While not the most critically acclaimed genre of all time, Horror movies have provided the industry with some of the most iconic characters to ever grace the silver screen, and most of the franchises were at their pinnacle in the 80s. By the way, that cover image is by the fabulous BenzieQueen and you should check out her Etsy page.
Here are the best of the best horror villains of the 80s:
10. The Thing
The epitome of the category “cult classic”, the popularity herein is in large part due to the design of the titular antagonist. If you’ve never seen the movie, I’ll just stop here. Go check it out. Also, you should probably be ashamed at this point.
Hardcore film fans will likely close the page here at the kickoff, as John Carpenter (and most every movie he’s ever made) is heralded as one of the best filmmakers not just of his generation, but of all time.
That said, you’ll see more out of Carpenter later in the list — for now, let’s give the other horror icons from this decade their due.
This is a pretty well-known character, no doubt about it, so why this low? Well, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre released way back in 1974, and while the media franchise grew to more expansive heights as years went on, there was only one sequel released in the 80s.
Sure, there was also an Atari game that came out in 1982, but the lone film of the decade (simply called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) definitely paled compared to its predecessor.
Nonetheless, Leatherface is undoubtedly one of the most outright horrifying villains just by looking at him, and when you throw in that screech-like noise he makes when attacking his victims… that’s horror of a whole different caliber.
The original Hellraiser eluded my interest for the majority of my life because, well… that Pinhead dude really freaked me out.
Just five minutes into the movie, Pinhead realigns the body parts of his latest victim, as if putting together the most macabre puzzle on the face of the earth — there would be terror and suspense injected into the audience whether he had needles penetrating every inch of his skin or not.
Just so happens, he does have needles penetrating every inch of his skin, or at least every inch of his face, and that character design alone is enough to warrant the number eight spot.
7. Jack Torrance
Alright, everyone: I’m limiting this list to ONE Stephen King character. Just one, and I think this axe-wielding maniac played perfectly by Jack Nicholson is the go-to pick.
Sure, I could’ve gone with Gage Creed from Pet Sematary, or with the eponymous, rabies crazed Cujo, but sheesh, the “Here’s Johnny!” line from Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining is so ubiquitous in itself, I’m surprised Jack didn’t get an Oscar nomination — that’s how popular his performance was.
This entry marks the first of two films where the hero – or heroine in this case, the badass and lovely Ellen Ripley – probably overshadows the villain, but still, xenomorphs are a fantastic monster for a horror movie, and, I mean, come on. The movie is called Aliens.
I don’t need to delineate the popularity of the films themselves, lest the design quality of the antagonist, but seriously, just look at that thing. It’s no wonder a crossover movie materialized with the Predator.
Although only one film in the series released in these ten years — Aliens in ’86, arguably the best of the lot — the xenomorphs were an easy pick for number six.
5. Kandarian Demon
As the leader of the Deadites — the eponymous zombies from the Evil Dead franchise — the Kandarian Demon drove every ounce of intrigue and suspense that the series had to offer.
The humor scattered throughout, on the other hand, for the most part came by way of Ash Williams, one of the more prolific horror protagonists of all time and a cult movie phenomenon. His antagonistic counterpart, Evil Ash, was definitely up for consideration, but again, that side of him is controlled by, you guessed it: The Kandarian Demon.
I wanted to put this higher, to be honest with you, but I understand that this entry won’t be nearly as recognized as the four that follow it.
One of two fictional characters that ever made me “scared”, or whatever. That’s what these movies aim to do, right? Make us scared? I usually just laugh.
Anyway, I was six years old, eating a sandwich at a local deli in my hometown after a grueling t-ball game, and Child’s Play was on the TV.
Why they had this playing in a family-friendly establishment, the world may never know, but it definitely had me shaking in my sheets that night. I mean, its plot revolves around a sentient, knife-wielding doll that’s capable of manhandling grown adults. That’s stuff of true nightmares.
3. Michael Myers
Man, it pains me to place him at the bottom of the top three. Michael is my favorite horror villain ever, but unfortunately for his placement on this list, his debut — and arguably most iconic portrayal — came in 1978, not in the 1980s.
However, Michael did show up in Halloween II (released in 1981) and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (released in 1988). He didn’t appear in the franchise’s third installment, but let’s not delve too deep into that one. That movie is, just… strange.
If the original Halloween had come out in the same decade as its sequels, Mike would have undoubtedly taken the top spot. However, number three will have to do!
2. Jason Vorhees
I feel like these top two were sort of a given, if any of you decided to sit back and think about it. Perhaps the single most identifiable character on this list, Jason’s trademark hockey mask and his go-to weapon — that dastardly machete — create an incredibly creepy tandem that haunts teenagers at summer camps to this day.
But character design isn’t everything, as there’s also the factor of characters creating a fresh dynamic to the plot of their respective films that remain exclusive to that person, their backstory, and those around them.
The plot twist that came with the original Friday the 13th back in 1980 is what I’m referring to here, and while that very twist could raise questions about this inclusion in general, you’d know how warranted the number two spot is if you’ve checked out any of the sequels.
- Freddy Krueger
Okay, just look at a picture of this guy. He’s got freaking knives for fingers, his skin complexion resembles roadkill, and in the movies Nightmare on Elm Street, songs are sung by local children regarding the ghost-like ability Freddy has to inhabit people’s dreams (one, two, Freddy’s coming for you). Could any of you design a better horror villain? I’ll wait.
If we want to get into numbers: the Elm Street series had a whopping five installments through the decade (even though the first film released only in 1984) and each entry made pretty decent numbers at the box office.
There were TV shows, video games, comic books, novels… they even did a crossover film with the Friday the 13th franchise called Freddy vs Jason, which was cool to see, but not all that great. If any of you have children, I’m sure they’ve shown interest in dressing up as Freddy for Halloween, and with good reason. I wouldn’t want that guy anywhere near my dreams.
Agree with our List?
Really, you could toss these names into a bag, pull them out at any given order and someone out there would agree with the placements. These are some of the biggest names in horror movie history — they all deserve a spot on the list, no matter where they ended up.