While most may know 1984 as being one of the best years for pop music, we horror fans know it was also an amazing year for our genre! There were a great many horror films released in 1984, but I’m going to narrow it down the 15 I regard as the best horror movies of 1984.

Many of these films are personal favorites (as is the nature of any Best Of list written by a human being), but they ALL contributed something significant to horror.

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ghostbusters best horror movie of 1984

Horror comedies weren’t new, even in 1984, but Ghostbusters took the subgenre to an entirely new level! It helped to bridge the gap between the hardcore horror fam and the everyday folk — and remains one of the best (if not the best) films to introduce someone to the horror genre. It’s accessible horror at its finest, and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age!

If you’re unfamiliar: Ghostbusters follows three parapsychologists — Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) — who, after losing their university jobs, establish a paranormal extermination business using their own brand of ghost containment technology. Their first client is Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who also becomes a romantic interest for Venkman. As the trio becomes more successful, they hire a fourth Ghostbuster, everyman/audience avatar Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and that’s when this classic REALLY takes off! The quartet of exterminators find themselves facing an escalating supernatural threat, culminating in a battle against a powerful ancient deity, Gozer, who seeks to destroy the world.

Whether you’re watching it for the first time or the 400th, give Ghostbusters a lil love for its 40th birthday this year!

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984

A horror icon was born in 1984: Freddy Kreuger! The knife-gloved supernatural slasher with one of horror cinema’s most notable hats! That alone is reason enough for Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street to be on this list.

A Nightmare on Elm Street centers on the fictional town of Springwood, where a group of teenagers discover they’re all being haunted in their dreams by a scar-faced man in a Christmas sweater: Fred Krueger (Robert Englund). Coincidence?! Of course not. So, in their waking hours, the teens try to solve the mystery of who Freddy is and how his current murder spree is linked to each of their pasts; and then, whenever they finally sleep, it’s a desperate fight for survival… lest they become some of horror’s best practical FX kills!!

In addition to Freddy, A Nightmare on Elm Street also introduced one of our favorite final girls: Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp). Who set the stage for the Elm Street film series to have some of the best final girl characters EVER.

A Nightmare on Elm Street stands out not just as a 1984 horror film, but in general for showing audiences that the slasher genre could be imaginative and deviate from the formulas set up in the 1970s and be still be good (dare I say…better?!).

Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet Kelli Maroney Catherine Mary Stewart best horror movies of 1984

The 1980s had some of THE best zombie movies, hands down. So much so that I, or my zombie-lovin’ husband, may need to write an entire article about them in the future. For now, let’s all stop and smile while we remember just how awesome Night of the Comet is.

Just as comedies were a reigning horror subgenre in 1984, valley girls were one of the most prevalent personality types/tropes/culture subgenres defining the year! In Night of the Comet, those idea(l)s combine in the best ways: It’s a horror comedy with valley girl sisters — brilliantly portrayed by Kelli Maroney (Sam) and Catherine Mary Stewart (Reggie) — surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Before Buffy Summers, there was Regina and Samantha Belmont!


Gremlins Gizmo 1984 horror comedy

Believe it or not, the best horror movies of 1984 includes more than one Christmas film. Gremlins is one of them!

Gremlins follows a young man named Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) who receives a small, adorable creature called a Mogwai named Gizmo as a Christmas gift. However, after a series of accidental rule violations in caring for Gizmo, the fuzzy Mogwai spawns mischievous and destructive creatures known as Gremlins. From there, the mischievous Gremlins get loose and wreak havoc on the town, leading Billy and his girlfriend, Kate (Phoebe Cates) to confront the chaotic and often humorous consequences of the creatures’ actions.

Directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins blends horror, comedy, and fantasy elements expertly. It’s also notable for teaching everyone why it’s not a good idea to climb down a chimney, and for spawning one of the best horror movie sequels.

The Terminator

The Terminator 1984 Dick Miller

The Terminator, directed by James Cameron, is a sci-fi horror action film that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as an unstoppable cyborg assassin from 2029 whose been sent back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son will grow up to lead a resistance against the machines. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is sent back as well to protect Sarah from Arnold’s relentless pursuit.

It’s absolutely action-packed with plenty of suspense/tension as Arnold’s killer robot’s presence is constantly felt, even when he’s not on screen – giving The Terminator a true horror vibe. Plus, it features horror fan favorite Dick Miller in a small, but very memorable role!

Children of the Corn

Children of the Corn 40th anniversary 2024

Linda Hamilton had a big year in terms of 1984 horror movies! In addition to The Terminator, she also stars in this one!

Children of the Corn is a horror film based on a Stephen King short story. The plot centers on a couple who becomes stranded in a rural town inhabited only by children. The children, led by a charismatic and malevolent boy preacher named Isaac, follow a cult-like belief system that involves ritualistic sacrifices and worship of a mysterious entity in the cornfields.


Frankenweenie live action

While I personally prefer the animated version from 2012, the original Frankenweenie is still a unique short film — directed by Tim Burton — that deserves its place as one of the best horror movies of 1984.

Frankenweenie‘s story follows a young boy named Victor Frankenstein who, after his beloved dog Sparky is hit by a car, uses his scientific skills to bring him back to life with unintended and humorous consequences. The film is a whimsical and heartfelt take on the classic Frankenstein tale with Burton’s signature style.

Also, this is a good time to yet again mention one of my favorite resources as a sensitive horror fan: DoesTheDogDie.com! Frankenweenie is an obvious one considering that’s, uh, basically what the entire plot revolves around; however, if you don’t like being surprised by on-screen animal deaths and other atrocities, bookmark their site.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Friday the 13th IV The Final Chapter 40th Anniversary 2024

As its title implies, Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter was initially marketed as the last installment in the series, suggesting the end of Jason’s reign of terror. This created anticipation among fans and added an extra layer of suspense to the film.

Of course, 40 years later, we all know that The Final Chapter definitely was not the end of Jason Voorhees nor the Friday the 13th franchise! However, this 1984 installment was still significant for a couple reasons:

  1. It introduces Tommy Jarvis (played by Corey Feldman) who plays a crucial role not just in Part IV but as a recurring character in subsequent films, contributing to the continuity of the series and how the franchise evolved as a whole.
  2. This is the Friday the 13th film that features Crispin Glover and his absolutely iconic dance moves. If you’re a horror fan who lives online, you’ve likely used a GIF of Crispin’s dance moves as a reply at least once!

Repo Man

Repo Man 1984 filmed in Los Angeles California

If you were wondering what Los Angeles looked like in the mid-1980s, do a double-feature of Night of the Comet and Repo Man. Other films on this list utilized LA filming locations, of course, but those two are the ones that really hit me in the “that’s my hometown” nostalgia feels.

As for the plot, Repo Man revolves around a young punk rocker named Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez) who becomes a repossession agent for a company that repossesses cars. As he delves into the world of car repossession, he encounters a mysterious – and radioactive – ’64 Chevy Malibu with a trunk containing something otherworldly.

The film’s overall tone is surreal and filled with dark humor, creating an oddly unsettling atmosphere that you’ll remember long after you’ve watched it. Also, the lack of product placement really adds to its memorability! At one point, Otto eats out of a can simply labeled “FOOD” and I love that.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly Night 1984 screenshot

Told ya Gremlins wasn’t the only Christmas horror movie released in 1984!

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a slasher film that follows a young man named Billy who, traumatized by witnessing his parents’ murder by a criminal dressed as Santa Claus, is then sent to an orphanage where he has another Santa-themed bad experience. As an adult who just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to the holidays, he’s forced by his boss to take on the role of the store’s Santa Claus during the Christmas season. Predictably, Billy’s traumatic memories resurface, and he snaps — leading Billy to embark on a killing spree dressed as Santa Claus, seeking vengeance for the perceived sins of the holiday season.

This isn’t a personal favorite of mine; however, I’m including it as one of the best horror movies of 1984 both because “best” is subjective and even I have to admit that Silent Night, Deadly Night was certainly significant for 1984 horror film releases. The controversies and outlash revolving around its advertising campaign alone make it stand out!

The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger horror superhero movie

Superhero movies might be The Norm for us now, but back in 1984? Not so much. And a superhero horror film?! Unheard of!

The Toxic Avenger is a horror-comedy film directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman that’s become a cult classic due to its over-the-top violence, dark humor, and low-budget charm.

Set in the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey, the story follows Melvin Ferd III, a mild-mannered janitor who works at a health club. Bullied and mistreated by his peers, Melvin ends up falling into a vat of toxic waste after a prank gone wrong. Instead of dying, the toxic waste gives him super powers and a new lease on life.

Embracing his newfound powers, The Toxic Avenger takes to the streets to fight crime and corruption, becoming a vigilante superhero. As he cleans up Tromaville, he encounters various bizarre characters and faces off against evildoers. The film combines gory violence, absurd humor, and social satire, making it a quintessential entry in the Troma Entertainment catalog.

The Toxic Avenger first appeared in 1984, but it didn’t stop there! It’s spawned several sequels, a stage musical, and even a star-powered 2023 reboot.

Monster Dog

leviatan 1984 monster dog with alice cooper

Rock star Alice Cooper had appeared in numerous music videos, TV roles, and even a few small movie parts but this 1984 horror movie is notable for being his first Lead Role in a feature film!

To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether or not to include Monster Dog on this particular list because it didn’t get released here in the United States until 1986… But I’m going for it (obviously!) because its original release (in Italy) was in 1984, it’s listed as a 1984 film on IMDb, and HorrorFam.com is lucky enough to have readers from around the world so at least a couple of you might remember watching Monster Dog in 1984!

Directed by Claudio Fragasso, Monster Dog follows rocker Vince Raven’s (Alice Cooper) return to his childhood home with his band to shoot a music video. The secluded village is plagued by a series of gruesome murders attributed to a pack of wild dogs. As the killings escalate, the villagers suspect that the legendary “Monster Dog” from local folklore may be real.

Monster Dog combines elements of supernatural horror, mystery, and werewolf mythology as Vince and his band confront the growing menace, unraveling a dark secret tied to his past.


CHUD 1984 sewer cannibal horror movie

If you’re unfamiliar, I know there’s one question that’s burning in your mind right now. Here’s the answer: The acronym “C.H.U.D.” stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.”

The story unfolds in the sewers of New York City, where a series of mysterious disappearances lead a photographer named George Cooper (John Heard) and a soup kitchen operator named A.J. Shepherd (Daniel Stern) to investigate.

As they delve into the underground tunnels, they discover a group of mutated, humanoid creatures known as C.H.U.D.s. These creatures are the result of a failed government experiment involving toxic waste disposal. The C.H.U.D.s are now dwelling beneath the city, preying on unsuspecting individuals and causing havoc.

The film explores the government’s cover-up of the toxic waste incident and the attempts by Cooper and Shepherd to expose the truth. It becomes a race against time as the C.H.U.D.s pose a threat to the city, and the protagonists strive to stop the government’s attempts to conceal the monstrous consequences of their experiments.

C.H.U.D. has since become a cult classic in the horror genre, known for its creature effects and the exploration of environmental and governmental horror themes. It’s also notable for being the first movie shown on Episode One; Season One of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs!


Stephen King's Firestarter 1984 Drew Barrymore

Thought Children of the Corn was the only Stephen King film in 1984? Nope. There was also Firestarter, starring Drew Barrymore!

Firestarter‘s plot revolves around a young girl named Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) who possesses pyrokinetic abilities AKA the power to start fires with her mind. Charlie and her father, Andy McGee (David Keith), are pursued by a secret government organization known as “The Shop,” which seeks to harness Charlie’s extraordinary abilities for their own purposes. As they go on the run, father and daughter face various challenges, and Charlie’s powers become increasingly dangerous. The film explores themes of government experimentation, family bonds, and the consequences of extraordinary abilities.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell 1984 movie John Hurt dystopian horror movie

An adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a BLEAK psychological horror film with themes of totalitarian oppression, the paranoia and dread that comes with living under constant surveillance, the consequences of unchecked political power, the psychological toll of living under a regime that controls reality, and just… utter hopelessness.

There have been several adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it feels appropriate that one of the very best was released in 1984!

As for the plot, Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in a totalitarian society ruled by the Party and its leader, Big Brother. The protagonist, Winston Smith (John Hurt), works for the Party rewriting historical records to fit its propaganda. As Winston rebels against the oppressive regime, he engages in a forbidden love affair and questions the reality imposed by the Party’s control.

Directed by Michael Radford, the film captures the oppressive atmosphere of the dystopian world near-perfectly and John Hurt’s portrayal of Winston Smith is particularly powerful in conveying the psychological torment and horror faced by the character. It’s also notable for having Richard Burton’s last film role (as O’Brien).

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a thought-provoking and unsettling cinematic experience and, appropriately, is one of the best horror films of 1984.

Horror Movies of 1985 Will Be 40 Next Year: Should I Write About Them??

Feeling “old,” or possibly just gobsmacked by how quickly time marches forward…? I understand. I turned 39 earlier this month and while that’s not quite as impressive as having lived through 40 years, it’s still a pretty long time. And my turn will come next year!

Which brings me to the question posed in the header of this section: Should I do this again next year? After reading my thoughts on the best horror movies of 1984, would you like to read what I have to say about the best horror movies of 1985 when they turn 40 in 2025??

Let me know in the comments! In the meantime, please share this article with your friends. 🙂


Movie stills were purchased via MovieStillsDB and used for review purposes. Featured image was made by Lauren using the movie stills, a stock photo from Pixabay, and a font she made out of her own handwriting.

About the Author

Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner of LittleZotz.com, a formerly super-respectable multiple award-winning website for freelance writers that's now just a wacky place where she tries to cheer people up anyway she can. Lauren's also HorrorFam.com's primary founder/owner! Lauren grew up in the horror industry (her parents did practical special FX work for many of the horror movies you love from the '80s and '90s) and she basically created this site so she could freely gas on about creepy stuff and stop having to pretend to be normal. o_O

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