The Best Horror Movies of 1981

by | Oct 24, 2023 | Film Fanatic Lists, 1980s | 0 comments

Unearthing the Scares: The Best Horror Movies of 1981


The year 1981 was a pivotal moment in the horror genre, giving birth to some of the most iconic and spine-chilling films in cinematic history. From cult classics to groundbreaking innovations, the horror films of 1981 have left a lasting mark on the genre. In this blog, we will take a journey back in time to explore the best horror movies of 1981 that continue to haunt and captivate audiences even decades later.


1. The Evil Dead

Sam Raimi’s directorial debut, “The Evil Dead,” introduced audiences to the terrifying world of the Necronomicon, unleashing demonic forces upon a group of unsuspecting friends. Known for its low budget and inventive camera work, this film paved the way for Raimi’s illustrious career and the beloved character Ash Williams.




2. An American Werewolf in London

John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London” stands out as a unique blend of horror and dark humour. It is celebrated for its groundbreaking special effects, particularly the infamous transformation sequence, which set a new standard for werewolf films.



3. Scanners

David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” delved into the terrifying possibilities of psychic abilities. The film is remembered for its graphic and unforgettable head-exploding scenes, a testament to Cronenberg’s knack for body horror.




4. The Howling

Released the same year as “An American Werewolf in London,” Joe Dante’s “The Howling” added another layer to the werewolf subgenre. With its eerie atmosphere and remarkable transformation scenes, it has become a cult classic.




5. The Beyond

Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond” is a surreal and nightmarish journey into the world of the undead and supernatural. It is celebrated for its gruesome, visually striking gore and eerie atmosphere.




6. Halloween II

John Carpenter’s “Halloween II” picked up right where the original left off, providing a relentless, suspenseful continuation of the Michael Myers saga. While it might not surpass the original, it remains a solid entry in the series.




7. My Bloody Valentine

This Canadian slasher film by George Mihalka offers a dark and chilling story set against the backdrop of a mining town. “My Bloody Valentine” has garnered a cult following for its tense atmosphere and memorable kills.




8. The Funhouse

Tobe Hooper’s “The Funhouse” took the horror genre to a carnival setting, delivering a thrilling and eerie experience as a group of friends becomes trapped in a sinister funhouse.




9. The Prowler

Joseph Zito’s “The Prowler” is a classic example of the slasher subgenre, known for its brutal kills and suspenseful moments. It’s a hidden gem from the early ’80s.




10. Ghost Story

Adapted from Peter Straub’s novel, “Ghost Story” offers a more subtle and atmospheric take on horror. It features a stellar ensemble cast and a narrative that combines supernatural elements with psychological terror.




11. The Burning

“The Burning” is a classic slasher film where a group of campers faces a vengeful, disfigured caretaker named Cropsy, resulting in a suspenseful and gory tale that has become a cult favourite in the horror genre.




12. Friday the 13th Part 2

“Friday the 13th Part 2” sees Jason Voorhees taking over as the masked killer, stalking and terrorising a group of counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake. This sequel continues the franchise’s legacy with its signature suspense and gruesome kills.



The horror movies of 1981 demonstrated the genre’s diversity, from gory shockers to atmospheric and psychologically driven tales. Many of these films have earned their place as classics, influencing subsequent generations of filmmakers and continuing to terrify and entertain audiences. If you’re a horror enthusiast, revisiting or discovering these gems from 1981 is a must for a spine-tingling experience.


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