Though modern horror is currently thriving, especially with IT breaking box office records, the 1980’s are frequently considered to be the greatest years in the history of the genre. To rank the ten greatest horror films of the decade is no simple task, as everyone is bound to have a differing opinion of placement or films altogether. Let us know in the comments and on social media whether or not you agree with our 80’s horror ranking, as well as the changes you would make!
10. Child’s Play (1988)
Co-written by Don Mancini (who would eventually take over the reigns of the franchise) and directed by Tom Holland, Child’s Play quickly became the definitive “possessed doll” movie. Cleverly though, the possession at hand was not that of a demon, but of a voodoo-practicing serial killer. Featuring an famous villain who was, and continues to be voiced by Brad Dourif, Child’s Play kicked off a horror franchise that refuses to die. While I personally found it tough to choose between this film and Pumpkinhead, which features one of the all-time great movie monsters, the genre importance of Chucky and Child’s Play ultimately landed it in the ten spot.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Written and directed by the legendary Wes Craven, A Nightmare on Elm Street frightened the hell out of everyone upon its release in 1984. Featuring one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, Nightmare flipped slasher expectations by adding a supernatural element that, to this day, stands as one of the most clever twists on the genre (alongside other Craven films such as New Nightmare and Scream). While the ending itself doesn’t hold up to the rest of the film, A Nightmare on Elm Street is undeniably one of the greatest 80’s horror films.
8. The Evil Dead (1981)
It was a conflicting notion to choose between this film and its excellent sequel, which is often considered to be the greatest of the franchise. However, though it remains campy, Sam Raimi’s 1981 low budget feature goes for more straightforward scares than the film that followed, and it was largely successful in terrifying its audience- garnering the praise of Stephen King in the process. Featuring plenty of camp, cheese and blood, The Evil Dead earns its place among the best 80’s horror films.
7. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Often considered to be the greatest werewolf film ever made (If this list was based on my favoritism, Silver Bullet might be here instead), John Landis’ 80’s horror flick dishes out scares and laughs in almost equal measure. The film won an Academy Award for its legendary transformation effects, which still hold up to this day. A terrific mix of genre fun and emotional weight, An American Werewolf in London is among the decade’s best.
6. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
One of the greatest zombie films ever made, Return of the Living Dead balances comedy and horror seamlessly, serving up an incredible amount of cheesy fun and shocking us with a devastating ending for characters that we grow to love and root for. Return is also notable for the pop culture representation of brains-craving zombies, something that dominated the zombie subgenre for years to come.
5. The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s adaptation of The Fly is among the most heartbreaking genre pictures ever made. Featuring stellar performances from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, as well as groundbreaking practical effects that hold up disgustingly well today, the film is an unmissable horror entry that defies expectations of the genre. Not only is it one of the greatest 80’s horror films, it’s one of the best ever made.
4. Poltergeist (1982)
Directed by the late, great Tobe Hooper (or perhaps Stephen Spielberg, but who cares?), Poltergeist is often considered to be the greatest haunted house film ever made. Though the special effects don’t hold up well, at the time of its release, they were mortifying. Putting a nice family in distress and dragging audiences along for the terrifying ride, Poltergeist stands as one of the funnest horror films of all time.
3. Re-Animator (1985)
Loosely based on a novella by H.P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator blends cheesy comedy with science fiction and top-notch horror to a masterful degree. Featuring addicting, fun performances by Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale, the film remains as effective and purely entertaining in 2017 as it was in 1985. It pains me that it could not be placed higher, but being the third greatest 80’s horror film isn’t a bad consolation prize.
2. The Shining (1980)
Though there are detractors who hate this Stephen King adaptation due to the major differences between the film and its source material, it’s undeniably a technical masterpiece. Featuring beautiful, haunting work by director Stanley Kubrick, and a legendary villainous performance from a screen-commanding Jack Nicholson, The Shining is often considered to be the greatest horror film ever made… just not on our list.
1. The Thing (1982)
One of several masterpieces by John Carpenter, The Thing earns its title as the greatest 80’s horror film by featuring a suffocating sense of dread and paranoia, as well as what are arguably the greatest, and scariest, practical creature effects of all time. Regardless of how many times you’ve seen the film, it evokes the same paranoid feeling- and Kurt Russell’s hair/beard combination remains ever impressive.