Welcome to the Spooky world of the Eerie Eighties
So you are one of those keen horror fans, who like to travel back in time to experience the frights and terrors of earlier cinematic eras. So are we!
The spooky stuff of the 1980s may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.
Whenever you miss those good old days and feel like you want to shiver and scream, all you have to do, is sit tight, bite on your nails, and enjoy the thrills that only a 1980s horror movie can give you.
It will be a pleasure to drag you kicking and screaming through the blood-chilling frames of each horror film featured here, so let’s proceed to the terrifying collection where you’ll be chased by werewolves and vampires, flesh-possessing demons and deadly nightmares, an unearthly fog, a shape-shifting alien, a host of demonic ghosts, a strange car with an evil mind of its own, a giant man-eating plant, an extraterrestrial warrior and even a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
This is not your average horror film list featuring only the scariest and goriest films. We treat horror as the broad genre it actually is. Thus, we tried to diversify this collection as much as possible.
We picked supernatural and fantasy horror films, science fiction and action horrors, slasher and body horror movies, neo-noir psychological horror films and even horror musical comedies and black comedy horrors..
Ready to jump and scream in front of the screen? Buckle up then, and let the best horror films of the 1980s scare the living heck out of you!
This collection is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Horror Movies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the spookiest films of each cinematic era, chronologically. It starts with the Horrors of the Silent Era and wanders ahead decade-by-decade, all the way to our ever moving present.
Presenting the 21 Best Horror Movies of the 1980s
Psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson.
Story: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. (IMDB)
✪ To get Jack Nicholson in the right agitated mood, he was fed only cheese sandwiches for two weeks, which he hates.
Though it deviates from Stephen King’s novel, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a chilling, often baroque journey into madness – exemplified by an unforgettable turn from Jack Nicholson.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Shining among the most famous horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential of all horror films, and has become a staple of pop culture.
American slasher horror film produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, starring Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and Jeannine Taylor.
Story: A group of camp counselors trying to reopen a summer camp called Crystal Lake, which has a grim past, are stalked by a mysterious killer. (IMDB)
Rather quaint by today’s standards, Friday the 13th still has its share of bloody surprises and a ’70s-holdover aesthetic to slightly compel.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Friday the 13th among the best horror movies from the 1980s?
✓ Critical response was divided, with some praising the film’s cinematography and score, while numerous others derided it for its depiction of graphic violence. It has attained a significant cult following over the years.
✓ It was the first independent film of its kind and, a major box office success.
✓ Contemporary scholars in film criticism, have credited it for initiating the subgenre of the “stalker” or slasher film.
Supernatural horror film directed by John Carpenter, starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh.
Story: An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters. (IMDB)
A well-crafted return to horror for genre giant John Carpenter, The Fog rolls in and wraps viewers in suitably slow-building chills.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Fog among the top horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ The film divided critics upon release, receiving praise for its visuals and acting, and criticism for its structure and screenplay. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success and in the years since its original release, it has been noted for establishing a cult following.
Supernatural horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell.
Story: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons. (IMDB)
✪ At the end of a ‘normal’ day of shooting, Bruce Campbell would return home in the back of a pickup truck because he was covered in fake blood from head to toe.
This classic low budget horror film combines just the right amount of gore and black humor, giving The Evil Dead an equal amount of thrills and laughs.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Evil Dead among the most popular horror films from the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Both early and later critical reception were universally positive; in the years since its release, the film has developed a reputation as one of the most significant cult films, cited among the greatest horror films of all time and one of the most successful independent films.
Comedy horror film written and directed by John Landis, starring David Naughton and Jenny Agutter.
Story: Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists. (IMDB)
Terrifying and funny in almost equal measure, John Landis’ horror-comedy crosses genres while introducing Rick Baker’s astounding make-up effects.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is An American Werewolf in London among the best horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It was a critical and commercial success, winning the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and the first ever Academy Award for Best Makeup. Since its release, it has become a cult classic.
Science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell.
Story: A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. (IMDB)
Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Thing among the best horror films of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and considered a benchmark in special make-up effects.
✓ Entertainment Weekly ranked this as the 12th scariest movie of all time.
✓ Regarded as one of the best and most influential science fiction or horror films ever made, and has gained a cult following.
Supernatural horror film directed by Tobe Hooper, starring JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson and Beatrice Straight.
Story: A family’s home is haunted by a host of demonic ghosts. (IMDB)
Smartly filmed, tightly scripted, and — most importantly — consistently frightening, Poltergeist is a modern horror classic.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Poltergeist among the best horror films from the 1980s?
✓ It was a major critical and commercial success, and since its release, it has been recognized as a horror classic.
✓ Featured on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Thrills, a list of America’s most heart-pounding movies
✓ Selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made and the Chicago Film Critics Association called it the 20th-scariest film ever made.
Canadian science fiction body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry.
Story: A programmer at a TV station that specializes in adult entertainment searches for the producers of a dangerous and bizarre broadcast. (IMDB)
Visually audacious, disorienting, and just plain weird, Videodrome’s musings on technology, entertainment, and politics still feel fresh today.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Videodrome among the greatest horror films from the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Praised for the special makeup effects, Cronenberg’s direction, Woods and Harry’s performances, its “techno-surrealist” aesthetic, and its cryptic, psychosexual themes.
✓ Considered a cult classic, the film has been cited as one of Cronenberg’s best, and a key example of the body horror and science fiction horror genres.
Supernatural horror film directed by John Carpenter, starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell and Alexandra Paul.
Story: A nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind of its own and his nature starts to change to reflect it. (IMDB)
The cracks are starting to show in John Carpenter’s directorial instincts, but Christine is nonetheless silly, zippy fun.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Christine among the most popular horror films of the 1980s?
✓ Received positive reviews from critics and became a box office success upon release. It has since become an influential cult classic.
Supernatural slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven, starring John Saxon, Ronee Blakley and Robert Englund.
Story: Teenager Nancy Thompson must uncover the dark truth concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of the spirit of a serial killer with a bladed glove in their dreams, in which if they die, it kills them in real life. (IMDB)
Wes Craven’s intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is A Nightmare on Elm Street among the top horror films of the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ It was met with rave critical reviews praising the film’s ability to transgress “the boundaries between the imaginary and real”, toying with audience perceptions.
✓ Considered to be one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Black comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante, starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton.
Story: A young man inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town. (IMDB)
Whether you choose to see it as a statement on consumer culture or simply a special effects-heavy popcorn flick, Gremlins is a minor classic.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Gremlins among the greatest horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ It became a critical and commercial success upon release, however, it was heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences.
✓ Despite the initial mixed criticism, it has continued to receive critical praise over the years and is now considered by many as one of the best films of its time and an influential cult classic.
Science fiction horror film directed and co-written by David Cronenberg, starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz.
Story: A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong. (IMDB)
David Cronenberg combines his trademark affinity for gore and horror with strongly developed characters, making The Fly a surprisingly affecting tragedy.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Fly among the greatest horror movies from the 1980s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Released to massive acclaim by critics and audiences, with praise mainly regarding the special effects and Goldblum’s performance.
✓ Audiences reacted strongly to the graphic creature and the tragic love story, and the film received much attention at the time of its release.
Horror comedy musical film directed by Frank Oz, starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin.
Story: A nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed. (IMDB)
Remixing Roger Corman’s B-movie by way of the Off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors offers camp, horror and catchy tunes in equal measure — plus some inspired cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Little Shop of Horrors among the most popular horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ It was well received by critics and audiences alike, eventually developing a significant cult following.
Science fiction horror action film directed by John McTiernan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers.
Story: A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior. (IMDB)
Predator: Part sci-fi, part horror, part action — all muscle.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Predator among the scary horror films from the 1980s?
✓ Initial reviews were mixed, but the film has since been considered a classic of the action, science fiction and horror genres and one of the best films of the 1980s.
Horror comedy film directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell.
Story: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack. (IMDB)
Evil Dead 2’s increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good — if not better — than the original.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Evil Dead II among the most famous horror films from the 1980s?
✓ It was widely acclaimed by critics, who praised its humor, Raimi’s direction, and Campbell’s performance.
✓ It has accumulated a large, international cult following and many scholars have considered it one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Supernatural black comedy horror film directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim and Dianne Wiest.
Story: After moving to a new town, two brothers discover that the area is a haven for vampires. (IMDB)
Flawed but eminently watchable, Joel Schumacher’s teen vampire thriller blends horror, humor, and plenty of visual style with standout performances from a cast full of young 1980s stars.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is The Lost Boys among the best horror movies of the 1980s?
✓ It was a critical and commercial success upon release with critics praising the cinematography and the performance of the principal cast.
✓ The film helped shift popular culture depictions of vampires and is often credited with bringing a more youthful appeal to the vampire genre by making the vampires themselves sexy and young.
Supernatural horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence.
Story: A woman discovers the newly resurrected, partially formed, body of her brother-in-law. She starts killing for him to revitalize his body so he can escape the demonic beings that are pursuing him after he escaped their sadistic underworld. (IMDB)
Elevated by writer-director Clive Barker’s fiendishly unique vision, Hellraiser offers a disquieting – and sadistically smart – alternative to mindless gore.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Hellraiser among the best horror films from the 1980s?
✓ Since its release, the film has divided critics but generally received praise, with some calling it the greatest horror film made in Britain
Neo-noir psychological horror film written and directed by Alan Parker, starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet.
Story: A private investigator is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn. (IMDB)
Angel Heart lures viewers into its disturbing, brutal mystery with authentic noir flair and a palpably hypnotic mood.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Angel Heart among the greatest horror films of the 1980s?
✓ Critics praised the performances of Rourke and Bonet, as well as the production design, score, and cinematography.
✓ Widely regarded as an underappreciated and influential horror classic.
Science fiction action film written and directed by John Carpenter, starring Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster.
Story: They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live. (IMDB)
A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is They Live among the most popular horror films from the 1980s?
✓ Initially received negative reviews from critics, who lambasted its social commentary, writing, and acting; however, it later gained a cult following and experienced a significantly more favorable critical reception. Today it is regarded by many as a largely underrated but influential work.
✓ The film has also entered the pop culture lexicon, notably having a lasting effect on street art.
Fantasy slasher film directed by Tom Holland, starring Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon and Brad Dourif.
Story: A single mother gives her son a much sought-after doll for his birthday, only to discover that it is possessed by the soul of a serial killer. (IMDB)
Child’s Play occasionally stumbles across its tonal tightrope of comedy and horror, but its genuinely creepy monster and some deft direction by Tom Holland makes this chiller stand out on the shelf.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Child’s Play among the best horror films of the 1980s?
✓ It was a critical and commercial success upon release and gained a significant cult following over the years.
Supernatural horror film directed by Mary Lambert, starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby and Fred Gwynne.
Story: After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. (IMDB)
Pet Sematary is a bruising horror flick that wears its quirks on its sleeves, to the detriment of its scare factor.Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus
Why is Pet Sematary among the greatest horror movies from the 1980s?
✓ It was a box office success upon release, and although it received mixed reviews from critics, it’s undeniably a minor classic.
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So there you have it: The 21 Greatest Horror films of the 1980s
If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:
Tell us what you think about this collection. Fire off your own suggestions and favorites in the comments section below!