13 Best ’80s Horror Movies That Are Still Terrifying Today

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The 1980s were a bad time for a lot of things—cocaine abuse, corruption at financial institutions, leg-warmers—but one thing this decade did very well was horror. The ’80s horror movies we know and love feel as relevant today as they did nearly 40 years ago, and for good reason: They launched franchises, created tropes that genre films still rely on today, and established the idea that a scary movie could be frightening and genuinely thoughtful.

While there are a ton of scary movies made in that decade to choose from (seriously, did people in the ’80s just sit around being scared all the time?), these 13 are the best (in our humble opinions) in no particular order. Check them out below:

The Shining (1980)

Who’s in it?

Jack NicholsonShelley Duvall, and it’s directed by auteur Stanley Kubrick.

What’s it about?

A writer and his family go for a retreat to a haunted hotel, and some pretty scary stuff starts happening. Think Creepy twins, elevators full of blood, ghost parties, and a really disturbing bathtub scene. Plus, leave it to Kubrick to include what’s probably the first example of Furry sex in a major motion picture.

How scary is it?

More so deeply unsettling than jump-out-of-your-skin scary, this movie will leave you creeped you out for the rest of the day.

The Thing (1982)

Who’s in it?

Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, with John Carpenter—the genre film giant—directing.

What’s it about?

A group of scientists in Antarctica discover that a malevolent being capable of inhabiting human bodies (and dog bodies) has started to take over the lab. No one can be trusted, and in order for the team to escape the base, they have to make sure they don’t have any…extra passengers.

How scary is it?

It’s pretty gory, albeit mostly in a campy way, but that’s not really the scary part. It’s terrifying because it creates a monster you didn’t realize you needed to fear—the mark of a good horror movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Who’s in it?

Young, sexy Johnny Depp, Robert Englund (as the legendary, O.G. Freddy Krueger), and then no one else you’d really know unless you’re a true Elm Street nerd. Horror maestro Wes Craven directed it.

What’s it about?

In the apex of the slasher genre, Freddy Krueger is a creepy-looking killer who murders teenagers in their dreams, which ends up also murdering them in real-life. There’s a lot of parental distrust in this movie, and rightfully so.

How scary is it?

I mean, it’s a slasher movie. Lots of blood, lots of jump-scares, but it’s more spooky fun than truly upsetting.

The Fog (1980)

Who’s in it?

Jamie Lee Curtis (preeminent Final Girl) and Janet Leigh. It’s another John Carpenter joint because the man is prolific.

What’s it about?

A fog rolls in on the 100th anniversary of a small coastal town, unleashing creepy happenings and death. Stay away from the fog, people!

How scary is it?

The graphics are laughably retro (I mean, it was nearly 40 years ago) but the concept of a murderous fog is undeniably freaky.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Who’s in it?

Linda Hamilton, a bunch of kids.

What’s it about?

It’s based on a Stephen King story so you know shit goes down. A couple driving through Nebraska discovers the body of a dead kid, which then leads them to a town full of only children. They soon discover that a fanatical preacher-boy has convinced the kids to kill all the adults, in the name of a demon that may or may not be real.

How scary is it?

Genuinely scary! What is it about running through a cornfield to escape an unseen evil… Oh, Yeah, I guess that’s pretty terrifying.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Who’s in it?

David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and it’s directed by John Landis.

What’s it about?

This movie actually has a really smart plot. Two American kids backpacking through England are attacked by a monster, killing one and leaving the other…changed. While the surviving guy recovers in the hospital, he starts being visited by the dead friend who tells him that, come the next full moon, he’ll turn into a werewolf. He begins a murderous rampage, all the while receiving dreamy visitations from his mutilated victims.

How scary is it?

Very scary and quite thought-provoking. A werewolf in a city setting is surprisingly unsettling, and the undead-ish victims are awfully gruesome—even if they mean well.

Poltergeist (1982)

Who’s in it?

Craig T. Nelson, Dominique Dunne, and it’s written by some guy named Steven Spielberg.

What’s it about?

A malevolent ghost begins haunting a family—classic spooky stuff—but this movie gets an added layer of creepiness because of the rumoured “curse” on its production. Tragically, the young girl who starred in the first movie, Heather O’Rourke, died after filming, and another young person died around the filming of the sequel. The events became known as “the Poltergeist curse” and, as sad as it is, the curse imbues the movie with an extra layer of horror.

How scary is it?

There’s a pit of skulls and a haunted television set that will make you slightly nervous around any sort of static after watching it.

Cujo (1983)

Who’s in it?

Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, and Christopher Stone

What’s it about?

After being bitten by a bat, a well-mannered St. Bernard turns rabid and goes on a killing spree.

How scary is it?

As a kid, it was a total nightmare; I was terrified of dogs for most of my formative years. But as an adult who’s finally put her cynophobia to bed, it’s more saddening than scream-inducing because you understand that Cujo wasn’t actually a bad dog. He just had rabies.

Evil Dead (1981)

Who’s in it?

Bruce Campbell as Ash in the now-iconic lead role. Sam Raimi directs.

What’s it about?

A group of friends on a hike (if you watch a lot of horror movies, why would you ever go hiking?) to a cabin, read aloud from the Necronomicon and accidentally unleash zombies upon the world. Classic.

How scary is it?

It’s so full of what are now clichés that it’s a little predictable and it feels pretty darn dated, but if you love zombie movies, you must see it.

The Lost Boys (1987)

Who’s in it?

Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Alex Winter, Dianne Wiest.

What’s it about?

A group of boys in the midst of rebelling against their new stepdad discover an entire crew of evil vampires and have to go to battle with them. It’s got an incredible soundtrack and is a who’s who of 1980s heartthrobs.

How scary is it?

More of an action movie than a horror movie, in the vein of The Goonies, but it has its jump-scare moments. Mostly, it’s just a really, really good movie about vampires.

Child’s Play (1988)

Who’s in it?

Besides Chucky? Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and Alex Vincent.

What’s it about?

When a serial killer performs an old voodoo spell that places his soul into the body of a doll, a young boy and his mother have to face the murderous consequences.

How scary is it?

Honestly…not that scary. But you’re probably going to be wary of dolls for a long, long time, if not the rest of your life.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Who’s in it?

Bill Pullman, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts, Zakes Mokae, and Aleta Mitchell.

What’s it about?

An anthropologist travels to Haiti during the country’s revolution to acquire the secret of an ancient voodoo spell that turns victims into zombies. Another Wes Craven production.

How scary is it?

You know how you’ll randomly remember scary scenes at different points of your life that send a chill down your spine and keep you up at night? Yeah. That’s this movie.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Who’s in it?

Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Ari Lehman, and a young Kevin Bacon.

What’s it about?

Camp Crystal Lake becomes a hotbed of violence after an anonymous serial killer commits a series of gruesome murders.

How scary is it?

Considered one of the slasher classics, Friday the 13th is naturally less scary than it is gory. If you’re not one for the sight of blood, feel free to skip this one.

source: marieclaire

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