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The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s

Updated June 4, 2020 6.2k votes 739 voters 44.6k views48 items

List RulesVote 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
    Blood Simple is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
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    Blood Simple

    Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand

    Released1984

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir film written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 27
    Blue Velvet is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    51
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    Blue Velvet

    Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper

    Released1986

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery thriller flm, written and directed by David Lynch. The... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 28
    Blow Out is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    52
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    Blow Out

    John Travolta, John Lithgow

    Released1981

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    Blow Out is a 1981 thriller film, written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars John... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 29
    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kha is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    47
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    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    Kirstie Alley, William Shatner

    Released1982

    Directed byNicholas Meyer

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a 1982 sci-fi film written by Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 30
    Body Double is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
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    Body Double

    Melanie Griffith, Dennis Franz

    Released1984

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    Body Double is a 1984 American thriller film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Craig... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 31
    To Live and Die in L.A. is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    41
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    To Live and Die in L.A.

    Willem Dafoe, John Turturro

    Released1985

    Directed byWilliam Friedkin

    This film is a 1985 American action thriller film directed by William Friedkin and based on... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 32
    Creepshow is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    51
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    Creepshow

    Stephen King, Ed Harris

    Released1982

    Directed byGeorge A. Romero

    Creepshow is a 1982 horror anthology film with elements of black comedy directed by George A.... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 33
    Dressed to Kill is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
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    Dressed to Kill

    Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson

    Released1980

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    This film is a 1980 American thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma and starring... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 34
    For Your Eyes Only is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
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    For Your Eyes Only

    Roger Moore, Sheena Easton

    Released1981

    Directed byJohn Glen

    For Your Eyes Only is the twelfth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 35
    Suspect is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    31
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    Suspect

    Cher, Liam Neeson

    Released1987

    Directed byPeter Yates

    Suspect is a 1987 American mystery/courtroom film drama directed by Peter Yates. A public... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 36
    Angel Heart is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    38
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    Angel Heart

    Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke

    Released1987

    Directed byAlan Parker

    Angel Heart is a 1987 American horror mystery film written and directed by Alan Parker, and... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 37
    Videodrome is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
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    Videodrome

    Debbie Harry, James Woods

    Released1983

    Directed byDavid Cronenberg

    Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian postmodernist science fiction body horror film written and... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 38
    The Vanishing is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    28
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    The Vanishing

    Johanna ter Steege, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu

    Released1988

    Directed byGeorge Sluizer

    The Vanishing is a Dutch–French film adaptation of the novella The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé,... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 39
    The Changeling is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    27
    51

    The Changeling

    George C. Scott, Melvyn Douglas

    Released1980

    Directed byPeter Medak

    The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian/American horror film directed by Peter Medak. Its plot... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 40
    Star Trek III: The Search for  is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    30
    57

    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

    William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd

    Released1984

    Directed byLeonard Nimoy

    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is a 1984 American science fiction film released by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 41
    The Killer is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    27
    52

    The Killer

    Chow Yun-Fat, Kenneth Tsang

    Released1989

    Directed byJohn Woo

    This film is a 1989 Hong Kong action film written and directed by John Woo, and starring Chow... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 42
    Police Story is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    25
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    Police Story

    Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh

    Released1985

    Directed byJackie Chan

    Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action film written and directed by Jackie Chan, who also... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 43
    Thief is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    22
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    Thief

    Willie Nelson, James Caan

    Released1981

    Directed byMichael Mann

    This film is a 1981 neo-noir film written and directed by Michael Mann and based on the 1975... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 44
    Eyewitness is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    22
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    Eyewitness

    Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver

    Released1981

    Directed byPeter Yates

    Eyewitness is a 1981 thriller film about a television news reporter and a janitor who team up... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 45
    Nineteen Eighty-Four is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    19
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    Nineteen Eighty-Four

    John Hurt, Annie Lennox

    Released1984

    Directed byMichael Radford

    Nineteen Eighty-Four, also known as 1984, is a 1984 British dystopian drama film written for... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 46
    Dead of Winter is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    13
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    Dead of Winter

    Mary Steenburgen, Roddy McDowall

    Released1987

    Directed byArthur Penn

    Dead of Winter is a thriller film made in 1987. It was directed by Arthur Penn and is a loose... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 47
    Salvador is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    13
    52

    Salvador

    James Woods, Jim Belushi

    Released1986

    Directed byOliver Stone

    Salvador is a 1986 drama film written by Oliver Stone and Richard Boyle, and directed by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 48
    House of Games is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    11
    48

    House of Games

    William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna

    Released1987

    Directed byDavid Mamet

    House of Games is David Mamet's 1987 directorial debut. He also wrote the screenplay, based on... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
FilmsFilmEntertainment1980sThrillers80s Movies