Many horror aficionados consider the ‘70s the golden age of horror, but the 10 best ‘80s horror movies can stand up to any decade. Despite the early spate of assembly line horror flicks, the ‘80s recovered to show horror was still a fertile playground for creativity.
- “The Changeling” You would be hard-pressed to find a more frightening, gooseflesh-raising two hours of horror anywhere else. John Russell moves into a Seattle mansion and is immediately haunted by spooky activity. The scene with the rubber ball and the wheelchair is enough to give nightmares.
- “Poltergeist” Relying heavily on atmosphere and mood, “Poltergeist” takes you through the Freeling family’s mounting desperation as they attempt to free daughter Carol Anne from the clutches of malevolent ghosts. Debuting before the dawn of the PG-13 rating, Poltergeist nevertheless scares like a true R-rated horror flick but without the boobs and gore.
- “Hellraiser” Wouldn’t Rubik's Cubes be cooler if, after solving the puzzle, steel hooks shot out and pierced your flesh while demons dragged your soul to hell? Okay, so there are marketing hurdles, but if ‘80s horror movie “Hellraiser” is any indication, customers will buy in truckloads. More about family relationships than the powers unleashed by the puzzle box in their midst, “Hellraiser” broke new ground by raising the bar for gore in horror.
- “Aliens” Fifty-seven years after the conclusion of “Alien”, Ellen Ripley is rescued from hypersleep. Just when she thought it was safe to return to space, she butts heads with bureaucracy and Marines and gigantic space monsters (oh my!). Whereas “Alien” was quiet and claustrophobic, “Aliens” is brash and wide-open, yet still racked with tension. A perfect blend of science fiction and horror.
- “The Evil Dead” Before the comical sequels “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness” there was “The Evil Dead”, an ‘80s horror movie served straight, no chaser. College friends venture to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. Everything is hunky-dory until they resurrect some demons. Hey, everybody makes mistakes. To call what happens next “disturbing and horrific” is an understatement.
- “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Freddy Krueger’s immortal opening words—“Tina, this is God!”—kicked off one of the biggest horror blockbusters of all time, not to mention one of the best ‘80s horror movies. A boogeyman that kills teens in their sleep, “Elm Street” was a bonafide boon to ‘80s horror. This was before the sequels, when Freddy got too wisecracking for his own good.
- “The Thing” The shared elements between most of the best ‘80s horror movies on this list are atmosphere and mood. They are what make the payoffs genuinely scary and memorable. Same with “The Thing”. Take a bunch of American scientists, isolate them on Antarctica, throw in a “thing” that kills them off one by one but can’t be found because it imitates its last victim, and you have suspicion, paranoia, and dread in layers.
- “Friday the 13th” Camp Crystal Lake was the kind of camp where counselors made penance for their sins…WITH THEIR LIVES! You gotta love the ‘80s, when you only went to summer camp if you had a death wish. Mood, misdirection, great effects, stellar camera work and a perfect twist ending seal its legacy in the pantheon of ‘80s horror movies.
- “The Fly” Seth Brundle perfects a teleportation device and in a fit of drunken spite attempts to teleport himself. Little does he know he’s not alone inside the telepod. A metaphor for the inevitability of death, this David Cronenberg gem has suspense, drama, and horror in spades. The special effects are incredible and ramp up the horror another notch.
- “The Shining” What ‘80s horror movies list is “The Shining” NOT on, and deservedly so? The Torrance family house-sit the Overlook Hotel for a winter. The father, Jack, gets a touch of cabin fever and works out his problems with an axe. His family isn’t keen on his methodology. The atmosphere is thick, suspense is at a fever pitch, and the payoff is epic. The best that ‘80s horror movies have to offer.
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