Author:

Sophie Weiner

Additional research:

Kelsey Lawrence

What most scares us is the unknown, which is why so many horror films feature small, anonymous towns, abandoned houses in the woods, and foggy cemeteries at night. Cities, on the other hand, feel ordered, controlled, full of familiar locations and sensible designs. Yet some of the most famous and successful horror films have been shot in cities, and those locations often become a character in their own right. Think of the backdrop Florence provides for 2001's Hannibal, or Washington, DC's architecture in The Exorcist. On the week of Halloween, we rounded up the highest grossing films shot in cities around the world. 

The majority of blockbuster films are shot in multiple locations. For this list, we tried to pick films for each city that had a significant portion of the film shot in that city. For example, we didn't list Jaws, one of the most successful horror films of all time (grossing $470,653,000) as shot in Los Angeles; it was shot in Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts though a scene involving a severed head was reshot in a movie executive's LA pool. The genre "horror" itself can be ambiguous, but we tried to include only films that fall into a fairly conventional definition of the genre and had few hyphens in the description (we left out horror-comedy Ghostbusters and sci-fi zombie flick World War Z, but counted the campy slasher franchise Scream). 

 

 

Philadelphia

Pennsylvania, USA


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The Sixth Sense

$672,806,292

Produced with a budget of only $40 million, M. Night Shyamalan's now-classic ghost film is the highest grossing horror film of all time. It's also probably the film that has most frequently been spoiled for viewers, as its twist ending became legendary. Nearly all of the film's scenes were shot on location in Philadelphia.

 

 

Washington, D.C.

USA

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The Exorcist

$441,306,145

One of the most famous horror films of all time is known for its Washington, D.C. setting. But significant portions of the film were shot in New York City, and the film also featured scenes shot on location in Iraq in sweltering conditions that caused several members of the production to fall ill.

 

 

Florence

Italy

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Hannibal

$351,692,268

In the sequel to Silence of the Lambs, FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling tracks serial killer Hannibal Lecter to Florence, where the film was largely shot. In the production notes, director Ridley Scott described the city as "organized chaos." In 2001, when it was released, the film had the biggest ever opening of a rated R film.

 

 

Toronto

Canada

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Resident Evil: Afterlife

$296,221,663

The action-packed fourth installment of this video game-inspired franchise killed the foreign box office after its release in 2010, though it was filmed mainly in Toronto. In the U.S. and Canada, the film made $60 million while it raked in $236 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful horror films (though some may debate the label) of all time. Its critical reception, on the other hand, was poor, with Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times writing, "Cannibalizing John Carpenter's Thing and much of the sci-fi-horror canon, Afterlife is more moribund than its thronging undead."

 

 

Los Angeles

California, USA

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Annabelle

$256,873,813

This creepy doll story released in 2014 is, somewhat surprisingly, the highest grossing horror film shot predominantly in LA. Jaws, one of the highest earning horror films ever, has one scene shot in a movie executive's LA swimming pool, and the 2000 ghost movie What Lies Beneath was partially shot in Playa Vista, a beach community near Marina del Rey. But Annabelle, a prequel to The Conjuring, is the most successful horror film shot entirely in the city—in fact, almost the entire film was shot in one apartment. The film only cost $6.5 million to make, earning a profit of nearly $200 million.

 

 

Seattle

Washington, USA

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The Ring

$249,348,933

The Ring, another remake of a Japanese film, cost only $48 million to make, resulting in it becoming one of the highest grossing horror films ever. Released in 2002, its success paved the way for films like The Grudge and Dark Water to succeed in America. The now-familiar story involves a cursed VHS tape, which kills viewers a week after they watch it.

 

 

Paris

France

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Interview with the Vampire

$223,664,608

The 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, based on the novel by Anne Rice, was filmed in locations around the U.S. and Europe. Notably, several scenes were filmed in New Orleans. Paris is the location of the film's second act, where the characters Louis and Claudia take refuge after running away from Louisiana. Since Interview with the Vampire is one of the highest grossing horror films ever, it has the top place for both Paris and New Orleans.

 

 

Madrid

Spain

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The Others

$209,947,037 

This creepy 2001 film by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar featured all kinds of fun plot twists, ghosts and many anguished expressions from star Nicole Kidman. The events of the film take place after World War II, and filming locations were spread across Spain and England.

 

 

 

Tokyo

Japan

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The Grudge

$187,281,115

The Grudge, released in 2004, was a remake of a Japanese film, titled Ju-On: The Grudge, and was similarly shot in Tokyo. In the film, a curse is born from an extremely terrible death, which spreads from one person to the next, killing everyone in its path. The film was made for under $10 million, and a low box office return was expectedThe Grudge blew those predictions out of the water, becoming one of the highest earning films of the year. Resident Evil: Afterlife had its opening scene shot in Tokyo, and made significantly more than The Grudge, but we chose to list Resident Evil for Toronto, where the majority of it was shot.

 

 

Atlanta

Georgia, USA


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Scream 2

$172,363,301

Scream 2, Wes Craven's knowing follow up to the high school slasher Scream, which began production while the first film was still in theaters, included meta-jokes on the institution of the blockbuster sequel. This time, the killings took place in Atlanta instead of the prosaic Northern California of the original. The film was very successful, both financially and critically.

 

 

New York City

New York, USA

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Black Swan

$106,954,678

The Dostoyevsky-inspired psychological thriller Black Swan is the second highest grossing horror film ever shot in New York—the first highest is The Exorcist, which we have listed for Washington, DC, above. Black Swan, however, was filmed entirely in New York state. The few scenes shot outside the city were filmed at the SUNY Purchase concert hall in upstate New York.

 

 

Mumbai

India

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Bhoot

$3,640,472

For our Mumbai selection, we spoke to New York University professor and Bollywood expert Tejaswini Ganti. She told us that the horror market in India has traditionally been looked down upon as a realm of ultra-low production and campy B films. That’s beginning to change. In 2003, the respected director Ram Gopal Varma made Bhoot, a ghost story that was well received critically. “It shifted the discussion about horror,” says Ganti. “All of a sudden it’s like wow, all of these A-list people can make a horror film and it can do well.”

 

 Sources: Worldwide gross box office figures via Box Office Mojo.