The evolution of horror by decade: The 1980s

The decade that spawned Jason, Freddie, Pinhead and “Here’s Johnny”
It’s been tough to cull the list of the Best Horror Movies of the ‘80s to just 10, but here are our top choices for the decade that redefined horror, created landmark characters, spurned endless franchises and still scare the hell out of us all these decades later.

Friday the 13th (1980)

The movie that kick-started the ‘80s slasher film phenomenon and launched a myriad of knock-offs, wannabes, 11 sequels and even inspired a horror punk band. Jason Voorhees and Camp Crystal Lake are as Americana as apple pie (albeit dipped in blood). Co-incidentally, Jason’s iconic hockey mask only first appeared in 1982’s Friday the 13th Part 111.

The Shining (1980)

“Stanley Kubrick's haunted-hotel classic is the pinnacle of 1980s horror” – Esquire
Starring Jack Nicholson in probably his most unforgettable, most unhinged screen performance – “Here’s Johnny”. There goes my sanity!

The Evil Dead (1981)

The name Sam Raimi is synonymous with horror, and this is the movie that put him on the map. The main protagonist Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) has become a cult favourite and the theme of a terrifying cabin in the woods has featured in many other horror movies.

Stephen King was an early fan, and it was his endorsement that helped get the film a distribution deal.

The Thing (1982)

This is John Carpenter’s personal favourite of all his films, and it’s easy to see why.
The special effects make-up was a benchmark of its era. Pile on top of this the icy Antarctic locations, the alien infestation, the gut-churning gore, Kurt Russell – and you have a cult classic.

Poltergeist (1982)

When you put Tobe Hooper, the Director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Steven Spielberg in a room together, what do you get? One of horror’s most enduring and influential movies, still referenced to this day. The recent Netflix hit Stranger Things is an homage to 80’s horror hits, most particularly Poltergeist.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The movie that gave birth to one of horror’s most infamous villains – the child murdering, melted-face, blade-glove wearing Freddy Krueger. Countless sequels and endless nightmares later, Wes Craven’s original is still the best. And worth is alone for the way it kills off a young Johnny Depp.

Re-Animator (1985)

A horror camp classic with the emphasis on humour – but when the dead walk, there will be plenty of gore. Famous for the severed talking head – and that’s just the start of the blood-splattering re-animations.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

The tagline read: ‘He's not Freddy. He's not Jason. He's real’ Here is horror in all its stripped-back, real-life, almost doco-style form. Cold, cruel, brutal, raw, this movie appeared in a storm of controversy – originally receiving an X rating and causing mass hysteria. Disturbing beyond belief and based on a despicable true-life serial killer, you won’t sleep after watching it. If ever again.

Hellraiser (1987)

Talk about iconic horror characters – the Cenobite Pinhead still gives us nightmares. This trippy, psycho-sexual British horror feast, written and directed by Clive Barker, is loaded with sadomasochistic flourishes, erotic imagery and is a one-way portal to Hell.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Apparently Stephen King once said that this was the one novel of his that really scared him... and the movie version will leave the hairs on your neck standing up.  A cemetery full of dead animals, a zombie cat, a murderous toddler, a theme song by The Ramones – what’s not to love?

Gorge on our Horror feast

horror cliche thumb

The 10 biggest horror movie clichés of all time

Horror and originality don’t generally go hand in hand. Just sayin’.
thumb true crime films

True crime: the horror films that’ll keep you up at night

Some of the scariest horror films are based on real-life events. These ones are guaranteed to haunt your dreams.

Famous faces of horror: Where are they now?

They gave us nightmares. They haunt our memories. They made us freeze with fear.
chucky thumbnail

7 new horror movies that’ll scare the pants off us all

2017 is officially the Year of Fear with scary clowns, possessed dolls and brain harvesters scaring audiences around the globe. Horror is officially hot again.

Get the latest movie updates sent directly to your inbox!

Want more from inside of Australia's biggest movie and home entertainment company? Join the crew today for news, exclusive offers and competitions.

Thanks. We'll be in touch soon.