Rayzor’s Top 50 Horror Films of the 1980s

Yes, this is on the heels of the ten articles series, I ranked my Top 10 horror movies from the each and every year from the 1980s.  It was inevitable, I took every list and broke them down, it is about my view and how I feel.  I will say this was a difficult task, there were about five to seven from each year.  I had to narrow the list from 100 to 54, to 50.  I guess I could have made a list of 100, but, that is a bunch to take in all at once.

I don’t have much else to say about the list, it is just my favorites and I am certain many films you like will not be on this list.  But, I think as the 1980s go, most people enjoy at least 90% of these films.  Let me know what you think.  Oh, before we begin, Predator and Aliens will not be on my list.  I know many consider them horror, but I do and I don’t and I can’t bring myself to put them on this list or any of my 80s lists.

Let’s get into this list!

50. Silver Bullet (1985)

I’ve gone on record calling Silver Bullet my favorite Werewolf movie. I really enjoy the Howling and have an odd soft spot for the Howling II in my heart. Of course I have tons of respect for An American Werewolf In London. Silver Bullet reminds me of middle America and has the vibes of a movie like The Goonies or Monster Squad. It’s fun with some really dark moments.

49. Night of the Demons (1988)

Night of the Demons is one of the very best Halloween movies for the Halloween season.  Late 80s teens partying where they don’t belong, a “haunted house”.  Angela gets possessed by a demon and all hell breaks loose.  Boobs, beasts and blood!  Linnea Quigley gives one of her most memorable performances.  Overall it is a ton of fun with an amazing opening animation and a great ending.

48. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

I usually mention Freddy’s Revenge as the first horror movie I’ve ever seen. I do give it credit for making me the fan I am today. Like Friday the 13th A New Beginning, Freddy’s Revenge is underrated and gets hate it doesn’t deserve. It is a darker chapter and sure it pulls away from the lore, but the lore really came into play more with Dream Warriors. Jesse being possessed and Freddy ripping out of him was so cool. I loved seeing the blades come from Freddy’s finger tips rather than the glove. I love this movie and Kim Myers is awesome in this movie along with Mark Patton who is an amazing person.

47. Amityville 2: The Possession (1982)

Without a doubt this is the best sequel of the 10,000 Amityville sequels.  It really tells the story of the Defeo family, kind of.  It follows the Montelli family as the move in to the Amityville house and the eldest son gets possessed, also gets a little…well alot gross with his sister.  But that aside, I think this is a good one, I’ve always enjoyed the movie and still do.  There are scenes that just make me feel super uncomfortable.

46. The Howling (1981)

Yeah so 1981 was not only the year of the slasher, it was the year of the werewolf as well.  The Howling, An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen(more shapeshifter) all released in 1981.  The Howling is one of my favorites.  Werewolf movies are not my favorite sub-genre I do love this movie.  Dee Wallace is superb and the transformation scenes are great.  But one thing I really enjoy is the investigative side of the movie.  The Howling is a great werewolf movie with one of the best transformation scenes ever.  The rest of the series is bizarre, especially Howling 3.

45. The Entity (1982)

Speaking of scenes that make me feel uncomfortable.  The Entity is one I just watched for the first time in 2022.  It is a ghost story, but the ghost is very sexual and it keeps going after Barbara Hershey’s character and keeps getting more and more physical.  No one believes her until she meets a couple of guys in a books store.  This is a good one and Hershey is a powerhouse in the film.  Uncomfortable at times, but worth the watch.

44. Friday the 13th part II (1981)

The more I’ve watched this movie, the more I enjoy it.  I was a kid of the 1980s who loved watching Jason movies, but for some reason I never like this one.  I honestly think it was the lack of hockey mask.  As I’ve gotten older, I understand things better and have come to enjoy part II more that some of the other sequels and the original.  It is fun an sack head Jason is pretty great.  The ending and the homage to Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve make me happy.

43. From Beyond (1986)

Jeffery Combs is usually enough to get me interested in a movie, add Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree, now I’m excited. There are many things to love, Jeffery Combs sucking on people’s eye balls, Dr. Pretorius being a sex maniac or Barbara Crampton in that tight leather get up. This is a blast, Stuart Gordon brings another Lovecraft story to life and adds his own spin.

42. Cujo (1983)

Probably the most recognized film released in 1983.  It is a very terrifying film in many ways.  Being trapped in a car for so long with just your son, being stalked by a rabid dog.  Yeah, scary.  It’s not my favorite, I know Nathan Thomas Milliner of THS Discourse loves Cujo.

41. House (1986)

House is one of those I saw when I was younger. I’ll never forget being terrified Demon Sandy popped up. Big Ben was always the standout in this movie when I was younger. As an adult, this movie is very silly and still fun. William Katt is good as Roger and has some great scenes, like beating Kane Hodder with a shovel while Kane is in a trash bag.

40. Christine (1983)

Last year we did a show all about the John Carpenter film based off of a Stephen King story.  It’s a good one.  Seeing Arnie’s descent is great and there are some great visual scenes with Christine.  But Christine riding down the highway on fire is a top moment for me.

39. Inferno (1980)

Yes, I prefer Inferno over Suspiria.  Inferno is an unofficial sequel as it follows the Three Mothers which began in Suspiria.  This one follows multiple characters and has one of the best openings and endings in Argento’s career.  The score us really damn good even if it isn’t Goblin.

38. City of the Living Dead (1980)

I go back and forth on this and the Beyond as my favorite from Lucio Fulci.  This was my first experience and it has some of the greatest effects in Italian horror.  There are guts from the mouth, bleeding eyes, drill through the head, brain squishing and Father Thomas.  There is a little bit of everything in Gates of Hell or City of the Living Dead.  Surely it is on Shudder, or buy a copy.

37. Creepshow (1982)

The question I ask, is Creepshow the greatest horror anthology ever made?  We have some heavy hitters involved, beginning with George A. Romero in the Director’s chair.  But each segment is wonderful and pulled right out of the comic it shows in the film.  Tom Atkins plays the abusive father who gets what’s coming.  I couldn’t tell you my favorite segment, but they’re all pretty awesome.

36. Demons 2 (1986)

I am in an extreme minority here. I love Demons 2 way more than the first movie. While, I do love the first movie, this one focuses on being in a high rise and a teenage Sally becoming a Demon and following her around. I love Sally, I do, she looks awesome and her transformation always makes laugh. Demons two is in a high rise apparent and I wonder how Evil Dead Rise will be, kind of the same idea.

35. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III has been treated unfairly over the years.  But, within the last 6 it seems to finally get the respect it deserves.  Sure it doesnt have Michael Myers and is called “Halloween”.  But is that a good reason to hate this movie?  No, to those who hate, take Halloween and Myers out of your mind for a moment and enjoy Tom Aktins and a really good Halloween horror film.

34. The Monster Squad (1987)

Who doesn’t love the Monster Squad?  I dare you to say you don’t love this…this love letter to the golden age of horror with all of our favorite Universal Monsters accounted for.  Not to mention, The Monster Squad is a rare movie that is a great film for kids who want to get in to horror that the parents can enjoy.  The Monster Squad is more than likely Horror’s answer the “the family movie”, other than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, of course.

33. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

f not for the next two movies, Halloween 4 would lead the way for 1988 sequels.  The film begins with the perfect opening credits setting up the feeling of fall.  Sure there are some issues with the movie, Michael Myers looks odd, but Ellie Cornell carries this movie along with Donald Pleasence.  Halloween 4 may be the second best sequel of all Halloween films, some may argue the 2018 is better, not for me.  I saw Halloween 4 in 1988 and I was obsessed.

32. Fright Night (1985)

For some reason, growing up, I always associated Silver Bullet and Fright Night. I think we had them recorded on the same tape from HBO or Showtime. Fright Night is one of the top Vampire movies of the 1980s, if not the top. Sure there are films like Near Dark and the Lost Boys. Fright Night is so much different. Light hearted, good characters and Chris Sarandon. I’m still confused as to what kind of creature Billy Cole was…any ideas?

31. Psycho II (1983)

Say it with me…”UNDERRATED”.  Pyscho is no doubt one of the greatest horror films ever made and it can be tough to follow up something great like Psycho, especially without rehashing the same story.  Psycho II adds to the story and for a bit we see Norman Bates grow.  It is so good and could have easily been #1 for 1983.

30. Halloween II (1981)

This may come as a surprise to some, but it is one of the best sequels to any slasher movie, ever.  I hope the 2018 movie hasn’t soured the taste of Halloween II for anyone.  I like the sister aspect, giving the Shape a reason is something I never cared for, but this reason worked for me.  We also get more Dr. Loomis ad he is my favorite thing about the Halloween series.  The end is so damn good, but I want to mention the opening credits.  While John Carpenter’s Halloween’s opening credits are legendary, I love the credits here, the closer we get to the Jack-o-Lantern, it splits open and reveals a skull.  So cool!

29. Videodrome (1983)

What a weird fucking movie.  It is the kind of movie you just get completely engaged in.  You cannot look away, you may not know what is going on, but it has this almost hypnotic, dreamlike quality. It is so odd and James Woods is phenomenal.  Watch it.

28. The Beyond (1981)

It is hard ranking these movies, I love The Beyond.  Lucio Fulci’s finest film ever.  This one gives us everything and more, especially when it comes to gore effects.  The story is just as good, another gateway to hell is under a hotel down in New Orleans.  But the part that really hits in the Beyond is the ending.  This is one of the bleakest endings I’ve ever seen in a movie.  There is a sequel comic from Eibon Press you should check out.

27.  The Lost Boys (1987)

I think if you asked any woman between the ages of 35 and 50, The Lost Boys is their favorite horror movie.  It was released when they were growing up and it had the sexy, leather wearing bad boys on the Boardwalk.  It truly is a bad ass vampire movie and one of the best of the 1980s.  That is up to you.

26. Demons (1985)

Oh man, where to begin. This is the movie to show someone who has never seen an Italian horror film. It’s more of the gore filled gross out movies of the two different sub genres in Italian horror. There is no real giallo element. But Demons is fun, effects on full display, great soundtrack and an amazing ending. I absolutely love this movie. But I am being more objective here? Demons is better than Demons 2, but I prefer Demons 2.

25. Phantasm II (1988)

Some make a strong argument this is the superior Phantasm film, even to the original.  But I say, it is an excellent second chapter in a 5 chapter film.  Reggie is so damn awesome in this movie and he really steps up more than ever.  My chief complaint is rather small, but I hate the studio recasting of Mike, I can not see the pervert from one episode of Friends when I see the guy.  But other than that Phantasm is a top notch sequel.

24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Ah, comfort.  Dream Master gets kicked in the dick by horror fans constantly.  It is better than most give it credit and I don’t understand why.  Dream Warriors is great and honestly, I think that is why Dream Master gets harsh reviews, but it is good and fun and the most MTV and well, that is why people treat it like shit.  I love it, I have so many fond memories of watching the commercials and the Vinnie Vincent invasion leading up to the release.  I think this was the first movie I came up with fan theories, I was 8.  Dream Master is 100% my favorite sequel of the Elm Street films and my favorite of 1988.

23. Prince of Darkness (1987)

This is a horror essential.  Possibly the most underrated film directed by the master of horror, John Carpenter.  It mixes theology and science with a great cast and an absolute amazing ending.  The tone of this film is set from the beginning with an ominous score.  I go back and forth on picking this or The Fog as my favorite Carpenter films.  I do believe John Carpenter was the horror director of the 1980s.

22. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Some put this higher than the original when they rank the Chainsaw films. I don’t, but I have tons of love for TCM 2 as we call it. Dennis Hopper plays Lefty and he is kind of a wild card. When he and Stretch are together it is gold. But, as all know we come for, no not Leatherface, we come for Choptop. Bill Moseley is insane and 100% steals the show. He is such a maniac, he makes me laugh every time he is on screen. There is no other character in the series that even matches Choptop. I will also mention, I love the cook in this one too. Remember Nubbins has one of them fuck you Charlies.

21. The Blob (1988)

Wow, the Blob from 1988 is so much better than the original film.  The story is pretty simple, but the effects are so damned good.  I remember seeing this when I was about 8 or 9 and it actually freaked me out.  When the blob is running through the town, it was kind of terrifying.  Once the blob gets on you, you’re screwed and that is pretty damned scary.  I cannot speak too high on these effects, so great.

20. Re-animator (1985)

Now we get to a tough point. Everything from here down deserves the #1 spot. Re-Animator scared the shit out of me. I swear it may have done something to me mentally. I stayed as far away from this movie until I was 24 and when I revisited it after nearly 20 years. I fucking adored it. I saw it at the age of 6 and didn’t fully understand what was happening, I did know Dead people were coming back to life and that shook me to my core and kept me away from Zombies movies until I saw Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead in 1990. Re-Animator is a classic and Jeffery Combs is so amazing as Herbert West, I love his character and most of his one liners. God Re-Animator is amazing.

19. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

As I’ve said about Child’s Play, Hellbound could arguably be better than Hellraiser.  But, I can’t do that, I love both and they work perfectly together.  Hellraiser II has some of the great scenes in the series.  It is a hard job topping the resurrection scene of Frank from the original film, but this one is a close second.  Doctor Channard is a great villain and while Julia seems to be the main antagonist, Channard is wicked and obsessive.  Great movie and a great follow-up.

18. The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg’s masterpiece. Well, maybe not, but damn the Fly is amazing. The effects are top notch and watching Seth Brundle slowly transform to Brundlefly is insane, gross and beautiful. Some may look at the Fly as a monster, but I am very sympathetic to his story and at the end what he wants. It’s really a sad story in the end.

17. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

This is one of the best Friday the 13th films ever made.  Directed by Joseph Zito, he also directed the Prowler and for me that is its issue.  This one has some of the greatest kills and even bunch of teenagers.  I will just say, this one feels like a task to get through at times.  It has pacing issues and between kills, it just doesn’t do much for me.  Jason Lives is the best Friday the 13th.

16. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th part VI (1986)

The best Friday the 13th film to date. Jason Lives has everything! I mean everything, kids at the camp, gore, an awesome Jason resurrection, the return of Tommy Jarvis and the best script. CJ Graham is terrific and never gets the credit he deserves as Jason. Thom Mathews is the best version of Tommy Jarvis and that says a lot, John Sheppard was good and Feldman was great. I love this movie and it is simply one of my favorites of all-time in horror.

15. Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead is Savini’s effects masterpiece. The gore is so great, Savini officially became a legend. Of course he’d worked on films like Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th and the Burning. Day is his finest hour. The movie is dark and depressing, without hope and a complete opposite of Return of the Living Dead. But the story is great. While Dawn of the Dead is my favorite Romero zombie movie, I honestly think this is his finest.

14. The Fog (1980)

I go back and forth on this and Prince of Darkness as my favorite from John Carpenter.  The Fog is his ghost story movie and it is well done.  The atmosphere, the building of tension, feeling of dread throughout the film.  There is a fantastic cast in place and the score is wonderful.  One of the best Carpenter has to offer and that says a lot.

13. Pet Sematary (1989)

I’ve seen Pet Sematary so many times. I love it the more I see it. Mart Lambert brings to life one of Stephen King’s darkest tales and it is brilliant. I know some complain about Dale Midkiff’s performance, but I like it. There are some many things going on, I think it makes sense why he is the way he is. Not to mention Fred Gywnne turns in a fantastic performance.

12. Gremlins (1984)

Two Christmas horror films in one list.  Wow!  Gremlins is the best Christmas themed horror film.  It is fun, little green monsters and some iconic scenes, Mrs. Peltzer vs Gremlins comes to mind.  Such a fun and at times terrifying film.

11. Child’s Play (1988)

There has been a bit of debate around which is better, Child’s Play or Child’s Play 2?  It doesn’t matter, both movies are pretty great.  But, I am gonna tell you Child’s Play is better.  There are so many iconic scenes in the first movie, “Aunt Maggie’s a bitch”, the battery discovery and a burnt up doll coming for everyone.  Child’s Play made the killer dolls more scary than ever.

10. The Evil Dead (1981)

What hasn’t been said about The Evil Dead that hasn’t already been said.  It is a great horror film and a landmark film.  Evil Dead has one of the biggest fanbases in horror.  The original is my favorite, while most seem to lean towards Evil Dead 2.  Cheryl is the standout in this movie for me, I mean, other than being tree raped.  I love when she gets possessed and reading the cards and then lifts the pencil and baam right in the ankle.  Then the make-up job once she is in the cellar.  I love it.

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

I’ll be most of you thought this would be the number one horror film of 1987.  Well, you’re not wrong, for you list.  I do love Dream Warriors and it is likely the best of the Elm Street sequels.  I just like two movies more.  Dream Warriors is the perfect extension of the original film.  It does a great job of adding to Freddy’s mythology, without taking anything away.  Dream Warriors is awesome.

8. Poltergeist (1982)

I absolutely love this film.  It has a bit of everything, with a family that feels real and great haunts and very good FX.  Whomever directed this movie, Spielberg or Hooper, I don’t care, it is wonderful.  When Carol Anne is rescued and says “Hi Daddy”, being a father, it brings a tear to my eye.  Now I’ve passed this on to my kids and Poltergeist is one of my daughter’s two favorite horror films, Phantasm being the other…oh and she is only 8 years old.

7. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The last two are a toss up for me. Without a doubt, the two best Zombie movies of the 1980s. Both released in 1985 and both very different, but products of the same movie, Night of the Living Dead. Return of the Living Dead is fun, outrageous and a party movie. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t love Return of the Living Dead. From the punks, Frank and Freddy and Burt. One of my favorite things is when Spider and Burt have to work together. But the standout and number one favorite thing, Tar man!!! Day and Return both have iconic Zombies. So much fun.

6. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

The best werewolf movie of all-time?  Yes, it is.  Of course this movie has the best werewolf transformation of all-time, a rotting best friend and an awesome nightmare sequence, dream within a dream.  How could you not love this movie?  It is fun and terrifying all at the same time.  But, you know, Jack is my favorite part of the movie.

5. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Holy shit what a fun movie!  Evil Dead 2 has got to be a top 10 party movie.  Get some friends together pop this in and let the fun begin.  For the most part this is Bruce Campbell at his best.  He play a good portion of the film on his own and it drives him insane.  My favorite scene has got to be the laughing scene, Bruce really hams it up, but there is so much good in Evil Dead 2 it is hard to pick a moment from the movie that really stands out.  Oh and I adore Henrietta.

4. The Thing (1982)

I personally think John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the absolute greatest horror films ever made.  It is 100% the best of 1982, just not my favorite.  Between the location, the tension and paranoia, how can you not love this movie.  Mixed in we get a great and gloomy score from Enio Marricone and John Carpenter, it’s chef’s Kiss!

3. Hellraiser (1987)

He was not wrong.  Clive Barker wrote many stories before Hellraiser was made and of course Rawhead Rex preceded Hellraiser.  But Hellraiser put Clive Barker on the map for a wider audience.  We know the story, based on the Hellbound Heart and Barker got to direct the film and cast his friend Doug Bradley.  But, there is too much to talk about in this post.  Stand out moments, Frank’s resurrection, Julia’s arc as a cheating wife to villain, the introduction of the Cenobites and Kirsty Cotton as one of the best “final girls” in horror history.  I love Hellraiser.

2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining could have ended up at #1, but it is in a good place.  It is a staple in horror history and likely a top 10 of all-time.  The Overlook hotel is such a feast for the eyes and Jack Nicholson’s performance is one for the record books.  Visually, the Shining is stunning, but it runs deeper the further you get into the film.  I absolutely love the Shining.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This is my favorite horror film of all-time..  This is also a film that just doesn’t need anything more to say about it.  It changed horror forever.  I look at horror at times and this seems like the split, before Elm Street and after, yeah it had that much of an effect on horror.  There isn’t too much to say here because his is a landmark film and it changed horror.  Robert Englund became the literal face of horror in the 1980s with all of the sequels an people have trouble moving on from him playing the character.  A Nightmare on Elm Street was a game changer and in my opinion, it is the best horror film of the 1980s and could be my pick for the best of all-time.

Now its your turn, what did you think of this list?  How many movies from the 1980s are missing?  I am 100% sure this list could cause more issues than praise and that is the best thing about making any list. No two lists are alike.  Thanks for reading and thanks for following The Horror Syndicate.

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About Ray Marek III 697 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)