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The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s

Updated June 4, 2020 6.2k votes 739 voters 44.4k 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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  • 1
    Die Hard is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    220
    74

    Die Hard

    Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman

    Released1988

    Directed byJohn McTiernan

    Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 2
    RoboCop is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    149
    62

    RoboCop

    Alex Van Halen, Peter Weller

    Released1987

    Directed byPaul Verhoeven

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  • 3
    The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    128
    54

    The Untouchables

    Robert De Niro, Sean Connery

    Released1987

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    The Untouchables is a 1987 American drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 4
    First Blood is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    146
    69

    First Blood

    Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy

    Released1982

    Directed byTed Kotcheff

    First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 5
    Escape from New York is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    132
    60

    Escape from New York

    Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell

    Released1981

    Directed byJohn Carpenter

    Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 6
    Blade Runner is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    134
    64

    Blade Runner

    Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah

    Released1982

    Directed byRidley Scott

    Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 7
    The Running Man is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    122
    55

    The Running Man

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown

    Released1987

    Directed byPaul Michael Glaser

    The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction action film loosely based on the 1982 novel... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 8
    Batman is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    160
    90

    Batman

    Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger

    Released1989

    Directed byTim Burton

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  • 9
    48 Hrs. is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    108
    49

    48 Hrs.

    Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte

    Released1982

    Directed byWalter Hill

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  • 10
    Scarface is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    155
    91

    Scarface

    Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer

    Released1983

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    Scarface is a 1983 American crime drama film directed by Brian De Palma, and a remake of the... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 11
    Witness is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    112
    57

    Witness

    Harrison Ford, Viggo Mortensen

    Released1985

    Directed byPeter Weir

    Witness is a 1985 American thriller film directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford and... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 12
    Mad Max 2 is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    118
    63

    Mad Max 2

    Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence

    Released1981

    Directed byGeorge Miller

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  • 13
    The Abyss is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    95
    52

    The Abyss

    Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

    Released1989

    Directed byJames Cameron

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  • 14
    Mississippi Burning is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    86
    55

    Mississippi Burning

    Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman

    Released1988

    Directed byAlan Parker

    Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 15
    The Accused is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    57
    34

    The Accused

    Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis

    Released1988

    Directed byJonathan Kaplan

    The Accused is a 1988 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, loosely based on the... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 16
    Fright Night is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    83
    64

    Fright Night

    Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall

    Released1985

    Directed byTom Holland

    Fright Night is a 1985 American horror comedy film written and directed by Tom Holland and... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 17
    Friday the 13th is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    97
    80

    Friday the 13th

    Kevin Bacon, Tom Savini

    Released1980

    Directed bySean S. Cunningham

    Friday the 13th is a 1980 American slasher film directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 18
    Christine is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    88
    74

    Christine

    Kelly Preston, Alexandra Paul

    Released1983

    Directed byJohn Carpenter

    Christine is a 1983 American horror thriller film directed by John Carpenter and starring... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 19
    The Dead Zone is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    76
    61

    The Dead Zone

    Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen

    Released1983

    Directed byDavid Cronenberg

    This film is a 1983 American horror thriller film directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 20
    The Hitcher is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    84
    71

    The Hitcher

    Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rutger Hauer

    Released1986

    Directed byRobert Harmon

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  • 21
    Red Dawn is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    74
    63

    Red Dawn

    Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze

    Released1984

    Directed byJohn Milius

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  • 22
    No Way Out is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    60
    47

    No Way Out

    Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner

    Released1987

    Directed byRoger Donaldson

    No Way Out is a 1987 thriller film. It stars Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, and Sean Young. Will... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 23
    WarGames is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    77
    72

    WarGames

    Matthew Broderick, William H. Macy

    Released1983

    Directed byJohn Badham

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  • 24
    Body Heat is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    65
    65

    Body Heat

    Mickey Rourke, Kathleen Turner

    Released1981

    Directed byLawrence Kasdan

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  • 25
    Manhunter is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1980s
    55
    55

    Manhunter

    Brian Cox, Garcelle Beauvais

    Released1986

    Directed byMichael Mann

    Manhunter is a 1986 American thriller film based on Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon. Written... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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FilmsFilmEntertainment1980sThrillers80s Movies