Entertainment

The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s  

Ranker Film
3.7k votes 542 voters 36.8k views 48 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite suspense films that were released in the 1980s

The 1980s gave us some of the greatest suspense films of all time. Packed with nonstop action, deception, and intrigue, the best ‘80s thriller movies will have you on the edge of your seat, gripping your bag of popcorn, and waiting to see what’s going to explode next.


This list of the top ‘80s thriller movies features many classic pictures. The mobster movie classic
Scarface, for example, makes the list due to its tightly coiled plot and suspenseful mood. Written by Oliver Stone, directed by Brian de Palma, and starring Al Pacino, Scarface initially received mixed reviews, but has since gone on to achieve a high level of prestige. We can’t talk about ‘80s thrillers without mentioning Die Hard. With Bruce Willis facing off against a megalomaniacal terrorist played by Severus Snape himself, Alan Rickman, the first film in the Die Hard franchise does not disappoint. Packed with quotable lines, an intense stand-off, and plenty of fireworks, this film is the quintessential ‘80s action thriller.


Here, you’ll also find everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader.
Batman, starring Michael Keaton in the titular role, pits the Dark Knight against Jack Nicholson’s The Joker. The film went on to influence the superhero genre immensely, setting the stage for numerous sequels, spinoffs, and an animated series. What do you think are the greatest ‘80s thriller movies? Vote up your favorites, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
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26
Creepshow is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Stephen King, Ed Harris, Ted Danson
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
27
Blow Out is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
John Travolta, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Blow Out is a 1981 thriller film, written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects technician from Philadelphia who, while recording ...more
28
Blood Simple is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh
Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir film written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was the directorial debut of the Coens and the first major film of cinematographer Barry ...more
29
Blue Velvet is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern
Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery thriller flm, written and directed by David Lynch. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern. The title is taken ...more
30
Body Double is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Melanie Griffith, Dennis Franz, Deborah Shelton
Body Double is a 1984 American thriller film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, and Gregg Henry. The original musical score was composed by Pino Donaggio. ...more
31
To Live and Die in L.A. is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Willem Dafoe, John Turturro, Jane Leeves
This film is a 1985 American action thriller film directed by William Friedkin and based on the novel by former U.S. Secret Service agent Gerald Petievich, who co-wrote the screenplay with ...more
32
Dressed to Kill is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Dennis Franz
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial This film is a 1980 American thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma and starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon. It centers on an event involving a ...more
33
Videodrome is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Debbie Harry, James Woods, David Cronenberg
Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian postmodernist science fiction body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Deborah Harry. Set in Toronto in the ...more
34
For Your Eyes Only is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Roger Moore, Sheena Easton, Charles Dance
For Your Eyes Only is the twelfth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It marked the directorial debut of John Glen, who ...more
35
Suspect is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Tony Buffone added Cher, Liam Neeson, Dennis Quaid
Suspect is a 1987 American mystery/courtroom film drama directed by Peter Yates. A public defender (Cher) and a jury member (Dennis Quaid) defending a homeless man (Liam Neeson) of murder, find ...more
36
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kha... is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Kirstie Alley, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a 1982 sci-fi film written by Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas Meyer adn directed by Nicholas Meyer.
37
Angel Heart is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet
Angel Heart is a 1987 American horror mystery film written and directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. The film, adapted from the novel Falling Angel ...more
38
Eyewitness is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver, James Woods
Eyewitness is a 1981 thriller film about a television news reporter and a janitor who team up to solve a murder. The film was directed by Peter Yates, written by Steve Tesich and stars William ...more
39
Star Trek III: The Search for ... is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is a 1984 American science fiction film released by Paramount Pictures. The film is the third feature film of the Star Trek science fiction franchise and is ...more
40
The Vanishing is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Johanna ter Steege, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets
The Vanishing is a Dutch–French film adaptation of the novella The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé, released on 27 October 1988. Directed by George Sluizer and starring Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, ...more
41
The Changeling is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
George C. Scott, Melvyn Douglas, Barry Morse
The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian/American horror film directed by Peter Medak and starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. The story is based upon events that writer Russell Hunter said ...more
42
The Killer is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Chow Yun-Fat, Kenneth Tsang, Danny Lee
This film is a 1989 Hong Kong action film written and directed by John Woo, and starring Chow Yun-fat, Danny Lee and Sally Yeh. Chow plays Ah Jong, who accidentally damages the eyes of the ...more
43
Thief is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Willie Nelson, James Caan, Tuesday Weld
This film is a 1981 neo-noir film written and directed by Michael Mann and based on the 1975 novel by "Frank Hohimer". The film stars James Caan as the titular thief and Tuesday Weld ...more
44
Police Story is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung
Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action film written and directed by Jackie Chan, who also starred in the lead role. It is the first of the Police Story series featuring Chan as a Hong Kong ...more
45
Nineteen Eighty-Four is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
John Hurt, Annie Lennox, Richard Burton
Nineteen Eighty-Four, also known as 1984, is a 1984 British dystopian drama film written for the screen and directed by Michael Radford, based upon George Orwell's novel of the same name. ...more
46
House of Games is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, J. T. Walsh
House of Games is David Mamet's 1987 directorial debut. He also wrote the screenplay, based on a story he wrote with Jonathan Katz. The film's cast includes Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Ricky ...more
47
Dead of Winter is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Mary Steenburgen, Roddy McDowall, William Russ
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Dead of Winter is a thriller film made in 1987. It was directed by Arthur Penn and is a loose remake of the 1945 film My Name Is Julia Ross. It stars Mary Steenburgen, who plays three roles.
48
Salvador is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
James Woods, Jim Belushi, Cynthia Gibb
Salvador is a 1986 drama film written by Oliver Stone and Richard Boyle, and directed by Stone. It stars James Woods, James Belushi, Michael Murphy, and Elpidia Carrillo, with John Savage, and ...more