rated film is the original, with a score of 48, and its lowest being Saw 3D with a 9. Its highest audience score goes to the original, with a score of 84, and its lowest being Saw 3D with a 42. The two most notable actors in this franchise are Eddie Winslow–just kidding, but he was in Saw 6! The two most notable actors are Danny Glover and Donnie Wahlberg. Honorable mention to the powder guy, a.k.a.  Boondock Saint Sean Patrick Flannery.

Side note, I recently marathoned all seven of these films and have to commend the franchise for keeping its lore complete for the most part. There are no trips to hell or celtic runes to explain why Jigsaw does what he does, nor are there any numbers from R&B singer Trey Songz, kung fu kicks from Busta Rhymes, or any Twilight alumni in these films.

 And the winner is…?

laser time, halloween movies, nightmare on elm street, saw, friday the 13th, halloween, texas chainsaw massacre

Based on critic reviews, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise wins hands down. But surprisingly, Rotten Tomatoes audience reviewers picked the Saw franchise as the best overall when looking at cumulative scores for every entry in the franchise. The Saw films all averaged scores above 50, except Saw 3D with a score of 42, while the other franchises had at least one film with a score below 34. The film franchise with the biggest star is a tie between established Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, representing for Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s sudden, but much deserved Hollywood resurgence, Matthew McConaughey. My personal favorite is New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg from the Saw films, but I know I am in the minority on this one. I had to triple check this, but the clear winner in terms of financial success would be the Saw franchise, with almost double the amount of box office gross of its competitors. Equally impressive is that it has the least amount of entries and was able to take in over $873 million at the box office in only seven years, compared to the other franchises in their 30’s. According to Metacritic data for the most recent releases per franchise, the winner is Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot (did not expect that one; please don’t shoot the messenger). But based on Metacritic user reviews, Marcus Nispel’s reboot of Friday the 13th wins. I can see why, since I did enjoy this film the most out of the other recent franchises releases. Solely based on Rotten Tomatoes reviews and user reviews, the winner is my personal favorite, John Carpenter’s Halloween, narrowly beating out Nightmare on Elm Street.

So basically, there is no clear winner; we all win as horror fans (well, maybe not those who watch Jason X and Halloween six in one sitting–not an experience I recommend). Maybe next year I can throw in a Paranormal Activity wild card into the mix? I personally thought The Marked Ones was a vast improvement. Until then, thanks for reading and happy Halloween!

Article by contributor Moan4Stallone.

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12 thoughts on “Horror Franchises by the Numbers

  1. That Texas Chainsaw movie with Zellweger and McConaughey is The Room of slasher movies. It’s so fucking incompetent but it’s hilarious because it’s completely bananas!

  2. Good work. I’m not really a horror fan but I read the whole article. I have actually seen the first few Halloweens so at least I have seen the best of the bunch so to speak. I also saw Jason X a few times (that was the one in space right?) because it was on HBO when I had HBO and I remember a scene with topless chicks.

    1. Yes that is Jason X and my main issue is the outdated score that was used in the film. The action and kills are actually fun but its cheap 1970s style score is just distracting and doesnt match with what is going on. Thank you for reading it all because it was a labor of love.

  3. Donnie Wahlberg isn’t more notable than Cary Elwes… Granted, Elwes hasn’t really appeared in anything noteworthy other than Saw in the past 15 years or so, but The Princess Bride alone outweighs anything Donnie Wahlberg has ever appeared in, I’d say.

    Also, I find it rather amusing that Saw is considered the “short” franchise here, because it felt like it went on forever and didn’t really know when to stop. Then again, Saw is the only franchise in here that I’ve actually followed or grew alongside with.

  4. Pretty cool article. It’s weird thinking that these franchises with 10 movies made less than half a billion bucks, but I guess our idea of a “blockbuster” is just skewered from recent movies like Avengers or Hunger Games.

      1. Then again, you are on to something dude. Because studios will call an obvious success a failure. Simply because it may not have hit the projected number. Like say a half a billion.

  5. Nice to see John Carpenter’s Halloween come out on top in the ratings! It was probably the first real horror movie I ever saw. My mum warned me and my sis away from the VHS tape we had in the house, so naturally we sneekily watched it while she was out one night. The intro with the pumpkin alone scared us shitless, with that incredible theme to boot.

    1. My exact introduction to Halloween as well. Crazy to think how little gore there is in this film but it officially kickstarted the late 70s early 80s slasher phenomenon. True testament to this films staying power among the crowded horror landscape.

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