131 voters

The Best Horror Movies of 1981

Updated September 23, 2019 1.9k votes 131 voters 2.0k views95 items

List of the best 1981 horror movies, ranked by how many upvotes they've received by other fans of the genre. All types of scary movies are represented below, including thrillers, slashers, gore, psychological horror films and more. These are all the horror movies that defined the year 1981, so vote for your favorites and help them rise to the top. This poll is also a great resource for finding new movies that you haven't already seen, especially since you can watch trailers for each film right on this page. To make sure this list is as accurate as possible, please don't downvote a movie if you haven't seen it.

List features movies like The Evil Dead, Halloween II, and many more This isn't necessarily a list of all horror movies from 1981, but it does contain all the ones worth watching.
  • Scanners1

    ActorsMichael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, Jennifer O'Neill, Lawrence Dane, Robert A. Silverman

    Directed byDavid Cronenberg

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    #64 of 88 The Goriest Movies Ever Made#90 of 102 The 100+ Best Movies Streaming On The Criterion Channel

  • An American Werewolf in London2

    ActorsJenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Rik Mayall, David Naughton, Griffin Dunne

    Directed byJohn Landis

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    #591 of 1,189 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#150 of 314 The Funniest '80s Movies

  • Friday the 13th Part 23

    ActorsBetsy Palmer, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Warrington Gillette, Rex Everhart, Ari Lehman

    Directed bySteve Miner

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    #11 of 105 The Best Horror Movie Sequels#217 of 372 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

  • The Evil Dead4

    ActorsBruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Scott Spiegel, Ellen Sandweiss

    Directed bySam Raimi

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    #849 of 1,540 The Most Rewatchable Movies#485 of 925 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow5

    ActorsCharles Durning, Lane Smith, Larry Drake, Robert F. Lyons, Jocelyn Brando

    Directed byFrank De Felitta

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    #15 of 23 Underrated Halloween Movies You Should Watch This Year#21 of 56 The Best Horror Movies That Take Place On Halloween

  • The Howling6

    ActorsDee Wallace, John Sayles, Slim Pickens, Patrick Macnee, John Carradine

    Directed byJoe Dante

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    #310 of 541 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies#76 of 114 The Best Horror Movie Franchises

  • Halloween II7

    ActorsJamie Lee Curtis, Dana Carvey, Kyle Richards, Donald Pleasence, Ana Alicia

    Directed byRick Rosenthal

  • My Bloody Valentine8

    ActorsDon Francks, Cynthia Dale, Helene Udy, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys

    Directed byGeorge Mihalka

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    #24 of 70 The Best Teen Slasher Movies#8 of 15 Pretty Good Romance Horror Movies For Your Dark Heart

  • Evilspeak9

    ActorsClint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Haywood Nelson, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones

    Directed byEric Weston

  • The Prowler10

    ActorsFarley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Christopher Goutman, Thom Bray, Lisa Dunsheath

    Directed byJoseph Zito

  • Absurd11



    ActorsEdmund Purdom, Ted Rusoff, George Eastman, Annie Belle, Carolyn De Fonseca

    Directed byJoe D'Amato

  • Just Before Dawn12

    ActorsGeorge Kennedy, Jamie Rose, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, Mike Kellin

    Directed byJeff Lieberman

  • The Burning13

    ActorsHolly Hunter, Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer

    Directed byTony Maylam

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    #21 of 33 The Scariest Cabin Horror Movies#13 of 30 The Best Horror Movies Set During Summer

  • The Funhouse14

    ActorsElizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, Frank Grimes, Sherman Bergman, Sylvia Miles

    Directed byTobe Hooper

  • The Beyond15

    ActorsDavid Warbeck, Veronica Lazăr, Catriona MacColl, Antoine Saint-John, Al Cliver

    Directed byLucio Fulci

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  • Possession16

    ActorsSam Neill, Isabelle Adjani, Heinz Bennent, Margit Carstensen, Carl Duering

    Directed byAndrzej Żuławski

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    #257 of 720 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time#18 of 20 20 Shocking Horror Movie Endings That Took You by Surprise

  • Galaxy of Terror17

    ActorsRobert Englund, Erin Moran, Sid Haig, Ray Walston, Edward Albert

    Directed byBruce D. Clark

  • Night Terrors18

    ActorsRobert Englund, Chandra West, Ray Baker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, William Finley

    Directed byTobe Hooper, Romano Scavolini

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  • Deadly Blessing19

    ActorsSharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Lisa Hartman Black, Maren Jensen, Lois Nettleton

    Directed byWes Craven

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    #107 of 114 The Best Intelligent Horror Movies#173 of 181 The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s

  • Saturday the 14th20

    ActorsJeffrey Tambor, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, Rosemary DeCamp, Severn Darden

    Directed byHoward R. Cohen

  • Bloody Birthday21

    ActorsJosé Ferrer, Michael Dudikoff, Julie Brown, Susan Strasberg, Joe Penny

    Directed byEdward Hunt

  • Ghost Story22

    ActorsFred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Patricia Neal, John Houseman

    Directed byJohn Irvin

  • Night School23

    ActorsRachel Ward, Leonard Mann

    Directed byKen Hughes

  • The Nesting24

    ActorsJohn Carradine, Gloria Grahame, Michael Lally, James Hayden, James Saxon

    Directed byArmand Weston

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  • Eyes of a Stranger25

    ActorsJennifer Jason Leigh, Luke Halpin, Lauren Tewes, John DiSanti, Dan Fitzgerald

    Directed byKen Wiederhorn

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