The Best 1980s Horror Movies

The Best 1980s Horror Movies

When the Video Home System (VHS) was invented in the late 1970s, things became more interesting in the movie industry. Since audiences now experienced entertainment from the comfort of their homes, the home entertainment technology subverted the cinema. Truly, by the early 1980s, more than thirty percent of Americans had access to the system in their homes. And several film production companies such as Columbia Pictures, Artisan Entertainment, Interscope Pictures, and Disney had started releasing films. By 1986, video sales had outsold cinema tickets. With more access to television and cinema meant the rise of horror, and the 1980s was fantastic for the horror genre. That is why we made a list for the best 1980s horror movies.

Now, the rise of video technology in the 1980s not only ushered in an extended trend of movies, but it also heralded the golden era of the horror movie genre. Horror movies of this decade boasted of famous and established artists. Compared to the 1970s’, the subject matters exceeded scares and thrills. They became more intense, gripping, focused, and entertaining. Again, the productions were exceptional, quite characterized by immersive gory pictures and special visual effects. So, it is not a surprise that contemporary horror movies take a cue from them. Considering the above….

Here are 10 of the most intriguing horror movies of the 1980s!

10. Children of the Corn [1984]

“Outlander. Outlander. We have your woman.”

Stephen King's Children of the Corn

At the tenth spot in this best 1980s horror movies list is Children of the Corn. Let’s begin this list with the horrific tales of Nebraska children. It was a movie based on a short story of the same name which Stephen King wrote in 1977. Unlike the story Stephen King wrote, the movie features a lot of violence. In the film, the draft focused on a physician, Burt Stanton (played by Peter Horton), and his girlfriend Vicky (a role taken by Linda Hamilton). While Burt drove across the Middle West to his new job, he made a stop in Gatlin, Nebraska, where things turned ghastly.

Who would have thought that children could threaten the existence of older people? This reality was the dark ambiance of the story depicts. Unusually, children highly populated the local town. These children served a local idol, “The one behind the row,” which lives in the cornfield. Under the influence of this idol, they perpetrated blistering horror. Thus, the dreadfulness of these children saw a couple of older people in the town flee for their lives.

9. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 [1988]

“Your suffering will be legendary, even in hell!”

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellbound: Hellraiser II is an excellent horror movie. The artistic displays of horror that this film possesses seals its position on this list. The story involved excerpts from the metaphysical and religious beliefs about hell and the god of hell, Leviathan. Clive Barker, the movie’s producer, shared thoughts from Hellraiser I. Then, Tony Randel raised these thoughts a notch higher in the making of the Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II well depicted the face of horror. Here, we find Kristy (Ashley Lawrence), who was put in a psychiatric prison after the occurrence in Hellraiser I. After she got a message in blood from her hellbound father, Dr. Channard, she wanted to save him. This was “hell-raising” for her. While Demons began to harass her, she must solve the forbidden puzzle she took.

8. Prince of Darkness [1987]

“Hello — Hello — I’ve got a message for you — and you’re not going to like it.”

Prince of Darkness

The right choice of phrase to describe the eighth movie on this list is “supernatural horror.” Prince of Darkness is the second in John Carpenter’s movie series called the “Apocalypse Trilogy,” bookended by The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness.

This storyline is that of a priest played by Donald Pleasence (Father Loomis). With the help of Professor Birack, a role taken by Victor Wong, Father Loomis discovered Satan’s spirit as a green-like material in a cylinder container. What happened when this substance spilled? The spillage then spiraled into an unending stint of events that evoke supernatural horror in the hearts of its viewers.

7. Return of the Living Dead [1985]


The Return of the Living Dead

This seventh pick, The Return of the Living Dead, comes with a lot of intensity since it came with a surge of zombies. Perhaps the best edge this classic movie had over its peers is the humor it bears alongside its horror.

James Karen, who played foreman Frank, and Thom Matthews as a new employee, Freddy, star in this movie. All it took the klutzes duo of Frank and Freddy to unleash flesh-eating zombies was the accidental chemical disposal on a cemetery site, a grave mistake that now requires survival.

6. Poltergeist [1982]

“You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.”


The Poltergeist is one of the best 1980s horror movies and is well deserving of the number six ranking in this list of the best 1980s horror movies. The talented pair of Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg spearheaded the creation of The Poltergeist. While relatively unknown performers made up the cast, the producer and the director were the real stars. They brought special effects and realistic violence well known about their previous horror movies. However, the effects were not all there was to this ever-green movie. The Poltergeist depicted the sense of intimacy and strength that the family often shows.

The Poltergeist is the story of a family being assaulted by ghosts. After the family recently moved into a new house, their dream home soon became a house of hell. The evil in the house even possessed their innocent daughter. When picking horror movies, only a handful command as much respect as The Poltergeist.

5. The Shining [1980]

“I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to smash your brains in.”

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

Most watchers consider the 1980’s The Shining as the best adaptation of a Stephen King story. Even though King’s first hardback bestseller was the Shining, it became the third of his novels to receive a film adaption. Stanley Kubrick directed this classic psychological horror movie. Surprisingly, it is a Christmas movie.

The series of horrific events in this movie featured Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. Jack and his family moved into the Overlook Hotel situated far in the mountains. As Jack gradually lost touch with reality during their stay, his family found themselves facing danger. Meanwhile, his psychic abilities to see into the violent past of the hotel contributed largely to his inability to separate the normal from the paranormal.

4. The Howling [1981]

“There was howling just a minute ago.”

The Howling - Best 1980s Horror Movies

The fourth movie on the list is a fun werewolf movie. The good performance in this movie matched its detailed effects. Initially, The Howling was a 1977 novel that was written by Gary Brandner. Many refer to The Howling as a PTSD serial killer movie.

Dee Wallace stared in this movie as a television newswoman by the name Karen White. A serial killer, who the police had gunned down, haunted her. Thus, her near-death trauma led her to a remote mountain resort with her husband, R. William, played by Christopher Stone. This resort, its residents, especially the self-help specialist there, are unfortunately not what they seem.

3. Inferno [1980]

“There are mysterious parts in that book, but the only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people.”

Dario Argento's Inferno - Best 1980s Horror Movies

Dario Argento worked a masterpiece with this one. After showing us his love for the supernatural and metaphysical sights and sounds in the movie Suspiria, he goes forth to make Inferno. Who knew uncanny events would take longer than normal to unfold or express? This was how Dario was able to startle the audience of Inferno.

The plot circles around a house in New York, which feeds on the spirits of those who enter into it. Now, Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle), who is a poetess, learns about the mystic nature of her house. That knowledge frightened her. She called her brother for help, but she was dead before help came. Still, a lot more evil unfold, whose reveals rendered viewers helpless.

2. The Thing [1982]

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

John Carpenter's The Thing - Best 1980s Horror Movies

As the first runner up, we have the horror/sci-fi movie, The Thing. The likes of John W. Campbell (Writer), John Carpenter (Director), and so on came together to make this horror classic. Critics and audiences alike know The Thing for its gruesome share of fear and paranoia. Thus, little wonder, this movie earned the rating as one of the best horror movies of all time.

In the beginning, the film saw a Norwegian helicopter chase a sled dog in the cold region of Antarctica. The efforts to shoot the dog, unfortunately, led up to the base camp of American research scientists. These scientists took the dog in, but their decision backfired. Throughout the film, the Pilot, R.J MacReady, played by the popular Kurt Russell, and the camp doctor, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), led the team’s efforts to eradicate this vicious creature. The resulting search led to a series of events that would keep you on the edge of your seat till the last scene.

1. The Evil Dead II [1987]

“I’ll swallow your soul!”

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II - Best 1980s Horror Movies

At the very top of the list sits part two of the three-movie series, The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi does well to engage the eyes and minds of the watchers of this movie, which is a mix of humor and horror. Furthermore, the camera angles used by Raimi to depict the gore of the movie only affirms that The Evil Dead II stands out in the horror genre.

Bruce Campbell portrayed Ash Williams, the main character. He takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) to a cabin in the woods. After the playing of an audiotape led to the emergence of soul-gagging demons, Ash then embattles possessed animal heads, a witch in a cellar, and even his hand at a point. The humor does not extend to the actual scare in the movie. Thus, Evil Dead II is arguably one of the scariest films you can choose to watch.

Well, now there you have it – the top 10 horror movies of the ’80s! The credits given to these movies as excellent works are largely due to the technological advancements of the decade, making the gory pictures vivid and believable. The use of better visual effects effectively pushed the hard work of the latex craftsmen to the fore. Of course, being the golden age of the horror genre, other movies competed favorably with the above. However, these movies are exceptional and would always surface among the top-ranking horror movies of the ’80s.

About the Author

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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