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The 26 Best Horror Movies From the ’80s

the shining, nightmare on elm street, gremlins

Nightmare on Elm Street/The Shining/Gremlins

Ah, the ’80sa decade probably best remembered by its big hair, leg warmers, and mulletsbut let’s remember the gruesome, chill-inducing, and oh-so-wonderfully-terrifying horror movies that found define the genre for generations ahead.

Take A Nightmare on Elm Street, a film that still fuels our nightmares (and in addition turned us off striped sweaters forever). Or the bloodbath and masterpiece that’s Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. (We’re scared of long, empty corridors even today.) And who could your investment most terrifying holiday horror movie of most: Gremlins.

The horror movies of the ’80s, filled with camp, gore, and surprising twists, created the building blocks for the contemporary scary movies we love today. Freddie Krueger and hockey-masked Jason from Friday the 13th cemented the recurring killer who it appears can’t ever truly be stopped. And comedies like Beetlejuice and An American Werewolf in London presented all of the spooky components of horror we love, but with several laughs on the way too. For each and every gory flick from the ’80s, there’s another that’s genre-blending and inventive, using comedy or action or sci-fi showing there’s a great deal of ways to create a creepy horror masterpiece.

Sure, modern horror’s great, but scary flicks from the ’80s weren’t afraid to possess take chances, so join us on our terrifying trip down memory lane: Listed below are 26 of the greatest ’80s horror movies, from total classics to the weird and experimental sort that’ll cause you to hide beneath the covers.

1Gremlins (1980)

What goes on when a couple of troublemaking Furby-like dolls terrorize a little town on Christmas day? That’s what Gremlins explores, and we’re really happy our parents gave us G.I. Joes growing up instead.

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2A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This Wes Craven ’80s flick which spawned a small number of sequels dug into people’s ultimate fear: Imagine if our nightmares were real? And imagine if there was no chance to flee them? Freddy Kruger remains the GOAT of the decade’s horror villains.

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3The Shining (1980)

A novelist and his family are tasked with watching over a hotel in the Rocky Mountains throughout a particularly harsh winter weather, which, as you likely know, spirals into utter madness. All work no play makes Jack a dull boy!

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4Poltergeist (1982)

A family group is stalked by an otherworldly figure casting a dark shadow on the home (which also offers the opportunity to reach them through their tv, our other worst fear).

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5FINISHED . (1982)

Several American researchers in Antartica witness a helicopter shooting at a sled dog that’s entered their camponly to find your dog is not the friendly, cuddle-up-to-you kind. (We’ll save from any spoilers.)

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6Aliens (1986)

Legendary for several forms of reasons, but mostly as the sequel somehow were able to be better compared to the already great original. We stan Sigourney!

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7Evil Dead (1981)

Several young university students descend upon an isolated cabin in the woodswhere all good stuff happenand encounter the best demonic figure in this gory flick.

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8Cujo (1983)

We’ve lots of feelings about Cujo. Could it be the very best horror flick ever? Most likely not. But it’s entertaining as hell, and it’s really even funnier once you realize that your dog is played by way of a mechanical dog and a stuntman using shots.

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9Friday the 13th (1980)

During this classic flick’s release, it had been critically panned. Still, it had been massively popular at the box-office and gave rise to 11 (yes, 11) sequels. Here’s where everything began.

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10Videodrome (1983)

A David Cronenberg special, Videodrome follows the president of a TV station that stumbles over the dark web of television when he finds a show that tortures its characters. Could it be all fiction, though? (It is possible to virtually guess the solution.)

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11Child’s Play (1988)

There are many villains with this list to be terrified of, but alas, nothing scares us a lot more than Chucky. Here’s where in fact the Child’s Play franchise was created.

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12The Fly (1986)

Jeff Goldblum undergoes the best transformation in this horror classic, and we’re just really pleased to see him in virtually any capacity.

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13Christine (1983)

Imagine if the villain was a murderous and blood-thirsty car……said nobody ever, until Stephen King wrote a novel about any of it, later adapted into this horror classic.

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14Pet Sematary (1989)

Another brilliant Stephen King film adaptation, Pet Sematary explores one family’s experience with the tragic lack of their sonand what they’re ready to do to see him again.


15Fright Night (1985)

What goes on whenever a vampire becomes the next door neighbor and pursues both your mom and girlfriend? We realize now because of this cult classic (also remade in 2011).

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16April Fool’s Day (1986)

College friends spend the weekend before April Fool’s in a mansion. Things begin to be fallible when among the friends begins to choose others off one at a time. Yikes.

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17Children of the Corn (1984)

Adapted from the Stephen King short story, a couple is trapped in a little town where children have killed all of the adults and today worship a deity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

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18An American Werewolf in London (1981)

A werewolf attacks two American backpackers. When one survives, he’s got to determine whether he’s a werewolf, and what he’ll do about any of it. This horror/comedy won an Academy Award for Best Makeup, and contains a (not great) 1997 sequel.

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19The Changeling (1980)

A composer moves to Seattle after his wife and daughter’s deaths. Little does he know… the home he bought is haunted. The film was nominated for just two Saturn Awards.

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20The Fog (1980)

Starring Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog tells the tale of a California town suddenly engulfed in fog, bringing back vengeful ghosts of mariners who died there a hundred years ago. Horror legend John Carpenter helmed this cult classic.

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21Hellraiser (1987)

Predicated on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser follows a guy and his family, that are targeted by extra-dimensional beings who seek carnal pleasures (and pain), and work with a mysterious box to recruit others.

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22Predator (1987)

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this step horror in regards to a paramilitary group tasked with rescuing hostages, but must fight a terrifying alien hunting them. The film’s popularity has spawned three sequels, a prequel, and crossover films with another popular horror franchise Alien.

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23Beetlejuice (1988)

A must-watch for just about any ’80’s horror or comedy fans, Beetlejuice stars Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, along with other well-known actors in this ghoulish film. Whenever a couple dies in a tragic car crash, they become trapped within their home. A fresh family moves in, but determined to help keep their house, the ghosts ask Beetlejuice a “bio-exorcist” to rid the ghosts of these human roommates.

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24Day of the Dead (1985)

The 3rd film in George A. Romero’s Nights the Living Dead series, Day of the Dead follows several scientists and soldiers surviving in an underground bunker. Because the state of mind of the bunker’s residents worsens, the rest of the sane members of the group realize they have to escape.

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25Creepshow (1982)

George A. Romero and Stephen King, two ’80’s horror legends, synergy in this anthology film comprising five stories. Horror fans will see Creepshow a delicacy not just because of its selection of stories, but additionally to see Stephen King and Joe Hill (King’s son and today a prolific horror writer in their own right) star in the film.

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26The Lost Boys (1987)

The Lost Boys is really a film notable because of its portrayal of young teenage vampires, which, much like Interview with a Vampire, shows the humanoid creatures in a far more human form than beast. Whenever a teenager gets initiated right into a biker gang, he realizes he’s turning out to be a vampire and enlists his brother to greatly help him reverse before it’s too late.

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Josh Ocampo may be the Senior Editor at Men’s Health.

Milan Polk can be an Editorial Assistant for Men’s Health who focuses on entertainment and lifestyle reporting, and contains worked for NY Magazine’s Vulture and Chicago Tribune.

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