Entertainment

The Best Horror Movies of 1980s 

Ranker Horror
Originally by
Updated February 24, 2020 106.4k votes 4.7k voters 175.6k 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 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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2
The Thing is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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3
Friday the 13th is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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4
The Evil Dead is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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5
Aliens is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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6
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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7
Poltergeist is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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8
The Lost Boys is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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9
Pet Sematary is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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10
Predator is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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11
Halloween II is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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12
Hellraiser is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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13
Creepshow is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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14
Evil Dead II is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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 and a parody sequel to the 1981 film The Evil Dead. The film was written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel, produced by Robert ...more

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15
An American Werewolf in ... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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16
Fright Night is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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17
Friday the 13th Part 2 ... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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18
Gremlins is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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19
John Carpenter's The Fog... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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#246 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #4 of 13 The Best Horror Movie Synth Scores

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

Released: 1988

Directed by: Tom Holland

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21
The Fly is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 1980s
Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, David Cronenberg

Released: 1986

Directed by: David Cronenberg

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22
Christine is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 1980s
Kelly Preston, Alexandra Paul, John Madden

Released: 1983

Directed by: John Carpenter

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A Nightmare on Elm Stree... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 1980s
CassiopeeLeduc added Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Zsa Zsa Gábor

Released: 1987

Directed by: Chuck Russell

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24
Friday the 13th: The Fin... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 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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25
The Return of the Living... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Horror Movies of 1980s
Clu Gulager, James Karen, Linnea Quigley

Released: 1985

Directed by: Dan O'Bannon

This film is a 1985 American black comedy/zombie horror film written and directed by Dan O'Bannon and starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa and Linnea Quigley. The film tells the story of ...more

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