As we near a new decade of horror, we here are looking fondly back at the groundwork that was laid by the pioneers of the genre in the decades that came before. Today, I’m ranking the top 10 films of the 1980s, oft considered Horror’s glory days – and I’ll tell you, it was pretty darn hard to narrow down my list to only ten films.

For every one film on this list, at least three others were hummed and hawed before ultimately finding their way on the honorable mentions. There are simply too many great films.

But here’s a taste of the best!



10. Fright Night (1985)

fright night

This film may have snuck onto my list purely because it has the best dance sequence of all time. But in all seriousness, Fright Night delivered suburban horror to our nuclear homes in Dracula-esque proportions, creating a charming vampire unlike that of which we’d ever seen before. Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), our meta horror-host, elevates this flick beyond standard horror movie-night fare, giving a nod to the seasoned horror lover.


9. The Lost Boys (1987)

the lost boys

The Lost Boys made horror cool. The villains were cool. The heroes were cool. The dweebs were cool. The saxophone was cool. The grandpa was cool. There are only a handful of films that make us long for an endless summer night on the boardwalk, and this is probably the only one of those films that is chock full of vampires.


8. Christine (1983)

christine 1983

Take a car and make it bad. Bad to the bone. Stephen King’s Christine may be a basic premise, but combined with John Carpenter’s eyes and ears, it’s chrome perfection. Sinister and sexy, Christine is a ride into the darkness, and no one’s at the wheel.


7. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead 2 is zany, wild, scrappy – but shows just how amazing a horror film you can make with sheer will and determination. Cabins in the woods have never been the same, and the deadites have provided enough horror content for several decades (and hopefully several more decades to come!).


6. The Fly (1986)

the fly david cronenberg

Body horror found a home in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. A scientist gone too far, a transformation worthy of standing alongside the iconic monsters of Silver Screen, and practical effects that would make even the most iron stomach, squirm – Brundlefly captured our horror-tainted hearts.


5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm street bathtub

A new villain was born in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. With otherworldly special effects and nightmarish sequences that kept more than a handful of unlucky teens up at night, this film has become a staple of the genre.


4. An American Werewolf in London (1981)


an american werewolf in london

Beware the moors! With a werewolf transformation that created its own Oscar category, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London proved no one does Tragedy quite like Horror. A testament to the beautifully chaotic storytelling of our beloved genre; come for the make-up, stay for the story.


3. Poltergeist (1982)


Horror hits close to home for the young family in Poltergeist. A film that proved a high body count doesn’t always trump, this film explored the ‘other side’ with humor, heart, and wonderfully concocted characters.


2. The Thing (1982)

the thing 1982 john carpenter

How well fo you know your co-workers? Your friends? A mystery where no one can be trusted and everyone’s fate is up in the air, John Carpenter’s The Thing served up some of the most disgusting special effects and iconic creature designs of our genre.


1. The Shining (1980)

stanley kubrick the shining

Every good ghost story strives to reach the pure, raw terror of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. A cinematic masterpiece and utterly perfect interpretation of Stephen King’s iconic novel. The Overlook, even with its endless corridors and expansive rooms, somehow manages to chill our bones, every time we dare click PLAY.

What films would be on your Top 10?  Join the conversation with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!