Updated On: November 06, 2023 by   PTdev   PTdev  

What are the Best 80s horror movies? It is the question we ask if we want to watch a film with the features of that time, including the big hair, leg warmers, and mullets. Whether they are big-budget films, they gave you the chills and persisted long after you’d left the theatre and cuddled up in bed.

The horror films of the 1980s are full of camp, horror, and unexpected twists. They laid the groundwork for today’s scary movies. For example, A Nightmare on Elm Street still gives us nightmares while turning off striped sweaters for good. Freddie Krueger and Jason from Friday the 13th settled the recurring killer, who appears to be unstoppable. 

Beloved 80s Horror Movies

Scary movies from the 1980s differ from modern ones as they were not afraid to take risks. So, In remembrance of a period when the adaptable horror genre saw significant risks, here are 20 of the best horror films from the 1980s that will have you hiding under the covers.

1. Gremlins (1980)

A gadget salesman is looking for a unique gift for his son and comes across one in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is hesitant to sell him the “mogwai,” a little creature discovered by Rand Peltzer. He finally sold it and informed him of the following rules: 

  • Please keep it away from light, especially direct sunshine
  • Please do not give it any water to drink or let it get wet 
  • Never give it any food after midnight.

Disobeying these rules causes a group of monsters to decide to wreck the town on Christmas Eve.

  • Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton
  • Genre: Holiday, Fantasy, Mystery & Thriller, Comedy, Horror
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Producer: Michael Finnell
  • Writer: Chris Columbus
  • Release Date (Theaters): 8 June 1984
  • Release Date (Streaming): 21 August 2001
  • Runtime: 1h 46m
  • Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 86%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.3

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In Wes Craven’s classic slasher film, a group of Midwestern teenagers fall victim to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a ghostly midnight mangler, a man with severe burns wearing a knife-handled glove. Nancy stars Heather Langenkamp and starts to suspect a dark secret hidden by her and her friends’ parents. Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) solved the puzzle that in the past Krueger was burnt alive by the parents of Elm Street. 

  • Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
  • Genre: Horror
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Producer: Robert Shaye
  • Writer: Wes Craven
  • Release Date (Theaters): 9 November 1984,
  • Release Date (Streaming): 25 October 2005
  • Runtime: 1h 31m
  • Distributors: Media Home Entertainment, Image Entertainment Inc., Anchor Bay Entertainment, New Line Home Video [us], New Line Cinema
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 95%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.4

3. The Shining (1980)

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) intends to spend the winter alone and isolated with his wife and son. He shows up at the Overlook Hotel for the job interview for the vacant winter caretaker. While Wendy and Danny depict daily life, including breakfast, toys and watching TV, Jack sits at a typewriter in the big hall and types nonstop.

The head chef Dick Hallorann advises Danny to stay away from room 237. Once Danny notices the room open, he cannot stop himself from entering the room. Unfortunately, Danny returns hurt and frightened. When Jack checks the room, he meets a ghost named Lorraine, who chases him out. But he does not tell his wife about it.

Wendy discovers that all that Jack writes is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. He attacks her when she speaks to him, but she hits him with a baseball bat, and he faints. Jack goes out of his mind and starts chasing his wife and son. Wendy and Danny manage to survive while Jack freezes to death.

  • Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Producer: Robert Fryer, Stanley Kubrick
  • Writer: Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
  • Release Date (Theaters): 23 May 1980
  • Release Date (Streaming): 23 October 2007
  • Runtime: 2h 22m
  • Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 82%
  • IMDB Rate: 8.4

4. Aliens (1986)

Aliens packs a considerably more visceral impact than Alien, a masterpiece of gradually built atmospheric suspense. Aliens tells a stand-alone tale that starts 57 years after the conclusion of the previous one. Half a century later, a salvage ship finds Ripley in hibernation. She is the only survivor of the Nostromo, the first expedition. She continues to experience nightmares when she wakes up.

When Ripley is returned to Earth, she discovers that the planet where the aliens were first discovered has a human settlement. A new mission is dispatched to the mysterious planet with Ripley on board. The mission’s objective is to destroy the alien menace forever and save any survivor. A nine-year-old girl called Newt is the lone survivor they discover. It is too hard for the crew to destroy the colony’s invasion by hundreds of aliens, even with the most modern weapons and battle-tested soldiers.

  • Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Action
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
  • Writer: James Cameron, David Giler
  • Release Date (Theaters): 18 July 1986
  • Release Date (Streaming): 1 June 1999
  • Runtime: 2h 17m
  • Distributor: 20th Century Fox
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 98%
  • IMDB Rate: 8.4

5. The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead is a 1983 American horror zombie movie with Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, and Betsy Baker in the lead roles. It was written and directed by Sam Raimi. Five college students embark on a fun-filled night outing by hiking into the woods to a cottage. 

They discover recorded incantations from the Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon that summons persistent monsters. They can only be slain by complete body mutilation. Ash burns the book at the end of the film. 

Then, as he exits the cottage, an invisible evil rushes through the woodland and falls upon him. Immediately before the movie ends, he turns around and cries in terror.

  • Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
  • Genre: Horror
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Producer: Rob Tapert
  • Writer: Sam Raimi
  • Release Date (Theaters): 15 October 1981  
  • Release Date (Streaming): 1 October 2002
  • Runtime: 1h 25m
  • Distributor: Image Entertainment Inc., Home Box Office (HBO) [us], New Line Cinema
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 95%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.4

6. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead II takes place roughly where the first one left off. Ash Williams, Bruce Campbell, is still in the cabin and has to fight his inner and physical demons. He is joined by a few other strangers that come to the cabin with a little more insight into what “the Book of the Dead” is all about. 

The book summons malicious spirits. These spirits are out of control and decapitate their victims. The hero fights valiantly against the terrifying supernatural powers. Still, he cannot stand against the abhorrently evil creatures lurking in the basement, the woods, and behind every door.

  • Stars: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Producer: Rob Tapert
  • Writer: Sam Raimi
  • Release Date (Theaters): 13 March 1987
  • Release Date (Streaming): 29 August 2000
  • Runtime: 1h 25m
  • Distributor: Paramount Pictures, Anchor Bay Entertainment
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 95%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.7

7. Possession (1981)

The 1981 Cannes Film Festival’s global premiere of Andrzej Zuawski’s “Possession” made it the most controversial entry that year. The movie’s plot is absurdly complex and based on several surprises. When Mark (Sam Neill) returns to Berlin after an extended business trip, he discovers that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani), asks for a divorce. Mark receives a phone call from Heinrich, Anna’s lover, informing him that Anna is staying with him. After a while, Mark visits Heinrich to discover that Heinrich did not see Anna since a long time ago.

Mark assigns a private detective to follow Anna. Mark gradually learns about increasingly odd behaviours and peculiar events that point to something other than a demonic love affair. Anna eventually abandons her husband and lover, Heinrich, to have a paranormal experience with an odd entity in an empty apartment.

  • Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen
  • Genre: Drama, Horror, Fantasy
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Andrzej Żuławski
  • Producer: Marie-Laure Reyre
  • Writer: Frederic Tuten, Andrzej Żuławski
  • Release date: 28 October 1983 (United States)
  • Runtime: 2h 7m
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 84%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.3

8. Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist knows what scares you! It is directed by and produced by Steven Spielberg with a co-writing credit from Speilberg. The film depicts the tale of a family who discovers their haunted home. Their young daughter speaks with someone inside their tv, chairs move across the kitchen floor, and many other bizarre occurrences occur.

The family dynamic in the movie is excellent; Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams feel like an old married couple with tons of stories. They feel very lived in. The children in the movie are great, especially the young Heather O’Rourke, who tragically passed away. 

  • Stars: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Producer: Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg
  • Writer: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor
  • Release Date (Theaters): 4 June 1982
  • Release Date (Streaming): 9 October 2007
  • Runtime: 1h 54m
  • Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 88%
  • IMDB Rate: 7.3

9. Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th Stars Kevin Bacon and Adrienne King, directed by Sean S. Cunningham. It was a massive success. Camp counsellors are getting ready for all the kids to come to camp. They do some renovations and are getting ready for the season. Unfortunately, they start getting picked off and killed one by one. 

  • Stars: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor
  • Genre: Horror
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: Sean S. Cunningham
  • Producer: Sean S. Cunningham
  • Writer: Victor Miller
  • Release Date (Theaters): 13 June 1980 
  • Release Date (Streaming): 7 August 2007
  • Runtime: 1h 35m
  • Distributor: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 63%
  • IMDB Rate: 6.3

10. The Fog (1980)

The story revolves around Antonio Bay, a tiny coastal community in Northern California. The community is commemorating its 100th year. 

The movie begins with a tale of a ship that sank just off the Antonio Bay shoreline, losing with it all of its crew. Kathy Williams (Leigh), who is responsible for the centenary events, and Stevie Wayne (Barbeau), who has her radio station, live there. Elizabeth Solley (Curtis), a newcomer to the area and budding artist, recently travelled from Santa Barbara.

A leper colony was exposed to a pirate ship sailing toward the bay one hundred years ago. As a result, the town’s residents came together and started a fire on the beach. The ship’s passengers thought the fire was to guide them, but it led them onto the surrounding rocks, where the ship eventually crashed. The town residents, including a priest, stole all the gold it was carrying from the wreck.

A mysterious cloud of fog rises on the shore and moves through the little, sleepy harbour town as the locals prepare for the celebrations, leaving a trail of horrible carnage.

  • Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
  • Original Language: English
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Producer: Debra Hill
  • Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
  • Release Date (Theaters): 8 February 1980 
  • Release Date (Streaming): 26 August 2003
  • Runtime: 1h 29m
  • Distributor: MGM/UA Home Entertainment Inc., RCA/Columbia, AVCO Embassy Pictures
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rate: 75%
  • IMDB Rate: 6.8

We come to the end of the list. What’s your 80s favourite horror movie?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *