The 80s was an age when filmmakers were at their highest level of creativity when it came to the horror genre. Classic horror movies became a staple in theaters after the success of many horror films in the previous decade. It was a time when horror films found their confidence and groove, which resulted in many 80s horror movies that we have come to love today.
Certain horror classic movies like Friday the 13th began their decades-long franchise, while others were one-off classics that paved the way to many other movies in the genre. While there were many horror films within the decade, some have truly come out as the defining horror classics of the decade. Many of which continue to be critically-praised and have some of the best followings up to this day.
These were the movies that truly changed, defined, and solidified the horror genre. These are the best 80s horror movies that you should be watching.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Evil Dead 2 is the direct sequel to the original Evil Dead movie that was released earlier in the decade. With a bigger budget this time, director Sam Raimi truly pushed the horror, gore, and slapstick comedy up a notch. Bruce Campbell returns as Ash Williams as he battles evil spirits when he discovers an audiotape with a recorded voice reading from the Book of the Dead.
The movie was also one of the more visual effects-heavy movies that Raimi has ever produced. It included stop-motion animation and a lot of prosthetic makeup, as well as full details that allowed the movie to truly shine.
Part horror, part comedy, Evil Dead 2 successfully merges both genres. Fans of the original continue to support the sequel with massive fervor. The movie became a critical hit, which led to spawning the third film and a reboot in 2013, as well as a TV series later on.
Based on the novel written by Stephen King, The Shining is probably the best, if not one of the best, horror movies that the 80s ever produced. It follows the story of Jack Torrance and his family as they deal with the supernatural forces at hand within a hotel.
The movie truly shines with Jack Nicholson’s take, as his character’s sanity slowly deteriorates and puts his wife and child in danger.
Known for his masterful visuals, director Stanley Kubrick gifted the audience with spectacular scenes. The movie continues to be one of the most examined films due to the tremendous amounts of hidden messages and ambiguity.
The Shining displays what it means to slowly descend into madness and how it affects the people around us.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven introduced us to one of the most iconic horror villains of all time – Freddy Krueger. The cruel, sadistic killer who murders children in their sleep will forever haunt the dreams of young kids from that time. Freddy’s legacy is forever etched in the halls of horror movie classics with his nightmarish antics and quirky quips.
Over the years, Nightmare on Elm Street has spawned seven sequels that rival the likes of Halloween and the Friday the 13th franchise and was subjected to a reboot in the early 2000s. Apart from its charming villain, the movie also gave us a glimpse of the early days of Johnny Depp and the rising fame of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.
Nightmare on Elm Street defied the horror slasher genre by reshaping the rules of the slasher genre, much like Wes Craven’s other movie – Scream. Most movies would follow rules that wouldn’t allow victims to escape the killer; however, in this movie, the rules were made to benefit both Freddy and his victims. This leaves the protagonist room to outsmart the killer to save herself from certain death.
This alone made the horror movie trope turn on its head. It was uncommon for many female leads at the time to take control of their fate, and this movie proved to the audience that horror movie villains can be defeated.
The Thing is a movie adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? Previously adapted as a movie in the 1950s, the 80s version of The Thing remains widely superior and highly-acclaimed by critics all over the world. The movie follows a team of researchers who encounter a parasitic alien that takes the form of its victims as it slowly assimilates within the group, leaving them doubting each other.
This was John Carpenter in his element. The movie featured great practical effects, as well as great acting from lead star Kurt Russell. This movie is an exercise of true tension-building as the team of researchers slowly dwindles to the last remaining survivors.
The film made a cultural impact and brought horror to the forefront. It also led to a wide appreciation of practical effects in the 80s, making the movie a cult classic favorite.
Many future movie makers would take inspiration from the way the movie portrayed tense and frightening scenes, with the blood test scene as one of the best in the movie.
Aliens is a 1986 sci-fi horror movie that starred Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in her second go-around as the titular alien-killing battle-hardened bombshell. Aliens are the sequel to the widely successful Alien movie where Ripley returns to the moon. Her former team was slaughtered by the creature in the first movie.
The movie explores the concept of motherhood through the introduction of the beloved Newt character. This ultimately led to the very popular line that only Weaver could portray in such condemnation to the Xenomorph.
Aliens is an exercise of tension, great storytelling, visceral horror, and amazing action sequences.
The movie was largely successful due to the great characterization of its female lead and built upon the foundations of the first movie. While it is commonly seen as a sci-fi movie, Aliens is truly a horror movie at its core.
The 80s was truly an amazing decade for horror movies. It proved to audiences that horror movies are great box office contenders and remain a pop culture phenomenon.
This decade of 80s horror also showed promise for its horror movie trope deviation, creative risks, and subversive storytelling.