The 1980s were a killer decade for on-screen ghoulishness. So we dipped into the archives and rounded up our favorite flicks from the era of bright green scrunchies and blood red gore. Get ready—we’re going totally classic, totally iconic, and totally ’80s.
1. The Shining (1980)
Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson pair up for Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the , and it is on-screen malevolent magic that continues to terrify. About a family that looks after an isolated long after the tourists have left, The Shining is more than just a horror film; it’s a dark masterpiece that just might be the crowning achievement of Stanley Kubrick’s career.
2. The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi doesn’t care about your gag reflex. And nowhere is this more apparent than in his ultra-low-budget zombie horror packed with over-the-top gore. Proving you never need a ton of money to scare the pants off people, The Evil Deadintroduces us to Ash, his friends, and the rotting Deadites they just summoned from hell. It’s the first feature in a franchise to which present-day filmmakers still turn for inspiration.
3. Possession (1981)
It’s possible you missed Ukraine director Andrzej Zulawski’s award-winning genre-bending relationship thriller back in 1981—or that you saw the butchered version released in America. But if you can find Possession in its original unedited state, watch it. About a woman who’s having an affair with a tentacled beast, it’s a genre buff’s absolute dream/nightmare.
4. Aliens (1986)
James Cameron helms the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror classic. And while the principal ingredients remain the same—xenomorphs, fire, more xenomorphs —the film ups the badass ante with leading lady Ellen Ripley. In addition to being an ’80s horror classic, Aliens belongs to that exclusive group of sequels that outperform the original. Yeah, we said it.
5. Creepshow (1982)
Two masters of horror join forces in a collaboration that more than lives up to its name. Stephen King and George A. Romero’s Creepshow is an anthology of five mini-movies honoring the EC and DC horror comics of the 50s and 60s. Though the homage conjures a few unintended chuckles, it still taps into some eternal fears: swarms of cockroaches, anyone?
6. Tenebre (1982)
Gotta have giallo, right? In Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s slasher classic, an American writer hunkers down in Rome only to find that there’s a psycho stalker butchering everyone involved with his latest book. With Argento’s signature mix of crime thriller chills awash in erotica and gore, Tenebre will have you singing its praises while you squirm in your seat.
7. The Thing (1982)
As if you needed another reason to stay away from the far reaches of the planet where ice and glaciers outnumber the living. Well, here’s another: shape-shifting aliens who mutate and assume the identities of the people they kill. Starring Kurt Russell bundled in one big winter coat, The Thing just might be John Carpenter’s chilling high water mark.
8. Poltergeist (1982)
Rumor has it writer/producer Steven Spielberg stepped on a few toes during production of this 1982 horror gem—and may have unearthed a couple real-life skeletons. Whether you believe in the and corpse props that still haunt this film is up to you. Regardless, this silver screen nightmare of a suburban family who can’t rid their home of its ghostly guest is a supernatural masterpiece.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
10. The Fly (1986)
Jeff Goldblum stars in David Cronenberg’s body-horror film about a scientist who mutates into a giant insect after one of his experiments goes wrong. And we will never look at him the same way again. A remake of —itself an adaptation of the same-name short story by George Langelaan—Cronenberg’s The Fly belongs in everyone’s list of top ’80s horror movies.
Promotional still for "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise via New Line Cinema; Poster for "The Shining" via Warner Bros.; Still of "The Evil Dead" via Renaissance Pictures; Still from "Possession" via Limelight International; Still from "Aliens" via Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Still from "Creepshow" via Warner Bros.; Still from "Tenebre" via Anchor Bay Entertainment; Still from "The Thing" via Universal Pictures; Still from "Poltergeist" via Warner Bros.; Still from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" via New Line Cinema; Still from "The Fly" via Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation