5 Best 1980 Horror Movies

by Zombie Bodhi

best 1980 horror movies

The following is my submission to the My Movie Year blogathon, hosted by Fandango Groovers Movie Blog. Be sure to check out all the other great entries.

While the ridiculous decade known as the 80s was indeed a grand and quirky time in the horror movie world, there is one particular year that I feel stood out among the rest. That year being the first of the decade, the year that would kick off popular trends such as hair bands, parachute pants and teenage slasher films. That crazy year is 1980 and these are the best 1980 horror movies.

5. Cannibal Holocaust

Alan Yates Cannibal Holocaust

While it’s hard to say that Cannibal Holocaust is one of the “best” horror movies of 1980 considering it’s controversial nature, I think it does deserve a spot on the list since the movie did break some ground being the first of the found footage style movie genre. In addition, the director Ruggero Deodato’s dedication to giving the movie a hyper realism look while challenging it’s audience with what they are willing to accept in a horror movie is the act of a master troll, and that in my book deserves some recognition.

4. The Changeling

George C. Scott fighting up the stairs

One of George C. Scott’s best horror movie performance and a haunted house tale that introduced a surprising and wonderfully satisfying twist. The Changeling set the bar for the haunted house movie genre that wasn’t seen since The Haunting. From the creepy wheelchair, the faint murmurs of ghosts, and the random ball bouncing down the stairs, this movie delivers with an unnerving paranormal experience.

3. The Fog

The Fog people

One of John Carpenter’s visually stunning masterpieces, The Fog movie is a great horror film which builds much of it’s suspense through atmosphere and the spooky seaside town of Antonio Bay. Not to mention that there is something that is inherently creepy about fog to begin with, as it plays upon our fear of what we cannot see.

2. Friday the 13th

Jason Voorhees Friday the 13th

A classic slasher film which, along with Halloween from two years earlier, would create a horror sub genre that would blow up throughout the entire 80s. Friday the 13th no doubt became the inspiration for many slashers to come, providing us with what we now consider cliche elements to the slasher genre.

1. The Shining

Jack Nicholson at The Shining bar

Usually considered one of the top horror movies of all time, let alone of the 80s, and no doubt the winner in not just the horror genre for 1980 but movies in general. This Stanley Kubrick film became a masterpiece while launching the career of Jack Nicholson into the stratosphere. The Shining truly has it all for a haunted house movie and to this day still delivers chills and very potent heebie jeebies.

Honorable Mentions & Non Horror Movies:

In addition to the 1980 horror movies above, the same year also had a number of other great movies outside the horror genre which rank among my favorites, giving further proof that 1980 was a badass year in the theatres.

These movies include: The Empire Strikes Back, Caddyshack, The Blues Brothers, Raging Bull, and Airplane.

Other honorable horror mentions: Prom Night, Terror Train, Maniac!, and Humanoids from the Deep

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy April 15, 2012 at 7:36 am

I love that you did a horror only list. Thanks for taking part

Jeff Flugel April 15, 2012 at 7:51 am

Man, I didn’t realize what a great year 1980 was for horror films till I read your post! Nice job! The Fog, The Changeling and The Shining are all great movies (three classic ghost stories in one year!), and love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny the impact of Friday the 13th and Cannibal Holocaust.

1980 also had Prom Night and Alligator.

Ardeth Blood April 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

The Shinning… still one of the creepiest movies even after all these years.

PG Cooper April 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

The Shining is fantastic.

iluvcinema April 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm

To this day, various set pieces (heck the movie in general) freak me out. But I do enjoy watching it even if through my fingers!

Never seen Cannibal Holocaust although I have heard UK critic Mark Kermode mention it several times.

Great picks!

brschuck66 April 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Watched the original Fog recently and it is a nice, tight, suspenseful piece of work. The glowing red eyes are just a little over the top, but hey, why quibble?

The Shining is of course a no-brainer, but I especially appreciate your inclusion of The Changeling, which, along with The Haunting, proves that the deepest chills can be produced from things you don’t see…

Zombie Bodhi April 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm

@Andy,
Thanks man and thank you for providing a such a great idea for a blogathon!

@Jeff,
Yea, it’s interesting how all these haunted house movies peaked around the same time that slasher flicks started to take off. Good call on Prom Night and Alligator, those definitely need to be watched again soon.

@Adreth, PG, and iluvcinema,
Yea, The Shining is definitely near the top of my list across the board, and clearly that is pretty much the opinion of most horror fans since it consistently ranks top 3 in almost any horror movie list.

@brschuck66,
Agreed on the red eyes and the ending where we actually get to see the monsters/ghosts more clearly made me slip out of my suspended reality, but as you say why quibble, overall still a solid ghost story. And yes, it is all about what you don’t see, which is probably why I’m a sucker for the Paranormal Activity series.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: