The Best “Horror” Movies of the 1980s

The genre of the horror movie in the 1980s retrospectively seems more like dark comedy. Decidedly camp and unwaveringly not that scary, the genre of horror was in a league of its own during this decade. Below are among the great ones.

Nicolas Cage owns comedic depravity in Vampires Kiss
Nicolas Cage owns comedic depravity in Vampires Kiss
Vampire’s Kiss (1989): Nicolas Cage may or may not be a vampire. Is it all in his head? That’s part of the psychological fun.
Still from Halloween II
Still from Halloween II
Halloween II (1981): The depravity of Michael Myers intensifies in the second installment of Halloween, with our heroine, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), wavering in and out of consciousness at a mental institution for most of it.
Looking less than fly: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
Looking less than fly: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
The Fly (1986): Rife with more soap opera drama than horror, The Fly is more of a Kafkaesque commentary on ostracism, among other philosophical dilemmas. Plus, it asks the ultimate question: Will my child be born a hybrid mutant?
One of the "killer" klowns
One of the “killer” klowns
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988): Yet another California-based (the scariest place of all) “horror” movie, Killer Klowns From Outer Space follows Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and his girlfriend, Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) as their town is overrun by a circus of outerplanetary clowns with a lust for putting people in cocoons.
Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge
Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige
Fright Night (1985): Among the most classic on this list, Fright Night pre-dated the vampire craze of the 00s with a far more nuanced study of a bloodsucker’s personality, in this case Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon). His torment of Charley Brewster (Williams Ragsdale) is an unintentionally comedic display of cat and mouse–“for real!”
Cast of Lost Boys
Cast of Lost Boys
Lost Boys (1987): This film, also set in a fictional California town, called Santa Carla (not to be confused with Santa Clara) continues the vampire trend that picked up in the 80s. However, the most sinister things about this movie are its soundtrack featuring children singing creepily on backing vocals and the shirtless saxophone player that makes a cameo around the middle of the movie (an ideal Halloween costume for the emboldened type).
More signature 80s makeup stylings from Evil Dead
More signature 80s makeup stylings from Evil Dead
Evil Dead II (1987): As usual, the plot of this horror movie takes place in a cabin in the woods. Because why wouldn’t you want to sequester yourself in a remote area that’s rife for getting you killed while you, to use an 80s word, “boink” your significant other? Cliches aside, this movie really takes its makeup and special effects game to new heights of 80s cheese.
Jason Vorhees, misunderstood in Friday the 13th
Jason Vorhees, misunderstood in Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th (1980): Before the many sequels that came out after the original, Friday the 13th was a testament to the classicism of a horror movie villain. Why bother with a mangled face or blood-spattered body when all you need is a simple hockey mask?
A Furby-esque gremlin
A Furby-esque gremlin
Gremlins (1984): Before the Furby was a thing, there were gremlins. And why a parent would want to buy one for his 21-year-old son, I couldn’t tell you. Add purchasing said toy from Chinatown to the mix and it’s no wonder you end up fucked three ways to Sunday.
Corn child
Corn child
Children of the Corn (1984): Continuing to prove that 1984 was a golden year for “horror,” Children of the Corn is yet another Stephen King adaptation gone awry (obviously the only supreme one is The Shining). There are many elements of eeriness in the film, to be sure, but they’re mostly interspersed with expressions you can’t take seriously. Moreover, it’s really just a cautionary tale about living in the Midwest.