The 1980s were a golden era for mainstream horror. It was full of slashers, body horror, ghouls, sci-fi, and dark comedies just to name a few. This list was a collaborative effort among the Frightday staff to compile a list of some of our favorite films from the decade, movies that—despite being dated in their ways—are still incredibly enjoyable to watch.


The Thing

The Thing is quite possibly one of the best film remakes of all time. Not only is it significantly gorier than its predecessor, but it also stars Kurt Russell… Enough said. And The Thing—and all of its various forms—still freaks out audiences and amazes effects departments 30-plus years after its release, thanks to the movie’s amazing effects. [AS]


Friday the 13th

The first in this largely popular franchise, Friday the 13th premiered in 1980, giving it that “is it ‘80s or is it ‘70s?” vibe. Clearly dated costuming and a couple racial comments that wouldn’t fly today, Jason’s introductory flick exemplifies slashers during the decade. Don’t wind up like Drew Barrymore: Jason doesn’t kill anyone in the first movie! [MI]



They’re heeeeerrrreee. Poltergeist is a cautionary tale about living in a house built on top of an ancient burial ground. Ghouls are generally bad at sharing their space. Creepy kids, spooky psychics, and swimming pools full of dead bodies. What more could you ask for? [FS]


Sleepaway Camp

There’s not really a slasher quite like this. Sure there’s plenty of campy movies full of poorly aged effects, but Sleepaway Camp truly sets itself apart with its story. It’s really difficult to explain why this is a must see without spoiling anything, but it’s got plenty of brutal kills (some occurring off-screen) a third act reveal that will stick with you. [AP]



Director Stuart Gordon takes on Lovecraft in this 1985 flick about–you guessed it–reanimation. The glowing green serum and mass quantities of fake blood put this in campy territory, but one specific decapitation and what follows make this film objectively horrifying, disgusting, and unsettling. Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton, it is a classic that should be in any horror buff’s collection. [MI]


My Bloody Valentine

The 80s is a treasure trove of slashers, and there’s more than a few that have gone unnoticed by the wider public. While My Bloody Valentine isn’t exactly lost to the ages (it did get a late 2000s remake), it is vastly underappreciated. The visual and thematic presence of Valentine’s Day and coal mining make this one standout, a campy bit of 80s horror that’s just as enjoyable today as it was then. [AP]



Winona Ryder kills it as the intellectually-advanced high schooler Veronica in this 1988 release. A dark and humorous look at how terrible spoiled teenage girls are and how terrifying and charismatic Christian Slater can be, Heathers defies genre categorization and solidified itself as an ‘80s film to be reckoned with. How very. [MI]



It’s fairly debated as to which movie from the Alien franchise is best, but the top contenders are always Alien and Aliens. And it’s for good reason. While Aliens strays a bit from the horror roots to engage in more action-oriented sequences, it still maintains some of the dread and isolation that made the first a classic. This is a must watch for any sci-fi lover. [AP]



There are many things one shouldn’t do after midnight. However, feeding the tiny, cute Mogwai is waaay up there on the “do not do” list. Gremlins is a true-blue ‘80s classic that is still fun to watch to this day. It’s also one of the few films on this list that’s “safe” for some kids to watch. [AS]


Monster Squad

This 1987 classic is a love letter to two recipients: Universal Studios’ monster movies and horror fans. It’s a goofy adolescent comedy, a movie every bit as much about friendship as it is about protecting the town from monsters and kicking a wolfman in the nards. On the horror-comedy scale it’s definitely tipping a bit to the latter, but it’s a really enjoyable movie. [AP]


A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp blood fountain. Need I say more? Nightmare on Elm Street not only bred one of the most iconic horror villains of all time, but continues to be a fun slasher to enjoy while you shamefully polish off leftover Halloween candy. [FS]


April Fool’s Day

The holiday this film shares its name with is simultaneously totally innocent and completely sinister. It’s a day meant for pranks, jokes, having a laugh at someone’s expense. But what if those pranks go too far? What if the joke is that you were lured to your death? April Fool’s Day is a kitschy, self-aware slasher with some truly bad effects and very fun reveals. [AP]



This ‘88 Tim Burton classic wouldn’t be complete without contrasting pops of color, architecture that doesn’t make sense, and over-the-top makeup. Michael Keaton truly is Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice), and there isn’t a weak link in the cast. Artful humor and a fun plotline concerning the uncertainties of the afterlife make this a must-see ‘80s genre film. [MI]

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The Frightday Staff

The Frightday Staff

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