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The Best Horror Movies of the 1980s: Gnarly Ghouls and More

The best horror movies of the 1980s are so much more than just slasher films. Sure, there were plenty of gory and terrifying cut-’em-ups from this decade, but it was also a time for plenty of other scares…some of them even a bit more subtle! Here are some of the most unforgettable scary movies from the big-hair, parachute-pants, bigger-than-life decade that we can’t get enough of…

The Shining (1980)

Stephen King’s best-selling novel becomes a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, and it’s just as chilling. Jack Nicholson stars in this adaptation of the iconic horror story about an author who takes his wife and son to spend the winter at the isolated Overlook Hotel. As he descends into madness, the events of his childhood come back to haunt him.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

David Naughton stars as unlucky American college student who gets attacked by a werewolf on vacation and then starts turning into one himself. He has just enough time before he completely transforms to track down someone who might be able to help him before it’s too late.

The Fog (1980)

This 1980s horror movie with stunning visuals tells the story of a town cut off from civilization by an unnatural fog bank. The residents are terrorized by a mysterious, otherworldly force that also takes many lives and causes destruction as it goes about its grisly work.

Christine (1983)

Based on Stephen King’s bestseller, this 1983 cult classic tells the tale of a 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine. The car is brought back to life by high-school student Arnie Cunningham after its previous owner dies in an accident and then proceeds to kill anyone who crosses it or disobeys what it orders them to do.

The Fly (1986)

A scientist’s latest experiment goes awry, and he gradually turns into a giant fly.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

After machines start to turn on their human masters in this 1986 sci-fi film by Stephen King/George Romero collaborator David Cronenberg, the world is left with only two survivors: redneck truck driver Ben (Michael Ironside) and waitress Jane Martin.

The Lost Boys (1987)

When two brothers move to California, they find themselves targeted by a gang of hungry vampires led by the suave but lethal leader David (Kiefer Sutherland). In order to survive, Michael must join forces with a motley crew of teenage outcasts who come to be known as the “Lost Boys.”

Poltergeist (1982)

This 1982 horror film is about a family that moves into what they think will be their perfect suburban home. Soon, the children become increasingly disturbed by paranormal and psychic happenings, including visions of ghosts and demons.

Gremlins (1984)

This 1984 family comedy horror film is about a young man called Billy Peltzer, who receives an unusual pet for Christmas in the form of a Mogwai. He soon discovers that each mogwai comes with its own set of rules which he must follow to keep his new companion safe from harm and evil.

Child’s Play (1988)

This 1988 horror film is about a serial killer, Charles Lee Ray, who uses voodoo to escape death and then transfers his soul into the body of a doll named Chucky.

The Evil Dead (1981)

This 1981 horror film is about five friends who travel to an isolated cabin for the weekend. A local woman warns them not to stray too far from the house, but they don’t listen and end up being chased by members of a murderous cult that wants their body parts.

Friday the 13th (1980)

A group of teenagers head to a campground in Crystal Lake where they’re stalked by an undead killer who was never caught or identified, and now is looking for revenge on those meddling kids. This horror movie spawned twelve sequels that are just as terrifying and gory.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This is a horror movie classic that has spawned six sequels, and is about a group of teenagers in California who are being stalked by an undead serial killer with knives for fingers who kills his victims while they’re asleep. The only way to stop him from killing you is to wake up!

(Like Horror Movies of the 1980s? Then you might like our article on Horror Movies of the 1970s, click here. Or how about Horror Movies of the 1990s, click here.)

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