The 31 Best '80s Horror Movies

From the introduction of icons like Freddy Krueger and Chucky, to fun sequels featuring the likes of Michael Myers and Norman Bates

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Aliens (1986)

best 80s horror movies

James Cameron follows up Ridley Scott’s cosmic dread with a badass sequel some argue is better than Scott’s franchise opener. And though we love a good debate, there’s no doubt Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is hands down one of sci-fi’s greatest heroes. Here, she resurrects her role as the sole-surviving Nostromo warrant officer, only to find herself juggling a six-year-old, a tabby, and an angry Alien Queen.

Beetlejuice (1988)

best 80s horror movies

File this one under “Best Gateway Horror,” right in between The Addams Family and Ghostbusters . Starring a 1988 Michael Keaton with all the rizz of a man who’s been rotting in a coffin for a hundred years, Tim Burton’s afterlife classic operates with a lot of plot holes, but that won’t stop us from revisiting the feud between the Maitlands and the Deetzes every year around this time.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

best 80s horror movies

Frank Oz's horror musical about a florist whose dreams of romance are squashed by a giant potted man-eater who demands to be fed is ripe for revival. Narrated by a Greek chorus trio—Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon—this botanical spectacle stars Rick Moranis alongside a scene-stealing Steve Martin, whose demented dentist is tops. This delightful little film bites in all the best ways.

Near Dark (1987)

best 80s horror movies

Way before Point Break, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow put out this immortal classic that fuses wild west action with vampire lore and sexual chemistry. About a farm boy who tries to break free from the clutches of a nomadic vampire clan, the film remains one of the best contributions to the night-bite subgenre. Plus, it comes with a killer ’80s soundtrack.

Possession (1983)

best 80s horror movies

A victim of the era’s “video nasties” moral panic, Possession was banned here and in the United Kingdom. Today, however, you can stream it in all its visceral, controversial intensity. The gist: Sam Neill and the Cannes-winning Isabelle Adjani star as a married couple on the verge of divorce. Suspecting his wife is having an affair, Neill’s Mark follows her down a rabbit hole of violence and psychological horror.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

best 80s horror movies

J-horror has long been a huge player in the pantheon of horror cinema, influencing American film with its psyche torture and long-haired ghosts. But sometimes, J-horror takes cues from our very own greats. Borrowing from David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Shin'ya Tsukamoto delivers dystopian body horror that sees a “metal fetishist” get revenge on his killer by impaling his body with rusty metal. Oh, and, strong stomachs need only apply.

The Changeling (1980)

best 80s horror movies

Vacant mansions get a bad rap. And for good reason. Besides the negative effects on local communities … they're haunted! Exhibit A: the Seattle fixer-upper in this 1980 film from Peter Medak. After the deaths of his wife and daughter, a composer named John Russell moves into a Victorian gothic abode to nurse his grief, but instead gets tormented by a ghost named Joseph Carmichael.

The Evil Dead (1981)

best 80s horror movies

In a feat of ’80s special effects, Sam Raimi’s breakout feature is a savage supernatural haunt that follows a group of friends to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly awaken a brood of hellish demons who feed on the souls of the living. Turning goo and splatter into an art form, this gore fest serves as the initial portal to a franchise still delivering on the blood-soaked fun (see: 2023's Evil Dead Rise ).

The Hitcher (1986)

best 80s horror movies

Nightmares. That’s what this heap of highway havoc gives us after every watch. A benchmark in the road thriller subgenre, The Hitcher stars C. Thomas Howell as a teen who’s stalked and terrorized by Rutger Hauer’s sadistic hitchhiker while driving from Chicago to San Diego. Tapping into deep-seated primal fears, this white-knuckler will make you rethink everything you love about the open road.

Tenebre (1982)

best 80s horror movies

One of the classic giallo gems from the Dario Argento canon, Tenebre is a cacophony of violence, suspense, and stylish camerawork. It tells the story of an American writer who heads to Rome to promote his latest page-turner, but instead finds himself the number one suspect in a string of murders that mirror the kills in his own book. With this one, the blurrier the line between fact and fiction gets, the higher the body count rises.

Child's Play (1988)

21 best horror movies

Before Annabelle took over the haunted/possessed/demonic doll scene, Charles Lee Ray was known as the ultimate killer doll, thanks to 1988's Child's Play . In the iconic movie, Andy begs his mom to buy him a Good Guy doll. Short on cash, she manages to snag one from some random guy in an alley for a discount price. Unfortunately, the doll she takes home contains the soul of a serial killer known as the Lakeshore Strangler. Many fun sequels followed, and now Chucky has his own TV series , so it's the perfect time to see where it all began.

Poltergeist (1982)

21 best horror movies

Although many horror movies start with a family moving into a new home, 1982's Poltergeist stands out from the crowd. Directed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist was lauded for its phenomenal special effects that helped bring a myriad of demonic spirits to life. It was remade in 2015 , but nothing can quite live up to the horror of the original, which was co-written by Steven Spielberg.

Chopping Mall (1986)

best 80s horror movies

This classic '80s slasher focuses on a group of teenagers that decide to have a debaucherous party inside the mall once it's closed. What they don't count on is being stalked and killed by three malfunctioning security robots that are meant to be protecting the stores. While Chopping Mall is definitely one of the cheesier '80s slashers, it's still a super fun watch. By taking place in a mall, rather than a haunted house or a creepy camp ground in the woods, the film manages to stand out from its peers almost four decades later.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

sleepaway camp best 80s horror movies

After her family is killed in an accident, Angela is sent away to Camp Arawak. However, Angela's fellow campers start meeting gory ends at the hands of a mysterious murderer. Any character with less than honorable intentions is especially at risk of being killed. The movie is still praised for its surprising twist, and thanks to the financial success it had at the box office, Sleepaway Camp spawned a plethora of sequels .

The Shining (1980)

21 best horror movies

Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Jack moves his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny into the mysterious property. However, it's not long before Danny starts having troubling visions, which get progressively worse. As Jack struggles with writer's block, he discovers that the Overlook Hotel holds some terrifying secrets, and it's not long before he starts losing his mind.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

21 best horror movies

Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street made Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) a household name. In the franchise's first installment, a group of teenagers start having their dreams terrorized by Freddy, a former child murderer turned nightmare purveyor. Thanks to some stellar special effects, A Nightmare on Elm Street is an exceedingly fun watch, and Englund's first turn as Krueger is nothing short of iconic. If you have trouble sleeping, this probably isn't the film for you.

Friday the 13th (1980)

21 best horror movies

The '80s brought us some of the horror genre's most iconic serial killers. Joining Freddy Krueger in that list is Jason Voorhees, and although he's not the star of the franchise's first outing, Friday the 13th laid the groundwork for the hockey-masking wearing savant. Camp Crystal Lake has been closed for two decades following a series of unsolved deaths. Set to reopen, a group of camp counselors arrive for the summer season, ignoring the so-called "death curse" that the locals talk about. You can guess what happens next.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

21 best horror movies

As '80s horror movies go, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is seriously fun. A gang of strange looking alien-clowns start terrorizing a small town, but the cops think the circus freaks are just part of an elaborate prank. While these clowns look kinda cute on the outside, they're intent on harvesting and eating humans. This candy floss-covered horror flick has gained cult status, and the Killer Klowns are now regulars at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.

Halloween II (1981)

21 best horror movies

John Carpenter's Halloween remains one of the most important horror movies in recent memory. A slew of sequels have followed, and the current timeline ignores Halloween II altogether. However, Halloween's first sequel is a gruesome slasher that's a must for anyone revisiting '80s horror. Picking up immediately following the events of Halloween, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds herself in a hospital. However, it's not the safest place to be, as Michael Myers stalks and kills the entire staff in his search for his eternal nemesis.

Pet Sematary (1989)

21 best horror movies

Stephen King's Pet Sematary has been haunting audiences for decades, and with good reason. In Mary Lambert's 1989 adaptation of the novel, the Creed family moves to Maine with their pet cat, Church. Their neighbor, Judd, shows them a derelict "pet sematary" behind their home, and it's not long before the family is drawn into a series of dangerous and supernatural events. From impossible resurrections to terrifying premonitions, Pet Sematary will keep you guessing right up until the end.

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The 55 Best Horror Films From the 1980s

Camp, honest-to-god scares, and stellar Stephen King adaptations—this decade had it all.

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In honor of an era that took major risks with the malleable horror genre , we’ve gathered our favorite scary movies from the decade. From director Ulli Lommel’s The Boogeyman to the Stephen King-inspired Christine , these horror flicks are both campy and frightening. Ahead of Halloween, we recommend watching any (or all!) of the following thrillers to get into the spooky spirit. So, without further ado, here are the 55 best horror films from the '80s.

a group of people sitting in a room

55. Silver Bullet (1985)

In Silver Bullet, a quiet town is disrupted by a series of murders that no officer can solve. Naturally, the town's residents try to hunt the assailant on their own—but that comes at a deadly price. As the town’s paranoia grows, Marty, a young boy in a wheelchair, discovers a werewolf lurking among them. Armed with information that no one else has, Marty decides to catch the killer on his own.

a person with the mouth open

54. Christine (1983)

Christine might be one of Stephen King's strangest novels, sure, but it certainly makes for a campy adventure. The film follows a a high school nerd named Arnie Cunningham, who buys a 1958 Plymouth Fury in hopes of becoming popular. For a while, it works—who can resist a dope ride? Unfortunately, Arnie’s luck changes when he learns the car is possessed by a vicious spirit.

a monkey on top of a car

53. Cujo (1983)

If you’re afraid of dogs, this is not the movie for you. Cujo follows a fluffy St.Bernard who is bitten by a bat. Thankfully, Cujo survives the attack, but the bat's venom transforms him into a violent beast. When Cujo goes on a deadly rampage through town, his panic-stricken owners try their best to stop him.

a couple of men posing for the camera

52. The Lost Boys (1987)

The Lost Boys follows a pair of brothers, Michael and Sam, who move to northern California with their mom. Being the new kid on the block is never easy, but they both meet new friends. Sam opts for a group of comic-book nerds. And what about Michael? Well, he befriends David, a tough guy who turns out to be the leader of a vampire gang.

the boogeyman still

51. The Boogeyman (1980)

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In The Boogeyman, a young boy murders his mother's abusive boyfriend, while his sister watches through a mirror. Years later, the mirror is broken, which should be fine—except the man’s evil spirit was trapped inside. To make matters worse, he’s hell-bent on getting revenge.

Doll, Fiction, Human body, Flesh, Musical instrument, Room, Toy, Musician,

50. Motel Hell (1980)

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A satiric take on some of its most famous genre predecessors, this wacko horror-comedy involves a motel-operating couple who sell smoked meats that are really their guests/victims—whom they bury up to their necks in a "secret garden" until they're ready to be harvested.

Fiction, Room, Darkness, Photography, Fictional character, Art, Black hair, Games,

49. The Funhouse (1981)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper goes back to the deformed-masked-psycho well with this entertaining 1981 B-movie, in which four teenagers decide to spend the night at a carnival—which already sounds like a bad idea—only to then have their fun ruined by a giant mutant freak with a penchant for violence.

Fun, Gesture, Long hair, Hand, Smile, Photography, Brown hair,

48. April Fool's Day (1986)

Buoyed by one of the all-time great horror-movie posters , this 1986 cult classic hybridizes the slasher film and the manor house murder-mystery, detailing a group of college kids' weekend getaway that turns bloody when someone begins picking them off.

Plaid, Snapshot, Facial hair, Fun, Standing, Human, Shoulder, Design, Mouth, Beard,

47. The Gate (1987)

The big-screen debut of Stephen Dorff (at the age of 14), Tibor Takács film is a superior midnight movie about some kids who, left home alone for the weekend by their parents, discover that the construction worker-created hole in their backyard is actually a portal to Hell—and furthermore, that clues to how it works can be found in a heavy metal album's lyrics.

Personal protective equipment, Gas mask, Mask, Costume, Helmet, Headgear, Fictional character,

46. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

George Mihalka's 1981 slasher film isn't particularly inventive, but it makes up for its rote premise (about kids being stalked by a vengeful fiend on Valentine's Day) with decent plotting, a memorable villain in a mining mask, and a level of violence that was deemed so extreme by the MPAA, the uncut version has still never been released.

Face, Head, Hat, Headgear, Fashion accessory, Photography, Smile,

45. Children of the Corn (1984)

Based on Stephen King's short story of the same name, this adolescent nightmare charts the ordeal of a couple that winds up in a Nebraska town where the kids—highlighted by the unforgettably sinister Malachai (Courtney Gains)—have decided that ritualistically killing adults is the best way to guarantee a good corn harvest.

Barechested, Chest, Flesh, Chest hair,

44. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

John Landis' seminal 1981 horror-comedy strikes just the right balance between the terrifying and the absurd through its story of two American backpackers in England who are attacked by a werewolf, leaving one dead and the other to await his lycanthropic fate. Frequently amusing, it also boasts groundbreaking monster-transformation effects by Rick Baker.

Head, Sculpture, Forehead, Human, Art, Statue, Wrinkle, Smile,

43. Bad Taste (1987)

Peter Jackson's splatter-ific calling card, this gonzo 1987 effort is nominally concerned with a small New Zealand town under siege from aliens, but it's really about the insanely gory, over-the-top B-movie special effects that Jackson created on his own.

Hair, Face, Nose, Cheek, Chin, Child, Blue, Hairstyle, Head, Lip,

42. Child's Play (1988)

Tom Holland's franchise-starting 1988 hit tapped into the underlying creepiness of kids' playthings with its story of a serial killer who transfers his soul into a popular doll, and then attempts to leapfrog back into a young boy's body—a loopy idea that's largely sold by the design of Chucky , and by Brad Dourif's voicework for the villain.

Portrait, Art, Games, Illustration,

41. Pumpkinhead (1988)

Special effects maestro Stan Winston's directorial debut is a sturdy supernatural revenge saga about an Appalachian mountain man (Lance Henriksen) who, with the aid of a backwoods witch, conjures the legendary (and magnificent-looking) Pumpkinhead demon to kill those who murdered his son—a decision that ultimately comes back to haunt him.

Santa claus, Christmas, Facial hair, Fictional character, Beard, Holiday,

40. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

One of the most traumatizing horror movies of the era (especially if you were (un)lucky enough to see it at an early age), this scuzzy slasher film concerns a young boy who witnesses his parents' brutal murder at the hands of a lunatic in a Santa Claus costume, and then years later turns into a likeminded killer.

trick-or-treat, Pumpkin, Jack-o'-lantern, Vegetarian food, Art,

39. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

The only Halloween film to not feature Michael Myers—it was intended to turn the franchise into more of an anthology-style series— Season of the Witch (about a conspiracy involving Halloween masks) remains a uniquely unsettling stand-alone film in an E.C. Comics-by-way-of-John-Carpenter tradition.

Forehead, Head, Chin, Nose, Barechested, Human, Chest, Fun, Cool, Neck,

38. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

The film that launched the career of Michael Rooker, John McNaughton's seminal 1986 serial-killer film takes a gritty, no-frills docudrama approach to its story (based on real-life convict Henry Lee Lucas ) about a psycho and his partner-in-crime acting on their murderous impulses.

Tree, Glasses, Cool, Beard, Facial hair, Headgear, Adaptation, Temple, Plant, Photography,

37. Pet Sematary (1989)

It may not quite live up to its Stephen King source material, but Mary Lambert's 1989 adaptation nonetheless captures the overarching don't-make-deals-with-the-devil mood of its story—about a man who uses a mystical pet cemetery to bring his toddler son back from the grave—while also climaxing with a depiction of childlike evil that three decades later remains downright disturbing.

Fictional character, Movie, Fiction, Shout, Screenshot,

36. Fright Night (1985)

Tom Holland's stellar horror-comedy pits a young suburban teenager (William Ragsdale) and his midnight-movie TV host idol (Roddy McDowall) against a new next-door neighbor (Chris Sarandon) who, it turns out, is actually a bloodsucking creature of the night.

Human, Movie,

35. Day of the Dead (1985)

The third installment in George A. Romero's pioneering zombie series is a scary and smart story about a group of post-apocalyptic survivors in an underground bunker who find themselves increasingly at each other's throats, all while a team of scientists attempt to find a cure for the plague through research that includes domesticating a brain-muncher known as Bub.

Cheek, Finger, Fun, People, Hairstyle, Skin, Photograph, White, Happy, Facial expression,

34. Opera (1987)

No one stages murder quite like Dario Argento, who continued to cement his reputation as the master of the giallo (a particular strain of lurid Italian thriller) with this saga of an opera understudy who becomes the lead in a new production of Macbeth , only to then be terrorized by one of Argento's trademark, never-seen-except-his-gloved-hands fiends.

Face, Facial expression, Head, Nose, Eye, Human, Mouth, Organ, Lip, Snout,

33. The Howling (1981)

Joe Dante's contribution to the werewolf genre was this 1981 gem (co-written by John Sayles), which tracks Dee Wallace's TV news reporter—still traumatized by her run-in with a serial killer—to a remote resort where she finds herself in all sorts of full moon-triggered trouble.

Flesh, Fictional character, Screenshot,

32. The Stuff (1985)

Fringe auteur Larry Cohen delivers an amusingly horrific satire of American appetites with this underappreciated B-movie about a mysterious yogurt-like diet snack that becomes a national sensation. There's just one side-effect: The Stuff turns consumers into zombie-like monsters.

Nose, Mouth, Cheek, Flesh, Jaw, Eating, Human, Lip, Close-up, Neck,

31. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

With all due respect to its equally revolting kindred spirits ( Cannibal Ferox in particular), Ruggero Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust still stands as one of the most morally repulsive—and, admittedly, effective—horror movies of the decade, courtesy of extreme violence that was either thought to be real (involving humans) or was real (involving animals).


30. The Hitcher (1986)

Further emphasizing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 's point that picking up strangers on the side of the road is a very bad idea, Robert Harmon's 1986 thriller offers up Rutger Hauer as a psycho hitchhiker who makes life a living hell for nice-guy driver C. Thomas Howell.

Lighting, Temple, Night, Darkness,

29. The Changeling (1980)

George C. Scott brings a measure or gravitas to this haunted-house tale, about a composer who, still mourning the death of his wife and child, moves across the country to an eerie estate that boasts a ghost who likes to play ball.


28. Creepshow (1982)

Inspired by the macabre tales of E.C. Comics, this Stephen King-George A. Romero collaboration is a phenomenal anthology, highlighted by a short in which Leslie Nielsen gets revenge on Ted Danson by burying him up to his neck in sand right in front of the ocean's tide line.

Face, Forehead, Chin, Jaw, Neck, Dress shirt, Pleased,

27. The Stepfather (1987)

Long before he was stranded on Lost , Terry O'Quinn was a nutcase weaseling his way into new families as a stepfather—and then going off the bloody deep end like a cross between Jack Torrance and Norman Bates when things don't conform to his Reagan-era values.

Canidae, Dog, Dog breed, Carnivore, Dog walking, Photography, Companion dog, Leash, German shepherd dog, Kunming wolfdog,

26. The Beyond (1981)

Famed Italian horror director Lucio Fulci's The Beyond is a gruesome head-trip about a Louisiana hotel that contains the doorway to Hell, and the new owner who unwittingly opens it, thus instigating all sorts of nasty, hallucinatory Satanic madness that concludes with one of the great shots in all of '80s horror cinema.

Musical instrument, Musician, Music,

25. Creepshow 2 (1987)

George A. Romero may not have directed this sequel to his anthology hit, but he and Stephen King nonetheless had a guiding hand in its production—and in making it better than its predecessor, thanks to the strikingly sinister tale, "The Raft."

Zombie, Face, Head, Flesh, Fictional character, Mouth, Forehead, Human, Fiction, Jaw,

24. Prince of Darkness (1987)

More than a little bit bonkers—and better off for it— John Carpenter's severely undervalued Prince of Darkness stars the director's Halloween lead Donald Pleasance as a priest who believes that a cylinder of green goo is actually Satan.

Darkness, Performance, Games, Photography, Performing arts, Scene, Flash photography, Night,

23. Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker paved the way for S&M-style horror with this adaptation of his novella The Hellbound Heart , about a mysterious puzzle box that functions as the portal to a sadomasochistic dimension ruled by a race of nasty "Cenobite" creatures led by the porcupine-y Pinhead.

Water transportation, Vehicle, Canoe, Boat, Boats and boating--Equipment and supplies, Reflection, Watercraft, Water, Boating, Recreation,

22. Friday the 13th (1980)

The one that truly started it all, Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th may not feature Jason Voorhees as its actual villain (he wouldn't even don his trademark hockey mask until 1982's Friday the 13th Part 3 ), but it remains the template upon which a legion of subsequent slasher films were based.

Movie, Photography, Fictional character, Art,

21. Maniac (1980)

The first of two William Lustig features to make this list, 1980's Maniac is a deranged and decidedly unsettling exploitation saga about a crazed loner with a fondness for decorating department store mannequins with the scalps of his many innocent victims.

Butcher, Flesh, Human, Cuisine, Food, Meat, Dish,

20. Re-Animator (1985)

Stuart Gordon's loose H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is a delirious Frankensteinian riff about a demented medical student (Jeffrey Combs, in a role that rightly turned him into a B-movie icon) who discovers the means of bringing things back from the dead—albeit with a few unexpected, unpleasant side effects.

Light, Darkness, Lighting, Night, Fun, Room, Reflection, Photography, Midnight, Candle,

19. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

A wackadoo genre work marked by its bizarre methods of murder and its even more bizarre narrative twists and turns, Happy Birthday to Me is the rare slasher film that constantly keeps one on its toes—up to its surprising final revelations.

Blond, Fun, Sitting, Long hair, Conversation, Brown hair, Event, Scene,

18. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Rife with all sorts of psychosexual imagery—none better than the poster-ready sight of cowering women spied through the legs of a man wielding a phallic power drill—this slasher-film anomaly ultimately proves a distinctly feminist (and fight-the-male-power) take on the genre.

Youth, Fun, Leisure, Vacation, Event, Recreation, T-shirt, Child, Style, Smile,

17. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

An obvious descendant of Friday the 13th , Robert Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp is an above-average suspense story about kids being slaughtered at an overnight camp by a mysterious assailant—until, that is, its superbly shocking finale, which stands as the decade's biggest (and best) horror blindside.

Movie, Human, Screenshot, Darkness, Fictional character, Scene, Action film, Digital compositing, Fiction,

16. The Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi's breakthrough indie set the stage for the director's particularly rambunctious style, as well as established the peerless comedic-hero persona of star Bruce Campbell.

Face, Zombie, Human, Eye, Flesh, Fictional character, Fiction,

15. Maniac Cop (1988)

Featuring one of the all-time great taglines ("You Have the Right to Remain Silent…Forever"), William Lustig and Larry Cohen's Maniac Cop follows a traditional return-of-the-repressed formula via its portrait of a vengeful resurrected cop who comes back from the great beyond in order to punish the corrupt officials who locked him up with those he'd previously put away.

Hair, Face, Blond, Child, Nose, Eye, Hairstyle, Lip, Cheek, Organ,

14. Poltergeist

Regardless of whether you believe Poltergeist was helmed by credited director Tobe Hooper or (as rumors have long suggested) producer Steven Spielberg, this TV-phobic haunted-house thriller delivers unforgettable scares and a classic horror-cinema line ("They're heeeere"), as well as a rather touching portrait of the strength of the American nuclear family.

Yellow, Event, Performance, Photography, Musician, Costume, Musical ensemble,

13. Gremlins (1984)

One of Amblin Entertainment's finest productions, this darkly humorous holiday horrorshow (directed by Joe Dante, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Chris Columbus) revolves around a strange furry pet named Gizmo who, if touched by water or fed after midnight, sprouts hordes of maniacally evil Gremlins.

Snapshot, Muscle, Fun, Sitting, Photography, Smile, Child, Black hair,

12. The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg's big-budget body-horror saga (a loose adaptation of George Langelaan's story and the ensuing Vincent Price film) details the efforts of a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) to create a teleportation device, and the hideous consequences of his experiment when a fly accidentally gets into his machine.

Leather jacket, Movie, Jacket, Fictional character,

11. Near Dark (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 film is an unbelievably moody, stylish vampire-Western hybrid that's as romantic as it is tense, and features a number of cast members (Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton) from her future husband (er, ex-husband) James Cameron's Aliens .

Room, Darkness, Photography, Media, Fictional character, Television, Television set,

10. Videodrome (1983)

A year after Poltergeist suggested that television was a disruptive force in the American family, David Cronenberg suggested that it was a conduit toward a "new flesh" in Videodrome , a madness-infected film about a Canadian TV station owner (James Woods) who stumbles upon—to his eternal, hellish-hallucinatory dismay—a broadcast of red-room torture.

Face, Nose, Eyebrow, Facial expression, Skin, Lip, Cheek, Head, Close-up, Chin,

9. Tenebre (1982)

Dario Argento's best film is this superlative giallo from 1982, in which an American writer, while in Rome to promote his new book, becomes embroiled in a police case about a serial killer whose methods may be modeled after those found in his novel. Few horror films have ever been this vividly awash in issues of twisted sexuality, voyeurism, gender power dynamics, mirror-image doubling, and the role between artist and spectator.

Atmospheric phenomenon, Sky, Atmosphere, Screenshot, Mist, Illustration, Darkness, Photography, Cloud, Fictional character,

8. The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter's follow-up to 1978's Halloween is an old-fashioned ghost story about drowned mariners who return to exact revenge on the descendants of those who lured them to their death—a tale that's elevated by Carpenter's unparalleled mastery of widescreen visuals.

Fiction, Fun, Movie, Human, Darkness, Fictional character, Flesh, Scene, Smile, Screenshot,

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

How do you follow up one of cinema's all-time scariest films? If you're Tobe Hooper, you take things in a decidedly more comedic direction, and in the process, deliver a second helping of Texas Chainsaw Massacre mayhem that's as goofy as it is grisly. " Dog will hunt! "

Fictional character, Demon, Darkness, Movie, Fiction, Screenshot,

6. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead sequel is, in large part, a big-budget remake-cum-overhaul of his 1981 original, marked by better special effects, more outrageous camerawork, and a truly larger-than-life performance by ably chinned leading man, Bruce Campbell.

Blue, Sky, Darkness, Tree, Forest, Performance, Stage, Photography,

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Wes Craven turned Freddy Krueger into one of modern movies' great bogeymen with his dreamlike 1984 hit, in which a child-abusing evildoer returns from the grave to punish his killers by attacking their children through their dreams.

Lip, Mouth, Zombie, Fun, Jaw, Fictional character, Smile,

4. Possession (1981)

The craziest possession film ever—and potentially the craziest film ever—Andrzej Zulawski's relationship drama charts the disintegration of a marriage between a spy (Sam Neill) and his wife (Isabelle Adjani), who's soon sleeping with a tentacled monster. In the signature scene, Adjani writhes around a subway station floor while miscarrying. As I've said before , it has to be seen to be believed.

Cg artwork, Digital compositing, Movie, Fictional character, Action film,

3. Aliens (1986)

For this sequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 original, James Cameron shifts the focus away from horror and toward action, though that doesn't change the fact that his continuation of Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) battle against the alien xenomorphs is an unforgettable monster-movie ride.

Adventure game, Darkness, Photography, Performance, Fictional character, Games, Screenshot,

2. The Thing (1982)

Far surpassing its 1951 Howard Hawks source material, John Carpenter generates nerve-rattling anxiety through his science-fiction-y horror story about a group of Antarctic researchers whose snowbound situation turns lethal when they're visited by an alien who can take human shape—and thus co-exist with them in hiding. Come for the creepy creature effects and non-stop unease, stay for Kurt Russell's first-class performance.

Face, Hair, Facial hair, Facial expression, Skin, Chin, Forehead, Nose, Beard, Head,

1. The Shining (1980)

Never mind that Stephen King doesn't love it . Bolstered by Jack Nicholson's unhinged performance as a father increasingly determined to off his family, and by direction that creates an overpowering sense of dread in every methodical pan and tracking shot, Stanley Kubrick's haunted-hotel classic is the pinnacle of 1980s horror.

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The 50 Best Horror Movies of the 1980s, Ranked

If there's one thing we can thank the 1980s for, it's being home to some of the best (and wildest) horror movies ever made.

If nothing else, the 1980s were an age of discovery for the horror genre, as well as a time of weird normalization. Horror movies finally shook off the yolk of the thriller and adventure stories where they originated in the 1970s and had created a line of movies that were uniquely interested in evincing terror of all sorts for the audience. One could argue something like Jaws is still, at its heart, an action-adventure story, but what on earth would you call The Texas Chainsaw Massacre if not horror? An experimental, Dadaist noir featuring some demented clown with a chainsaw?

That was the time of the genre being created and finding confidence, whereas the 1980s is where genre found itself and the 1990s was when it established itself in the pantheon of other big-studio genres. We first met Ms. Voorhees and her son, Jason, in the 80s and suddenly, you couldn’t go into the movie theater without seeing advertisements for another Friday the 13th  movie or buying a ticket for one. These movies were cheap to make and people showed up in droves to see them, if only for the gratuitous nudity and buckets of fake blood. People liked seeing the monsters do their stuff from a distance, and though the money was never in the same abundance as it would be with the comic-book craze, there was still a lucrative fad going on.

It’s easy to see the decade as the era of Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and Leatherface’s continued reign, but the 1980s also laid down the foundation for some of the most crucial stylistic decisions of the genre as it exists now. The best movies from the era transcended the cheapness, the frivolity, and the easy pleasures of the franchises to seek out the true thrill and disturbing nature of murderers and monsters. The Thing tells the story of a group of men being consumed by an alien force that replicates them, but beyond the story, John Carpenter directed the movie as if it was a lost Antonioni script. For whatever else it might be, The Shining is a brutal self-excoriation and a frighteningly convincing portrait of a mind becoming untethered from daily life, family, and identity.

That’s where horror has become important, a new genre lined with violent, expressive images that open up all new realms of political, sociological, and cultural discussion. The best horror films of the 1980s might not have all went so far into the ether as Kubrick or Carpenter, but each one clearly came from both a unique point of view and an ambitious, capable artist, surrounded by technical geniuses and other artists who help them out as best they can. And the fact that genuine, mature artists have found not only refuge but glory in this genre suggests that its full power hasn’t even been surmised yet.

Here are the 50 best that were released in the 1980s.

50. C.H.U.D.

This uproarious wonder is something of a local masterwork in New York City. Shot on location amidst the stinking, garbage-strewn streets of the city that never sleeps, C.H.U.D. details the fight between the denizens of NYC and an army of cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. The humans are represented by a youthful John Heard  and a seriously lanky Daniel Stern , and the talk is more important for the splashes of outdated lingo, the East Coast accents and the unpredictable groans, sighs, or belches. There’s nothing much in the way of violence but the creatures themselves are gloriously cheap works of desperate invention. I can’t say that you’ll be scared by this movie, or that you won’t spend most of the runtime laughing at the…let’s call it problematic continuity and production design. Still, when I think about the horror geeks who come to New York to make good genre movies for a decent wage, my brain wanders back to this strangely charming oddity more than The Panic in Needle Park , Dog Day Afternoon , Midnight Cowboy , or Andy Warhol ’s Empire . - Chris Cabin

49. Basket Case

From the cracked mind of Frank Henenlotter and boasting a budget that would make even the most capable indie producer cry, Basket Case was likely never meant to spawn the rabid cult following (or sheer number of loving derivatives that it did), but if any horror comedy of the ‘80s deserved such a hallowed future, it certainly is this one. Following a wide-eyed, naive young man named Duane Bradley and his not-so-friendly sidekick on the murderous hunt for the doctor who separated Duane and his now hideously deformed (telepathic!) Siamese twin, Basket Case employs a bit of Cronenbergian grotesque, a dash of Lynchian horror and scads of over-the-top gore for a fearlessly unique blend of gonzo scares. The plot itself is bonkers enough to qualify this film as a notable nasty, but the film’s storyline is largely an excuse for the pop psychology, perversion and piles of gore that lie just beyond a padlocked wicker box. Horror gems don’t come much crazier than this. - Aubrey Page

48. Night of the Comet

What would kids in the 1980s do if the apocalypse blew through the world without them noticing? Hang out at the mall, but of course. That’s the set-up for this very funny, quite dated horror-comedy, which begins when a quartet of adolescents lock themselves inside a projection booth at the mall’s multiplex. This somehow allows them to live through an extinction level event of some sort, which has also left roaming bands of murderous mutants.

Catherine Mary Stewart of the equally inexplicable Weekend at Bernie’s leads the film, but it’s a movie of mood more than substance ultimately. Does the wealth-fueled naiveté of the average white teenager survive in a vacuum? Does it go away when they are being hunted for sustenance? It’s an interesting to watch on these terms and when the zombies show up, director Thom Eberhardt adds menace and a tight feel for suspense to the action sequences. And if we’re being honest, it belongs on this list for its soundtrack alone. The rest of this is just whip cream and cherries. - Chris Cabin 

47. Killer Klowns from Outer Space

One of my all-time favorite B-horror movies that became a part of the Midnite Movies collection, this coulrophobic nightmare is the absolute definition of cult classic. As of this writing, it remains the only writing/directing work for the Chiodo Brothers ; there’s been talk of a 3D sequel for a while now but we haven’t heard much on that lately. If you haven’t seen it, there’s no better time than the present. (Oh and the protagonist’s name is Mike Tobacco , if that helps sway your opinion.)

I’m willing to bet that there’s no other film out there in which a circus tent-shaped spaceship crash lands in a field and unleashes clown-like alien monstrosities upon the countryside. (If there is another one, please let me know.) While this could easily have fallen flat as a one-joke premise, it’s a surprisingly fun and fast-paced watch full of clown gags that are just as creepy as they are clever. As for my favorite part of the Killer Klowns mythology, I’m torn between the cotton candy cocoons and the method of defeating the clown: shooting them in their noses. If that makes you smile, then Killer Klowns from Outer Space is right up your alley. – Dave Trumbore

46. Child's Play

Chucky, the original nightmare doll, was the creation of Don Mancini , who’s made quite the career from the creepy character. To date, there are eight films in the  Child's Play  franchise, including a 2019 reboot starring  Aubrey Plaza  and  Brian Tyree Henry . But to really get a sense of where the Chucky craze started, you have to go back to the original 1988 film Child’s Play .

In a stroke of twisted genius, the story follows a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray who is fatally shot by a homicide detective in Chicago. While that would be an okay start for a slasher film, the fact that his soul is transferred into a child’s doll really sets the foundation for the entire franchise. What follows is a tense, at times terrifying thriller in which the newly purchased doll comes to life and starts committing murder and mayhem while ordering around his new owner, Andy. Look, dolls are creepy enough to begin with, so when one of them has the autonomy to run around, cuss a blue streak, and kill anyone who looks at him funny, you know you’ve got a horror classic on your hands. Add to that the fact that this doll is nigh immortal and now you’ve got a franchise. Do yourself a favor and go back to where it all started before Chucky’s secret made its way into the world. – Dave Trumbore

45. Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness  is one of John Carpenter ’s odder outings, but it's still laced with his untamable weirdness and chilling talent at conveying fear and menace with equal potency. Here, he tangos once again with Donald Pleasance  ( Halloween ’s doomed Dr. Loomis), who plays a priest who convinces a local Los Angeles professor ( Big Trouble in Little China 's  Victor Wong ) to bring his class to an abandoned church where he believes he’s tracked down the essence of Satan. Carpenter is no fan of organized religion and here he seems to really let his secular fury flow. The hiding from and battles against the legions of the possessed allows Carpenter plenty of time to let his natural talent for B-movie action out to play, and though not quite as politically radical as one might hope, the suspicious, atheistic perspective is a breath of fresh air regardless. – Chris Cabin

44. The Blob

There has been a drought of creature feature horror movies in recent years and that’s a crying shame. Luckily, past decades have us well and truly covered with just about every type of critter imaginable. Case in point: 1988’s The Blob . This remake of the 1958 film of the same name brings an amorphous, acidic, amoeba-like creature to life and lets it crawl across the California countryside consuming everything in its path.

This is just good old-fashioned creature feature fun. The practical effects are a blast as multiple victims are partially or completely digested and dissolved by the blob’s acidic chemistry. And though the creature may have crash-landed onto Earth from outer space, its actual origins provide the necessary narrative twist in this movie that would otherwise be a one-note slog. The gore factor is near the top of the charts in this one so if that bothers you, you might want to skip it entirely. But for those of you who maybe watched this movie at too young an age and then reenacted it with a glob of Silly Putty and toy soldiers, I think you’ll enjoy this little chunk of nostalgia. – Dave Trumbore

43. The Stuff

The Stuff is essentially a Bugsy Malone remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with advertising and greed being the substitute for Snatchers’ Communist pod people and “The Stuff” a substitute for the lethal ice cream that was in the kids’ gangster guns in Malone . What’s “The Stuff”? Some delicious white goop that bubbles up from the ground one day and is discovered to be extremely nutritious and calorie free, despite tasting so good. Because it tastes swell and makes folks feel good, before anyone will ask why is it pumping out of the ground, it’s packaged, marketed and sold. Years later, it’s essentially all that anyone lives off of, but it also starts moving on its own and bodily husks start being found where “The Stuff” now runs amok. You should’ve asked questions!

Larry Cohen ’s film is goofier than it is scary. It recreates many iconic horror scenes (such as the bloody bed in Nightmare on Elm Street ) with a marshmallow-y texture. What’s really at play in The Stuff is that we shouldn’t just be scared of sharp things that can pierce us, but also seemingly harmless everyday things that we constantly replenish and restock without thought. Don’t become a slave to your “stuff”. ~ Brian Formo

42. Hellraiser

This entry previously appeared in the Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now article.

Clive Barker 's name has become synonymous with the horror genre, just as his first feature-length film  Hellraiser  has become a symbol for leather-wearing, sadomasochistic, pain-worshippers. Both descriptors are fitting, though there's so much more to Barker's original 1987 film than mere fetishism. There's a deep mythology here, a rather original one that started with Barker's novella "The Hellbound Heart" and was carried on in numerous sequel films, comic books, novels, video games, and more.

And it all started with  Hellraiser , a film that explores the linked sensations of pain and pleasure on a number of levels. The main players are Larry Cotton and his second wife Julia, who cheated on him with his brother Frank shortly after they were married. This sets up one of the most bizarre yet rich mythologies in cinema history: Julia's obsession with Frank continues well after his death and is rejuvenated when Frank himself is resurrected. However, Frank needs fresh blood to return to his full health, blood that Julia is happy to supply by luring men back to Frank's abandoned childhood home and sacrificing them.

And yet, as horrible as this is, it's mundane compared to the arrival of the Cenobites, beings from another dimension obsessed with carnal experiences elucidating the extremes of pain and pleasure. Their design and presence is fantastic in the truest sense of the word and the practical effects on display here are just as terrifying today as they were in 1987. If you haven't seen the original or any of the sequels,  Hellraiser  is the perfect place to start. If you're not careful, this movie will tear your soul apart. -  Dave Trumbore

41. The Funhouse

In a way, no one but Tobe Hooper could have directed this no-frills chiller. Part of what fascinates Hooper is the everyday horrors of the world, how things that we take for granted as familiar images and utilities are also, in origin or myth, horrific. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , the craziness begins with a hitchhiker not seeing the inherent horror in making headcheese. In the case of The Funhouse , it’s as much the cheap designs of the traveling carnival where the central quartet of teens finds themselves rambling around as the damage that’s been done to the equipment and the overall age of it all. There’s also something about the veneer of fear in the simple story, in which a murderous mutant being hunts the aforementioned teens. The man who runs the haunted house and funhouse doesn’t care about the effectiveness of his designs or rides, but his personal life is full of unimaginable burdens and endless terror. Similarly, the inanimate mask that the killer wears hides a, er, unappealing visage, but this killer, under Hooper’s direction, reanimates the horrors of the carnival funhouse after years of these images being dismissed as lame or old-fashioned. – Chris Cabin

40. The Fog

John Carpenter 's  The Fog  is a good old-fashioned ghost story and it makes no bones about it. The film opens on  John Houseman ‘s grizzled Mr. Machen spinning a campfire yarn about the local legend of a wrecked ship, the Elizabeth Dane, which washed up on the rocky shores of Antonio Bay 100 years ago, dragging the ship’s crew to the bottom of the sea. On the town Centennial, the sinister truth about the Elizabeth Dane emerges along with the souls of its crewmen, as a neon blue fog rolls into town with some very pissed off pirate ghosts in tow. Carpenter’s  Halloween  follow-up feels similar in a lot of ways: a slow-moving, unstoppable force coming to wreak havoc on a quiet town, set to a pulsing synth score, and hey, Jamie Lee Curtis  is there too (though in an inconsequential supporting role). It’s a sleepy, atmospheric film that embodies the spirit of a campfire ghost story. --  Haleigh Foutch

39. Phenomena

A young girl ( Jennifer Connelly ) communicates with insects and they assist her in warding off attacks in an idyllic Swiss landscape where young girls are getting speared and decapitated. This being a Dario Argento film, that means we get to see some action that it’s split into eight eyes and that the human decapitations are especially gruesome, but handsomely shot.

In revealing who/what’s killing the town’s youth and also who can save them, Phenomena has the most bonkers third act of any horror film that I’ve ever seen. It’s the sort of thing that must be seen to be believed. But as absurd as it is, it fits in with Argento’s side narrative about loving all living things and how that energy can assist you in life. Just think of that love of life when he gleefully films the crimson that drains from it during the last pleads for life.

Did I not mention that Donald Pleasence co-stars as a scientist with a pet chimpanzee? See this movie. -  Brian Formo

38. Children of the Corn

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn  brings the 1977 short story from Stephen King  to life. First published in Penthouse and then included in the “Night Shift” collection,  Children of the Corn is  centered on a bickering couple on a road trip to California for a vacation. Their journey takes an unfortunate side track into the Nebraska town of Gatlin where a gruesome and bizarre cult of extremely devout children do not take kindly to outsiders, especially adults.

While this movie starts out as a faithful adaptation of King’s work, it quickly turns into a more traditional heroic story than the short story intended; purists of King’s writing will likely find the movie infuriating. However, it remains as a great example of the “creepy children” that King’s work has become known for, and of the cultural touchstones of Malachi, Isaac, and He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Yeah, you’re probably going to laugh when you see a bunch of corn stuffed into a car’s engine block “disabling” it or when the hero plays a game of “How Many 5th Graders Can You Take in a Fight?” but it’s a classic nonetheless.  - Dave Trumbore

One of three Stuart Gordon movies that adorn this list, Dolls is perhaps the most uniquely frightening of the bunch and also the least audacious in terms of concept and style. The story, which centers on an old couple who house a number of strangers on a stormy night in a home filled with creepy dolls, seems to be a throwback to The Twilight Zone or, more accurately, the beloved B-movie classic Devil Doll . And yet, under Gordon, the entire tale seems revitalized, given a new rampant fury and energy that somehow never outpaces with pulse of suspense and terror. For a director who must use actors much like playing with living, thinking dolls, the movie must have a vicious, self-excoriating purpose for Gordon. For the audience, it's an oddly funny, quite bloody entertainment sans frills. - Chris Cabin

36. The Entity

Where other ghost tales may focus on homes stirred into tumult by specters or human possession, The Entity supposes something a lot more discomfiting: the act of being repeatedly raped by a ghost. That’s what Barbara Hershey ’s mother of four must survive on a somewhat regular basis in her home, a status that she calls in Ron Silver ’s doctor to give her some insight into. The attacks themselves are brutal even as they feature nothing more than Hershey struggling against an invisible being. That’s the talent of Sidney J. Furie coming out, and it’s the grinding mechanical noise accompaniment as much as the images of Hershey unable to control her own body. The movie takes a turn toward scientific reasoning – amongst the ghost rape – which unfortunately suggests a lack of confidence in the sheer madness and emotional effectiveness of the premise and its execution. Up until the attempts to bring in physics, chemistry, and whatnot into this unnerving nonsense, however, The Entity is uniquely memorable, and not for particularly joyful reasons. – Chris Cabin

35. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Director Tobe Hooper dubbed this unlikely 1986 sequel a “red comedy” in an attempt to explain horror that transcends even the tastes of intellectual cynics. The viscerally bitter point of view of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 , its utter disregard for empathizing with the dead, certainly sticks with you but that’s not what’s worth discussing with this film. Instead, it’s worth recalling the demented world-building power that Hooper let flourish in the DADA-esque editing and the spare yet chilling production design of the original, as he continues to explore nonsensical yet deeply effective stylistic excesses. He builds tremendous suspense during the second movement of the film in the radio station, which features some sensational long takes and tight, paranoia-inducing framing in the final moments leading up to the climax. For all these cerebral reasons to let this noble sequel off the hook, it’s still the unshakeable feeling that Hooper’s Massacre films stricken you with that keeps you coming back, as if you had just met personally with the janitorial staff of the sixth circle of hell. – Chris Cabin

34. Motel Hell

Of the innumerable Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-offs, Motel Hell might be the most enjoyable and distinct of the lot. In the middle of nowhere, farmer Vincent Smith makes his living off of a meager stretch of land, his barbeque, and the few rooms at his Motel Hello. Often enough, it’s the perverts and local lost tourists that stop at the Motel Hello that turn into that state-famous barbeque that brings discerning carnivores back. And then old Vincent tries to make a love slave out of one of his victims and that’s where the problems begin. There’s no great artistry here but there’s plenty of bewitching bizarreness, from the not-so-polished performances on down to the no-budget production design. It’s the proper setting for one of the true disciples of a movie that’s as remarkable for what it shows as for how it shows it. – Chris Cabin

33. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Much maligned because it departed from the track the horror franchise had established with the first two films (and because it was completely insane), Halloween III: Season of the Witch has developed somewhat of a cult following since its 1982 debut. It’s the sole film in the franchise that doesn’t feature the iconic, unkillable serial killer Michael Myers or any of the previously established mythology. The reason behind this was that Halloween creators and producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill envisioned the franchise as going in an anthology direction with the third installment verging into sci-fi/fantasy territory. Things did not go as planned.

For the uninitiated, Season of the Witch follows an investigation into the Silver Shamrock Novelties company and its owner, Conal Cochran ( Dan O’Herlihy ), which brings prosperity to a small town but also has a significant creepy factor thanks to his besuited businessmen roaming around. While I won’t give away the investigations findings (they’re bonkers) or the reason behind them (even more bonkers), I will say that you’ll never see anything else quite like it. Completionists need to check this one off their list and it’s a must-watch for horror aficionados as well, but for folks with an open mind who can appreciate the movie’s anti-consumerism message and taboo treatment of violence against children, it’s an eye-opening experience. – Dave Trumbore

32. Of Unknown Origin

Director George P. Cosmatos would come to prominence in 1985 with Rambo: First Blood Part II , and would hit the big time again with the notorious Sylvester Stallone actioner Cobra , but Of Unknown Origin  remains his sole triumph. Mild-mannered Peter Weller has a huge project at work looming over him when his wife and kids decide to take a vacation, but that’s exactly when our hero starts hearing and seeing rats. Huge ones, as a matter of fact. It’s a true oddity and Cosmatos somehow strikes the perfect tone for this disturbing psychological thriller, but it’s also clearly a cheesy, if inventive cultural comment. The obsession of an unknown infiltrator, whether it be a thief in the night or AIDS, over the stasis of your life on the whole reflects a nattering anxiety over some false sort of purity. It makes all the more sense to symbolize sin and debauchery with a rat, the unofficial symbol of the New York City subway system, a location that’s already long been marked with more than its fair share of scarlet letters. – Chris Cabin

The effect of William Lustig ’s Maniac , in which we follow a demented killer ( Joe Spinell ) of women who occupies a small room full of mannequins and collects the heads of women he sees on the streets at night. Or does he?

The possibility that this is all some kind of sweat-soaked nightmare doesn’t dull the impact of the murders themselves, which are directed to emphasize the physical exertion of the activity, the exhaustion and messiness of an act that’s often presented as quick and easy with a gun. And the grisly acts that are visited upon these corpses certainly don’t become easier to ignore when the main man is questioning his state of mind. Lustig shot on a humble budget in New York City and much like C.H.U.D. and Basket Case , the movie is remembered partially as a last-ditch document of pre-Giuliani New York. The movie is, after all, Giuliani’s walking, bloody nightmare of the town he’s pimped out for credibility for years.

Maniac is exacting in its depiction of the ugliness of serial killing, but it’s also one of those movies that stands as a giddy affront to good taste and a testament to why you should never, ever, ever try to clean up the five boroughs. – Chris Cabin

25 Horror Movies from the ’80s That Have Stood the Test of Time

The special effects might be a little outdated, but these gems have proven enduring nonetheless.

Headshot of Chloe Foussianes

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg's body horror classic is the vanishingly rare remake that transcends the original. As the title suggests, it follows scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) as—after a fateful encounter with a fly in a teleportation machine—he begins to look more and more bug-like.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi's take on the "scary cabin in the woods" trope still holds up.

Videodrome (1983)

Cronenberg's second film on this list is a wholly original creation: a meditation on the nature of media and violence, equal parts carnal and cerebral (though Videodrome makes a compelling case that those two concepts aren't as separate as they might appear) . Viewed decades after its debut, it's all the scarier for its prescience.

Friday the 13th (1980)

There's a lot of debate about the best Friday the 13th movie (the original spawned a dozen sequels and reboots) but what better place to start than with the slasher that started it all?

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

There's a reason why Freddy Krueger's become such an enduring character in pop culture: the original installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise boasts an intriguing premise, terrifying villain, and plenty of teenage drama.

Gremlins (1984)

For the sizable community of people who've always been convinced that Furbies were hiding a dark secret, Gremlins is sure to reinforce a long-held suspicion or two.

The Shining (1980)

Horror fan or not, The Shining is required viewing: the carpeted halls of the film's expansive hotel are embedded in our cultural memory, and the films iconic moments are referenced ad infinitum in movies and TV of all stripes. It's also just really, really good.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Nothing's more punk than the undead in this high-energy tale of a group of punks who face flesh-eating consequences when one of their parties unearths a toxin that turns human into zombies.

Aliens (1986)

David Cameron's follow-up to Ridley Scott's seminal Alien sees Sigourney Weaver (er, Ellen Ripley) once again besieged by parasitic extraterrestrials—though this sequel is much heavier on the action, and a little lighter on the thrills, than its predecessor.

The Thing (1982)

The premise of The Thing revolves around a shape-shifting alien, but the protagonists are plagued as much by their own very human foibles as any extraterrestrial foe.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Catchy tunes, a brilliant cast, and a healthy dose of camp turn this creature feature into a bloody good time.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

A pioneering entry into the now ubiquitous self-aware horror-comedy sub-genre, An American Werewolf in London manages to land jokes and scares with equal effect.

Creepshow (1982)

Inspired by 1950s horror comics, this anthology film (which marks Stephen King's screenwriting debut) by George Romero is a note perfect blend of comedy and creeps.

Predator (1987)

Prefer your creature features with a little more muscle? This sci-fi action romp (featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger) will soothe your savage soul.

Poltergeist (1982)

A key part of Poltergeist 's lore is that despite director Tobe Hooper's name in the credits, producer and screenwriter Steven Spielberg had more of a hand on the wheel—but ultimately, it's the movie itself, not its disputed authorship, that ensured it would endure.

Child's Play (1988)

The creepy doll genre gets a snarky twist with this quippy supernatural horror featuring the now famous Chucky doll—which happens to house the soul of a serial killer.

Tenebre (1982)

Dario Argento, the Italian horror auteur behind the original Suspiria , also created the (somewhat) lesser-known Tenebre —a film about an American mystery author who travels to Rome, only to find himself enmeshed in a real-life murder investigation.

Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker's directorial debut (based on his own 1986 novella) not only gave us our first look at the bizarre world of the Cenobites, it also introduced the world to the now-iconic Pinhead.

Beetlejuice (1988)

The '80s really embraced the intersection of humor and scares, and few movies typified that quite as much as Tim Burton's famous tale of a couple of ghosts who try to exorcise the humans from their house.

The Dead Zone (1983)

Cronenberg and Stephen King mashup in this Christopher Walken-starring classic about a man who develops psychic powers after waking up from a coma.

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Chloe is a News Writer for , where she covers royal news, from the latest additions to Meghan Markle’s staff to Queen Elizabeth’s monochrome fashions ; she also writes about culture, often dissecting TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Killing Eve .

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The 24 best horror movies of the '80s

Want to watch a totally scary movie? Here are 24 of the most tubular horror picks, from The Shining to A Nightmare on Elm Street to The Thing.

If the '70s transformed horror , then the '80s was the decade when the genre really came into its own. Although many fans have a soft spot for slasher movies , the '80s also birthed iconic monsters, brought body horror to gooey new heights, and sparked a new subgenre: the splatter comedy.

Truly, some of the most famous horror movies of all time were made in the colorful, campy, boundary-pushing decade, including cult oddities like Fright Night and hidden gems like Dead & Buried .

Here's our list of the 24 best horror movies of the '80s.

The Shining (1980)

Released the same month as the original Friday the 13th , The Shining isn't necessarily what you think of when you think of '80s horror. It's a slow-burn ghost story anchored by precision cinematography, bravura performances from stars Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson , and direction from Stanley Kubrick , a big-name filmmaker with no previous connection to the genre.

Nevertheless, The Shining holds up as a disturbing, bone-chilling classic whose influence is all over contemporary "elevated" horror.

Where to watch The Shining : Paramount+ with Showtime

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

New Line Cinema is sometimes referred to as "the house that Freddy built" — an appropriate nickname given A Nightmare on Elm Street ' s outsize influence on the fledgling studio's fortunes.

Wes Craven adapted a newspaper story about a 12-year-old Cambodian refugee plagued by nightmares into this all-time classic, which marked the screen debut of both blade-wielding homicidal burn victim Freddy Krueger ( Robert Englund ) and a young Johnny Depp .

Where to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street : Max

Evil Dead II (1987)

Sam Raimi essentially remade his game-changing debut The Evil Dead (1981) with a bigger budget and an enhanced slapstick sensibility with Evil Dead II , a cabin-in-the-woods slasher by way of Looney Tunes.

Bruce Campbell returns as wisecracking final boy Ashley "Ash" Williams, whose unrelenting gauntlet of extreme terror as he fights for his life against the demonic Deadites is even bloodier — and sillier — this time around. The beauty of Evil Dead II is that it's both genuinely funny and genuinely scary, making for a wildly entertaining roller-coaster ride of a movie.

Where to rent Evil Dead II : Amazon Prime Video

Videodrome (1983)

Disproving the stereotype that Canadians are inherently mild-mannered people, David Cronenberg 's 1983 body-horror masterpiece Videodrome blends pain with pleasure, violence with entertainment, and human consciousness with pixelated transmissions from a nightmare realm.

James Woods stars as a sleazy TV executive in search of the ultimate ratings grab, alongside Blondie 's Debbie Harry as the seductive hostess of the titular broadcast.

Where to rent Videodrome : Amazon Prime Video

Hellraiser (1987)

Speaking of the razor's edge between pleasure and pain — queer horror icon Clive Barker lives on that edge, and so does his most famous creation, Hellraiser .

Adapted from Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart , Hellraiser revolves around a mysterious puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. Once solved, the box summons the Cenobites, sadomasochistic beings from a dimension of pain and suffering who are all too happy to show jaded mortals an agonizing good time.

Where to watch Hellraiser : Amazon Prime Video

Fright Night (1985)

Sporting some good old-fashioned chills and a rockin' new wave soundtrack, Fright Night is a cult classic horror-comedy with a contagious affection for the genre.

Featuring Roddy McDowall as a TV horror host forced to confront the supernatural in real life, director Tom Holland's debut stars William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, a horror-obsessed teen who becomes convinced that his suave next-door neighbor ( Chris Sarandon ) is actually a vampire.

Where to rent Fright Night : Amazon Prime Video

Creepshow (1982)

Combining the powers of writer Stephen King , director George Romero , and special effects artist Tom Savini, Creepshow is one of the best horror anthologies — not only of the '80s but of all time.

Inspired by the EC horror comics King and Romero grew up reading in the '50s, the five segments that make up Creepshow are full of macabre twists, bizarre creatures, and amoral characters getting their well-deserved supernatural comeuppance. Cartoonish in the best way, it's a tribute to the childhood scares that made these horror icons and has now spawned a reboot series on Shudder .

Where to rent Creepshow : Amazon Prime Video

Near Dark (1987)

Blending Western tropes with a punk-rock attitude, director Kathryn Bigelow puts a pulpy rockabilly spin on the vampire myth in Near Dark , one of the best and bloodiest vampire films of the '80s.

Adrian Pasdar stars as Caleb Colton, a small-town kid who joins up with a roving band of vampires after being bitten by an alluring stranger he meets at a bar. But it's Bill Paxton who steals the show as Severen, the most unhinged of this undead crew, whose sex appeal is matched by his thirst for violence.

Near Dark is currently unavailable to watch or rent

The Thing (1982)

One of several horror masterpieces directed by John Carpenter , The Thing wasn't appreciated by critics or audiences during its initial release. Decades later, it's an undisputed classic.

Filmmakers are still ripping off Rob Bottin's gruesomely inventive special effects, the excess of which contrasts with the tightly wound paranoia of the story. That latter quality only gets more relevant with every passing year; it's no coincidence that a screenshot of Kurt Russell 's character saying, "Nobody trusts anybody now, and we're all very tired" went viral in 2020.

Where to rent The Thing : Amazon Prime Video

Day of the Dead (1985)

The third film in George Romero's zombie series is just as politically charged — and as nihilistic — as Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead , even though, yes, it does have a zombie listening to a Walkman.

The story picks up in a military bunker in the Everglades, where the last shreds of humanity have gathered in search of safety. Part-splatter movie and part-meditation on the dangers of science run amok, Day of the Dead is a sobering and thought-provoking take on the zombie genre.

Where to watch Day of the Dead : Hulu

Re-Animator (1985)

Sleazy, silly, lurid, colorful, and tons of fun, Re-Animator is a modern classic of mad scientist cinema. Directed by Stuart Gordon from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, this video store favorite stars Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, a medical student obsessed with bringing the dead back to life.

They don't teach ethics at Miskatonic University, so Herbert's experiments become increasingly outlandish, eventually drawing two of his fellow students ( Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott) into his chaotic orbit.

Where to watch Re-Animator : Tubi

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The most party-hearty horror movie of a party-hearty decade, The Return of the Living Dead will bring tons of madcap energy — and toxic sludge — to your movie night.

The story takes place in Louisville, Ky., where a group of teenage punks partying in a graveyard come face to face with the aftermath of two youths accidentally kicking over a barrel in a top-secret government facility. That barrel was full of a gas that turns unsuspecting humans into zombies, which can mean only one thing: Let the flesh-eating festivities begin!

Where to watch The Return of the Living Dead : Amazon Prime Video

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)

The 1980 original spawned 10 sequels, a remake, and innumerable rip-offs. But this is the quintessential (and the best) Friday the 13th movie.

Erroneously billed as "The Final Chapter," this fourth film in the saga does everything an '80s slasher is supposed to do — namely, put a bunch of horny teenagers in a cabin and let Jason Voorhees pick them off one by one. And it does it well, with gruesome kills, memorable characters (a rarity in the Friday the 13th series), and a totally bonkers ending featuring a young Corey Feldman .

Where to rent Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter : Amazon Prime Video

Dead & Buried (1981)

A dreamlike, atmospheric take on the zombie legend, Dead & Buried is one of the most singular horror movies of the '80s.

Director Gary Sherman's second feature, about a picturesque coastal town where packs of locals murder unsuspecting tourists — only for those tourists to be seen later wandering around town — languished in obscurity for decades before being rediscovered and hailed as a cult classic.

Where to watch Dead & Buried : Amazon Prime Video

The Changeling (1980)

George C. Scott stars as a recently widowed dad in The Changeling , a sophisticated, grown-up take on the haunted house movie that's still absolutely terrifying. The story takes place in an empty, secluded Victorian mansion, where John Russell (Scott) retreats after losing his wife and daughter in a car crash.

If you think that sounds like the perfect time and place to see some ghosts, you're correct — but the knowing doesn't make their appearance any less heart-stopping, thanks to superior craftsmanship from director Peter Medak.

Where to watch The Changeling : Peacock

Society (1989)

The '80s were a great decade for satirical horror-comedies, and Brian Yuzna's Society stands as one of the best of the subgenre.

The manicured lawns and yuppie fashions of Beverly Hills form the perfect backdrop for this bizarre (and goopy) statement on the decadence of the rich, starring the wonderfully named Billy Warlock as a wealthy teenager who suspects his parents are part of a cannibalistic cult. It all climaxes with an extended orgy of body-horror transformation that we won't spoil here, but we can guarantee that you'll never forget.

Where to rent Society : YouTube

They Live (1988)

Another instant classic from genre master John Carpenter, They Live is a sci-fi horror satire whose commentary on mindless consumerism is as relevant today as it was in 1988.

Starring "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as a drifter who finds a pair of sunglasses that expose an alien plot to subjugate humanity through subliminal messaging, They Live cuts its trenchant social critique with action-movie silliness — case in point: an infamous, hilarious fight sequence that goes on for six minutes for no particular reason — and highly quotable dialogue.

Where to rent They Live : Amazon Prime Video

Opera (1987)

Some might say that Italian horror legend Dario Argento was past his prime by the time the '80s rolled around. Opera , however, disproves that argument. Argento's work has always incorporated the melodramatic sweep and heightened emotion of opera.

And Opera , about an obsessive fan terrorizing a young soprano (Cristina Marsillach) during a production of Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth , ranks among the maestro's most beautifully shot and fiendishly inventive tributes to the art of murder.

Where to watch Opera : Tubi

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

The only '80s slasher franchise written and directed entirely by women, The Slumber Party Massacre satirized the subgenre while it was still being formed.

Directed by Amy Holden Jones from a screenplay by lesbian feminist author Rita Mae Brown, The Slumber Party Massacre was written as a parody, but producers insisted that Jones film it as a straightforward slasher picture. Its tongue-in-cheek sensibility came through anyway, poking at horror tropes with clever visual gags and a comically oversized power drill.

Where to watch The Slumber Party Massacre : Freevee via Amazon Prime Video

Possession (1981)

Emerging from obscurity to become a cult classic, Andrzej Żuławski's Possession is one of the most fascinating, singular visions in horror filmmaking. On one level, it's a shocking, disturbingly sexual arthouse creature feature. Dig deeper, and it's a painfully personal divorce movie.

Deeper still, it's a psychological thriller about a woman losing her grip on reality, with a touch of Cold War-era political satire. Bleak, uncompromising, and anchored by an unforgettable performance from star Isabelle Adjani, Possession is a movie that's hard to shake.

Where to watch Possession : Shudder

The Beyond (1981)

Lucio Fulci movies are an acquired taste. But once you've acquired it, nothing else satisfies in quite the same way. The Beyond is the second and best film in Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy, about a woman who inherits a dilapidated hotel in the middle of the Louisiana swamp only to discover that it's cursed with a literal portal to hell in the basement.

The Beyond is "about" gore as much as it is "about" anything, however, a psychedelic miasma of slow-moving zombies and colorful viscera that's hypnotizing and confounding in equal measure.

Where to watch The Beyond : Peacock

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

You may think you've seen it all, but that isn't true until you've seen Tetsuo: The Iron Man .

Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto's chaotic, erotic body-horror head trip takes cyberpunk to some unforgettable new places, using inventive low-budget effects to tell the surreal story of a "metal fetishist" whose death in a drive-by car accident sparks an outrageous new chapter in human evolution.

Where to watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man : Shudder

Night of the Comet (1984)

Valley girl culture was everywhere in the '80s, and two of the most appealing characters to come out of this mall-obsessed SoCal teen cult appear in 1984's Night of the Comet .

Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney star as Regina and Samantha, teenage sisters who fight for survival in postapocalyptic Los Angeles (with breaks for shopping, of course) after a passing comet turns most of the population into zombies. Full of vibrant color and good-natured humor, this entertaining sci-fi hybrid holds up — even if the fashions don't.

Where to watch Night of the Comet : Tubi

The Burning (1981)

It didn't spawn a hit franchise, but The Burning still stands as one of the best entries into the early-'80s slasher cycle.

Inspired by the New York urban legend of Cropsey, The Burning is a lean, mean-spirited hack-and-slash summer camp horror movie that's elevated by its energetic young cast — which includes Jason Alexander , Fisher Stevens , and Holly Hunter in their debut film roles — and Tom Savini's gruesomely realistic makeup effects.

Where to watch The Burning : Amazon Prime Video

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  • The Thing director John Carpenter remembers the 'inestimable genius' of Ennio Morricone

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80s ghost horror movies

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The Best Ghost Films of the 1980s

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80s ghost horror movies

The Shining 1980 , 142 min.

Stanley Kubrick   •    Starring: Jack Nicholson ,  Shelley Duvall ,  Danny Lloyd

Based-on-20th-Century-Literature    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Held position in the past 45 days

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80s ghost horror movies

Ghostbusters 1984 , 105 min.

Ivan Reitman   •    Starring: Bill Murray ,  Dan Aykroyd ,  Harold Ramis

Comedy    •    Fantasy Comedy    •    Fantasy

Held position in the past 45 days

Beetlejuice 1988 , 92 min.

Tim Burton   •    Starring: Geena Davis ,  Catherine O'Hara ,  Alec Baldwin

Black Comedy    •    Comedy    •    Fantasy Comedy

Held position in the past 45 days

Poltergeist 1982 , 114 min.

Tobe Hooper   •    Starring: JoBeth Williams ,  Craig T. Nelson ,  Heather O'Rourke

Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film    •    Horror

Held position in the past 45 days

The Changeling 1980 , 107 min.

Peter Medak   •    Starring: George C. Scott ,  Trish Van Devere ,  Melvyn Douglas

Canuxploitation    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

Ghostbusters II 1989 , 108 min.

Ivan Reitman   •    Starring: Bill Murray ,  Dan Aykroyd ,  Sigourney Weaver

Action    •    Action Comedy    •    Comedy

Held position in the past 45 days

The Fog 1980 , 89 min.

John Carpenter   •    Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis ,  John Houseman ,  Adrienne Barbeau

Ghost Film    •    Horror    •    Mystery

Held position in the past 45 days

The Beyond 1981 , 87 min.

Lucio Fulci   •    Starring: Catriona MacColl ,  David Warbeck ,  Cinzia Monreale

Exploitation Film    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Down by 2 in the past 45 days

The House by the Cemetery 1981 , 87 min.

Lucio Fulci   •    Starring: Catriona MacColl ,  Paolo Malco ,  Ania Pieroni

Foreign Language Film    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Up by 1 in the past 45 days

House 1986 , 90 min.

Steve Miner   •    Starring: William Katt ,  George Wendt ,  Richard Moll

Comedy    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

The Entity 1982 , 125 min.

Sidney J. Furie   •    Starring: Barbara Hershey ,  Ron Silver ,  David Labiosa

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

Ghost Story 1981 , 110 min.

John Irvin   •    Starring: Fred Astaire ,  Melvyn Douglas ,  Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Drama    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

Waxwork 1988 , 95 min.

Anthony Hickox   •    Starring: Zach Galligan ,  David Warner ,  Dana Ashbrook

Fantasy    •    Ghost Film    •    Haunted House Film

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

Poltergeist II: The Other Side 1986 , 91 min.

Brian Gibson   •    Starring: JoBeth Williams ,  Craig T. Nelson ,  Heather O'Rourke

Held position in the past 45 days

House II: The Second Story 1987 , 88 min.

Ethan Wiley   •    Starring: Arye Gross ,  Jonathan Stark ,  Royal Dano

Up by 2 in the past 45 days

The Watcher in the Woods 1980 , 84 min.

John Hough   •    Starring: Bette Davis ,  Carroll Baker ,  Lynn-Holly Johnson

Held position in the past 45 days

Mr. Vampire 1985 , 96 min.

Ricky Lau   •    Starring: Ching-Ying Lam ,  Wah Yuen ,  Siu-hou Chin

Action Comedy    •    Action    •    Comedy

Down by 1 in the past 45 days

The Woman in Black 1989 , 100 min.

Herbert Wise   •    Starring: Adrian Rawlins ,  Bernard Hepton ,  David Daker

Based-on-20th-Century-Literature    •    Costume Horror    •    Ghost Film

Up by 3 in the past 45 days

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters 1988 , 72 min.

Greg Ford   •    Starring: Mel Blanc ,  Mel Tormé ,  Roy Firestone

Comedy    •    Family    •    Fantasy

Down by 2 in the past 45 days

Haunted Honeymoon 1986 , 82 min.

Gene Wilder   •    Starring: Gene Wilder ,  Gilda Radner ,  Dom DeLuise

Comedy    •    Farce    •    Ghost Film

Up by 2 in the past 45 days

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Screen Rant

10 forgotten (but terrifying) haunted house horror movies from the '80s.

The 80s gave movie fans an entire decade of memorable horror films, but some of the best and most terrifying haunted house films have been forgotten!

Horror movie historians and fans look at the '80s as the decade of the slasher, a subgenre wherein a crazed madperson goes after an unassuming group of coeds. Not all horror films from the '80s were slashers, but many of them were influenced by the slasher aesthetic: gory death scenes, the lone (usually female) survivor, and insane practical effects.

RELATED:  The 5 Best (& 5 Worst) Haunted House Horror Movies

When it comes to haunted house movies from the decade, a clear connection exists between the creepy ghosts who torment and the slashers who chase after their victims. Beyond the well-known '80s haunted house flicks like  Poltergeist and  The Changeling  exist quite a few other contributions to this vital subgenre.

Ghost Story (1981)

John Irvin's supernatural film is based on the Peter Straub novel of the same name.  Ghost Story focuses on four New England men who share a terrible 50-year-old secret that continues to haunt them and their descendants.

When the son of one of the men dies in a freak accident, an evolving series of strange accidents both in and around their homes leads them to believe they are being targeted by a spirit – one whose death they are responsible for. Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are among the cast of this creepy flick.

The Entity (1983)

The Entity takes home invasions into otherworldly territory . In this slasher-esque ghost story, Barbara Hershey plays a single mother who is repeatedly attacked by an invisible entity that has taken control of her home.

Based on the story of a woman who alleged she was assaulted by a ghost multiple times, the film follows Hershey's character as she struggles to find a paranormal psychologist who believes her. As the violent, demonic phantom keeps up its antics, the woman finally finds a doctor willing to help her.

House (1986)

Steve Miner's comedic horror feature stars William Katt as Roger Cobb, a writer who moves into a new home after separating from his wife. Cobb, a horror writer, decides to dedicate his next book to his experiences during the Vietnam War in hopes of working through his trauma.

RELATED:  The 10 Best Ghost Stories With Movie Adaptations

Cobb's writing sessions are interrupted by phantasms, moving objects, and terrible nightmares about his time overseas. Eventually, ghouls and monsters appear from the deep recesses of the house, intent upon destroying the war-weary writer.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

Despite being low-budget and kitschy,  The House Where Evil Dwells remains a testament to the bizarre intersection between haunted house tale and campy '80s exploitation film replete with tons of sex. Kevin Connor's film centers around an American family that takes an extended vacation  in Japan, residing in a home occupied by ghosts.

The spirit of a 19th-century samurai named Shigeto makes the adjustment difficult for the Fletchers, who just want to relax and see the sights. Instead, the warrior intends on making the Americans reenact a brutal incident that occurred in the house decades before.

The Mysterious Castle In The Carpathians (1981)

This singular Czechoslovak movie is a steampunk fantasy romp whose events transpire in a creepy castle deep within the Carpathian Mountains. Set in 1897, the film follows Professor Orfanik, a mad inventor who keeps visitors away by stirring up all sorts of supernatural events in his domicile.

RELATED:  10 Great Movies About The Afterlife

Orfanik even preserves the body of his favorite opera singer in his castle's crypt. When he isn't dabbling with the spirit world, Orfanik and his assistant develop all kinds of technological masterpieces, including televisions and radios.

Superstition (1982)

When it was released,  Superstition was deemed a second-rate  Poltergeist or  Amityville Horror by critics. Considered a "video nasty," the graphic violence depicted in the James W. Robinson film kept it from being released until 1985.

The movie's events revolve around an abandoned house occupied by the hungry spirit of a witch who was murdered during an inquisition in 1692. In the present, a local detective and a parishioner join forces to defeat the powerful sorceress as bodies pile up around her.

The Woman In Black (1989)

The Woman in Black is a gothic, moody British made-for-TV movie set in 1925 England. A solicitor named Arthur Kidd arrives in the seaside town of Crythin Gifford, tasked with managing the estate of an old, friendless widow.

RELATED:  10 Horror Series To Watch If You Loved The Haunting Of Hill House

Townsfolk are put off by Kidd's inquiries about the woman, Alice Drablow, who does not have a good reputation around town. As Kidd starts seeing a female figure donning black clothes everywhere he goes, eerie events and hauntings at the estate lead the young man to believe Drablow's unsettled spirit remains on the earthly plane.

Pulse (1988)

Instead of a ghost, the force haunting houses in  Pulse is an intelligent burst of electricity. This paranormal voltage sets its sight on the domicile of a remarried man and his son in a Los Angeles residential neighborhood.

The goal of the title sentient entity is to destroy every home by taking control of its power grid and pulling the plug.  Pulse 's premise may be a bit ridiculous, but it's '80s vibes, satirical suburban malaise , familiar faces, and possessed appliances make for an interesting watch.

Sweet Home (1989)

Released in conjunction with a video game of the same name,  Sweet Home is a Japanese haunted house treat. In the movie, a documentary film crew visits the house of a beloved Japanese painter whose works they hope to preserve and highlight.

As they scan the corridors of the painter's old mansion, the filmmakers realize they are not alone. The spirit of the painter's wife makes herself known to the crew, who possesses and haunts them for a very specific and compelling reason: she needs their help.

The House By The Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery is the work of Italian horror master Lucio Fulci, considered the king of gore. Fulci pushes body horror and gross-out sequences to their limits with this film about a family who moves into an old mansion inhabited by tormented spirits.

As it goes in haunted house movies, the family's new digs are the sight of decades of terror perpetrated by a deranged doctor named Dr. Freudstein. The Victorian surgeon isn't done with his illegal experiments, even if he's technically in the grave.

NEXT:  10 Scariest Haunted House Movies To Never Watch Alone, Ranked

Underappreciated Horror Films Of The '80s You Haven't Seen

Tenebre sheet

Between streaming services, cable television, and VOD, the sheer volume of horror movies that fans have to choose from today is incredible — but then again, that's nothing new. For example, the number of horror movies released in the 1980s alone makes it easy for fans to have missed countless hidden gems that might have flown under the radar. Nearly everyone is familiar with the big franchises like Halloween , Friday the 13th , and Nightmare on Elm Street , but for every one of those popular movies, many others have been overlooked. Some have had limited availability, some were foreign releases, and other have just been plain forgotten over the years.

With all that in mind, we're here to celebrate the forgotten '80s horror movies that absolutely deserve to be watched. They are just as worthy as those popular horror franchises and, in many cases, even more so. These movies contain everything from flying monsters to knife-wielding maniacs, so get ready to add some new titles to your watchlists — you're going to want to see these underappreciated horror gems from the '80s.

StageFright: Aquarius (1987)​

StageFright: Aquarius  is an Italian slasher movie from 1987, directed by Michele Soavi. Haven't seen an Italian slasher film before? For the uninitiated, they aren't that different from American entries in the genre like  Friday the 13th or Halloween . In fact, one of the first films  credited for giving birth to the slasher genre was a 1971 Italian film called Bay of Blood directed by Mario Bava.

StageFright takes place almost entirely in a theater where a group of actors are rehearsing for an upcoming performance. They're putting on a murder-mystery musical involving prostitutes, dancing (lots of dancing), and a killer called Night Owl. They get locked inside the theatre overnight with a recently escaped killer and, well, the cast and crew do their best to make it through the night.

The movie ticks just about all the boxes as far as what makes a good slasher film: an extremely memorable masked killer, inventive kills, plenty of gore, and a great score. The dancing aspect is something not generally seen in horror. StageFright just oozes 1980s in every frame — the hair, costumes, and music all make it easy to see when this movie was made. Some may claim there's more style than substance and, while that may be true, the style is so amazing it makes up for anything it lacks. Soavi worked for and learned from legendary horror director Dario Argento ( Suspiria , Deep Red ) and his direction of StageFright is proof that he was a very good student.

Just Before Dawn (1981)

On paper, Just Before Dawn  might seem like your typical "group of young people go camping in the wilderness with a killer on the loose" kind of horror movie, but it's really so much more. Written and directed by Jeff Lieberman ( Squirm , Blue Sunshine ), the movie is about five young people (three guys and two gals) who drive up to the Oregon forest in order to see the land that one of them has inherited. They're warned not to go up there by the forest ranger (played by the amazing George Kennedy), but of course, they don't heed his warning... and soon regret that decision.

Just Before Dawn came out at a time when several other slasher films were vying for box office dollars, but over the years, horror fans have discovered this long-forgotten gem. The pace might feel slower than other films of its kind but that just adds to the feeling of the dread and oppression of the remote mountain location. The beauty of the woods is juxtaposed with the nightmare the campers find themselves in as the film goes on. Lieberman throws in a twist here and there, and the wild ending makes Just Before Dawn one of your not-so-typical "slasher in the woods" movies.

The Burning (1981)

There's an urban legend on the East Coast called the Cropsey — your basic boogeyman/child killer. Parents used to warn their naughty kiddos that Cropsey would get them if they didn't behave, and  The Burning  uses the Cropsey legend as inspiration for its story. They even go so far as to name the killer Cropsy — a caretaker at a summer camp (yes, another summer camp) who is horribly disfigured in a fire caused by campers who thought it would be funny to scare him. It worked a little too well — he knocked over some candles and set his place, and himself, on fire. Guess who wants to get some revenge?

On paper, The Burning seems likes a Friday the 13th wannabe, and while there are definitely similarities, the movie manages to set itself apart. Along with the interesting kills and jump scares, there are some genuinely scary bits. Another way it sets itself apart is the makeup effects provided by the legendary Tom Savini, which are superior to most films of this genre. Probably the most interesting thing about The Burning , though, is that it marks an early feature credit for future stars Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens. It came out at a time when there was a glut of slasher movies in theaters, but decades later,  The Burning  still holds up.

Tenebre (1982)

While many of the movies on this list are considered slashers, the next movie on the list,  Tenebre , is considered a giallo  — a subgenre of horror mainly made in Italy that includes things like black-gloved killers, elaborate murders, cool music, and strange titles. Giallo films were most popular in the 1970s and the director of Tenebre , Dario Argento, is considered a master of the genre. 

Peter Neal (played by Tony Franciosa) is a popular horror writer who makes a trip to Rome to promote his new book, Tenebre . As soon as he arrives, people start being murdered in ways that mirror the book. Neal grows frantic to find the killer after he's questioned by police and people he's close to start dying. The film has some really well-staged murders, something Argento is known for (see his Suspiria for more classic kills). Franciosa and his two co-stars, John Saxon and Daria Nicolodi (Argento's wife at the time) give terrific performances. The music score by Goblin, who frequently worked with Argento, is also top-notch. Tenebre 's violence is arguably excessive — not only are there kills aplenty but the kills are spectacularly bloody — but over the years, the movie has gained popularity among horror fans and is considered not only one of Argento's best giallos but one of the best of the genre overall.

Razorback (1984)

Australia is a scary country. One only has to look at their native animals to see just how scary it can be. Also, judging by a lot of Australian horror movies, the Outback is a place one goes when they want to die. Case in point:  Razorback , helmed by renowned '80s music video director Russell Mulcahy.

Razorback  is a killer animal movie — and what a killer it is: a giant man-eating boar. The animal terrorizes a local town, and after losing his wife to said boar, a man comes to town vowing to destroy the animal once and for all. As this movie was made in 1984, CGI wasn't an option, so like the shark in Jaws , the boar in the movie is animatronic. Also as in Jaws , this means you don't get to see a whole lot of boar, but no matter. One of the best things about the movie is the amazing cinematography from Dean Semler ( Mad Max 2 , Dead Calm ), which makes the whole thing look better than most of its contemporaries. The setting also helps to give the movie an extra sinister feeling. Unfortunately,  Razorback  had a limited release in the United States, so it wasn't until it reached other shores on home video that the film started to receive more appreciation.

Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

Larry Cohen was a prolific director who made several horror movies, and most of them should be watched, but we're focusing on one —  Q: The Winged Serpent . A couple of things make Q  something special: One, it's about a giant flying lizard (a Quetzalcoatl ) flying around New York City. Two, the performance given by the star of the movie, Michael Moriarty, is nothing short of extraordinary.

Jimmy Quinn (Moriarty) is a thief who is forced to take part in a heist, then goes into hiding when the heist goes bad. Someone or something is killing people in the city, and two NYPD cops (Richard Roundtree and David Carradine) try to figure it out. Quinn stumbles onto the reason people are being killed and then blackmails the cops to give him money for the information. As if that isn't enough, someone is going around town performing ritualistic murders. Monster movies are a dime a dozen, but Q manages to stand out mainly because of Moriarty — it's like he's acting in a whole other movie. The stop-motion animation might seen dated to modern audiences used to CGI, but it doesn't lessen the enjoyment of the film.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Canada isn't exactly known for its slashers, but 1981's  My Bloody Valentine  is a delightful exception. As the story begins, young people in a mining town are organizing a Valentine's Day dance — which might not sound like a big deal, but the town hasn't had one in 20 years. Turns out that's the day a miner was trapped underground after an explosion. He wasn't the only one trapped down there, but he was the only survivor — and, well, he got hungry and ate some friends. Sent to a mental hospital, the miner escaped to seek vengeance on those he deemed responsible, and you guessed it, they happened to be at the Valentine's dance. The folks trying to organize the new dance think it's time to forget about the past. Man, they just want to dance, okay? The older people in town are dead set against it. Of course, the dance goes on as planned... and, well, you can guess what happens next.

My Bloody Valentine  proves that using Valentine's Day as a backdrop for a horror movie is a perfect pairing. The kills in the movies are interesting, not just in terms of method but also the setting. The movie didn't do well at the box office upon release but it's found a second life in the decades since it became available on home media.

Alligator (1981)

Remember that urban legend about alligators in the sewer? The one where a baby alligator is flushed down the toilet and then it begins to grow down there, ready to terrorize the city? Well, that's also the premise of Alligator , written by John Sayles. You might think of Sayles as an indie director of critically acclaimed dramas, but you should also know that he's written several horror movies in addition to Alligator , including Piranha and The Howling .

In Alligator , a baby alligator gets flushed down the toilet and survives in the sewers by chomping on a seemingly endless supply of rats (which happen to be full of growth hormones). No one keeps baby alligator in the sewer, so once it becomes giganto alligator, it escapes and is ready to start eating people. Alligator isn't afraid to make fun of itself while at the same time having some genuinely scary moments. Robert Forster as the cop and Henry Silva as the big game hunter give terrific performances and are a highlight in this most enjoyable monster movie. Although it's better than most "animals gone wild" movies made after the massive success of Jaws , Alligator tends to get lost in the shuffle. Seek it out.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)​

There are a number of special things about The Slumber Party Massacre , starting with the fact that the movie was written by Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones. Having a female writer and director on a horror film these days still isn't the norm — and in 1982, it was rarer still. The movie was originally written as a satire of the slasher genre, and although producer Roger Corman wanted a straight slasher, the movie remains the satire it started out to be, taking on all the masculinity we generally see in slasher movies.

As the story begins, Trish's parents are going out of town — so, like most teenage girls in the 1980s seem to do in the movies, she decides to throw a slumber party. The girls engage in typical activities like eat pizza, drink, listen to music, and dance. A couple of boys crash the party and are invited in... and an escaped killer also decides to pay the party a visit. You can guess the rest. The Slumber Party Massacre delivers on all fronts; there are some actual tense moments, the kills are pretty great, and the gore is good. Plus, there's the added bonus of poking fun at all the things men usually do in a slasher movie.

The 14 Best '80s Halloween Movies To Watch This Spooky Season

church the cat pet sematary

The '80s is a decade that conjures up a great deal of nostalgia. For many of us who grew up in the era, Friday nights were often spent perusing the local video store for the latest VHS releases. And when Halloween rolled around, we'd head to the horror section to make our picks, seeking something a bit spookier to match the season. 

This year, as autumn kicks into high gear, you might find yourself in the mood to relive those simpler times by cueing up some classic '80s Halloween fare. Well, if you need some suggestions, look no further. We're here to make your life easier, folks. Grab some candy, light a pumpkin-spiced candle or two, dim the lights, and settle in for a spine-tingling good time, with your choice of the best '80s Halloween movies to watch for spooky season.

Halloween 2

When it comes to quintessential Halloween movies, John Carpenter's "Halloween" is surely near the top. So too, then, are its '80s-made sequels. "Halloween 2" picks up right where the first film leaves off: on Halloween night, with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) being taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital while Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) continues his pursuit of Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) after shooting him the end of "Halloween." 

A large part of "Halloween 2" takes place in the hospital, and the movie features several memorable scenes of unfortunate medical staff being killed. It also introduces a new piece of lore to the series: Laurie is actually Michael's sister. While Carpenter and Debra Hill returned as producers, Carpenter handed the director's reins over to Rick Rosenthal, who, along with returning cinematographer Dean Cundey, manages to imbue the sequel with the same eerie atmosphere and terrifying suspense as its predecessor, making it an excellent choice for a spooky season watchlist.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The next film in the "Halloween" franchise is something of an anomaly, as it's the only film in the series that does not feature Michael Myers. Instead, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" operates as a standalone seasonal tale produced once again by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who imagined that the franchise could operate as an anthology focusing on different stories set on Halloween night. 

Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, "Halloween III" stars Tom Atkins as Dr. Daniel Challis, who becomes drawn into a mystery involving a toy company named Silver Shamrock Novelties, makers of children's Halloween masks. Daniel traces the masks to their central factory, where he discovers that the company's owner, Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) is actually a pagan warlock with a sinister plan that involves sacrificing children en masse on Halloween night using his murderous masks. 

Featuring robots, witches, spooky masks, snakes, bugs, innocent trick-or-treaters, a score by John Carpenter, and one of the most memorable jingles in horror history, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" is a truly unique and terrifying take on the spooky holiday.

The Evil Dead

Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" may not be explicitly set on Halloween, but it takes place at a creepy cabin in an autumnal woods. That's close enough for us. Plus, the film features the Necronomicon, aka the Book of the Dead, first imagined by H.P. Lovecraft, which in this case is inadvertently used to summon demons who possess a group of unsuspecting friends on an ill-fated fall vacation. What could be more Halloween-y than that? 

Notable for its frenetic style and gonzo low-budget special effects and gore, "The Evil Dead" leads viewers on a descent into chaos as the group of friends, led by the heroic Ash (Bruce Campbell), fall victim to the demonic forces in the cabin as they try to survive the terrifying night. "The Evil Dead" was unleashed upon the world on October 15th, 1981, and was considered among the grisliest films of its era, leading to it being dubbed a " video nasty " in the UK. It's since gained cult status and spawned a wildly successful franchise, including the even more inventive, more gonzo, and more humorous sequel, "Evil Dead 2."


"Poltergeist" does take place on and around Halloween, but that's only a small part of its spooky appeal. The classic Steven Spielberg-produced, Tobe Hooper-directed ghost story centers on the suburban Freeling family, whose lives gets turned upside down when they that discover their housing development is haunted. 

The youngest Freeling daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is the first to make contact with the entities. After conversing with the television static, she eerily proclaims, "They're here." Other memorable moments include son Robbie (Oliver Robins) wrestling with an evil tree, an investigator peeling off his own face, and an iconic chair-stacking scene with Carol Anne and her mom, Diane (JoBeth Williams). When Carol-Anne is taken to another dimension by an entity known as "the Beast," a medium named Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) sends Diane to rescue her. 

"Poltergeist" offers tangible scares made believable thanks to the relatable family at its heart. While there is some debate among film fans and historians as to how much directorial control Hooper actually had , the result remains one of the classic chillers and belongs in your Halloween rotation.


"Ghostbusters" leans more into comedy than horror, but it has a ton of fun with its specter-centric storyline, making it a raucous, family-friendly choice that'll lighten up any spooky season. The classic movie launched a billion-dollar franchise , and made household names out of Slimer, Zuul, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, with its tale about a group of paranormal investigators led by Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) who try to save New York City from a spectral outbreak.

Ivan Reitman directed the iconic film, which also stars Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts. Sigourney Weaver also appears as Dana, the victim of a haunting who begins dating Venkman only to become possessed by a demi-god named Zuul, while Rick Moranis plays her nerdy neighbor, Louis Tully, another victim of the supernatural. And then, of course, there's the movie's classic theme song by Ray Parker Jr., who famously asks the important question, "Who you gonna call?"

Pet Sematary

"Pet Sematary," the Mary Lambert-directed adaptation of Stephen King's terrifying novel of the same name, is partially set around Halloween, and makes a perfect spooky season watch thanks to its dark themes and eerie ambience. The story is about the Creeds, who move to a small town in Maine where they soon discover that "sometimes, dead is better." 

After the family's beloved pet cat, Church, gets hit by a semi-truck, neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) tells dad Louis (Dale Midkiff) to bury him in a nearby Miꞌkmaq cemetery. When Church shows up "alive" (but decidedly creepier and less chill), it's only the beginning of the terror. Soon, the Creeds' youngest son, Gage (Miko Hughes), also gets run over. You can probably guess what happens next. 

In addition to its themes about death and letting go, "Pet Sematary” features many spooky elements, such as a talkative, brains-oozing ghost named Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist), and Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek), the long suffering teenage sister of Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby) who had spinal meningitis and was kept hidden in the attic by her family.

George A. Romero's "Creepshow" is a fun and spooky horror anthology featuring five individual tales of terror written by Stephen King, bookended by segments starring King's son, "Locke & Key" co-creator Joe Hill , as a boy named Billy whose father (Tom Atkins) admonishes him for reading a horror comic titled "Creepshow." 

Each segment, framed as a chapter from the comic, contains a unique story. "Father's Day" is about a dysfunctional family whose murdered father seeks revenge. "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" stars King himself as a backwoods loner whose encounter with a fallen meteorite leads to the growth of a strange plant. "Something to Tide You Over" follows a jealous, wealthy man (Leslie Nielsen) who drowns his wife and her lover (Ted Danson), and lives to regret it. "The Crate" is about an ancient crate discovered under a university staircase that contains a killer creature, and "They're Creeping Up on You" tells the tale of a germaphobe who is forced to confront his worst fears in the form of a growing swarm of cockroaches.

Fright Night

"Fright Night" is Tom Holland's campy vampire-next-door romp that brings the spooky to a suburban teen, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a horror fan whose favorite television program, "Fright Night," is hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), a former actor who played a vampire hunter on the silver screen. 

When a mysterious stranger named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves in next door, Charley begins to suspect that he lives next to a vampire. Along with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and best friend Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), Charley enlists the reluctant Peter's help to take Jerry down. But Jerry has other plans involving Amy, who happens to look just like his long-lost lover. 

With a special effects team led by Richard Edlund ("Poltergeist," "Ghostbusters"), and memorable performances all around, "Fright Night" is a visual feast for horror fans and a frightfully delightful homage to classic horror films, with plenty of scares and fun.

The Monster Squad

Speaking of nods to classic horror, the tween-friendly "The Monster Squad" centers around a club of young monster fanatics led by Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower) who come face-to-face with their spooky idols after stumbling upon the diary of Abraham Van Helsing. The kids soon learn that Count Dracula (Duncan Regher) and his cohorts, the Mummy, the Gill-man, and the Wolf Man, seek to plunge the world into darkness, and it's up to the fearless kids to save the day.

Directed by Fred Dekker, who co-wrote the script with Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon"), "The Monster Squad" is a fun Halloween movie that celebrates monsters (particularly those of the classic Universal variety), adventure, and the kid in all of us. No, it wasn't a hit when it was first released, but over time (and many VHS rentals) it has become a cult classic — which, for this sort of thing, really feels perfect.


It's showtime! "Beetlejuice" features one of cinema's most mischievous ghosts in its titular character, Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), the self-proclaimed "ghost with the most" who rises from the great beyond to help the newly-deceased Maitland couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) rid their home of its new, non-dead residents, the Deetz family. However, the troublemaking Beetlejuice becomes a nuisance when he decides he wants to marry the Deetz' morbidly-inclined daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder), and kill off her parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones) instead of merely scaring them away. 

Beetlejuice won an Academy Award for best makeup, while Keaton received a best actor award from the National Society of Film Critics for his zany, over-the-top performance. With a spooky score by Danny Elfman, inventively macabre production design, and memorable characters and creatures, "Beetlejuice" is a ghostly good time for the whole family.

An American Werewolf in London

Eerie moors, full moons, and werewolves all evoke Halloween. If only the backpacking protagonists of John Landis' "An American Werewolf in London" had heeded the locals' warning to "stay off the moors" and "beware the moon" after leaving the Slaughtered Lamb pub! 

But instead, American city slickers David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) find themselves attacked by a werewolf, leaving Jack dead and David injured. As David shacks up in London with a nurse, Alex (Jenny Aguttar), he begins to experience terrifying nightmares and extreme physical changes, and eventually must face the realization that he is becoming a monster himself. 

Rick Baker won one of his seven Academy Awards for best makeup for his work on "An American Werewolf in London," which features one of cinema's most intense werewolf transformation sequences, along with a humorously grisly decomposing Jack, who haunts David's dreams. Equal parts funny and scary, "An American Werewolf in London" is a Halloween classic for a reason.

The Changeling

If you like spine-tingling ghost stories and big, spooky haunted houses, "The Changeling" is the perfect Halloween movie for you. Peter Medak's influential classic has been praised by the likes of Guillermo del Toro, who called it a "masterpiece," and Martin Scorsese, who considers it one of the scariest movies of all time . 

This slow-burn chiller features George C. Scott as John Russell, a composer whose family is killed in a car accident during a vacation, which leads him to move into a remote Victorian mansion. It's not long before Russell discovers that the house is haunted, which leads him on a twisty mystery to uncover the truth behind a decades old murder. 

Soundtrack, ambiance, suspense, and psychological torment go a long way here, in addition to Scott's solidly mournful performance. There's no question that "The Changeling" is a seminal ghost movie, and some have noticed its similarities to another classic of the genre, "The Ring."

The Lost Boys

Joel Schumacher's "The Lost Boys" epitomizes '80s horror chic with a cool modern-Gothic aesthetic targeted at the teenage crowd. When the young Sam Emerson (Corey Haim) and his older brother Michael (Jason Patric) move to the coastal town of Santa Carla with their mother Lucy (Diane Wiest), they have no idea that the place happens to be overrun with leather-clad teenaged vampires. 

While Michael joins the cool kids' vampire crew, fronted by the enigmatic David (Kiefer Sutherland), young Sam conspires with the geeky, comic book-loving Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) to kill the undead clan's leader (Edward Herrmann). A seaside amusement park, an underground lair, a cool soundtrack, a sexy sax man, and memorable lines like, "My own brother, a goddamn, s**t-sucking vampire — you wait till mom finds out, buddy!" round out the ghastly fun.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

If you're looking for something a little different to watch this Halloween season, the autumn-centric dark fantasy "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is another "family friendly" film that fits the bill. Fair warning, though: For a Disney film whose intended target audience is presumably children, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is surprisingly dark. 

Adapted from Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" centers on an ominous carnival led by the enigmatic Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) that stops at a small midwestern town. When two 13-year-old friends, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, discover that Mr. Dark is granting wishes to the townsfolk at a terrible cost, the boys, along with Will's father Charles (Jason Robards), must try and stop the evil without succumbing to Mr. Dark's sinister charms. With a fitting fall setting, lots of spooky visuals, and a menacing performance by Pryce, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is a unique Halloween treat.

19 Best Horror Movies from the 80s

These are the best horror movies from the 1980s, arguably the best decade for horror cinema.

80s ghost horror movies

The decade of the 80s was one of the best periods of time for horror movies. The growing popularity of independent horror films in the 1970s led to an increased mainstream interest in the 1980s. Fueled by more eyes watching (and more money being spent), studios put out an extremely wide variety of scary movies throughout the 80s. For that reason, the biggest themes encompassing horror cinema from 1980 to 1989 are experimentation and innovation.

Best 1980s Horror Movie

With that in mind, this list counts down the greatest horror movies of the 80s with a bit of a twist. With the sheer volume of horror released in the 1980s, this list could easily grow even longer than our “60 Best Horror Movies of the 90s” list. So instead, this list will rank 19 of the best 80s horror movies that best represent a particular subgenre or category.

19. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Best movie featuring inanimate objects as killers.

Maximum Overdrive (1986).

Sure, the movie is campy and cheesy , but that’s why it’s so wonderful. Maximum Overdrive takes place in a world where various machines come to murderous life when Earth passes through the tail of a passing comet. Some of the objects attempting to kill people include a vending machine, an electric carving knife, a lawn mower, and an automated teller machine that calls writer/director Stephen King an “asshole.” The main villain in the movie is a big rig truck with a Green Goblin mask on its grill, and the truck gets his truck friends to harass a group of survivors in a truck stop led by “Brat Pack” megastar Emilio Estevez.

Other great inanimate object killer movies from the 80s:

  • The Stuff (1985) – A movie about a killer dessert.
  • Christine (1983) – A killer car movie based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.

18. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Best holiday slasher.

My Bloody Valentine (1981).

The success of movies like Halloween (1978) and Black Christmas (1974) meant one of the sub-subgenres of horror that would never go away is the holiday themed slasher film. While many movies of this type can feel gimmicky, My Bloody Valentine is a straightforward stalk-and-slash movie in the classical sense. You have a masked killer, an urban legend, and a bunch of young adults who want to party despite repeated warnings from adults. You also have a bunch of fantastically gory low-budget kills. There’s certainly a lot to love in this Valentine’s Day slasher.

Other great holiday slasher films from the 80s:

  • Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) – A classic of Christmas horror .
  • Halloween II (1981) – Jamie Lee Curtis returns for one of the best horror sequels of all time.

17. Cujo (1983)

Best killer animal movie.

Cujo (1983).

The number of killer animal movies dramatically increased towards the end of the 1970s which led to quite a few animal attack films in the following decade. Cujo is the best of the 1980s crop. Cujo is a tense film about a mother and son (Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro) who become trapped in a broken-down car while a St. Bernard with rabies waits to attack. The movie is frightening in a way that feels like it could really happen, and it’s sad in that you feel for the people as well as the dog who can’t control what he’s doing.

Other great killer animal movies from the 80s:

  • Of Unknown Origin (1983) – Peter Weller ( Robocop ) fights a giant rat in his home.
  • Monkey Shines (1988) – A paralyzed man’s service monkey becomes a killer.

16. The Lost Boys (1987)

Best vampire movie.

Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys (1987).

Featuring the two Coreys and Kiefer Sutherland in probably his most iconic role, The Lost Boys is a gem of 1980s horror. In the film, a gang of young and attractive vampires target Michael (Jason Patric) after he becomes interested in Star (Jami Gertz), a member of the gang. Michael is pulled into the dark world of vampirism, and it’s up to his younger brother (Corey Haim) and his brother’s new friends (including Corey Feldman) to save him.

Other great vampire movies from the 80s:

  • Near Dark (1987) – Director Kathryn Bigelow’s fantastic take on a group of nomadic vampires.
  • Fright Night (1985) – A young man discovers his neighbor is a vampire.

15. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Best demonic movie.

Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II (1987).

While the original The Evil Dead from 1980 is a great film itself, its sequel, Evil Dead II , refined the ideas from the first movie and solidified the personality of one of horror’s most enduring characters, Ash (Bruce Campbell). Evil Dead II also adds a very heavy layer of comedy to the proceedings which was very subdued in the first film. Ash has to spend another night in a cabin in the woods battling demonically possessed people and his own possessed hand.

Other great demonic movies from the 80s:

  • The Evil Dead (1980) – Whether this or Evil Dead II is better is very debatable.
  • Demons (1985) – Demonically possessed people rampage in a movie theater.

14. Child’s Play (1988)

Best killer doll movie.

Child's Play (1988).

In the movie that spawned a franchise which has lasted over multiple decades, a young boy comes into possession of a talking doll inhabited by the spirit of a serial killer. The tones of the Child’s Play / Chucky movies vary wildly from film to film, but one constant is Brad Dourif’s fantastic performances as the always-intense Chucky. Another constant is series creator Don Mancini’s clear love for his creation and the fearless way he repeatedly reinvents the franchise. This first film, Child’s Play (1988) from director Tom Holland, is one of the scarier of the series, with Chucky coming across as more creepy than in most other incarnations.

Other great killer doll movies from the 80s:

  • Dolls (1987) – A group of people seek shelter from a storm in a house inhabited by murderous dolls.
  • Puppet Master (1989) – Living puppets stalk a group of psychics.

13. Possession (1981)

Best psychological horror film.

Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981).

To try to describe the plot of Possession would be a huge disservice to anyone who hasn’t seen it. The basic story involves a man (Sam Neill) and a woman (Isabelle Adjani) whose marriage falls apart in increasingly disturbing ways. Possession is a mentally brutal experience that languished for a long time after its release due to objections about its content. The movie still isn’t terribly easy to find and watch (at a decent price), but it’s definitely worth seeking out for any fan of psychological horror .

Other great psychological horror movies from the 80s:

  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) – Takes place from the point of view of a serial killer based in part on Henry Lee Lucas.
  • Maniac (1980) – A killer narrates his own depraved murder spree.

12. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Best japanese horror.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989).

Tetsuo: The Iron Man is the movie that thrust rebellious Japanese filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto into a worldwide spotlight. The movie is an unforgettable body horror experience where flesh and metal blend together in a barrage of sex, violence, and madness. The plot involves a businessman (a “salaryman” to use the Japanese term) who begins to have disturbing visions. At the same time, metal starts growing out of the man’s body. Things progress from there in a senses-pummeling scenario of sights and sounds. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is required viewing for anyone looking to really get into Japanese horror .

Other great Japanese horror movies from the 80s:

  • Evil Dead Trap (1988) – A film crew falls victim to a murderer and his traps in an old warehouse in this Japanese take on a slasher movie.
  • Entrails of a Virgin (1986) – A “pink film” (a Japanese movie with lots of nudity ) featuring a bizarre monster killing a group of people stranded in a remote house.

11. Friday the 13th (1980)

Best campground slasher.

Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th (1980).

Killers and summer camps go together like chocolate and marshmallow inside a delicious campfire s’more. The original Friday the 13th is the movie that popularized the connection between murder and camp, and it is still one of the best examples of the campground slasher category. In fact, it is probably the best example of the deluge of slasher flicks that came out in the 1980s . Friday the 13th launched countless imitations because the original works so incredibly well. And, of course, it launched a whole franchise that would catapult Jason Voorhees into pop culture stardom.

Other great campground slashers from the 80s :

  • Sleepaway Camp (1983) – A memorable slasher that really puts the “ camp ” in summer camp.
  • The Burning (1981) – Similar to Friday the 13th , but with lots more gratuitous violence.

10. Creepshow (1982)

Best anthology horror.

Adrienne Barbeau in Creepshow (1982).

The anthology film (a feature-length collection of shorts) is a popular format for horror since it is a perfect way to deliver a bunch of fun scares. Possibly the greatest anthology horror flick of all time is Creepshow , a collaboration between writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero. It’s a creepy and campy film featuring stories about revenge from beyond the grave, alien plants, a monster in a crate, and a disgusting bug infestation.

Other great horror anthologies from the 80s :

  • Cat’s Eye (1985) – Also written by Stephen King, featuring a very young Drew Barrymore.
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) – Based on Rod Serling’s original TV series, produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis.

9. Tenebrae (1982)

Best italian horror.

Tenebrae (1982).

Italy’s worldwide influence on horror might have been stronger in the 60s and 70s, but Italian horror films released in the 80s were still some of the greatest fright films of the decade. Topping the list is Tenebrae (also spelled Tenebre ), a bloody giallo about an author whose violent novels are used as a source of inspiration for a mysterious killer. Directed by Dario Argento and with a soundtrack provided by former members of the progressive rock band Goblin, Tenebrae is a masterful work in the Italian tradition.

Other great Italian horror movies from the 80s :

  • Opera (1987) – Another giallo from Argento, about a series of murders in an opera house.
  • StageFright (1987) – A killer in an owl mask stalks a theater troupe locked in their rehearsal space.

8. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Best zombie movie.

Return of the Living Dead (1985).

Zombie movies were a popular subgenre of horror in the 1980s, and the living dead took many different forms throughout the decade. Its best form was brought to the screen by director Dan O’Bannon in Return of the Living Dead . The movie is a zombie comedy that intentionally tries to differentiate itself from George A. Romero’s zombies. These zombies can run, they can talk, and they want brains! The film follows the bumbling staff of a medical supply company and a group of young punks as they try to survive the night in this fun, funny, and gory flick .

Other great zombie movies from the 80s :

  • Day of the Dead (1985) – George A. Romero’s third Dead film, set in an underground bunker.
  • Re-Animator (1985) – Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton star in this film inspired by H.P. Lovecraft about a mad scientist who brings the dead back to life.

7. Aliens (1986)

Best action horror.

Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986).

Action and horror movies were both doing big business in the 80s, so it’s no surprise that the two genres would collide with great success throughout the decade. At the top of the action horror list is Aliens , James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, and Ripley returns to the site of her first contact with the alien menace to help a group of Marines wipe out the threat. The film is very different from its predecessor, allowing it to make its own indelible mark in horror history.

Other great action horror movies from the 80s :

  • Predator (1987) – Arnold Schwarzenegger battles an alien who hunts for sport in a movie that is right on par with Aliens as the best action horror movie of the 80s.
  • They Live (1988) – John Carpenter’s fantastically fun movie featuring Roddy Piper fighting back after discovering that aliens live among us.

6. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Best werewolf movie.

An American Werewolf in London (1981).

Possibly spurred on by remarkable advances in practical makeup effects during the early part of the decade, the werewolf movie had a huge surge in popularity in the 80s. Werewolf transformations were more realistic than ever, and makeup maestro Rick Baker flexed his special-effects muscles with an Academy Award winning array of visuals in An American Werewolf in London . Directed by John Landis and starring David Naughton, the film is a darkly comedic story which remains one of the best werewolf films ever made.

Other great werewolf movies from the 80s :

  • The Howling (1981) – Dee Wallace stars as a woman whose encounter with a serial killer leads her to a secluded resort that may not be any safer for her.
  • The Company of Wolves (1984) – A dark take on fairy tales.

5. The Fly (1986)

Best body horror.

Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (1986).

The Fly is director David Cronenberg’s reimagining of the 1958 sci-fi horror film (and 1957 short story) of the same name. Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle, a scientist whose body starts to fall apart and reshape itself after he teleports himself with an invention of his own creation. The film features fantastically disgusting (and award winning) special effects as Seth’s body continues to deteriorate over the course of the movie.

Other great body horror movies from the 80s :

  • Street Trash (1987) – Vagrants melt into puddles of rainbow-colored goo after drinking dangerously expired booze in this dark comedy.
  • Videodrome (1983) – A man loses his mind after coming across a brutally violent television signal.

4. Hellraiser (1987)

Best extradimensional horror.

Ashley Laurence in Hellraiser (1987).

Hellraiser is beautiful in its depiction of the dark and twisted horrors of Clive Barker’s imagination. The heart of the story involves a young woman fighting for her soul against a group of Cenobites, beings from a hell dimension who have grown beyond the limits of human experience. The movie takes the idea of cosmic horror and conveys it on a human level with body horror and some heavy emotional weight.

Other great extradimensional horror movies from the 80s :

  • Prince of Darkness (1987) – Science and religion overlap as a college professor and his students investigate a mysterious artifact underneath a monastery.
  • The Beyond (1981) – A gate to Hell may be opening beneath a hotel in this gory Italian classic from Lucio Fulci.

3. The Shining (1980)

Best ghost movie.

The Shining (1980).

The Shining is the story of a man (Jack Nicholson) losing his sanity while cooped up in a hotel occupied only by himself, his wife (Shelley Duvall), his son, and the ghosts of the hotel’s disturbing past. It is one of the most unnerving and influential horror films of all time, and it is yet another movie from the 80s based on Stephen King’s writing. King wasn’t too happy about the changes made when adapting his novel, but history shows that Stanley Kubrick’s version of King’s story has continued to resonate with horror fans for decades.

Other great ghost movies from the 80s :

  • Poltergeist (1982) – Directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist features many scenes and lines iconic in haunted house film history.
  • Beetlejuice (1988) – A recently deceased couple employ the services of a shady poltergeist to haunt away the new owners of their house in this Tim Burton comedy.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Best fantasy horror.

Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t just a fantastic movie, it’s also one of the most important films of the 1980s. Wes Craven’s movie about a serial killer chasing teens in their dreams was instrumental in revitalizing the slasher subgenre which was starting to grow old in the eyes of mainstream audiences. The film’s haunting visuals make it an effective horror movie decades after it first terrified audiences, and its killer, Freddy Krueger, has gone down in history as a pop culture icon.

Other great fantasy horror movies from the 80s :

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) – The third installment gave Freddy wisecracks and gave the kills an over-the-top aesthetic that would define the franchise.
  • Dreamscape (1984) – While not actually all that scary, Dreamscape is a fun movie about a psychic who can enter other people’s dreams, only to fight nightmares.

1. The Thing (1982)

Best alien invasion movie.

The Thing (1982).

The very best horror movie of the 1980s is claustrophobic , gory, funny, tense, and full of action. It crosses over into many of the categories already posted in this list, even though at its most basic level it is an alien invasion movie. The best 80s horror movie is John Carpenter’s The Thing .

A group researches at a remote outpost in Antarctica are visited by what they think is a dog, but they quickly learn is a shapeshifting monstrosity that can mimic other living things. Tension rises as the men realize they can’t trust that their friends are who they say they are. Plans are made and hints of what the creature might be are discovered, but plans and investigations fall apart when more and more people die in horribly gruesome ways. The Thing isn’t just the best horror movies of the 1980s, it’s one of the best movies of any decade.

Other great alien invasion movies from the 80s :

  • Night of the Creeps (1986) – A horror comedy about alien slugs that turn people into zombies.
  • The Blob (1988) – Based on the 1958 original, an alien blob grows bigger and bigger as it absorbs everything it encounters.

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.

80s ghost horror movies

10 Best Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free on Internet Archive, Ranked

With over 400,000 movies free to access on The Internet Archive, we look at the best horror movies you will find on the site.

Founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle, a free information advocate, The Internet Archive is an American digital library built to offer permanent access to researchers, historians, and scholars. Initially, the organization began by archiving the Internet itself but later expanded its collections to include texts, audio, video, and software . The organization would later develop the 'Wayback Machine,' which would make the content available to the public in 2001, and has been active since then.

Browsing The Internet Archive can lead to fascinating rabbit holes of archived media, which extends to movies, with the site hosting over 400,000 movies free to access across various genres. We will narrow our focus on horror and look at the ten best horror movies you can watch for free on The Internet Archive.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Inheriting a mansion from the family, a man soon finds that the building, which was once an asylum, holds a dark past that has cast a dark shadow over a small New England town. When a string of murders starts to take place on Christmas Eve , the inheritance of the home and its dark past seem to be connected.

A Christmas Horror Classic

Making effective use of the classic carol 'Silent Night,' Silent Night, Bloody Night is an atmospheric Christmas-themed horror movie perfect for checking out during the winter months.

The movie has also found appreciation for being a 'proto-slasher,' one of the films that predates Halloween and shows the early rumblings of the popular horror genre that would dominate the 80s. However, the movie is worth watching for its backstory, mystery, and success at creating constant tension.

Watch Silent Night, Bloody Night

The Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

While covering a test of guided torpedoes, two reporters are taken aback when they see what appears to be a strange-looking creature lurking beneath the surface. When they decided to investigate further, they discovered an underground society ruled by a mad scientist and his fish-man army. They are taken prisoner, which puts the underground society at war with the 'surface dwellers.'

Silly Sci-Fi Horror Goodness

A Japanese sci-fi horror starring the likes of Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal, and Franz Gruber, The Terror Beneath the Sea is, admittedly, unremarkable among a sea of cheesy b-movies.

That said, it is still a fun romp that fits so well into that so-bad-its-good category that it will still tickle the fancy of those seeking out purposely silly cinema. At the same time, having a legend like Sonny Chiba gives the movie an entertaining edge, especially when seeing him alongside the roughly designed fish-men.

Watch The Terror Beneath the Sea

The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The house on haunted hill.

An eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), and his wife Annabelle invite five people to a haunted house party. The guests are offered $10,000 each under the condition of having to stay the night. As the night progresses, the five find themselves coming up against all manner of terrors, including ghosts and killers. The House on Haunted Hill was also remade in 1999, following the same premise as the original.

A Classic B-Horror Movie

A campy classic highlighting the early rise of the b-movie, The House on Haunted Hill is one of the best movies by sensational director William Castle. A natural showman, Castle was also known for packing in extra 'features' into the theatrical experience with The House on Haunted Hill​ using the "Emergo" gimmick — a skeleton with glowing eyes that would fly over the audiences during certain scenes.

While one can't recapture that theatrical experience, the movie still resonates with the intended shock and sensationalism intended on release. Much of this comes from Vincent Price's performance, which is wonderfully macabre in both delivery and screen presence. The film may lack the scares for modern audiences, but it is still a wonderfully written and performed dark piece of cinematic history that should be watched at least once.

Watch The House on Haunted Hill

Horror Express (1972)

After British anthropologist Professor Alexander Saxton discovers a frozen prehistoric creature in China, he decides to transport it back to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway. However, when the creature the archaeologists find unthaws, it comes back to life and begins to kill off the passengers, causing chaos.

Uncertain about how to find the creature, distrust among the passengers becomes intense when they learn the creature is a shape-shifting alien capable of stealing memories to blend in.

Claustrophobic Horror at its Best

A unique combination of gothic horror and sci-fi, Horror Express presents a fascinating story of terror and paranoia. The movie also has several other elements that make it stand out, including the presence of iconic actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, giving memorable performances. In addition, the setting of a train makes for a wonderfully claustrophobic stage for the alien threat, all heightened by a great score.

Watch Horror Express

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)

A graveyard's caretaker decides that he must carry on his legacy and find a woman to give him a child after learning his wife cannot conceive. This leads him on a violent and profane journey, ultimately leading to the character spiraling toward his own doom. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is the first part of the 'Coffin Joe' trilogy, followed by This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Embodiment of Evil .

Related: The Best Gothic Movies of All Time

Terror in Brazil

Brazil's first horror film caused quite a stir on release , making it a notable horror film in history worth checking out. On top of its importance in cinema, the movie boasts a memorable antagonist in "Coffin Joe," a darkened figure who carries a wickedness that made director José Mojica Marins feared both off and on the screen.

The dialogue here is a true highlight, with Joe's blasphemy and violent rhetoric delivered with all the confidence of a seasoned showman-turned-villain.

Watch At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

Driller Killer (1979)

Part black comedy and part slasher, Driller Killer follows a troubled artist-turned-murderer as he goes on a killing spree across New York using a drill as his weapon of choice. The movie would mark the feature film debut of director Abel Ferrara, who would go on to cult infamy with movies like Ms .45 , Bad Lieutenant, and King of New York .

A Gritty Slasher

Taking place in the urban landscape of New York , Driller Killer perfectly captures the grit of the era. This backdrop, combined with the unapologetic nature of its killer (Reno), gives the movie an authentic punk rock vibe.

If that was not reason enough to check it out, the film has proven to be highly influential with its disjointed editing style that blurred the line between reality and fantasy. It may be a bit bleak and lacking a plot, but Driller Killer is a must-watch for those looking for gritty chaos.

Watch Driller Killer

Repulsion (1965)

Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful and shy Belgian manicurist living in London, slowly starts to withdraw from the world and begins feeling increasing paranoia. Much of these fears are aimed towards men, of which she has an intense fear and distrust thanks to daily interactions she has with a caller harassing her, and her solitude away from family. Overcome with emotion, Carol begins to hallucinate and becomes violent towards others.

A Convincing Tale of Madness

A wonderful tale of madness, Roman Polanski's Repulsion excels under the convincing performance of Catherine Deneuve. Adding elements of surrealism and unique cinematography, the '60s film feels pretty ahead of its time, and is arguably the best psychological thriller released in the era. Ultimately, Repulsion is a convincing tale of madness packed with suspense and mystery, making it an excellent film to dig deeper into on a solo watch.

Watch Repulsion

Sisters (1972)

A small-time reporter, Grace Collier (played by Jennifer Salt) ends up witnessing a crime in the apartment across from hers, but cannot convince others of what she saw. Matters become further complicated when she learns that the woman she suspects is part of a conjoined twin (played by Margot Kidder), with each having drastically different personas. The more she becomes invested in the case, the more she is drawn into the insidious nature of the twins.

Two's Company

Almost interchangeable with the previously mentioned Repulsion , Brian De Palma's Sisters also deals with themes of madness brought on by fear of men.

At the same time, the movie also utilizes creative cinematography to disorient the viewers and have them experience the same uncertainty and mental instability portrayed throughout, including the early use of split-screen as a narrative device. Still, the approach here is slightly more intense and the methods of the antagonist more malicious, giving this one a slight edge.

Watch Sisters

House (1977)

Schoolgirl Gorgeous (Kumiko Ôba) brings six classmates to her ailing aunt's country home to help her clean up and offer a joint vacation for her and her friends. However, supernatural incidents begin to occur, and the group finds themselves against all manner of ghastly horrors, including going up against a possessed cat and a haunted piano.

Related: The Best Ghost Movies Based on Books, Ranked

Pure Japanese Silliness

The synopsis for House is more of a starting point than any indication of what happens therein. Essentially, the movie is a surreal and nonsensical horror-lite movie that throws everything at the screen to scare and entertain.

Nobuhiko Obayashi's masterpiece was lost to time for a while, but has since garnered a dedicated cult following thanks to its wonderful mix of surrealism, sensationalism, and humor. House is one of a kind that will impress those who are always looking for new cinematic experiences.

Watch House (1977)

Scanners (1981)

The sci-fi horror film Scanners , follows an elite group of citizens gifted with the powers to 'scan' others, including the use of telekinetic abilities. One Scanner, Darryl Revok (played by Michael Ironside), goes renegade and starts finding other Scanners to wage a war against the corporation that is looking to use Scanners for their own purpose. The movie would spawn three sequels, and act as inspiration for the absurd Scanner Cop and its sequel.

Head Explosions Galore

Director David Cronenberg , a master of body horror who crafted some of the most memorable horror movies of the '80s from The Fly to Videodrome , hardly needs any introduction to fans of the genre.

Add in the fact that Scanners includes one of the most iconic scenes in all the director's filmography, the 'head explosion' scene, and this movie has cemented itself as a true classic. If you have been looking to check out David Cronenberg or revisit his '80s work, Scanners is a welcome addition to free films on The Internet Archive.

Watch Scanners

80s ghost horror movies

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The 10 Scariest Horror Movies Ever

We asked, you voted. from demonic possessions and cursed tvs to haunted hotels and killer clowns, here are movies that scared rt users the most..

80s ghost horror movies


If you were poking around RT a week and a half or so ago, you might have come across a little poll we were taking on the site to try and determine the Scariest Movie Ever . Based on other lists and suggestions from the RT staff, we pulled together 40 of the scariest movies ever made and asked you to vote for the one that terrified you the most. As it happens, a British broadband service comparison website decided to conduct a science experiment to determine the same thing, and their results were… surprising, to say the least. Did Rotten Tomatoes readers agree with the findings? Read on to find out what our fans determined were the 10 Scariest Horror Movies Ever.

1. The Exorcist (1973)

You may not agree that  The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever, but it probably also isn’t much of a surprise to see it at the top of our list — with a whopping 19% of all the votes cast. William Friedkin’s adaptation of the eponymous novel about a demon-possessed child and the attempts to banish said demon became the highest-grossing R-rated horror film ever and the first to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (it earned nine other nominations and took home two trophies). But outside of its critical and commercial bona fides, the film is well-known for the mass hysteria it inspired across the country, from protests over its controversial subject matter to widespread reports of nausea and fainting in the audience. Its dramatic pacing and somewhat dated effects may seem quaint compared to some contemporary horror, but there’s no denying the power the film continues to have over those who see it for the first time.

2.  Hereditary (2018)

Writer-director Ari Aster made a huge splash with his feature directorial debut, a dark family drama about the nature of grief couched within a supernatural horror film. Toni Collette earned a spot in the pantheon of great Oscar snubs with her slowly-ratcheted-up-to-11 performance as bedeviled mother Annie, but the movie’s biggest shock came courtesy of… Well, we won’t spoil that here. Suffice it to say  Hereditary struck such a nerve with moviegoers that it instantly turned Aster into a director to watch and shot up to second place on our list.

3.  The Conjuring (2013)

James Wan has staked out a place among the modern masters of horror, directing films like  Saw ,  Dead Silence ,  Insidious , and this inspired-by-true-events chiller based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens, best known for their work on the strange case that inspired the  Amityville Horror movies (which played a part in The Conjuring 2 ), were portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who grounded the effective jump scares and freak-out moments with a believable world-weariness. Together, Wan and his co-leads found fresh terror in familiar genre tropes, and the end result is a sprawling cinematic universe that only continues to grow.

4.  The Shining (1980)

Literally dozens of Stephen King’s novels and stories have been adapted for the big screen, and several of those films are considered classics today, like  Carrie ,  Misery , and  Pet Sematary (and that doesn’t even account for non-horror stuff like  The Shawshank Redemption and  Stand By Me ). But the mother of them all is easily Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of  The Shining . A marvel of set and production design and a genuinely unnerving take on the traditional haunted house story,  The Shining features a host of memorable images and an iconic Jack Nicholson performance. The film’s relatively few jump scares are still absolutely chilling, but its true power lies in the way it crawls under your skin and makes you experience Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness. It’s rightfully considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, and it ranked fourth in our poll.

5.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

While the top four movies on this list collectively garnered 42% of the total votes counted, they were followed by six films that all earned around 3% of the vote each. In other words, these last six films were separated by no more than 60 votes. The first of them is this low-budget slasher directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper, very loosely inspired by the crimes of Ed Gein.  Texas Chainsaw’ s grimy aesthetic helped lend it an air of authenticity, which made it all the more frightening (“This could  actually happen , you guys!”), and the massive, menacing presence of Gunnar Hansen’s Leatherface paved the way for other brutes like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Multiple attempts have been made to breathe new life into the franchise, but none have equaled the original in sheer, over-the-top, power tool-inspired terror.

6.  The Ring (2002)

It’s always a tricky proposition to take something that works well for one culture and try to translate that formula successfully for another, but Gore Verbinski managed that with  The Ring . A remake of Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s acclaimed thriller about a cursed videotape, Verbinski’s take kept the original film’s striking visual imagery — the  ghost of a young girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face — and found that it scared the hell out of audiences no matter where they were from. While the film wasn’t as well-regarded as its predecessor, it features a committed performance from a then up-and-coming Naomi Watts, and for many, it served as an introduction to East Asian horror cinema.

7.  Halloween (1978)

Coming in at the seventh spot on our list is the film that introduced the world to all-time scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and put John Carpenter on the map.  Halloween is frequently cited as one of the earliest examples of the slasher genre as we know it today, and while it may not feature the same kind of realistic gore we’ve come to expect of films in that category, it packs a lot of tension and some inventive thrills in a relatively small-scale package. The film’s legacy is also fairly untouchable: Michael Myers’ mask has become the stuff of legend, and the giant, unstoppable killer and the “final girl” have become ingrained in the horror lexicon. There’s a reason the franchise is still going after more than 40 years.

8.  Sinister (2012)

For those who didn’t read the “scientific study” mentioned at the top, we’ve finally come to the film it crowned the scariest. Before he joined the MCU with 2016’s  Doctor Strange , director Scott Derrickson had racked up a few horror films, a couple of which earned cult followings. One of them was this small-scale haunted house/possession story about a true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) who moves his wife and kids into a house where a family was murdered, only to discover the new place might already have a rather evil tenant. Writer C. Robert Cargill was reportedly inspired to pen the script based on a nightmare he had after watching  The Ring , and the story does share a minor similarity with that film, what with the creepy snuff film angle. But for many who saw it, the dramatic reveals and creepy set pieces far outweighed any recycled genre tropes that might have been present. Plus, there’s at least one report out there that says it’s the scariest movie ever made, so that has to count for something.

9.  Insidious (2010)

James Wan has already appeared higher on this list, but before he and Patrick Wilson made The Conjuring , they worked together on this supernatural thriller about a young boy who falls into a coma and begins to channel a malevolent spirit. The bare bones of the story weren’t the most groundbreaking, but frequent Wan collaborator Leigh Whannell infused it with a compelling enough mythology that it spawned four more installments. Wan also stated that Insidious was meant to be something of a corrective to the outright violence of  Saw , which compelled him to craft something on a more spiritual level, and the end result is an effective chiller featuring what is frequently regarded as one of the best jump scares ever put on screen.

10.  IT (2017)

The fear of clowns is a very real thing, even if it’s become so commonplace to announce it that it feels disingenuous. If you needed any further evidence, we direct you to the box office haul of 2017’s  IT , based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which went on to beat  The Exorcist’ s 44-year record as the highest-grossing horror film ever. Oh, and of course, its 10th-place finish on this list. Andy Muschietti’s big-budget adaptation drew on nostalgia to tell its story of children scarred by trauma, while Bill Skarsgard’s take on Pennywise the evil, shapeshifting clown was bizarre and unsettling in all the right ways. Add a healthy dose of jump scares, a handful of impressive set pieces, and some top-notch CGI, and you’ve got a recipe for a horror film that’s both fun and full of scares.

Thumbnail image by ©FilmDistrict courtesy Everett Collection

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11 “Eco-Horror” Movies that Shocked the 1970s

In the 1970s, a new breed of scary movie came clawing its way into theaters, and with “eco-horror” cinema, film lovers got to experience a darker side of Mother Nature.

By Mark Mancini | Jan 9, 2024

A scene from 'Frogs' (1972).

What did Richard “ Tricky Dick ” Nixon have to do with an obscure little horror film about giant, man-eating rabbits? More than you’d probably think. 

It all goes back to the rise of environmental activism after World War II , as issues like pollution, deforestation, and laws around endangered species all became hot-button issues. Books like the 1962 call-to-arms bestseller Silent Spring by Rachel Carson contributed, too, as the tome linked a sharp decline in wild bird populations to the overuse of DDT, then a commonly used insecticide.

Silent Spring sold a million copies within two years and underscored how significant these mounting concerns over environmental safety were, while disasters like the 1969 Cleveland-area river fire triggered an even greater outcry. In response, then-President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, and Earth Day was born that very same year. 

Hollywood kept pace with the times, and a new breed of scary movie came clawing its way into theaters. Dubbed “eco-horror” cinema , films in this genre pit mankind against Mother Nature and often imagine a world where human greed, hubris, or just plain old carelessness have pushed the environment to its absolute limit. Something’s got to give, and when the proverbial dam finally breaks, the human characters within a film are often left to the mercy of everything from killer bugs to mutant fish. 

Today, the 1970s are fondly remembered as the golden age of eco-horror. Here are 11 must-see titles from that bell-bottomed decade that you don’t want to miss.

1. Frogs (1972) 

Some might say revenge is a dish best served slimy. Sam Elliott —sans mustache—stars in this oddball morality tale from director George McCowan. Elliott plays wildlife photographer Pickett Smith, a guest at the island mansion of Jason Crockett (Ray Milland), a cranky Southern millionaire who is hosting a birthday party around the 4th of July. The only problem? His guests keep getting murdered by frogs, snakes, spiders, alligators, and the like. You can hardly blame the animals for lashing out though; as the audience soon learns, Crockett has polluted the land with dangerous pesticides.

Frogs had its critics when it came out in 1972, but the movie felt topical. Pesticides were all over the news that year, which is when the EPA issued a crackdown on DDT . The film’s marketing campaign underscored its conservationist message; in the official trailer , the narrator notes: “Suppose nature gave a war … and suppose that the polluters, the species on Earth called man, were the enemy in that war.”

2. Night of the Lepus (1972) 

Based on The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon, Night of the Lepus just might be the greatest lagomorph horror movie ever made. (Granted, there’s not much competition.) The plot gets rolling when an ill-conceived lab experiment creates a horde of bloodthirsty rabbits. Did we mention that each one’s about the size of a forklift, too? Because yeah, that’s also a factor here—and the effects team used a combination of live rabbits, miniature buildings, and the classic “grown-man-in-a-killer-bunny-suit” technique to pull it off.

Clearly, none of this is great news for the Arizona town these hopping carnivores decide to invade. “The script was quite good,” said actress Janet Leigh ( Psycho ), who stars in the flick. “The only thing that nobody had the foresight to see was that even if you make a rabbit 6 feet tall, he’s still an Easter Bunny. You just want to burst out laughing because you have this herd of giant rabbits that are supposed to be menacing, and they’re bunny rabbits. There was nothing we could do to make them frightening.”

3. Grizzly (1976) 

Grizzly is considered one of the first Jaws copycats—though it takes the action to dry land, exchanging the killer shark for a killer bear. Instead of slaughtered beachgoers, we get a cast of perfectly edible campers at a forested national park.

Shot in Clayton, Georgia, Grizzly was a financial hit (if not a critical one), reportedly grossing $30 million against its $750,000 budget. A sequel, titled Grizzly II: Revenge , began production in 1983, but wouldn’t end up being released until almost four decades later, in 2020. Speaking of that latter movie: It’s got an early attack scene which includes not one, not two, but three future celebrities: George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, and Laura Dern. 

4. The Food of the Gods (1976)

You are what you eat, and when it comes to The Food of the Gods , that’s exactly what you’re in for. The 1976 grindhouse flick centers around a mysterious ooze that, if consumed, turns animals into giants. When a Canadian farmer discovers the stuff, he uses it to grow extra-large chickens. But his birds aren’t the only ones who take a liking to the goo. Before long, the area is swarming with colossal rats and wasps that—surprise!—decide to go on a killing spree.

The Food of the Gods , which was adapted from a 1904 H.G. Wells novel, used prop animal heads for certain shots. Other scenes involved live rats scuttling over miniature sets à la Night of the Lepus . And in case you were wondering, critics absolutely tore this movie to shreds: Roger Ebert gave it a one-star rating while his longtime partner Gene Siskel awarded it just one half of a star in his scathing Chicago Tribune review . Ouch.

5. Squirm (1976) 

Squirm was inspired by a childhood science experiment. As kids, director Jeff Lieberman and his older brother once used electrified model train gear to draw wriggling earthworms out of the soil in their backyard. Good thing those creepy crawlies didn’t feast on human flesh—unlike the very angry, very hungry worms who eat their way through a Southern town in Lieberman’s directorial debut.

MGM released this gorefest horror flick in 1976. Fast-forward to 1999, when the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured (and picked on) Squirm in a season 10 episode. Lieberman wasn’t pleased. “I don’t care about goofing on the movie, I tell the audience to goof on the movie,” he explained to Birth. Movies. Death. in 2013. “What I was furious about is that some jerk at MGM sold it to them. They pay so little.” Lieberman owns a percentage of the film and believed getting the Mystery Science Theater treatment would “cheapen the value of the movie from then on.” 

6. Day of the Animals (1977) 

A shirtless Leslie Nielsen fights a bear in this movie and— spoiler alert —he loses. That might be one of the big takeaways from 1977’s Day of the Animals , which was directed by William Girdler , who had made Grizzly only a year prior.

This time, Girdler had a whole menagerie of killer beasts to work with, as Day of the Animals shows helpless people being devoured by dogs, swarmed by rats, and, in one case, pushed off a cliff by some grouchy hawks. You might call that cruelty, or you might call it karma. According to the movie, those critters only started murdering people because they were literally driven insane after mankind weakened the Earth’s ozone layer. ( Ozone depletion and the products responsible for it had become a serious issue by the 1970s; a 1974 scientific research paper about this very topic won a Nobel Prize for its authors.)

7. Orca (1977) 

“Nature’s greatest pricks.” That’s how Captain Nolan, played by Richard Harris, describes Orcinus orca , a marine mammal better known as the killer whale . He’s got no love for the species; after slaughtering a pregnant female near the coast of Nova Scotia, Nolan is stalked to the ends of the Earth (literally) by its vengeful mate.

Orca was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, who was fresh off his 1976 King Kong remake, starring Jessica Lange. Hoping to outgross Jaws , De Laurentiis ordered scriptwriter Luciano Vincenzoni to “[find] a fish tougher and more terrible than the Great White.” We won’t say how, but at one point in this movie, the titular whale manages to set a coastal village on fire. Oh and while you’re here, keep an eye out for a young Bo Derek, who makes a pre- 10 (1979) appearance in the flick.    

8. Empire of the Ants (1977)

Empire of the Ants is another eco-horror flick inspired by an H.G. Wells story, and it has a lot in common with The Food of the Gods . Both movies are about creatures who grow to unnatural sizes when their diets change; this time we get to see giant ants (“gi-ants?”) that’ve bulked up by eating radioactive waste.

Empire of the Ants and The Food of the Gods were also directed by the same person: B-movie legend Bert I. Gordon. He created the visual effects for both films as well, and Empire tricks the eye by merging close-up ant footage with wider shots of the human characters. “Of course, we never saw our foes [the ants],” said actor Robert Pine in an interview with film historian Tom Weaver. “To show you the importance of the human beings in this picture, there was an 11-week shooting schedule … five weeks for the human beings and six weeks for the ants.” 

9. Piranha (1978) 

How’s this for a backhanded compliment? Steven Spielberg himself called Piranha “the best of the Jaws ripoffs.” Ripoff or not, the 1978 film by director Joe Dante offers up some biting political commentary: It’s all about a Texas river system that gets infested with genetically altered super piranhas .

Turns out, the creatures were top-secret bioweapons the U.S. government had engineered for the Vietnam War. “Our goal was to develop a strain of this killer fish that could survive in cold water and then breed at an accelerated rate,” admits their creator, a beleaguered scientist played by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) alumnus Kevin McCarthy. One of the hardest scenes to shoot featured actress Belinda Balaski, whose character is dragged underwater and eaten alive. Crew members had to pull her across a swimming pool with a long rope—after she’d already been covered in rubber piranhas . What a trooper!   

10. The Swarm (1978) 

By now, you may have noticed a trend of “nature strikes back” movies that somehow managed to bag celebrity talent. The Swarm cast perennial Oscar darling Sir Michael Caine in the lead role, and his interest was purely financial: Caine said he only took the job because his mother “needed a house to live in.” (He said the same thing for his appearance in 1987’s critically reviled Jaws: The Revenge , claiming: “Then I made Jaws 4 because [my mother] was lonely and I needed to buy her a bigger house, which she could live in with all of her friends. It’s that simple.”)

A box-office bomb about invasive African killer bees, The Swarm had a theatrical runtime of 116 minutes, though a longer, 156-minute cut of the film is now available on home video. It’s estimated that somewhere between 15 million and 22 million live bees were used in the production. Some of them reportedly even pooped on Caine . 

11. Prophecy (1979) 

When a New England paper mill starts illegally dumping mercury, the wildlife doesn’t react too well. Enter Katahdin, a mutated bear who goes after lumberjacks and campers. The carnage eventually leads an EPA representative to the scene, along with his pregnant wife (played by Talia Shire, of Rocky fame).

Though most critics panned this 1979 film from director John Frankenheimer ( The Manchurian Candidate ), it won over novelist Stephen King . “I must admit here that I not only liked Prophecy , I actually saw it three times … For me, settling into Prophecy is as comfortable as settling into an old easy-chair and visiting with good friends,” King wrote in his 1981 nonfiction book, Danse Macabre .

Prophecy helped start the decades-long trend of American films shooting on location in Vancouver, Canada to capitalize on tax incentives and low production costs. Our pal Katahdin is yet another monster brought to life by costumed actors: One of the suit performers who portrayed the beast onscreen was the late Kevin Peter Hall . An actor of great stature, standing over 7 feet tall, Hall would go on to play Harry the lovable sasquatch in Harry and the Hendersons and the man-hunting creatures in the first two Predator movies. 

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Obscure '80s Horror Movies You Should Know About

Kellie Haulotte

There are plenty of ' 80s horror movies out there that have captivated and scared audiences throughout the years. That also means that some have disappeared and people have either never watched them or forgot about them. There are some obscure '80s horror that are some of the best horror movies , but don't have the biggest audience like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th has.

These movies listed have charm, cheese, and many screams to delight fans. The criteria is that they can either be so bad that they are good (the '80s was a good era for that) or that they are just plain good because of the story, effects, or acting.

So if you're looking for something to add to your movie night or bored with the usual fare in the '80s horror realm, you'll then find something that will keep you entertained and of course horrified. Here is a list of 16 of the best horror movies you haven't seen from the 1980s.

Funeral Home

Funeral Home

Turning an old funeral home into a bed and breakfast is never a good idea, especially when your guests start disappearing. It's a lesson that a young woman and her grandmother soon learn enough. It's a mix of a Gothic tale (young woman in peril visiting relatives) and a slasher (crazed lunatic killing off people).  

Night School

Night School

Night School  is an urban slasher, so there's no summer camp here! The killer's victims of choice are college coeds. Considered a video nasty in England, this early entry into the slasher genre will give you second thoughts about traveling to an aquarium and going on merry-go-rounds.  


Possession  is perhaps Andrej Zulawski's most well-known film, and for several good reasons. Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill are at the top of their games here, portraying a couple whose relationship is unraveling - but unfortunately, their minds are unraveling as well. One of the best cinematic depictions of the descent into madness out there, with a fantastic synth score, gorgeously bleak cinematography, and a story as insane as its characters, Moreover, the film is set in crumbling, squalid West Germany, and thus it provides an historical document to the Berlin Wall and Germany's former division.   

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Microwave Massacre

Microwave Massacre

Be warned: the above trailer is quite NSFW (lots of boobs).

The Demons of Ludlow

The Demons of Ludlow

Street Trash

Street Trash

Having a fancy wine and cheese party? Are you a punk who loves subversion and trollery? Then relabel all your bottles as “Tenafly Viper” wine and make your guests watch  Street Trash . They'll have their fill of cheese from the movie, and they likely won't have an appetite to boot. 

The Video Dead

The Video Dead

The Video Dead  is one of those zombie movies that doesn't get enough attention, though that might change, given the restored release from Scream Factory.   

Dracula's Widow

Dracula's Widow

Sylvia Kristel is probably best known to audiences for her role as the titular character in the Emmanuelle movies, though here she plays, as the title suggests, the pining widow of the long-dead count. It's also worth mentioning that  Christopher Coppola ,  nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and the brother of Nicolas Cage, made his directorial debut on this film.

Lady in White

Lady in White

Perhaps better categorized as "dark fantasy" than horror, Lady in White  (inspired by the urban legend of the same name) is none-the-less a wonderful and now mostly-forgotten chiller than blends real terror - a child killer - with supernatural entities both frightening and benevolent. Writer and director Frank LaGoggia employs a less-is-more approach to his scares, and it pays off nicely here.   

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Pin (1988)

A rather odd entry, Pin follows the story of Leon, a quiet boy whose only friend is an anatomical dummy from his father's medical office, which might actually be alive. It's basically what would have happened if David Cronenberg made Child's Play . The film features Terry O'Quinn as Dr. Linden, at the time already famous for playing the title character (with much sinister relish) in The Stepfather , and who would go on to make important appearances on The X-Files , as well as star as John Locke on Lost .  


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Brian Yuzna ( Bride of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead III ) makes his directorial debut here, and he explores the dangers of consumerism and conformity, utilizing repulsive and absurd practical effects and body horror (in the tradition of David Cronenberg and George A. Romero) to make a broader statement about American sociological woes.   

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Deadly Blessing

Deadly Blessing

Written and directed by the late Wes Craven, Deadly Blessing might seem like a test film, preparing the filmmaker for his next and arguably best movie A Nightmare on Elm Street . True, there are several scene that are reproduced shot for shot in the latter film (the infamous Freddy glove emerging from the bathtub, for one, only here it is a snake), but that doesn't mean Deadly Blessing should be ignored. Craven shows his adeptness at crafting believable and (mostly) likable characters, especially with the heroine Martha (Maren Jensen), who doesn't act like your typical Scream Queen.  

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The Best Horror Movies of the 1980s

The eighty-nine best, most successful, and/or most influential movies of the 1980's. I analyze reviews from horror critics, fans, and filmmakers to determine the "must-see" films for hardcore horror buffs.

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1. Altered States (1980)

R | 102 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A psycho-physiologist experiments with drugs and a sensory-deprivation tank and has visions he believes are genetic memories.

Director: Ken Russell | Stars: William Hurt , Blair Brown , Bob Balaban , Charles Haid

Votes: 37,943 | Gross: $19.85M

2. Dressed to Kill (1980)

R | 104 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A mysterious blonde woman kills one of a psychiatrist's patients, and then goes after the high-class call girl who witnessed the murder.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Michael Caine , Angie Dickinson , Nancy Allen , Keith Gordon

Votes: 47,213 | Gross: $31.90M

3. Friday the 13th (1980)

R | 95 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A group of camp counselors trying to reopen a summer camp called Crystal Lake, which has a grim past, are stalked by a mysterious killer.

Director: Sean S. Cunningham | Stars: Betsy Palmer , Adrienne King , Jeannine Taylor , Robbi Morgan

Votes: 155,427 | Gross: $39.75M

4. Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980)

R | 102 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy

A rickshaw driver's wife and his rich client are secret lovers, and they decide to get rid of him without being implicated, so they hire a powerful sorcerer to kill him, but the sorcerer's colleague intervenes to protect him.

Director: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung | Stars: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung , Fat Chung , Lung Chan , Ha Huang

Votes: 2,702

5. The Changeling (1980)

R | 107 min | Horror, Mystery

After the death of his wife and daughter in a car crash, a music professor staying at a long-vacant Seattle mansion is dragged into a decades-old mystery by an inexplicable presence in the mansion's attic.

Director: Peter Medak | Stars: George C. Scott , Trish Van Devere , Melvyn Douglas , Jean Marsh

Votes: 39,278

6. The Fog (1980)

R | 89 min | Horror, Thriller

An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Adrienne Barbeau , Jamie Lee Curtis , Janet Leigh , John Houseman

Votes: 81,859 | Gross: $21.38M

7. The Shining (1980)

R | 146 min | Drama, Horror

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson , Shelley Duvall , Danny Lloyd , Scatman Crothers

Votes: 1,089,807 | Gross: $44.02M

8. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton , Jenny Agutter , Joe Belcher , Griffin Dunne

Votes: 118,491 | Gross: $30.57M

9. Dead & Buried (1981)

R | 94 min | Horror, Mystery

A suspense horror film set in a small coastal town where, after a series of gory murders commited by mobs of townspeople against visiting tourists, the corpses begin to come back to life.

Director: Gary Sherman | Stars: James Farentino , Melody Anderson , Jack Albertson , Dennis Redfield

Votes: 14,606 | Gross: $0.22M

10. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

R | 90 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.

Director: George Mihalka | Stars: Paul Kelman , Lori Hallier , Neil Affleck , Keith Knight

Votes: 24,506 | Gross: $5.67M

11. Possession (1981)

R | 124 min | Drama, Horror

A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.

Director: Andrzej Zulawski | Stars: Isabelle Adjani , Sam Neill , Margit Carstensen , Heinz Bennent

Votes: 41,047 | Gross: $1.11M

12. Scanners (1981)

R | 103 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A scientist trains a man with an advanced telepathic ability called "scanning" to stop a dangerous Scanner with extraordinary psychic powers from waging war against non scanners.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jennifer O'Neill , Stephen Lack , Patrick McGoohan , Lawrence Dane

Votes: 60,809 | Gross: $14.23M

13. The Burning (1981)

R | 91 min | Horror

A former summer camp caretaker, horribly burned from a prank gone wrong, lurks around an upstate New York summer camp bent on killing the teenagers responsible for his disfigurement.

Director: Tony Maylam | Stars: Brian Matthews , Leah Ayres , Brian Backer , Larry Joshua

Votes: 21,868

14. The Howling (1981)

After a bizarre and near deadly encounter with a serial killer, a television newswoman is sent to a remote mountain resort whose residents may not be what they seem.

Director: Joe Dante | Stars: Dee Wallace , Patrick Macnee , Dennis Dugan , Christopher Stone

Votes: 39,639 | Gross: $17.99M

15. The Prowler (1981)

R | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

An unknown killer, clad in World War II U.S. Army fatigues, stalks a small California town, bent on reliving a 35 year-old double murder by focusing on a group of college kids holding an annual graduation dance.

Director: Joseph Zito | Stars: Vicky Dawson , Christopher Goutman , Lawrence Tierney , Farley Granger

Votes: 12,769

16. The Evil Dead (1981)

NC-17 | 85 min | Horror

Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Bruce Campbell , Ellen Sandweiss , Richard DeManincor , Betsy Baker

Votes: 229,711 | Gross: $2.40M

17. Wolfen (1981)

R | 115 min | Horror, Thriller

A New York cop investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks.

Director: Michael Wadleigh | Stars: Albert Finney , Diane Venora , Edward James Olmos , Gregory Hines

Votes: 11,325 | Gross: $10.63M

18. Cat People (1982)

R | 118 min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

A young woman's sexual awakening brings horror when she discovers her urges transform her into a monstrous black leopard.

Director: Paul Schrader | Stars: Nastassja Kinski , Malcolm McDowell , John Heard , Annette O'Toole

Votes: 23,579 | Gross: $7.00M

19. Creepshow (1982)

R | 120 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Five grisly tales from a kid's comic book about a murdered father rising from his grave, a bizarre meteor, a vengeful husband, a mysterious crate's occupant, and a plague of cockroaches.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: Hal Holbrook , Leslie Nielsen , Adrienne Barbeau , E.G. Marshall

Votes: 52,533 | Gross: $21.03M

20. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

R | 98 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Kids all over America want Silver Shamrock masks for Halloween. Doctor Daniel Challis seeks to uncover a plot by Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran.

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace | Stars: Tom Atkins , Stacey Nelkin , Dan O'Herlihy , Michael Currie

Votes: 60,297 | Gross: $14.40M

21. Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

R | 93 min | Crime, Fantasy, Mystery

NYPD detectives Shepard and Powell are working on a bizarre case of a ritualistic Aztec murder. Meanwhile, something big is attacking people of New York and only greedy small time crook Jimmy Quinn knows where its lair is.

Director: Larry Cohen | Stars: David Carradine , Michael Moriarty , Candy Clark , Richard Roundtree

Votes: 9,289

22. Tenebrae (1982)

R | 101 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

An American novelist visiting Rome to promote his latest book is stalked and harassed by an obsessed fan who is committing a string of murders that appear to be tributes to his work.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: Anthony Franciosa , Giuliano Gemma , John Saxon , Daria Nicolodi

Votes: 26,940

23. The Dark Crystal (1982)

PG | 93 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and to restore order to his world.

Directors: Jim Henson , Frank Oz | Stars: Jim Henson , Kathryn Mullen , Frank Oz , Dave Goelz

Votes: 70,675 | Gross: $40.58M

24. The Thing (1982)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell , Wilford Brimley , Keith David , Richard Masur

Votes: 458,461 | Gross: $13.78M

25. Angst (I) (1983)

Not Rated | 87 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A troubled man gets released from prison and starts taking out his sadistic fantasies on an unsuspecting family living in a secluded house.

Director: Gerald Kargl | Stars: Erwin Leder , Robert Hunger-Bühler , Silvia Ryder , Karin Springer

Votes: 13,136

26. Christine (1983)

R | 110 min | Horror, Thriller

A nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind of its own and his nature starts to change to reflect it.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Keith Gordon , John Stockwell , Alexandra Paul , Robert Prosky

Votes: 91,110 | Gross: $21.20M

27. The Dead Zone (1983)

R | 103 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability to foresee future events.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Christopher Walken , Brooke Adams , Tom Skerritt , Herbert Lom

Votes: 76,102 | Gross: $20.77M

28. The Man with Two Brains (1983)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi

A brain surgeon marries a femme fatale whose life he saved, causing his life to turn upside down. Things go even more awry when he falls in love with a telepathic brain.

Director: Carl Reiner | Stars: Steve Martin , Kathleen Turner , David Warner , Paul Benedict

Votes: 27,594 | Gross: $10.10M

29. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

PG | 101 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

Four horror and science fiction segments, directed by four famous directors, each of them being a new version of a classic story from Rod Serling 's landmark television series.

Directors: Joe Dante , John Landis , George Miller , Steven Spielberg | Stars: Dan Aykroyd , Albert Brooks , Vic Morrow , Doug McGrath

Votes: 40,709 | Gross: $29.50M

30. Videodrome (1983)

R | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A programmer at a TV station that specializes in adult entertainment searches for the producers of a dangerous and bizarre broadcast.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: James Woods , Debbie Harry , Sonja Smits , Peter Dvorsky

Votes: 101,329 | Gross: $2.12M

31. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Teenager Nancy Thompson must uncover the dark truth concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of the spirit of a serial killer with a bladed glove in their dreams, in which if they die, it kills them in real life.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Heather Langenkamp , Johnny Depp , Robert Englund , John Saxon

Votes: 259,145 | Gross: $25.50M

32. Blood Simple (1984)

R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

The owner of a seedy small-town Texas bar discovers that one of his employees is having an affair with his wife. A chaotic chain of misunderstandings, lies, and mischief ensues after he devises a plot to have them murdered.

Directors: Joel Coen , Ethan Coen | Stars: John Getz , Frances McDormand , Dan Hedaya , M. Emmet Walsh

Votes: 103,282 | Gross: $2.15M

33. Ghostbusters (1984)

PG | 105 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy

Three parapsychologists forced out of their university funding set up shop as a unique ghost removal service in New York City, attracting frightened yet skeptical customers.

Director: Ivan Reitman | Stars: Bill Murray , Dan Aykroyd , Sigourney Weaver , Harold Ramis

Votes: 439,430 | Gross: $238.63M

34. Gremlins (1984)

PG | 106 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

A young man inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.

Director: Joe Dante | Stars: Zach Galligan , Phoebe Cates , Hoyt Axton , John Louie

Votes: 244,972 | Gross: $148.17M

35. Night of the Comet (1984)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls fighting against cannibal zombies and a sinister group of scientists.

Director: Thom Eberhardt | Stars: Catherine Mary Stewart , Kelli Maroney , Robert Beltran , Sharon Farrell

Votes: 23,485 | Gross: $14.42M

36. Razorback (1984)

R | 95 min | Horror, Thriller

As a vicious wild boar terrorizes the Australian outback, the husband of one of the victims is joined by a hunter and a farmer in a search for the beast.

Director: Russell Mulcahy | Stars: Gregory Harrison , Arkie Whiteley , Bill Kerr , Chris Haywood

Votes: 7,709 | Gross: $0.15M

37. The Company of Wolves (1984)

R | 95 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A teenage girl in a country manor falls asleep while reading a magazine, and has a disturbing dream involving wolves prowling the woods below her bedroom window.

Director: Neil Jordan | Stars: Sarah Patterson , Angela Lansbury , David Warner , Graham Crowden

Votes: 18,139 | Gross: $4.39M

38. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

PG | 102 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

A troubled boy dives into a wondrous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: Noah Hathaway , Barret Oliver , Tami Stronach , Gerald McRaney

Votes: 154,483 | Gross: $20.16M

39. Threads (1984 TV Movie)

TV-MA | 112 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The effects of a nuclear holocaust on the working class city of Sheffield, England and the eventual long-term effects of nuclear war on civilization.

Director: Mick Jackson | Stars: Karen Meagher , Reece Dinsdale , David Brierly , Rita May

Votes: 19,262

40. Angel's Egg (1985 Video)

Not Rated | 71 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

A mysterious young girl wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying a large egg.

Director: Mamoru Oshii | Stars: Mako Hyôdô , Jinpachi Nezu , Keiichi Noda

Votes: 11,605

41. Cat's Eye (1985)

PG-13 | 94 min | Comedy, Horror, Thriller

A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.

Director: Lewis Teague | Stars: Drew Barrymore , James Woods , Alan King , Kenneth McMillan

Votes: 27,832 | Gross: $13.09M

42. Come and See (1985)

Not Rated | 142 min | Drama, Thriller, War

After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.

Director: Elem Klimov | Stars: Aleksey Kravchenko , Olga Mironova , Liubomiras Laucevicius , Vladas Bagdonas

Votes: 93,480

43. Day of the Dead (1985)

Not Rated | 101 min | Horror, Thriller

As the world is overrun by zombies, a group of scientists and military personnel sheltering in an underground bunker in Florida must determine how they should deal with the undead horde.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: Lori Cardille , Terry Alexander , Joseph Pilato , Jarlath Conroy

Votes: 73,590 | Gross: $5.80M

44. Fright Night (1985)

R | 106 min | Horror

A teenager believes that the newcomer in his neighborhood is a vampire. He turns to an actor in a television horror show for help to deal with the undead.

Director: Tom Holland | Stars: Chris Sarandon , William Ragsdale , Amanda Bearse , Roddy McDowall

Votes: 77,580 | Gross: $24.92M

45. Lifeforce (1985)

R | 101 min | Action, Horror, Mystery

A race of space vampires arrives in London and infects the populace, beginning an apocalyptic descent into chaos.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Steve Railsback , Mathilda May , Peter Firth , Frank Finlay

Votes: 28,933 | Gross: $11.60M

46. Mr. Vampire (1985)

PG-13 | 96 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy

The planned reburial of a town elder goes awry as the corpse resurrects into a hopping, bloodthirsty vampire, targeting everyone responsible for digging the grave. A Taoist Priest and his two disciples attempt to stop the terror.

Director: Ricky Lau | Stars: Ching-Ying Lam , Siu-Ho Chin , Ricky Hui , Moon Lee

Votes: 4,513

47. Re-Animator (1985)

Unrated | 84 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

After an odd new medical student arrives on campus, a dedicated local and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue.

Director: Stuart Gordon | Stars: Jeffrey Combs , Bruce Abbott , Barbara Crampton , David Gale

Votes: 70,512 | Gross: $2.02M

48. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

R | 91 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.

Director: Dan O'Bannon | Stars: Clu Gulager , James Karen , Don Calfa , Thom Mathews

Votes: 67,820 | Gross: $14.24M

49. Vampires in Havana (1985)

Not Rated | 80 min | Animation, Comedy, Horror

A vampire family from Cuba is preparing for a showdown between the USA vampires and the Eastern European vampires. But with the aid of a scientist, they need a type of vaccination where they can live in daylight.

Director: Juan Padrón | Stars: Frank González , Manuel Marín , Irela Bravo , Carlos Gonzalez

Votes: 1,447

50. Aliens (1986)

R | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Decades after surviving the Nostromo incident, Ellen Ripley is sent out to re-establish contact with a terraforming colony but finds herself battling the Alien Queen and her offspring.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sigourney Weaver , Michael Biehn , Carrie Henn , Paul Reiser

Votes: 753,179 | Gross: $85.16M

51. Blue Velvet (1986)

R | 120 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Isabella Rossellini , Kyle MacLachlan , Dennis Hopper , Laura Dern

Votes: 212,469 | Gross: $8.55M

52. From Beyond (1986)

R | 85 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A group of scientists have developed the Resonator, a machine which allows whoever is within range to see beyond normal perceptible reality. But when the experiment succeeds, they are immediately attacked by terrible life forms.

Director: Stuart Gordon | Stars: Jeffrey Combs , Barbara Crampton , Ted Sorel , Ken Foree

Votes: 29,880 | Gross: $1.26M

53. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Unrated | 83 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

Arriving in Chicago, Henry moves in with ex-con acquaintance Otis and starts schooling him in the ways of the serial killer.

Director: John McNaughton | Stars: Michael Rooker , Tracy Arnold , Tom Towles , Mary Demas

Votes: 39,879 | Gross: $0.61M

54. In a Glass Cage (1986)

Unrated | 110 min | Drama, Horror

A former Nazi child-killer is confined in an iron lung inside an old mansion after a suicide attempt. His wife hires him a full-time carer, a mysterious young man who is driven slowly mad by the old man's disturbing past.

Director: Agustí Villaronga | Stars: Günter Meisner , David Sust , Marisa Paredes , Gisèle Echevarría

Votes: 4,981

55. Manhunter (1986)

R | 120 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Former FBI profiler Will Graham returns to service to pursue a deranged serial killer dubbed "the Tooth Fairy" by the media.

Director: Michael Mann | Stars: William Petersen , Kim Greist , Joan Allen , Brian Cox

Votes: 79,653 | Gross: $8.62M

56. Night of the Creeps (1986)

R | 88 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a killing zombie. Some teenagers start to fight against them.

Director: Fred Dekker | Stars: Jason Lively , Tom Atkins , Steve Marshall , Jill Whitlow

Votes: 25,726 | Gross: $0.59M

57. The Fly (1986)

R | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jeff Goldblum , Geena Davis , John Getz , Joy Boushel

Votes: 198,745 | Gross: $40.46M

58. The Hitcher (1986)

R | 97 min | Action, Mystery, Thriller

A young man who escapes the clutches of a murderous hitchhiker is subsequently stalked by the hitcher and framed for his crimes.

Director: Robert Harmon | Stars: Rutger Hauer , C. Thomas Howell , Jennifer Jason Leigh , Jeffrey DeMunn

Votes: 51,649 | Gross: $5.84M

59. A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Unrated | 98 min | Action, Fantasy, Horror

After a string of bad luck, a debt collector has no other choice than to spend the night in a haunted temple, where he encounters a ravishing female ghost and later battles to save her soul from the control of a wicked tree demon.

Director: Siu-Tung Ching | Stars: Leslie Cheung , Joey Wang , Wu Ma , Wai Lam

Votes: 10,906

60. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

R | 96 min | Fantasy, Horror

A psychiatrist familiar with knife-wielding dream demon Freddy Krueger helps teens at a mental hospital battle the killer who is invading their dreams.

Director: Chuck Russell | Stars: Heather Langenkamp , Robert Englund , Craig Wasson , Patricia Arquette

Votes: 89,079 | Gross: $44.79M

61. Angel Heart (1987)

X | 113 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A private investigator is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn.

Director: Alan Parker | Stars: Mickey Rourke , Robert De Niro , Lisa Bonet , Charlotte Rampling

Votes: 94,576 | Gross: $17.19M

62. Anguish (1987)

A controlling mother uses telepathic powers to send her middle-aged son on a killing spree.

Director: Bigas Luna | Stars: Zelda Rubinstein , Michael Lerner , Talia Paul , Àngel Jové

Votes: 4,230 | Gross: $0.23M

63. Dolls (1986)

R | 77 min | Horror

A dysfunctional family of three stop by a mansion during a storm -- father, stepmother, and child. The child discovers that the elderly owners are magical toy makers and have a haunted collection of dolls.

Director: Stuart Gordon | Stars: Ian Patrick Williams , Carolyn Purdy-Gordon , Carrie Lorraine , Guy Rolfe

Votes: 12,607

64. Evil Dead II (1987)

R | 84 min | Comedy, Horror

Ash Williams, the lone survivor of an earlier onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits, holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Bruce Campbell , Sarah Berry , Dan Hicks , Kassie Wesley DePaiva

Votes: 179,860 | Gross: $5.92M

65. Fatal Attraction (1987)

R | 119 min | Drama, Thriller

A married man's one-night stand comes back to haunt him when that lover begins to stalk him and his family.

Director: Adrian Lyne | Stars: Michael Douglas , Glenn Close , Anne Archer , Ellen Latzen

Votes: 95,421 | Gross: $156.65M

66. Hellraiser (1987)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

A woman discovers the newly resurrected, partially formed, body of her brother-in-law. She starts killing for him to revitalize his body so he can escape the demonic beings that are pursuing him after he escaped their sadistic underworld.

Director: Clive Barker | Stars: Andrew Robinson , Clare Higgins , Ashley Laurence , Sean Chapman

Votes: 138,465 | Gross: $14.56M

67. Near Dark (1987)

R | 94 min | Horror

A small-town farmer's son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is bitten by a beautiful drifter.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow | Stars: Adrian Pasdar , Jenny Wright , Lance Henriksen , Bill Paxton

Votes: 44,013 | Gross: $3.37M

68. Predator (1987)

R | 107 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.

Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger , Carl Weathers , Kevin Peter Hall , Elpidia Carrillo

Votes: 447,457 | Gross: $59.74M

69. Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (1987 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 93 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

After the death of Shaggy's Uncle Beaureguard, he, Scooby, and Scrappy arrive at his uncle's plantation to collect the inheritance. But as soon as they arrive, they find it is haunted by ... See full summary  »

Directors: Paul Sommer , Carl Urbano , Ray Patterson | Stars: Don Messick , Casey Kasem , Sorrell Booke , William Callaway

Votes: 4,905

70. StageFright (1987)

Unrated | 90 min | Horror, Thriller

A group of stage actors lock themselves in the theater for a rehearsal of their upcoming musical production, unaware that an escaped psychopath has sneaked into the theater with them.

Director: Michele Soavi | Stars: David Brandon , Richard Barkeley , Barbara Cupisti , Domenico Fiore

Votes: 9,043

71. Street Trash (1987)

Unrated | 91 min | Comedy, Horror

A liquor store owner sells alcoholic beverages to homeless people, unaware of what the bottles actually contain: toxic brew.

Director: J. Michael Muro | Stars: Mike Lackey , Bill Chepil , Vic Noto , Mark Sferrazza

Votes: 11,264

72. The Hidden (1987)

R | 97 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A cop and an FBI agent race for answers after law abiding people suddenly become violent criminals.

Director: Jack Sholder | Stars: Kyle MacLachlan , Michael Nouri , Claudia Christian , Clarence Felder

Votes: 22,225 | Gross: $9.75M

73. The Lost Boys (1987)

After moving to a new town, two brothers discover that the area is a haven for vampires.

Director: Joel Schumacher | Stars: Jason Patric , Corey Haim , Dianne Wiest , Barnard Hughes

Votes: 158,602 | Gross: $32.22M

74. The Monster Squad (1987)

PG-13 | 82 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy

A group of young monster fanatics attempts to save their hometown from Count Dracula and his monsters.

Director: Fred Dekker | Stars: Andre Gower , Robby Kiger , Stephen Macht , Duncan Regehr

Votes: 34,928 | Gross: $3.77M

75. The Stepfather (1987)

After murdering his entire family, a man marries a widow with a teenage daughter in another town and prepares to do it all over again.

Director: Joseph Ruben | Stars: Terry O'Quinn , Jill Schoelen , Shelley Hack , Charles Lanyer

Votes: 17,912 | Gross: $2.49M

76. Beetlejuice (1988)

PG | 92 min | Comedy, Fantasy

The spirits of a deceased couple are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Alec Baldwin , Geena Davis , Michael Keaton , Annie McEnroe

Votes: 332,571 | Gross: $73.71M

77. Child's Play (1988)

R | 87 min | Horror, Thriller

A struggling single mother unknowingly gifts her son a doll imbued with a serial killer's consciousness.

Director: Tom Holland | Stars: Catherine Hicks , Chris Sarandon , Alex Vincent , Brad Dourif

Votes: 114,867 | Gross: $33.24M

78. Dead Ringers (1988)

R | 116 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jeremy Irons , Geneviève Bujold , Heidi von Palleske , Barbara Gordon

Votes: 52,732 | Gross: $9.13M

79. Evil Dead Trap (1988)

Unrated | 102 min | Horror

A late night TV presenter receives a snuff tape, in which a woman is brutally killed. She decides to take a crew out to a location indicated in the tape, but only death and despair await them.

Director: Toshiharu Ikeda | Stars: Miyuki Ono , Aya Katsuragi , Hitomi Kobayashi , Eriko Nakagawa

Votes: 3,636

80. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

PG-13 | 88 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Aliens who look like clowns come from outer space and terrorize a small town.

Director: Stephen Chiodo | Stars: Grant Cramer , Suzanne Snyder , John Allen Nelson , John Vernon

Votes: 44,635 | Gross: $15.63M

81. Pin (1988)

R | 103 min | Horror, Thriller

Isolated by his strange parents, Leon finds solace in an imaginary friend, which happens to be an anatomy doll from his father's doctor office. Unfortunately, the doll begins to take over Leon's life, and his sister's life as well.

Director: Sandor Stern | Stars: David Hewlett , Cynthia Preston , Terry O'Quinn , Bronwen Mantel

Votes: 5,172

82. Pumpkinhead (1988)

R | 86 min | Fantasy, Horror

After a tragic accident, a man conjures up a towering, vengeful demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy a group of unsuspecting teenagers.

Director: Stan Winston | Stars: Lance Henriksen , Jeff East , John D'Aquino , Kimberly Ross

Votes: 27,221 | Gross: $4.39M

83. The Blob (1988)

R | 95 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A deadly entity from space crash-lands near a small town and begins consuming everyone in its path. Panic ensues as shady government scientists try to contain the horrific creature.

Director: Chuck Russell | Stars: Shawnee Smith , Kevin Dillon , Donovan Leitch Jr. , Jeffrey DeMunn

Votes: 42,515 | Gross: $8.25M

84. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

R | 98 min | Fantasy, Horror

An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.

Director: Wes Craven | Stars: Bill Pullman , Cathy Tyson , Zakes Mokae , Paul Winfield

Votes: 27,384 | Gross: $19.60M

85. The Vanishing (1988)

Not Rated | 107 min | Mystery, Thriller

Rex and Saskia, a young couple in love, are on vacation. They stop at a busy service station and Saskia is abducted. After three years and no sign of Saskia, Rex begins receiving letters from the abductor.

Director: George Sluizer | Stars: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu , Gene Bervoets , Johanna ter Steege , Gwen Eckhaus

Votes: 42,708

86. They Live (1988)

R | 94 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Roddy Piper , Keith David , Meg Foster , George 'Buck' Flower

Votes: 142,912 | Gross: $13.01M

87. Santa Sangre (1989)

NC-17 | 123 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A former circus artist escapes from a mental hospital to rejoin his armless mother - the leader of a strange religious cult - and is forced to enact brutal murders in her name as he becomes "her arms".

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky | Stars: Axel Jodorowsky , Blanca Guerra , Guy Stockwell , Thelma Tixou

Votes: 22,955

88. Society (1989)

R | 99 min | Comedy, Horror

An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite.

Director: Brian Yuzna | Stars: Billy Warlock , Concetta D'Agnese , Ben Slack , Evan Richards

Votes: 21,543

89. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Not Rated | 67 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.

Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto | Stars: Tomorô Taguchi , Kei Fujiwara , Nobu Kanaoka , Shin'ya Tsukamoto

Votes: 25,453

90. The Funhouse (1981)

R | 96 min | Horror

Four teenagers visit a local carnival for a night of innocent amusement, but soon discover that nothing there is innocent or amusing.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Elizabeth Berridge , Shawn Carson , Jeanne Austin , Jack McDermott

Votes: 16,011 | Gross: $7.89M

91. Alone in the Dark (1982)

R | 92 min | Horror, Thriller

A few dangerous and delusional mental patients break out of a mental asylum during a power blackout, and lay siege to their new doctor's house, who, they believe, killed their previous doctor.

Director: Jack Sholder | Stars: Jack Palance , Donald Pleasence , Martin Landau , Dwight Schultz

Votes: 6,884

92. The Toxic Avenger (1984)

R | 82 min | Action, Comedy, Horror

Tromaville has a monstrous new hero. The Toxic Avenger is born when meek mop boy Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste. Now evildoers will have a lot to lose.

Directors: Michael Herz , Lloyd Kaufman | Stars: Andree Maranda , Mitch Cohen , Jennifer Babtist , Cindy Manion

Votes: 31,577

93. Sole Survivor (1984)

R | 85 min | Horror, Thriller

A lone survivor of a plane crash is haunted by a feeling unworthy of survival. Dead people start coming after her to collect her.

Director: Thom Eberhardt | Stars: Anita Skinner , Caren L. Larkey , Peggy McClure , Roberta Kay

Votes: 2,462

94. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

PG | 115 min | Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape from Earth and return to his home planet.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Henry Thomas , Drew Barrymore , Peter Coyote , Dee Wallace

Votes: 432,403 | Gross: $435.11M

95. Phenomena (1985)

R | 116 min | Crime, Horror, Mystery

A young girl who has an amazing ability to communicate with insects is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: Jennifer Connelly , Donald Pleasence , Daria Nicolodi , Dalila Di Lazzaro

Votes: 29,582

96. Inferno (1980)

An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: Leigh McCloskey , Irene Miracle , Eleonora Giorgi , Daria Nicolodi

Votes: 23,607

97. White Dog (1982)

PG | 90 min | Drama, Horror

A trainer attempts to retrain a vicious dog that's been raised to attack black people.

Director: Samuel Fuller | Stars: Kristy McNichol , Christa Lang , Vernon Weddle , Jameson Parker

Votes: 10,668

98. Alice (1988)

Not Rated | 86 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

A surrealistic revision of Alice in Wonderland.

Director: Jan Svankmajer | Stars: Kristýna Kohoutová , Camilla Power

Votes: 13,802

99. Summer Camp Nightmare (1986)

PG-13 | 89 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A group of campers revolt against their strict camp director and take over the camp for themselves.

Director: Bert L. Dragin | Stars: Chuck Connors , Charlie Stratton , Harold Pruett , Adam Carl

100. House (1985)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

A troubled writer moves into a haunted house after inheriting it from his aunt.

Director: Steve Miner | Stars: William Katt , Kay Lenz , George Wendt , Richard Moll

Votes: 29,558 | Gross: $19.44M

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The 7 Best Holiday-Themed Horror Movies

Posted: November 25, 2023 | Last updated: November 25, 2023

  • Horror movies set during holidays add an extra bit of fun and suspense to the genre, making them perfect for fans of both horror films and the holiday season.
  • From black comedy to intense suspense, these holiday-themed horror films offer a variety of experiences for different audiences.
  • Whether you're looking for a thought-provoking comedy-drama/horror film or a terrifying tale set against the backdrop of Christmas, these movies will leave you entertained and filled with dread.

While Halloween is the holiday people immediately associate with the horror genre, there are plenty of horror movies set during other festive times of the year. Hollywood's certainly capitalized on that, with horror movies being set on Christmas, Valentine's Day, and other holidays. Horror is a successful genre year-round, but something about the holidays adds an extra bit of fun to the horror genre.

This transitional time of the year is the perfect time for fans of both horror films and of the holiday season to check out these movies, which cleverly mix yuletide glee with suspense and terror. Whether someone is looking for family-friendly horror, comedy-horror, or a more intense trek into suspense and horror, these are some of the best holiday-themed horror films to watch this season.

Silent Night (2021) is a Gleefully Dreadful Comedy-Horror

Available on amazon prime video, sling tv, and a few other streaming platforms, silent night (2021).

This film follows a group of friends and families who all come together to celebrate Christmas. What makes this night unique, however, is that everyone believes it is their last night on Earth. An apocalyptic storm containing poisonous gases of unknown origins is set to arrive and kill them all the following morning.

While more of a black comedy and a drama, this film transitions into horror as the hours pass and the characters each struggle to come to terms with their impending dooms. The night does not go according to plan, leading to conversations about morality and death which often oscillate between hilarity and terror.

Silent Night's twist ending is perhaps the most intriguing thing about the film. It leaves audiences with many big questions to ponder, including the nature of people's relationships with the planet, with the government, and with each other. This film is perfect for audiences looking for a comedy-drama/horror film that will make them laugh, think, and fill them with dread .

Black Christmas (2019)

Available on netflix, hulu, and a few other platforms.

This remake of the 1974 original follows a group of sorority sisters who are staying on campus for winter break. As the women make preparations to celebrate Christmas, they start getting hunted one-by-one by a sinister stranger -- or strangers -- with a vendetta against them.

This film effectively packs on the terror by contrasting the joy, peace, and beauty of the holiday season with the fear that comes from stalking and deadly encounters. In this film, Christmas lights become weapons and snow angels become omens of death. The true horror of Black Christmas , however, is the real threat of violence that some women, unfortunately, face on college campuses and beyond. The way the movie addresses this issue with its feminist messaging makes Black Christmas a great remake that is both terrifying and relevant to the modern world.

Related: 15 Horror Movies That Are Perfect For The Christmas Holidays

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Available on amazon prime video, apple tv, and more, the conjuring 2.

This film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they assist the Hodges family, who are being terrorized by paranormal events in their home and whose daughter, Janet, appears to be possessed. The film effectively builds tension through mounting scares that boil over into thrilling action sequences against supernatural threats.

The dark, gray, and often cloudy setting adds to the terror by creating the perfect environment for dark entities to lurk in the shadows. The setting is made all the more eerie by the inclusion of red stockings that sit upon a dreary fireplace and a Christmas tree that looks strangely bleak in the Hodges' haunted home. Instead of enjoying the feelings of togetherness that come with the holidays, the Hodges must contend against Valak, the main antagonist of The Conjuring Universe . This demonic entity announces its presence in the film's soundtrack with a creepy rendition of the Christmas song, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

Although this film is part of the franchise based on the experiences of the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren, it can be enjoyed and understood as its own, stand-alone film. Even director James Wan considers The Conjuring 2 to be a Christmas horror movie .

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Available on amazon prime video, vudu, apple tv, and other platforms, paranormal activity: the ghost dimension.

This film follows the Fleege family, who have recently purchased and moved into a new home with their six-year-old daughter, Leila. As Christmas approaches, the family discovers creepy videotapes in the home which have documented rituals involving a demonic cult. This coincides with the discovery of a mysterious video camera in the home which can record otherworldly beings. Leila also begins acting strange, as she appears to communicate with a demonic entity.

The scares build throughout the film as the family learns more about the cult that is targeting their daughter and as Leila's behavior becomes increasingly alarming. The terror is only increased by the unnerving contrast of the havoc the demon wreaks on the home with the comforting mood created by the Christmas tree , lights, and other decorations throughout the home. Much like the previous entry, despite being part of the Paranormal Activity film franchise , this movie can also be enjoyed as its own horror film which brings fear and chaos to what is supposed to be a warm and joyous time of the year.

Related: 10 Excellent (But Obscure) Holiday Horror Movies You Can Stream Right Now

Krampus (2015)

Available on peacock, hulu, amazon prime video, and other platforms.

This film follows the dysfunctional Engel family who come together to celebrate Christmas. The arguing among the family members causes them to lose their Christmas spirit and causes the young boy, Max, to lose his belief in Santa Claus. This summons Krampus, a demonic entity from European folklore , who the family must contend with, along with the threat posed by the arrival of a severe snowstorm.

The film effectively twists the warmth and joy of the holiday season into terror and chaos , as the family is attacked by Krampus' horrifying gingerbread and toy minions. The tension stays high as the family battles for survival in their home that is overrun with demonic threats and which has turned dark and freezing due to a power outage caused by the snowstorm. The ending of Krampus , however, is the best part of the film, which cleverly delivers surprises that drive home the horror and which may leave audiences with their jaws on the ground as the credits roll.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The nightmare before christmas.

This beloved film follows Jack Skellington -- the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town -- who finds himself in a new world when he stumbles into Christmas Town. Confused, yet entranced, he hopes to bring Christmas to his town with his own, unique, Halloween twist. He also intends on taking over Santa Claus' role in Christmas Town.

A fun, stop-motion, musical film, The Nightmare Before Christmas is not nearly as terrifying as the previous entries. However, it still has much to offer as a horror film with its cast of creepy, yet endearing, characters and the terror they wreak by bringing an unnerving twist to Christmas. The Nightmare Before Christmas' catchy songs , stunning art style, and heart-warming ending make this a holiday-horror film that can be enjoyed any time of year by people of all ages .

Gremlins (1984)

Available on amazon prime video, vudu, apple tv, and more.

This classic, beloved film follows a family -- and eventually, a town -- which is attacked by aggressive creatures, called gremlins, on Christmas Eve. Although much less horrifying than the previous entries and much more family-friendly, Gremlins still has much to offer as a horror film, as the gremlins wreak havoc, kill innocent people, and attack their friendly counterparts, known as mogwai. The film even includes a playful twist on gore as the townspeople fight back against and kill gremlins, covering set pieces in their green blood. Ultimately, Gremlins is the perfect holiday-themed horror film for people of all ages . The Gremlins TV show is also a great way to enjoy family-friendly horror all year round.

The 7 Best Holiday-Themed Horror Movies

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