The 40 Best 1980s Horror Movies: Nostalgic Throwback Cult Classic 80s Horror

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We list 40 of the absolute best 1980s horror movies, revisiting cult classics and less remembered gems that defined an era of terror and campy horror goodness.

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The 1980s were a golden era for horror cinema, turning out a ton of iconic films that have become cult horror classics.

Many of these movies have left an indelible mark on the horror genre. Movies like ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Evil Dead’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Hellraiser’ and so many more that remain iconic and beloved today for all horror fans.

We list 40 of the absolute best 1980s horror movies, revisiting cult classics and less remembered gems that defined an era of terror and campy horror goodness.

We hope you enjoy this nostalgic throwback of 80s horror, as we celebrate the legacy of these unforgettable horror films.

80s horror movies checklist

A Nostalgic Dive into the Best 1980s Horror Movies

1. Basket Case (1982)

  • Director: Frank Henenlotter
  • Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Basket Case’ on IMDb

Duane checks into a seedy NYC hotel carrying a mysterious wicker basket. Inside lurks Belial, his deformed, vengeful twin whom he seeks to avenge after a separation forced by their family. As the brothers seek retribution, a gory trail unfolds amidst the streets of New York.

2. Pet Sematary (1989)

Louis Creed and his family move to a rural town, discovering a cemetery in the woods rumored to bring the dead back to life. When tragedy strikes their family, Louis defies nature by burying their deceased child in the cursed ground, only to unleash unimaginable horror as the dead return not quite as they were.

3. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

  • Director: Robert Hiltzik
  • Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Sleepaway Camp’ on IMDb

Angela and her cousin Ricky head to summer camp, where bizarre deaths start occurring. Amidst teenage angst and suspicion, a chilling secret about Angela’s past slowly unravels, culminating in a shocking twist that leaves viewers haunted.

4. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

A group of high school girls plans a slumber party unaware that a deranged killer lurks nearby with a power drill. As the night unfolds, screams echo through the house as the drill-wielding maniac takes aim at the unsuspecting teenagers.

5. April Fool’s Day (1986)

A group of friends gathers at a secluded island mansion for April Fool’s weekend. Pranks escalate, but when friends start disappearing, the line between playful jests and deadly reality blurs in a twist-filled tale of mystery and horror.

6. Puppet Master (1989)

  • Director: David Schmoeller
  • Cast: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle
  • Genre: Horror, Fantasy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Puppet Master’ on IMDb

A group of psychics gathers at a mysterious hotel to uncover the secrets of an ancient Egyptian spellbook. Unbeknownst to them, the puppets crafted by a deceased puppeteer hold deadly, supernatural powers, leading to a night of terror.

7. Pumpkinhead (1988)

  • Director: Stan Winston
  • Cast: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Pumpkinhead’ on IMDb

After a tragic accident involving a rural family, a grieving father summons a vengeful demon, Pumpkinhead, to seek revenge on those responsible. However, as the deaths pile up, the price of vengeance becomes harrowingly clear.

8. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Two American tourists backpacking through England encounter a terrifying creature on the moors. After one is bitten and turned into a werewolf, a gory and darkly comedic transformation unfolds in London’s eerie streets.

9. The Thing (1982)

  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Thing’ on IMDb

In the Antarctic, a research team discovers a shape-shifting alien that takes the form of its victims. As paranoia sets in, trust dissolves among the crew, leading to intense suspense and visceral horror in this chilling tale of survival.

10. Dolls (1987)

  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Cast: Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine
  • Genre: Horror, Fantasy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Dolls’ on IMDb

During a storm, a group seeks shelter in a remote mansion inhabited by a peculiar elderly couple who make sinister dolls. As the night progresses, the dolls come to life, enforcing justice on those deemed unworthy in this twisted fairy tale of horror.

11. Fright Night (1985)

  • Director: Tom Holland
  • Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Fright Night’ on IMDb

Charley suspects his new neighbor, Jerry Dandrige, of being a vampire. To prove it, he enlists the help of a TV vampire hunter, Peter Vincent. As the truth unfolds, Charley faces a battle for survival against the seductive and deadly Jerry.

12. The Lost Boys (1987)

  • Director: Joel Schumacher
  • Cast: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Lost Boys’ on IMDb

Moving to a new town, brothers Michael and Sam discover it’s a haven for vampires. When Michael becomes one of the undead, Sam, along with a group of eccentric vampire hunters, must save him before he fully succumbs to his newfound bloodlust.

13. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

On Valentine’s Day, a small mining town is terrorized by a murderer seeking vengeance for a tragic accident. As the town prepares to celebrate, fear grips them as the killer strikes, wielding a pickaxe and leaving a trail of gruesome murders.

14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Freddy Krueger, a vengeful spirit haunting dreams, targets teenagers on Elm Street. As the teens start dying in their sleep, Nancy and her friends must uncover the truth behind Freddy’s past to survive the terror of their nightmares.

15. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

A radio DJ and a former Texas Ranger pursue the murderous Sawyer family, led by the chainsaw wielding Leatherface. Amidst dark humor and gore, a grotesque battle unfolds in the underground lair of this twisted and deranged family.

16. Child’s Play (1988)

  • Director: Tom Holland
  • Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Child’s Play’ on IMDb

When a young boy’s beloved doll, Chucky, becomes possessed by the soul of a serial killer, mayhem ensues. Chucky, now alive and lethal, terrorizes the boy and his mother, seeking to transfer his soul into the child before becoming trapped forever in the doll’s body.

17. The Fly (1986)

  • Director: David Cronenberg
  • Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Fly’ on IMDb

Scientist Seth Brundle experiments with teleportation but is tragically fused with a fly during an experiment gone awry. As he undergoes a gruesome transformation, both physically and mentally, his lover Veronica must confront the horrifying consequences of his metamorphosis.

18. Evil Dead (1981)

  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: NC-17
  • IMDb: ‘Evil Dead’ on IMDb

Five friends encounter an ancient evil presence while staying in a remote cabin. Unleashing demonic forces through the recitation of an incantation, they battle the malevolent spirits and face gruesome possession in a relentless fight for survival.

19. Phenomena (1985)

  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Phenomena’ on IMDb

Jennifer, a young girl with an uncanny ability to communicate with insects, finds herself at a Swiss boarding school. As a series of murders unfolds, Jennifer’s unique ability becomes key to solving the mystery behind the killings.

20. The Shining (1980)

  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
  • Genre: Horror, Drama
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Shining’ on IMDb

Jack Torrance takes his family to the remote Overlook Hotel for a winter caretaker job, but the isolation and the hotel’s dark history trigger Jack’s descent into madness. As supernatural forces torment the family, their sanity unravels in a chilling tale of psychological horror.

21. Creepshow (1982)

  • Director: George A. Romero
  • Cast: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Creepshow’ on IMDb

A horror anthology that weaves together five terrifying tales introduced by a sinister, comic book style narrator. Each story, ranging from a vengeful father’s gift to a meteorite’s effects on vegetation, brings a mix of dread, humor, and macabre surprises.

22. Poltergeist (1982)

  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Cast: JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
  • Genre: Horror, Supernatural
  • Rating: PG
  • IMDb: ‘Poltergeist’ on IMDb

A suburban family’s peaceful life is shattered by malevolent spirits that abduct their youngest daughter into another realm through the TV. As they face escalating supernatural occurrences, they seek the help of parapsychologists to rescue their daughter and confront the sinister forces haunting their home.

23. Swamp Thing (1982)

  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise
  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Rating: PG
  • IMDb: ‘Swamp Thing’ on IMDb

After a scientist is transformed into a plant like creature following a lab explosion, he becomes Swamp Thing and battles the evil forces aiming to exploit his newfound abilities. Amidst a murky swamp landscape, a tale of heroism and monstrous adversaries unfolds.

24. Hellraiser (1987)

  • Director: Clive Barker
  • Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Hellraiser’ on IMDb

The discovery of a puzzle box unleashes the Cenobites, sadomasochistic beings from another dimension. When a man resurrected by his brother’s blood begins seeking human sacrifices to regain his former self, a world of pain, pleasure, and nightmarish entities emerges.

25. Cat’s Eye (1985)

  • Director: Lewis Teague
  • Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Rating: PG-13
  • IMDb: ‘Cat’s Eye’ on IMDb

An anthology of three Stephen King stories linked by a wandering cat, trying to protect a little girl from supernatural threats. From a possessed troll to a perilous tightrope walk, the cat’s journey unveils tales of terror and suspense.

26. Waxwork (1988)

  • Director: Anthony Hickox
  • Cast: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, David Warner
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Waxwork’ on IMDb

A group of friends visits a mysterious wax museum where the exhibits hold dark secrets. As they become unwittingly trapped in the displays, they must confront various horror scenarios, battling vampires, werewolves, and other iconic monsters to survive.

27. Motel Hell (1980)

  • Director: Kevin Connor
  • Cast: Rory Calhoun, Nancy Parsons, Paul Linke
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Motel Hell’ on IMDb

Vincent and his sister Ida run a motel where the guests unknowingly become ingredients in their famous smoked meats. When a victim survives and discovers the sinister secret, a gruesome battle unfolds between the siblings and their captive prey.

28. They Live (1988)

  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘They Live’ on IMDb

A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveal a hidden reality—Earth is controlled by alien creatures masquerading as humans. Armed with this truth, he fights to expose the extraterrestrial conspiracy and free humanity from its covert oppression.

29. The Hand (1981)

  • Director: Oliver Stone
  • Cast: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Hand’ on IMDb

An artist loses his hand in a gruesome accident, only for it to be replaced by a malevolent, disembodied hand with a mind of its own. As the hand’s murderous impulses take control, a psychological battle ensues between the artist and his own appendage.

30. Re-Animator (1985)

  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Re-Animator’ on IMDb

A medical student experiments with a reagent that brings the dead back to life. Chaos erupts as reanimated corpses wreak havoc, and the student’s obsession with his discovery spirals into a gory and darkly humorous descent into madness.

31. Maniac (1980)

  • Director: William Lustig
  • Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Maniac’ on IMDb

Frank, a disturbed and psychotic mannequin store owner, roams the streets of New York City, scalping women. His descent into madness and gruesome murders are captured in a disturbingly intimate and chillingly raw portrayal of a deranged mind.

32. The Stuff (1985)

  • Director: Larry Cohen
  • Cast: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Stuff’ on IMDb

A mysterious, addictive white substance is marketed as a new dessert sensation, only to reveal a sinister secret. As people become addicted, an ex FBI agent uncovers a shocking truth about the gooey substance that consumes its victims from the inside.

33. 976-EVIL (1988)

  • Director: Robert Englund
  • Cast: Stephen Geoffreys, Patrick O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘976-EVIL’ on IMDb

When a socially awkward teenager discovers a phone line that connects to the devil, he gains supernatural powers that he uses for revenge. As he delves deeper into darkness, his newfound abilities spiral out of control, leading to deadly consequences.

34. Society (1989)

  • Director: Brian Yuzna
  • Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Society’ on IMDb

A young man begins to suspect his wealthy family is part of a bizarre, body-morphing cult. As he uncovers the grotesque truth about their society, he becomes entangled in a nightmarish conspiracy that defies the boundaries of flesh and reality.

35. Demons (1985)

  • Director: Lamberto Bava
  • Cast: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Demons’ on IMDb

Patrons at a movie theater are trapped inside as a cursed film unleashes demonic forces that turn them into bloodthirsty creatures. Amidst chaos and terror, the survivors fight for their lives in a night of relentless horror.

36. Cujo (1983)

  • Director: Lewis Teague
  • Cast: Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh Kelly
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Cujo’ on IMDb

Adapted from Stephen King’s novel, the story revolves around a rabid St. Bernard dog named Cujo, trapping a mother and her child inside a car on a sweltering day. As the dog’s condition worsens, a desperate fight for survival ensues in the gripping tale of man versus beast.

37. Tenebre (1982)

  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Cast: Anthony Franciosa, Giuliano Gemma, John Saxon
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Tenebre’ on IMDb

A novelist’s visit to Rome coincides with a series of murders mirroring those from his latest book. As the killings continue, the line between reality and fiction blurs, leading to a twisted and suspenseful hunt for the deranged killer.

38. Possession (1981)

  • Director: Andrzej Żuławski
  • Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen
  • Genre: Horror, Drama
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘Possession’ on IMDb

A couple’s marriage disintegrates amidst surreal and nightmarish occurrences. As the wife’s bizarre behavior escalates, her husband uncovers a grotesque and otherworldly secret, leading to a harrowing and visceral exploration of love, possession, and madness.

39. The Howling (1981)

  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Cast: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan
  • Genre: Horror
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘The Howling’ on IMDb

A TV reporter recovering from a traumatic encounter with a serial killer retreats to a mountain resort that turns out to be inhabited by werewolves. As she investigates, she confronts her own transformation while trying to survive the pack’s bloodthirsty appetite.

40. C.H.U.D. (1984)

  • Director: Douglas Cheek
  • Cast: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
  • Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
  • Rating: R
  • IMDb: ‘C.H.U.D.’ on IMDb

In New York City, mysterious disappearances are linked to a government cover up involving cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers (C.H.U.D.s) living beneath the city streets. As chaos erupts, a group fights to uncover the truth and survive the monstrous threat lurking below.


With this list of awesome 1980s horror movies, one thing remains abundantly clear, these films were cultural touchstones. They shaped the landscape of horror, blending suspense, creativity, and the campy fun of the 1980s.

The legacy of these movies endures, their influence felt in modern horror and cherished by enthusiasts as timeless treasures.

Revisiting these iconic gems reminds us that the ’80s truly reign as a hauntingly unforgettable era in cinematic history.

We hope you found some films to add to your watchlist, whether they be old favorites or new found soon to be favorites.

Thanks for reading our article. We hope you will visit us again soon!

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So, what are your thoughts on the movies included in this list? What additional movies would you have included? What movies would you have left off?

We encourage all comments and discussion!

Everyone is welcome!


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