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The Scariest Movies of the 1980s 

Ranker Horror
Originally by
Updated September 23, 2019 14.7k votes 1k voters 24.9k views 69 items

List Rules Scary horror movies released in the 1980s.

The 1980’s were know for a lot of historical events such as the ending of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the release of the first IBM personal computer. But more importantly, the 1980's brought us some of the best, scariest, cheesiest, horror movies in the history of film.

But what are the scariest 80s horror movies of all time? The films on this list, ranked by film lovers, has the scariest 80s movies. Whether you’re looking for a realistic flick based on actual events or a completely fictional fright film, there’s sure to be the perfect movie on this list for you!

This list has the scariest horror movies from the 80s, including: Blood Beach, The Beast Within, and An American Werewolf in London.

Vote up your favorite 80's horror movie or add one that always brings the scares, that isn't already on the list.
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but chickens double d added 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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Ranking Freddy Krueger's Best Kills from A Nightmare on Elm Street #48 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #387 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

2
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dee123 added 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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21 Pretty Funny Memes From 'The Shining' That Had Us Screaming #3 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #191 of 355 The Best Rainy Day Movies

3
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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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#95 of 241 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #85 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #543 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

4
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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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Did Steven Spielberg Really Ghost-Direct ‘Poltergeist’? #210 of 355 The Best Rainy Day Movies #46 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

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but chickens double d added 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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The Best 'Aliens' Quotes #21 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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but chickens double d added 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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Real Burial Grounds And Locations That Could Have Inspired 'Pet Sematary' #156 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #23 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

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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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#207 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #26 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #6 of 93 The Goriest Movies Ever Made

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but chickens double d added 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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The Most Terrible And Mysterious Things That Have Happened On Friday The 13th #101 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #251 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

9
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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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#151 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #1,035 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #16 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

10
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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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#240 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #59 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #7 of 20 20 Pretty Interesting Movie Details We Found This Week

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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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#130 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #924 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
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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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#221 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #77 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #208 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

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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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#219 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #56 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #199 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

14
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ozzy added 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, a parody sequel to the 1981 film The Evil Dead. After Ash (Bruce Campbell) discovers an audiotape left by a college ...more

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#212 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #41 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #14 of 143 The Best Zombie Movies of All Time

15
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dee123 added Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, David Cronenberg

Released: 1986

Directed by: David Cronenberg

The Fly is a 1986 American science fiction horror film directed and co-written by David Cronenberg. Produced by Brooksfilms and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, ...more

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#129 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #54 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
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but chickens double d added Kelly Preston, Alexandra Paul, John Madden

Released: 1983

Directed by: John Carpenter

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

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'Christine’ Is One Of The Most Underrated Adaptations To Come Off Stephen King’s Assembly Line #161 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #650 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

17
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Sherman Howard, Jarlath Conroy, Terry Alexander

Released: 1985

Directed by: George A. Romero

This film is a 1985 American horror film written and directed by George A. Romero and the third film in Romero's film series. Romero describes the film as a "tragedy about how a lack of ...more

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#290 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #114 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #11 of 143 The Best Zombie Movies of All Time

18
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but chickens double d added Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Ed Lauter

Released: 1983

Directed by: Lewis Teague

Cujo is a 1983 American psychological horror/thriller film based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Teague, and written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Lauren Currier.

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#189 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #61 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #15 of 49 The Best Movies Based on Stephen King Books

19
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Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Cranham

Released: 1988

Directed by: Tony Randel

Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a 1988 British-American horror film directed by Tony Randel. It draws heavily upon, and was made by much of the same cast and crew as its precursor, Hellraiser.

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#260 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #146 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #21 of 93 The Goriest Movies Ever Made

20
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but chickens double d added 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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#203 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #1,153 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #40 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

21
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but chickens double d added 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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#117 of 355 The Best Rainy Day Movies #23 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #145 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

22
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Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon

Released: 1988

Directed by: Tom Holland

Child's Play is a 1988 American horror film directed by Tom Holland, written by Tom Holland, Don Mancini, and John Lafia, and starring Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Brad ...more

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#200 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #43 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #113 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

23
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Dee Wallace, John Sayles, Slim Pickens

Released: 1981

Directed by: Joe Dante

The Howling is a 1981 werewolf-themed horror film directed by Joe Dante. Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, the screenplay is written by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless. ...more

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#295 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #92 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #321 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

24
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PriscillaScutt added Linda Hamilton, Peter Horton, R. G. Armstrong

Released: 1984

Directed by: Fritz Kiersch

Children of the Corn is a 1984 supernatural horror film based upon the 1977 short story of the same name by Stephen King. Directed by Fritz Kiersch, the film stars Peter Horton and Linda ...more

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#305 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #33 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #19 of 49 The Best Movies Based on Stephen King Books

25
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ozzy added Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, David Gale

Released: 1985

Directed by: Stuart Gordon

Re-Animator is a 1985 American science fiction horror comedy film loosely based on the H. P. Lovecraft episodic novella "Herbert West–Reanimator." Directed by Stuart Gordon, it was the ...more

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#253 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #161 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #25 of 143 The Best Zombie Movies of All Time