Gremlins in the Kitchen - Gremlins (3/6) Movie CLIP (1984) HD

Equal parts horror movie, Christmas classic and black-as-coal comedy, Gremlins seems like it should be a mess on paper. However, Joe Dante’s deft direction and the wit of Chris Columbus’ screenplay tether all the pieces together. The story of teenager Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) receiving a mystical mogwai for Christmas—only for the fluffball to multiply, mutate and raise hell—is earnest, funny and freaky at the same time. It’s also home to some supremely underrated practical effects, with the eponymous nuisances never feeling anything less than real. Long story short: this is essential seasonal viewing for any breed of horror hound.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

3 / 22

19. Basket Case (1982)

19. Basket Case (1982)

Belial trashes the hotel room (Basket Case - 1982)

Basket Case is a weird oxymoron of a film. On one level, the directorial debut of Frank Henenlotter (who’d later make such schlockbusters as Frankenhooker and Bad Biology) is your typical ’80s B-horror. It’s about a man who keeps his deformed conjoined twin in a basket, and the pair kill the doctors that separated them in a cavalcade of blood and flimsy stop-motion. However, it’s boosted above and beyond by a (sometimes) sweet romance and lamentations on society’s shallowness. Who’d ever have thought that a murderous blob of arms and skin could become a three-dimensional character?

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

4 / 22

18. They Live (1988)

18. They Live (1988)

THEY LIVE Clip - Obey (1988)

Very few directors get to have as spotless a decade as John Carpenter did in the 1980s (spoiler alert: three of his movies show up on this list), and he capped his golden era off with one of his best works. They Live is a quotable, tough-as-nails, and smartly satirical sci-fi/action/horror. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper turns in a performance better than anything fellow wrestlers-turned-actors Dwayne Johnson and John Cena have ever done when he stars as a one-liner-spewing drifter. Meanwhile, the film’s jabs at capitalism—depicted as a mind-control plot by invading aliens—are as pertinent now as they were in ’88.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

5 / 22

17. Child’s Play (1988)

17. Child’s Play (1988)

CHILD’S PLAY (1988) | Official Trailer | MGM

Child’s Play was far from the first killer doll movie, yet it’s easily the most imitated. By meshing the subgenre with the nascent slasher craze, screenwriter Don Mancini and Fright Night director (and not Spider-Man) Tom Holland created a darkly comic hit and ignited a decades-long franchise. Brad Dourif is as insane as ever as serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who transfers his dying soul into a toy and kills all who impede his quest to become human again. Although not as intimidating as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers before him, he’d go on to become an infinitely more comedic and creative killer.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

6 / 22

16. Fright Night (1985)

16. Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night (1985) Trailer #1

Child’s Play may be Tom Holland’s biggest film, but his directorial debut, Fright Night, is his best. A meta horror-comedy by and for aficionados of vampire lore, it follows midnight movie nut Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) as he comes to believe his new, dashing, next-door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is actually a bloodsucker. Despite lamenting the Nosferatu myth falling out of fashion, the movie was ironically a progenitor of the late ’80s’ fascination with the monster, preceding The Lost Boys and Vampire’s Kiss. You could even argue that Scream, with its commentary on contemporary horror trends, is at least partially indebted to this classic.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

7 / 22

15. The Howling (1981)

15. The Howling (1981)

The Howling (1981) - Official Trailer

Before Joe Dante directed Gremlins, he made The Howling, a sexy and blood-soaked horror that reinvigorated vintage werewolf tropes for the 1980s. Dee Wallace plays TV journalist Karen White, who’s attacked and subsequently sent to a remote retreat to help ease her trauma. However, the entire place is populated by werewolves, the makeup and practical effects of which are far and away the best part of this movie. When you watch those transformation scenes towards the end, it’s no surprise to learn that effects designer Rob Bottin worked on the bar-raising The Thing just one year later.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

8 / 22

14. Creepshow (1982)

14. Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow (1982) Official Trailer - Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen Movie HD

A child of the ’80s’ brief obsession with anthology horror, which also spawned Twilight Zone: The Movie and Cat’s Eye, Creepshow is an ode to the subgenre’s comics of the 1950s. And it happily flaunts its inspiration with its hand-animated segues, dramatic lighting and cartoonish acting. The tag team of two horror masters, director George A. Romero and writer/actor Stephen King, give every short story the same endearing goofiness, although the most magnetic work is by Leslie Nielsen. The Airplane! star plays hauntingly against type as a murderous millionaire, and his performance is worth the price of admission by itself.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

9 / 22

13. Hellraiser (1987)

13. Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Although the Hellraiser franchise would make mainstream horror icons of the Cenobites, the sadomasochists are ambivalent background characters in Clive Barker’s original. The first entry is more the story of undead hedonist Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) and his lover, who repeatedly murder to restore Frank’s human body. The practical effects, masterminded by Bob Keen, are sensationally good, although it’s still Doug Bradley as the fiercely ambivalent and deep-voiced Pinhead that steals the show. Some contemporary reviews called this the best British horror of all time and, three decades later, it’s still up there.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

10 / 22

12. Friday The 13th (1980)

12. Friday The 13th (1980)

Friday The 13th (1980) - Official Trailer

Friday The 13th is a derivative cash-in on prior horrors. Its slasher plotline is a recreation of what made Halloween a hit, while the gore and sex take straight from the Italian giallo movement and that closing jump scare imitates the shock that Carrie created. However, in conglomerating all of the ’70s’ most successful tricks, Sean S. Cunningham’s horror debut recouped its production budget 100 times over at the box office and ignited the slasher explosion. Were it not for this film making bank, would we have had A Nightmare On Elm Street and Child’s Play? Almost definitely not.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

11 / 22

11. Re-Animator (1985)

11. Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator (1985) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

A loose adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story Herbert West: Reanimator, this zombie/body horror debut by writer/director Stuart Gordon tested the boundaries of taste even in the sex and gore-happy 1980s. It’s about medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) inventing a formula that can reverse death and, by film’s end, a decapitated head is engaging in sexual assault. All of Re-Animator’s transgressions made it a hit when it was released uncensored and unrated into the home video market, and from that moment onward it’s remained a legendary midnight movie for cult film fanatics.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

12 / 22

10. An American Werewolf In London (1981)

10. An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Iconic Wolfman Transformation Scene | An American Werewolf In London

You can’t talk about An American Werewolf In London without mentioning that transformation scene. The moment where David Kessler first turns into a wolf during a full moon was made iconic by Rick Baker’s practical effects and David Naughton’s acting, conveying a metamorphosis more agonizing than anything the genre had previously depicted. It looked so good that Michael Jackson personally tapped director John Landis to direct the music video for Thriller. Factor in all of those memorable lines (“You ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring!”) and you get a must-watch.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

13 / 22

9. Poltergeist (1982)

9. Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982) Official Trailer - JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson Horror Movie HD

This haunted house story, about a family who are harassed by a supernatural entity, was ostensibly directed by Tobe Hooper. However, it’s more of a Steven Spielberg movie. Not only did the superstar auteur write and produce; he was reportedly on set every day, as well. Poltergeist is also full of high-budget set pieces and shows an appreciation for the preciousness of family and childhood, which it shares with the likes of E.T. As wholesome as it is scary, it became a lauded blockbuster that ignited a franchise and earned three nominations from the famously horror-phobic Oscars.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

14 / 22

8. Tenebrae (1982)

8. Tenebrae (1982)

Tenebrae Official Trailer

After taking a detour to make Suspiria and the supremely underrated Inferno, Dario Argento returned to the blood and guts-loving giallo genre with Tenebrae. The story of a horror author journeying to Rome only to find that a murderer is mimicking the kills in his new book packs all the gore you’d expect from a director who helped inspire the slasher movement. However, it’s also a compelling murder-mystery, with its narrative building to a climactic twist that shows there were brains behind the body count. That didn’t stop the movie from being banned in the U.K. until as recently as 1999, though.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

15 / 22

7. Videodrome (1983)

7. Videodrome (1983)

The Torso Tape Player | Videodrome (1983)

Despite being retrospectively considered a paragon of David Cronenberg’s nightmarish body horror style, Videodrome was a box office bomb when first released in 1983. It was only the home video market and later successes like The Fly that pushed it back to prominence—and, to be fair, it was definitely way too weird for the early ’80s’ mainstream. However, the biomechanical practical effects and commentary on the decreasing gap between humanity and our technology have aged majestically. In fact, with thoughts on how TV violence has desensitized society also included, Videodrome may be timelier now than it was 40 years back.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

16 / 22

6. The Fog (1980)

6. The Fog (1980)

The Fog Murders its First Victims! (3/3) The Fog (1980)

After Halloween, John Carpenter instantly became a must-watch horror genre upstart. However, he didn’t want to be pigeonholed into one genre, so he made his next movie something of a compromise. While The Fog is indeed a scary movie, it’s more of a timeless ghost story than a modern thriller. It’s about a sleepy California town being haunted by the specters of pirates who died in a shipwreck. It differentiates itself from Halloween by being a showcase for practical effects. Rob Bottin’s work proved one of The Fog’s greatest strengths—and the designer only outdid himself when he reunited with Carpenter for The Thing two years later.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

17 / 22

5. The Fly (1986)

5. The Fly (1986)

The Fly (1986) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

One of the most viscerally disgusting movies to ever crawl out of the ’80s (and that’s saying something), The Fly basically forces you to watch the deterioration of Jeff Goldblum over an hour and a half. Dr. Seth Brundle’s transformation into Brundlefly is full of haunting practical effects, including when he breaks a man’s forearm clean off, has his own head implode to reveal the insect beneath and when his girlfriend dreams she’s given birth to his deformed child: a giant maggot. All of these images worm their way into the brain, and are kept there by Goldblum and Geena Davis’ appropriately horrified reactions.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

18 / 22

4. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

4. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

‘Ash Loses His Mind In Laughter’ Scene | Evil Dead 2

Although Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is one of the gold standards for grassroots horror movie-making, most of the zaniness that you associate with the franchise actually began with this sequel and soft remake. It was in Evil Dead 2 that Ash first became a catchphrase-spewing badass with a chainsaw taped to his arm. It’s also the entry with the demonically possessed deer head, stop-motion demon faces and drastically increased slapstick quotient. So, basically, everything that made the original so memorable was amplified tenfold. Because of this, Evil Dead 2 is one of those infrequent sequels to actually outdo the original.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

19 / 22

3. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

3. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Official Trailer - Wes Craven, Johnny Depp Horror Movie HD

You could argue that A Nightmare On Elm Street was the first experimental slasher film. By 1984, series like Halloween and Friday The 13th were dabbling in the supernatural (mostly because they needed excuses for why their baddies kept coming back), but Wes Craven’s breakthrough was completely centered around it. The film’s narrative, where Freddy Krueger kills teenagers in their sleep, tricks the audience by confusing the boundaries between reality and dreams, especially in that closing sequence. The creativity, as well as the twisted humor coming from Krueger actor Robert Englund, proved that Nightmare was ripe for exploitation, spawning yet another decades-spanning slasher franchise.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

20 / 22

2. The Thing (1982)

2. The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) | Death by Defibrillation in 4K HDR

The Thing is the greatest special effects movie ever made. Even four decades after John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece came out, nothing has recaptured the effectiveness and creativity of its purely practical effects. It looks so good that it somehow takes the seemingly impossible idea of an alien that can turn into anything and doesn’t disappoint. Furthermore, around the amazing aesthetics, you have an ensemble of realistic, memorable and universally clever characters: something almost never achieved in high-body-count horror. The movie bombed when released in 1982, but it’s now rightfully hailed as the moment that affirmed John Carpenter as the master of horror, and remains, to many, his magnum opus.

Advertisement
Previous Slide
Next Slide

21 / 22

1. The Shining (1980)

1. The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980) - Here’s Johnny! Scene (7/7) | Movieclips

Not just one of the greatest horrors in history but also one of the best movies ever, period, The Shining is so compellingly enigmatic that entire documentaries have been made trying to unravel it. Ingenious auteur Stanley Kubrick may have ostensibly signed on to adapt a Stephen King novel about a father hunting his family in a haunted hotel, but what he created goes well above, invoking genocidal and patriotic imagery, as well as the Nietzschean notion of eternal recurrence. Is this a commentary on America’s unending history of persecution and prejudice? Yes, it is—but it’s a broader purpose only hinted at, while vivid colors, sinister writing and Jack Nicholson’s unhinged performance steal center stage. Whether you view this as a supernatural slasher or an art film lamenting the nature of violence, The Shining is a masterstroke that begs to be rewatched repeatedly.

Advertisement