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. 
list ordered by
1
Die Hard is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It is based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp. Die ...more
2
Witness is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Harrison Ford, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover
Witness is a 1985 American thriller film directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. The screenplay by William Kelley, Pamela Wallace, and Earl W. Wallace focuses on a ...more
3
Blade Runner is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
stubb added Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young
Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and Edward James Olmos. The screenplay, ...more
4
Scarface is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Michelle Pfeiffer, Al Pacino, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Scarface is a 1983 American crime drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone. A remake of the 1932 film of the same name, Scarface tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony ...more
5
The Road Warrior is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
The Road Warrior is a 2013 short biographical drama sports film directed by Brian Mitchell.
6
Escape from New York is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine
Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter. The film is set in a then near-future 1997 in a distopian United States ...more
7
First Blood is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted Kotcheff, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran. ...more
8
The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner
The Untouchables is a 1987 American drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet. Based on the book The Untouchables, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot ...more
9
The Running Man is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura
The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction action film loosely based on the 1982 novel The Running Man, written by Stephen King and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. ...more
10
RoboCop is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Alex Van Halen, Peter Weller, Leeza Gibbons
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial RoboCop is a 1987 American cyberpunk action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future, RoboCop ...more
11
Batman is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Keaton
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character. The Dark Knight of Gotham City (Michael Keaton) begins his war on crime with his first major ...more
12
48 Hrs. is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Annette O'Toole
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial 48 Hrs. is a 1982 American action comedy film directed by Walter Hill, starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy as a cop and convict, respectively, who team up to catch a cop-killer. The title ...more
13
The Abyss is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Chris Elliott
The Abyss is a 1989 American science fiction-adventure film written and directed by James Cameron, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn. When an American submarine ...more
14
Christine is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Kelly Preston, Alexandra Paul, John Madden
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
15
The Hitcher is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell
The Hitcher is a 1986 action horror film directed by Robert Harmon and written by Eric Red. The film stars Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jeffrey DeMunn.
16
Fright Night is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon
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
17
Friday the 13th is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Kevin Bacon, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial 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
18
Mississippi Burning is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand
Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the incidents involving of three ...more
19
WarGames is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Matthew Broderick, William H. Macy, Ally Sheedy
WarGames is a 1983 American science-fiction film written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. The film stars Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, and ...more
20
The Accused is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Andrea Louise added Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Garry Chalk
The Accused is a 1988 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, loosely based on the the real-life event involving Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts and the resulting trial ...more
21
The Dead Zone is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Tom Skerritt
This film is a 1983 American horror thriller film directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay by Jeffrey Boam was based on the 1979 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film stars ...more
22
No Way Out is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
stubb added Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman
No Way Out is a 1987 thriller film. It stars Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, and Sean Young. Will Patton, Howard Duff, George Dzundza, Jason Bernard, Fred Thompson, and Iman appear in supporting ...more
23
Body Heat is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Mickey Rourke, Kathleen Turner, William Hurt
Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Richard Crenna, and features Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, and ...more
24
Manhunter is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Brian Cox, Garcelle Beauvais, Joan Allen
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Manhunter is a 1986 American thriller film based on Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon. Written and directed by Michael Mann, it stars William Petersen as Will Graham and features Brian Cox as ...more
25
Red Dawn is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson
Red Dawn is a 1984 American film directed by John Milius and co-written by Milius and Kevin Reynolds. It stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and Jennifer Grey. ...more