Pretty much any true fan of horror and horror lore is a fan of the classic horror films from the 80s. The campy slasher was popularized, the creature features were abundant, and the gore was always live-action, ALWAYS. The pivotal start of this infamous decade of horror provided some of horror’s most well known and greatest films of all time, and this post will show you the 10 best horror films of 1980, 5 honorable mentions, and a shout-out to the most underrated film of 1980.
10. The Fog
– John Carpenter followed up his infamous Halloween with this slow and atmospheric watch that despite some slow-pacing and a simple premise manages to be one of horror’s most well known films. Based on a tale regarding a sect of lepers seeking a home of their own, The Fog comes with a fair and evident revenge element that only adds to the creepiness. Read my full review for this film here: The Fog
– Well King Kong rampaged through the streets of a big city and ravaged those who got in his way, so why can’t a giant alligator who fed on genetically mutated dogs do the same? In Alligator we get just that, and with awesome results. Clever editing and direction make such scenes possible, the climax when the alligator crashes a ritzy pool party remains one of my favorite(and one of the most awesome) horror scenes of all time. Read my full review for this film here: Alligator
– Remember what I said about Cannibal Holocaust staying in your mind for life? Well…Anthropophagus will do the same thanks to one of the most horrific scenes in horror history…involving a human fetus and one very diabolical killer. Fans of true Italian sleaze will appreciate this Joe D’Amato sleazefest, and those who do not may find this one truly repugnant film. Read my full review for this film here: Anthropophagus
– Maniac is one of the most brutal and awesome slasher films I have ever seen. We get a truly disturbed schizoid serial killer bent on avenging the mistreatment he suffered from his mother as a child, and with awesome results. Some of horror’s greatest kills occur in this film, and thanks to excellent execution from director William Lustig and special effects maestro Tom Savini(who has a small, gory role in this film) you will never forget what you see in Maniac.
6. Humanoids From The Deep
– This is a film I remember seeing all the damn time on late-night TV as a youngster, and this is definitely the most “fun” film on this list. The idea of humanoid creatures attacking a sleepy fishing town due to a money-hungry corporation’s mistake of messing with nature is awesome itself, but throw in the fact that these humanoid creatures realize that they must replicate in order to survive as a species…it only gets better. Why? Well, because these humanoids are forced to mate with the only other creature that can give them what they desire…women! Throw in awesome amounts of gratuitous nudity and sex and this film becomes a masterpiece of sleazy exploitation-esque horror, and probably my favorite film to watch on this list. Read my full review for this film here: Humanoids From The Deep
– Dario Argento’s follow-up to his 1979 classic and first entry into his “Three Mothers” trilogy, Suspiria, is often overlooked by horror fans, but not by me. Argento continues his onslaught of visual treats for his viewers with his amazing sets, complimented with superb direction and of course…his classic trademarks and gore scenes that helped him popularize the giallo sub-genre. It is rare that we find any “good” films involving witches EVER in the horror genre, but this series incorporates the infamous coven of witches to superb levels and much like Argento’s other films…I left with a smile on my face. Read my full review for this film here: Inferno
4. Friday the 13th
– While Halloween made the slasher horror sub-genre even more popular, it was this Cunningham/Miller slasher that created the campy slasher feel that has since been replicated many times over. Jason Vorhees is a mere dot on the etch-a-sketch in this film, but nonetheless this film started it all for horror’s most accomplished killer of all time(most kills), and proves to be a great true slasher film as well. Read my full review for this film here: Friday the 13th
3. Altered States
– This film went pretty much under-the-radar for a very long time despite its numerous pros and very few cons, if any. Altered States marks William Hurt’s leading-man on-screen debut, and he delivers a fantastic performance coupled with one of horror’s coolest storylines there is. We do not get too many philosophical and anthropological horror films, and this one comes with superb direction from Ken Russell along with some high quality scares that left me with goosebumps, which I never saw coming. Read my full review for this film here: Altered States
2. The Changeling
– The Changeling kicked off the new decade with a haunted house experience much greater than the film that ended the previous decade in regards to haunted house films…The Amityville Horror. Director Peter Medak relied highly on atmosphere and camerawork to provide the scares in this film, and the quality of the scares is as high as they get despite how simple they are. A great mystery element along with some inner-character drama makes this film much more than a haunted house film, but one of horror’s finest as well. Read my full review for this film here: The Changeling
1. The Shining
– While this is my least favorite out of ALL of the films on this list, it is thee very best horror film of 1980. Veteran director Stanley Kubrick tackled the horror genre after delivering some of the greatest films of all time, and The Shining remains a staple of psychological horror done right. An epic performance from John Nicholson helps aid in the quality of this film, which includes one of the scariest scenes in horror history, and I am sure it left a haunting impression on those who saw this when it first debuted. Read my full review for this film here: The Shining
Honorable Mention: Close But Not Good Enough…
– I am sure that if you are reading this post then this film needs no introduction, and that is exactly why it makes this list. Director Rugerro Deodato immortalized himself with this film, which despite its inflammatory nature of killing live animals on film manages to be a pretty sweet horror film as well. In Cannibal Holocaust we are shown how “bright” Harvard students can be just as uncultured and animalistic as the very cannibals they are studying, and sweet vengeance is brought upon them in the most awesome of ways. Whether you like this film or not, you do not have a choice about whether or not you will remember this film for the rest of your life…because you will. Read my full review for this film here: Cannibal Holocaust
– This film surprised me with how well-made of a slasher film it is, and it also comes with a high element of ‘fun” as well. For one, pretty much the entire film takes place on a train, providing a great no-where-to-run scenario, and two, it is graduation time so the spirits as high, and so is the body count. The usual slasher formula is employed in this film, and perfectly executed with just the right amount of intriguing mystery, and plenty of vengeance. Read my full review for this film here: Terror Train
Fade To Black
– Fade to Black is the hardest film to find in this list, and it is quite a shame. If you are reading this then you most have some genuine interest in film, and this is a horror slasher film for film buffs. Dennis Christopher stars as a lonely film geek who falls for a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, and after some emotionally disastrous events he seeks out all those who have wronged him, and kills them in true homeages to his favorite horror and non-horror classic films. Fans of classic cinema should add this film to their queue immediately, and those who would like to see a young Mickey Rourke bully Dennis Christopher before suffering an awesome demise should add this film as well. Read my full review for this film here: Fade to Black
– Motel Hell is definitely the most zany out of all the films on this list, which may come as a surprise to those of you who thought Humanoids From The Deep sounded out of this world. Motel Hell gives us the charismatic Farmer Vincent known throughout the countryside for his “fritters”, which come from an unlikely source…humans. While most of the cannibalistic films in the genre come off merely as hack-n-slash flicks this one comes with much more than that. Farmer Vincent does not merely hack-n-slash his victims/prey, but plants them in his garden so they can “grow” to provide better eatin’, which along with some other quirky elements makes this a truly fun and awesome film to watch. Read my full review for this film here: Motel Hell
He Knows You’re Alone
– Continuing the trend of slashers making this list is He Knows You’re Alone, which I enjoyed thanks very much to the fact that it gives us an interesting take in the slasher genre in that this killer targets soon-to-be brides, something I have never before seen in the genre and a cool idea as well. With her wedding date set to be the “happiest” day of her life, you can only imagine the utter horror of having to run from a killer set on making sure you never “walk the isle”. Plus, this film marks Tom Hanks’ film debut, which is pretty cool. Read my full review for this film here: He Knows You’re Alone
The Most Underrated Horror Film of 1980 goes to…
– Christmas Evil may be the most controversial addition to this list simply because most feel that it is truly a “bad” or “weak” film, but that is only the case for those who do not watch this film for what it is. Sure it is marketed as a slasher film, but this is really a character-study-turned-slasher of an innocent older man who suffers from a severe psychosis of “being” Santa for Christmas, and hacks up all who get in his way. This film takes some patience, but with an open mind and an understanding for what this film sets out to do this may be the most underrated film on this list. Read my full review for this film here: Christmas Evil
There you have it, these 15 films are the very best films of 1980, a pivotal year in horror history and the start to one of the genre’s greatest and most fun decades. If you are a true fan of 80s horror then I suggest you give a watch to each of the films on this list, you will not be disappointed.
Thanks for reading.
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