Horror Films & Their Iconic Villains

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to watch some scary movies. Every year, my boyfriend and I make a plan to watch a horror film each day during the month of October. We usually end up actually watching only two or three a week, but we still have fun trying.

While thinking about which ones to watch this year, I realized that the majority of the most popular horror films and their iconic villains are actually from before my time. Frankenstein and Dracula originated in the 1930s and remain some of the most legendary Halloween characters. Even kids celebrating Halloween in today’s time know who they are.

Aside from Dracula and Frankenstein, a majority of the most prominent horror movie villains come from the popular 1980s slasher films. At the top of almost every list I’ve seen are Jason Voorhees fromFriday the 13th (1980), Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street(1984) and Michael Myers from Halloween (1978). I find it interesting that in the last two decades, there really haven’t been any new villains who share their level of prominence. Instead of new villains becoming popular in the last two decades, there have been numerous attempts to remake the classics.


Freddie, Jason, Michael and Leatherface.  Source: The Cynical Owl LLC

Unfortunately, these remakes have received terrible reviews from film critics and failed to profit as much as the originals. For example, I tookFriday the 13th and compared the films’ budgets to their box office revenues for both the 1980 original and the 2009 remake. The profit percentage for the original production was 98.62 percent, which is much higher than the 73.85 percent profit for the remake. The same occurred with both the Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Streetfranchises. This goes to show that pouring more money into a horror film’s budget doesn’t mean people will like it any better.


Data from: Nash Information Services, LLC.


Data from: Nash Information Services, LLC.

I think it’s awesome that scary movies appeal to so many people that even the lowest-budget horror films have the opportunity to rake in huge profits at the box office. In his book titled Horror Films, James Marriott states that the horror genre has traditionally attracted independent low-budget filmmakers and has been one of the only genres in film where small investments can yield extremely high returns. Some of the craziest examples of this occurred with films likeParanormal Activity (2009), which was created on only a $15,000 budget yet earned $193.4 million in box office revenue, and The Blair Witch Project (1999), which made $248.6 million at the box office with only a $60,000 budget.

It is clear that horror films have definitely changed direction since their first big spike in popularity in the 80s, which largely spawned from the introduction of new technologies for special effects capabilities. Even though now we may look back at the originals and think how cheesy and unconvincing their special effects were, the fact remains that they were actually a great success and they are still the most memorable films in the horror genre today.