The Most Underrated Sci-Fi Horror Movies Of The 1980s

List Rules
Vote up the '80s movies that deserve a lot more attention.

Every decade has its hidden gems and underrated classics of sci-fi horror, and the '80s are no exception. Sure, there are the big names like AliensThe FlyTerminatorPredator, and others, but there are also plenty of other movies that may have flown under your radar. Some of these are low-budget passion projects that managed to come together into something truly special, while others are box office duds that deserve a second look - or apparent knock-offs of more popular franchises that manage to do something special of their own.

Whatever the case may be, these underrated '80s sci-fi horror flicks should keep you watching for a while, and will probably show you something you've never seen before - maybe never even imagined. Vote up the ones you think are most underrated.


  • 1
    1,104 VOTES

    Has there ever been a more potent metaphor for the pitfalls of capitalism present than the one presented in John Carpenter's 1988 opus They Live? The film may star Roddy Piper and feature some unforgettable one-liners (and one of the longest fistfights ever put on celluloid), but it also proffers a vision of a dystopian present ruled by aliens who plant subliminal messages in everything from newspapers to billboards to television to the money we use to buy them all.

    These messages, which can only be seen with the aid of special glasses, tell us to do things like "Obey," "Consume," and "Reproduce." It's all part of an elaborate scheme by the haves to keep the have-nots in line, and it's a message that feels as resonant now (when the aliens would be the 1%) as it was in Reagan's "me generation" '80s.

    1,104 votes

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  • 2
    605 VOTES

    Lifeforce was written by Dan O'Bannon, one of the creators of Alien. It was directed by none other than Tobe Hooper, of Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist fame. It stars Patrick Stewart, among others, not to mention Mathilda May never wearing so much as a stitch of clothes. And yet, most people have never seen this incredibly wild, apocalyptic movie about space vampires, based on the novel by Colin Wilson called, well, The Space Vampires.

    Why not? It probably doesn't help that the film was a box office dud, grossing less than half its reported budget. Fortunately, the years have been kinder, and it seems that people in 1985 maybe just weren't ready for something as delightfully strange as this tale of vampires and unclothed people and lots and lots and lots of optical lightning.

    605 votes

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  • 3
    627 VOTES

    Back in the 1980s, Stephen King was at the height of his original popularity, and any number of his properties got adapted to the big screen, giving us classics like Carrie (technically from '76, but still), ChristineThe Shining, and many more, along with, um, not-so-classic titles like Maximum Overdrive (directed by King himself). Naturally, some flicks were bound to slip through the cracks a little, even when they were every bit as good as their more popular counterparts.

    Enter The Dead Zone, David Cronenberg's 1983 adaptation of King's novel of the same name from '79. It stars none other than Christopher Walken as a schoolteacher who develops psychic powers when he awakens from a coma following a car accident - and ultimately has to use those powers to prevent a terrifying future.

    627 votes

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  • Richard Matheson's landmark novel I Am Legend has been adapted to screen at least three times and inspired such classics as Night of the Living Dead. Yet one of the best movies to riff on its plot is rarely discussed in the same breath as Matheson's original. Night of the Comet may be better known for its "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" shopping montage than its literary pedigree, but it's a surprisingly strong take on the material, turning Matheson's vampires into zombies caused by a comet that wipes out much of the world's population and turns the remainder into gradually-decaying ghouls.

    Protected from the effects are two sisters who would maybe rather go shopping or play arcade games than be the last hope for humanity, but they're remarkably up to the task, nonetheless.

    587 votes

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  • 5
    470 VOTES

    Irvin Yeaworth's 1958 original is a gem from the heyday of drive-in movies - often imitated, seldom duplicated. Its method for introducing the eponymous monster can be seen echoed in everything from Creepshow to Night of the Creeps and beyond. Sadly, the 1988 remake, with a screenplay co-written by none other than The Walking Dead's own Frank Darabont, is less well-known. Which is too bad, as there's plenty to recommend this slice of '50s-style monster movie mayhem, updated for the '80s.

    It's all here, from the rebel-without-a-cause lead character to the infamous scene in the movie theater (where this time, some kids have snuck in to watch a slasher movie, of course). The catch is, this time around it's all a whole lot gorier, with a twist in the tale that makes the original film's standard red scare monster something a little more home-grown...

    470 votes

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  • 6
    317 VOTES

    Somewhat overshadowed by its more popular sibling, Re-AnimatorFrom Beyond is the other H. P. Lovecraft adaptation directed by Stuart Gordon and starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton to come out in the '80s. Adapted (loosely) from the Lovecraft story of the same name, From Beyond is every bit as weird, lurid, and gory as Re-Animator.

    The story follows the discovery of a device that allows people to see the things that occupy our same dimension but that we are typically unaware of, leading to lots of hot pink lighting and extremely gooey monsters. Unfortunately, once you can see them, they can also see you.

    317 votes