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The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s 

Ranker Horror
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Updated May 8, 2020 111.3k votes 4.9k voters 179.4k views 161 items

List Rules Movies in the horror genre that were originally released in the 1980s

This list of the best 80s horror movies is a lengthy one, with good reason. The 1980s were a phenomenal decade for horror films, with some of the best, scariest, creepiest and in some cases, campiest films ever made. Several of the greatest horror films ever made were released in the 80s. This list of the top scary films from the 1980s is by no means complete, so feel free to vote for your favorites and please, add any great ones that are missing. You can also rerank this list any way you like.

The 1980s ushered in a kind of golden age for horror movies, with so many titles coming out so fast that it was difficult to keep up. Every week, a handful of new and freaky horror films were released in theaters. And sequels? Oh good grief, the sequels! '80s horror movies included the originals and sequels for the wildly popular Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, and Friday the 13th franchises. Halloween, while released in the late-1970s, did spawn several sequels released in the 80s.

While slasher horror films and monster movies have existed since the early days of cinema, the genre reached its height in the 1980s. Every major horror film, with a handful of exceptions, featured some sort of psycho killer on the loose, stalking poor, helpless (and clueless!) teenagers. Sometimes these killers were human, other times they were aliens or – gasp!murderous clowns. Graphic violence was the norm, the shock value kept going higher and higher, and these films were certainly among the most nausea-inducing great films of all time.

Need more horror? Check out the best 1990s horror movies as well!
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1
A Nightmare on Elm Stree... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp

Released: 1984

Directed by: Wes Craven

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American supernatural slasher horror film written and directed by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film stars ...more

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Ranking Freddy Krueger's Best Kills from A Nightmare on Elm Street #45 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #121 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

2
The Thing is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Kurt Russell, Keith David, John Carpenter

Released: 1982

Directed by: John Carpenter

The Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, and starring Kurt Russell. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a ...more

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#96 of 250 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #61 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #83 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

3
Friday the 13th is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Kevin Bacon, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer

Released: 1980

Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham

Friday the 13th is a 1980 American slasher film directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller. The film concerns a group of teenagers who are taken out one by one while attempting ...more

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The Most Terrible And Mysterious Things That Have Happened On Friday The 13th #103 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #68 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

4
Aliens is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn

Released: 1986

Directed by: James Cameron

Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror film written and directed by James Cameron, produced by his then-wife Gale Anne Hurd, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael ...more

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The Best 'Aliens' Quotes #20 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers

Released: 1980

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, ...more

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16 Utterly Bizarre Things You Didn't Know About The Shining #3 of 250 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #15 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books

6
The Evil Dead is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi

Released: 1981

Directed by: Sam Raimi

This film is a 1981 American horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi and executive produced by Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who also stars alongside Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker. This film ...more

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#148 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #293 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #140 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

7
Poltergeist is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke

Released: 1982

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Poltergeist is a 1982 American supernatural thriller film, directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is the first and most successful entry in the Poltergeist ...more

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Did Steven Spielberg Really Ghost-Direct ‘Poltergeist’? #44 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #133 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

8
Halloween II is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Jamie Lee Curtis, Dana Carvey, Kyle Richards

Released: 1981

Directed by: Rick Rosenthal

Halloween II is a 1981 slasher horror film directed by Rick Rosenthal, and written and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. It is the second installment in the Halloween series and is a ...more

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#197 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #158 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #42 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

9
Predator is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers

Released: 1987

Directed by: John McTiernan

Predator is a 1987 American science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill ...more

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Somehow, Making Predator Was WAY More Insane Than The Actual Movie #25 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #160 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

10
The Lost Boys is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Corey Haim

Released: 1987

Directed by: Joel Schumacher

The Lost Boys is a 1987 American teen horror film starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Alex Winter, Jamison Newlander, ...more

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#23 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #5 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #44 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

11
Hellraiser is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence

Released: 1987

Directed by: Clive Barker

Hellraiser is a 1987 British horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, based upon his own novella The Hellbound Heart. The film spawned a series of sequels.

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#204 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #232 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #25 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

12
Pet Sematary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Stephen King, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby

Released: 1989

Directed by: Mary Lambert

Pet Sematary is a 1989 American horror film adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name. Directed by Mary Lambert and written by King. Andrew Hubatsek was cast for Zelda's role. Author ...more

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Real Burial Grounds And Locations That Could Have Inspired 'Pet Sematary' #184 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #158 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

13
Creepshow is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Stephen King, Ed Harris, Ted Danson

Released: 1982

Directed by: George A. Romero

Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology film with elements of black comedy directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King. The film's ensemble cast included Hal Holbrook, Adrienne ...more

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#181 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #47 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #1,368 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

14
Evil Dead II is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Bruce Campbell, Kassie DePaiva, Ted Raimi

Released: 1987

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Evil Dead II is a 1987 American horror comedy film directed by Sam Raimi, a parody sequel to the 1981 film The Evil Dead. After Ash (Bruce Campbell) discovers an audiotape left by a college ...more

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#202 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #208 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #38 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

15
An American Werewolf in ... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Rik Mayall

Released: 1981

Directed by: John Landis

An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis, and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. The film starts with two young ...more

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#129 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #35 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Fright Night is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon

Released: 1985

Directed by: Tom Holland

Fright Night is a 1985 American horror comedy film written and directed by Tom Holland and produced by Herb Jaffe. It stars William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall and Amanda Bearse. ...more

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#217 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #276 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #191 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

17
Friday the 13th Part 2 ... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Betsy Palmer, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Warrington Gillette

Released: 1981

Directed by: Steve Miner

Friday the 13th Part 2 is a 1981 American horror film directed by Steve Miner. It is a direct sequel to Friday the 13th, picking up five years after that film's conclusion. The film marks the ...more

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#215 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #196 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #81 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

18
Gremlins is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Steven Spielberg, Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates

Released: 1984

Directed by: Joe Dante

Gremlins is a 1984 American horror comedy film directed by Joe Dante, released by Warner Bros. The film is about a young man who receives a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then ...more

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'Gremlins' Was So Intense That It Led To The Invention Of The PG-13 Rating #29 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #22 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

19
John Carpenter's The Fog... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Welling

Released: 1980

Directed by: John Carpenter

The Fog is a 1980 American horror film directed by John Carpenter, who also co-wrote the screenplay and composed the music for the film. It stars Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, ...more

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#232 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #57 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #41 of 64 Horror Movie Set-Ups You'd Least Like to Be Trapped In

20
Child's Play is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon

Released: 1988

Directed by: Tom Holland

Child's Play is a 1988 American horror film directed by Tom Holland, written by Tom Holland, Don Mancini, and John Lafia, and starring Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Brad ...more

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#195 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #240 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #111 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

21
Christine is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Kelly Preston, Alexandra Paul, John Madden

Released: 1983

Directed by: John Carpenter

Christine is a 1983 American horror thriller film directed by John Carpenter and starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul and Harry Dean Stanton. It was written by Bill Phillips and ...more

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'Christine’ Is One Of The Most Underrated Adaptations To Come Off Stephen King’s Assembly Line #168 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #219 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

22
Friday the 13th: The Fin... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Judie Aronson

Released: 1984

Directed by: Joseph Zito

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is a 1984 slasher film written and directed by Joseph Zito. It is the fourth film in the Friday the 13th film series. Though it was billed as "The Final ...more

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#234 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #135 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #39 of 137 The Goriest Movies Ever Made

23
The Howling is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Dee Wallace, John Sayles, Slim Pickens

Released: 1981

Directed by: Joe Dante

The Howling is a 1981 werewolf-themed horror film directed by Joe Dante. Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, the screenplay is written by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless. ...more

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#326 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #290 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #358 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

24
The Fly is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, David Cronenberg

Released: 1986

Directed by: David Cronenberg

The Fly is a 1986 American science fiction horror film directed and co-written by David Cronenberg. Produced by Brooksfilms and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, ...more

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#126 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #54 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Silver Bullet is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Horror Movies Of The 1980s
CassiopeeLeduc added Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Terry O'Quinn

Released: 1985

Directed by: Dan Attias

Silver Bullet is a 1985 horror film based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf. It stars Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Corey Haim, Terry O'Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill ...more

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#125 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #23 of 52 The Best Movies Based on Stephen King Books #20 of 20 The Scariest Kids In The Stephen King Cinematic Universe, Ranked