Don’t rip my face off: Top 10 horror movies of the ’80s

Who wants another list of great horror movies of the ’80s? I tweak and recycle this list every year or so — just about the time someone talks me into watching another Halloween movie that gives me nightmares for three weeks. Still, I maintain that only two movies scared the every-loving-hell out of me in the ’80s: Halloween 3 – Season of the Witch (mainly for the creepy commercial jingo) and Poltergeist (which I can no longer watch for insomnia issues.)

The list was originally generated about a decade ago by reader suggestions from my old blog, but there’s a little personal opinion here and there. It’s not as long as our previous lists of best comedies, worst songs, best videos and worst films. But it’ll still give you a great guide to picking movies to watch this week since we’re all too old to go out and beg for candy. (Liquor is quicker.)

Excerpts from critic reviews are only included in the top 5 for this list. Critics are traditionally harsh on horror movies and their comments weren’t pretty beyond the very best of the movies. I picked the “taglines” for the rest of the flicks.

By the way, if you’re looking for our Halloween podcasts from our 15 years of doing the show, here they are too:


10. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984): Johnny Depp, Robert Englund. “A scream that wakes you up, might be your own.”

9. THE BELIEVERS (1987): Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver. “They exist. Fear them.”

8. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985): Clu Gulager, James Karen. “They’re back … They’re Hungry … And they’re NOT vegetarian.”

7. PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987): Donald Pleasance, Jameson Parker. “It is evil. It is real. It is awakening.”

6. CHRISTINE (1983): Keith Gordon, John Stockwell. “Hell hath no Fury…like Christine.”

5. THE SHINING (1980): Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall. One critic said: “It is not just a great horror film; it is a psychological profile of how people wrestle with their unsavory pasts.”

4. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986): Jason Lively, Steve Marshall. One critic said: “Rarely is a horror comedy as much fun to watch as this movie is.”

3. AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981): David Naughton, Jenny Agutter. One critic said: “It may be one of the best endings to any movie, ever.”

2. THE THING (1982): Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley. One critic said: “If you don’t repeatedly drop your jaw and gape at the screen in disbelief, you might need to lay off the PCP.”

And No. 1. POLTERGEIST (1982): Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams. One critic said: “This is the movie The Amityville Horror dreamed of being.”

The scariest scenes: The face-ripping scene, that dreaded clown, the bodies floating in the pool. The list goes on and on. The cast of Poltergeist was virtually unknown before the movie. And though ToBe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is given credit for directing it, rumor had it that writer Steven Spielberg often took control of the shooting, giving this move the quintessential ’80s feel.

Enjoy the list and remember: “You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.”