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25 Classic 80s Scary Movies That Continue to Send Shivers Down Spines

As a child in the 80s, some of my earliest memories were of sneaking into the living room to watch horror movies my older siblings had rented from the video store that I wasn’t supposed to.

What this sparked was a lifelong obsession with the varied and uncompromising genre, as well as recurring nightmares that I still have to this day.

Some of these films may be approaching 50, but their power to unnerve, scare, and unsettle has not diminished.

1. Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist Heather O'Rourke
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Written by Steven Speilburg and Directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist tells the tale of the Freeling family, whose house becomes haunted by a group of malevolent spirits that communicate with their young daughter Carol Anne. As the family fights to escape the clutches of evil within their own home, they uncover the chilling truth behind the haunting and must confront powerful forces to save their family.

2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining Shelley Duvall
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In Kubrick’s terrifying adaptation of the Stephen King classic, Sees Jack Nicolson, a struggling writer who takes a job as the caretaker of an isolated hotel for the winter in hopes of finishing his latest book. However, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, as he is slowly driven insane by the supernatural forces inhabiting the Hotel.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Wes Craven’s quintessential teen slasher sees a group of friends stalked in their dreams by the sinister and disfigured killer Freddy Kruger. If Freddie catches them in their dreams, they die in the real world.

4. The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead Ellen Sandweiss
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Sam Raimi’s controversial debut feature sees a group of friends unwittingly release evil spirits from the Book of the Dead by playing passages from it on a tape recorder while staying in a run-down cabin in the woods.

5. Halloween II (1981)

Halloween II Jamie Lee Curtis
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Rick Rosenthaal’s Directorial debut picks up moments after John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. As Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) makes her way to the hospital, Mike Myers continues his pursuit of the traumatized babysitter, unleashing a new wave of terror upon the staff and patients.

6. The Thing (1982)

The Thing
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Kurt Russel and Keith David star in John Carpenter’s tale of alien possession and paranoia, which sees an Arctic research team encounter an alien organism that can imitate other life forms perfectly. As fear and distrust escalate among the group, the researchers must discover who the alien is before the creature claims them all.

7. Friday The 13th (1980)

Friday The 13th Adrienne King, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros.

As preparations to reopen Camp Crystal Lake near completion following the tragic death of a camper several years earlier. The camp counselors are stalked and gruesomely murdered by an unseen killer.

8. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

An American Werewolf in London David Naughton
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

John Landis’ horror comedy sees a pair of American backpackers, David and Jack, attacked on the Yorkshire moors by a werewolf. David wakes in a London hospital three weeks later, plagued by terrifying visions and cursed to turn into a werewolf at the next full moon.

9. The Fly (1986)

The Fly Geena Davis
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Jeff Goldblum stars in David Cronenberg’s disturbing body horror remake. A brilliant scientist accidentally merges his DNA with a housefly during a teleportation experiment that slowly transforms him into a grotesque hybrid of man and insect.

10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Caroline Williams
Image Credit: Cannon Releasing.

Tobe Hooper’s black comedy Stars Dennis Hopper as a former Texas Ranger tasked with tracking down Leatherface and the cannibalistic Sawyer family after they kidnap a radio DJ.

11. Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Robert Sampson
Image Credit: Empire International Pictures.

Based on the HP Lovecraft novella Herbert West Re-animator, Stuart West’s comedy horror sees a medical student create a serum that brings the dead back to life. Chaos ensues as he becomes obsessed with his newfound power, and the reanimated corpses wreak havoc.

12. Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser Robert Hines, Ashley Laurence
Image Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors.

Clive Barker’s slow burn sees a hedonist open a puzzle box that is said to give otherworldly pleasure. In doing so, he unwittingly summons Pinhead and the sadistic Cenobites, Otherworldly beings who ‘have such sights to show you’ and cannot tell the difference between pleasure and pain.

13. The Lost Boys (1987)

The Lost Boys Corey Haim, Cody
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Alex Winter and Kiefer Sutherland star in Joel Shumacher’s classic teen Vampire romp. After brothers Michael and Sam move to the small town of Santa Carla, Michael falls in with a motorcycle gang led by the enigmatic David. However, as Michael becomes closer to the gang, it’s revealed they are actually vampires, and Sam is their next victim.

14. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow Bill Pullman, Paul Winfield
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name. Bill Pullman stars as anthropologist Dennis Alan who travels to Haiti to investigate a mysterious drug that is said to create real-life zombies. As he gets closer to the truth, Alan becomes drawn into a world of voodoo, dark magic, and political unrest.

15. Videodrome (1983)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

James Woods stars as a shady TV executive obsessed with a sadistic Malaysian TV program, Videodrome that shows victims being tortured and murdered. Believing Videodrome to be the future of Television, he tries to track down where the show is broadcast while slowly losing his mind.

16. Child’s Play (1988)

Child's Play Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent
Image Credit: MGM/UA Communications Co.

A young boy called Andy is given a doll called Chuckie, unaware that the spirit of a serial killer possesses it. After Chuckie comes to life and begins a new reign of terror, Andy is blamed for the murders.

17. The Fog (1980)

The Fog Adrienne Barbeau
Image Credit: AVCO Embassy Pictures.

In this supernatural horror film, a glowing green fog envelopes a small coastal town in northern California, bringing the vengeful ghosts of a group of leperous mariners killed in a shipwreck a century earlier to the town. The residents must confront the town’s complex past to quell the spirits before the ghosts kill six people.

18. The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling
Image Credit: Pan-Canadian Film Distributors.

George C Scott stars as John Russell, a grieving composer who rents a historic mansion in Seattle after the death of his family. However, Russell soon finds he is not alone, as his home is haunted by a spirit seeking justice for their unsolved murder.

19. Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary Dale Midkiff, Miko Hughes
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, this unsettling supernatural horror follows the Creed family, who move to a small farm in Maine near a burial ground that can bring the dead back to life. After their pet cat Church dies in a traffic accident, they secretly bury their beloved pet in the cemetery to save their children grieving. However, when Church returns, he is not the same loveable fluffball he once was.

20. The Hitcher (1986)

The Hitcher Jennifer Jason Leigh, C. Thomas Howell
Image Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.

This psychological thriller sees a young man become the target of a deadly game of cat and mouse after picking up a hitchhiking serial killer. It includes another powerhouse performance by Rutger Hauer as the titular Hitcher.

21. Prince of Darkness (1987)

Prince of Darkness Betty Ramey
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter’s mind-bending Biblical horror film stars Donald Pleasance as a priest who enlists the help of a group of scientists after he discovers a mysterious cylinder in an abandoned church. It is soon revealed that the contents of the tube may be those of Satan himself.

22. Tetsuo The Iron Man (1989)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man Nobu Kanaoka, Tomorô Taguchi
Image Credit: Kaijyu Theatres.

Shinya Tsukamoto’s intense and disturbing cyberpunk horror follows the story of a salaryman who slowly transforms into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and metal. Engulfed in a nightmarish world of technological chaos and psychological torment.

23. Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow Stephen King
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This five-part horror anthology, directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King, tells the story of a young boy named Billy. After being told off by his father for reading horror comics, Billy imagines the pages of the comics coming to life on his TV.

24. Possession (1981)

Image Credit: Gaumont.

Director Andrzej Żuławski’s horror-comedy tells the story of Anna and Mark. Amid a turbulent divorce, Mark finds that his wife’s behavior is becoming increasingly erratic. As he attempts to unravel the cause of his wife’s strange behavior, he is sucked into a nightmarish world of supernatural horror.

25. The Blob (1988)

The Blob
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A remake of the 1950s classic, written by Frank Darabont and directed by Chuck Russell. The Blob tells the tale of a small Californian town terrorized by an acidic, amoeba-like organism that crashes down to earth in a military satellite that grows larger with every organism it consumes.



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