15 Essential Horror Movies: The 1980s

The best in horror from 1980-1989

The 1980s was a decade of camp—from the fashion to the music to the movies. Many of the top films, including those in the horror genre, couldn’t help but to be incredibly campy—as it was just part of the time. Now, looking back, we’re able to reminisce on this peculiar era and enjoy all the wonderful, wacky and weird horror movies that came out during this decade.

The 1980s gave rise to many popular horror franchises, including “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th,” whose antagonists crossed paths several times in later years. There was also a number of films released in this decade which were based on stories by horror novelist Stephen King, including “The Dead Zone,” “Children of the Corn” and everyone’s favorite, “The Shining.”

If you’re in the mood for a good scream and a few laughs, take a peek at 15 of our favorite horror movies from the 1980s in the gallery below. Then let us know your favorite movie on this list in the comments section on social media.

“Aliens” (1986)

A sequel to 1979’s “Alien,” this film brought actress Sigourney Weaver to center stage and was a major entertainment milestone for women in horror.

“The Evil Dead” (1981)

In this film, five college students visit a remote cabin and after four of them are possessed by demonic spirits brought on by an audio recorder, protagonist Ash Williams must vanquish evil.

“Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn” (1987)

A parody sequel to the original film, “Evil Dead II” eclipsed the first movie at the box office and is beloved by the cult classic community to this day.

“Children of the Corn” (1984)

Based on the short story by Stephen King, this movie is both campy and creepy—and what more could you ask for from 1980’s horror?

“The Fly” (1986)

Before appearing in “Jurassic Park,” Jeff Goldblum starred in the science-fiction flick “The Fly,” in which a scientist has an experiment go wrong and begins turning into a fly-human hybrid.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

The first in the franchise, this movie revolved around a group of teens being terrorized in their dreams by Freddy Krueger—a horror character who would go on to become one of the most notorious killers in film history.

“Re-Animator” (1985)

Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s 1922 novella, it follows a medical student who invents a reagent which can re-animate the dead.

“The Dead Zone” (1983)

Another film based on a story by Stephen King, Christopher Walken plays a teacher who wakes up from a coma to find that he now has psychic powers.

“The Shining” (1980)

The 1980’s started out with a bang with this gem, with protagonist Jack Torrance going mad while taking care of the Overlook Hotel with his family. Two words: “Here’s Johnny!”

“An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

This 1981 film follows two Americans backpacking through England when suddenly, one of them is attacked by a creature and becomes a werewolf.

“Child’s Play” (1988)

Another horror film to launch a host of sequels, the original follows a young boy who’s gifted a doll that’s been possessed by the soul of a serial killer.

“Hellraiser” (1987)

Director Clive Barker introduced audiences to cenobites in 1987’s “Hellraiser,” which are sadomasochistic creatures who live in an extradimensional realm. The group is led by Pinhead, one of the most shocking and terrifying horror characters ever created.

“Friday the 13th” (1980)

In the first installment of the franchise, Mrs. Voorhees wrecks havoc on the teens of Camp Crystal Lake, seeking revenge for her son Jason’s wrongful death.

“Poltergeist” (1982)

Produced and written by Stephen Spielberg, this film follows a family whose home is infected with malevolent ghosts who’ve abducted their young daughter.

“The Thing” (1982)

Set in Antarctica, a group of researchers encounter an extraterrestrial parasite that leads them to turn on each other, for fear that anyone could be infected by the creature.